Day 1: Balmaceda/Coyhaique – Puerto Tranquilo.
Puerto Tranquilo, a small village by the Carrera Lake, is named after the river that runs next to it. The first houses were built around 1955 and only in 1986 the settlers had road connection with Coyhaique. Visitors going south and inland along the Carretera Austral – the southern highway – must pass through Puerto Tranquilo. Through the years the town has become a tourist center because of its proximity to the Marble Chapel, a rock formation close to the shore of the lake, which has been sculpted through the years by the waves and the wind.
Light reflecting on concave and convex surface of the rock creates an atmosphere that reminds of old and medieval chapels. Another new attraction is the new road, soon to be open, that will connect the town to Exploradores Bay on the Pacific Ocean, making Laguna San Rafael much more accessible and allowing visitors to get to the Exploradores Glacier were outfitters offer hikes on the ice (El Puesto). Arrival to Balmaceda Airport or departure from Coyhaique, and beginning of the drive along the Carretera Austral – southern highway.
First the road crosses the Castillo mountain range, which runs from east to west and the Castillo national reserve. The highest peaks of this range are Cerro castillo (2.320 msnm) and Cerro Iglesia (1.750 msnm), their rocky and rough edges resemble a medieval castle. Afterwards the road crosses the Cofré Canyon where the effects of the last eruption of the Hudson volcan in 1991 can still be seen. Finally the road meets the grand General Carrera Lake, the second largest in South America, next to which is nested the town of Puerto Tranquilo. Lodging in Puerto Tranquilo.
Day 2: Puerto Tranquilo – Puerto Bertrand.
South of Coyhaique and across the Castillo range and the Ibañez River, lies a large area with its own geographical characteristics and with the Lago General Carrera as the main attraction. Chile shares this lake with Argentina where it is called Lago Buenos Aires. It is Chile’s biggest lake and the second biggest in South America with an area of 378 sq.miles, 125 miles long, 1148 ft above sea level and an approximate depth of 1935 ft.
In the morning visitors should take some of the excursions offered by local outfitters such a visit to the Marbel Chapel or/and a visit to Exploradores Glacier. Later, departure toward the south, the road borders the lake until its outflow into the Bertrand Lake. The outflow of the Bertrand lake is the Baker river, a 175 km long river that flows into the Pacific Ocean in Tortel. Lodging by the Baker river. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Puerto Bertrand – Cochrane.
"Conservación Patagonica" bought in 2004 Estancia Valle Chacabuco, located 20 miles north of Cochrane in the heart of Chilean Patagonia, and bordering two national reserves; the area is home to one of the world's largest Huemul deer populations. The protection of this habitat has the potential to help bring this mammal back from the brink of extinction.
That, combined with the natural beauty of the property's foothills and valleys along with sweeping views of the surrounding alpine mountains, provides an extraordinary opportunity to create a world-class national park. Departure toward the south bordering the Baker river. We recommend to visit the Chacabuco valley on your way south. Lodging in Cochrane. Includes: (B).
Day 4: Cochrane – Puerto Guadal.
Lago Tamango National Reserve. One of the largest herds of huemules (Andean deer) in their natural habitat can be found in this 17.000 acres reserve. These animals live in a beautiful wooded land with lenga trees on the mountains and coigüe trees down in the valleys. The huemul is a sturdy deer, about 3,28 ft tall from loin to the ground. The largest animals can weight up to 200 pounds, males are larger than female and have antlers.
The fur is thick, compact and dark brown during summer becoming lighter – yellowish grey – in winter. They are also called "güemul" or "gamul" in Araucano, "shoan" in Tehuelche, "andean deer" or "huemul from the south". The scientific name is "Hippocamelus bisulcus". Visit of the Tamango national reserve where visitors might see huemules. Return toward the north. Lodging in Puerto Guadal. Includes: (B).
Day 5: Puerto Guadal - Chile Chico.
Puerto Guadal is located on the southwest shore of the Carrera Lake on a protected bay. The village has been named as "The Pearl of the Lake" because of the higher water temperature, its beautiful sandy beach and an excellent weather during spring and summer. The first inhabitants arrived in 1918, in the last two decades the new roads to Chile Chico and to the north of the region, have opened up this village to the rest of the country.
Until not long ago the only way to reach Puerto Guadal was by boat. Also the area offers a spectacular view of the northern ice field and Mount Valentín (3900 mts s.n.m.), the highest peak in Patagonia. The area also has many interesting attractions such as the abandoned mine "La Escondida" and the Maquis waterfall 25 meters high and only 2 kms from the village. Departure toward the north bordering the south east shore of the lake.
This mountain road offers spectacular views of the lake and the Andean range on the western border. The drive goes through the "Paso Las Llaves" built on a cliff over the lake. Many rivers run from the mountains into the lake, forming through the ages, fertile plains at their outflow. Today those plains offer excellent conditions for agriculture activities – typical of a warmer weather. (Bahía Jara, Fachinal). Lodging in Chile Chico. Includes: (B).
Day 6: Chile Chico – Coyhaique.
The Capital city: Chile Chico, named the "City of the Sun" because of its good weather, is one of the oldest towns in the Aisén region. The first settlers arrived in the area in 1905, looking for empty land where to settle down. They distributed the land among them in proportion to each others patrimony. On May 21st, 1929 the town was founded and named Chile Chico because this was a small piece of Chile in the back stages of the Andes range.
To cross from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibañez, there are two alternatives: Ferry – 2 hours crossing. The crossing is 5 times a week with a different schedule wich is known only one month earlier. Land crossing through Argentina (Los Antiguos y Perito Moreno) and entering Chile again in Puerto Ibañez (Paso Pallavicini – lonely road) – this road surrounds the lake. Continuation to Coyhaique crossing the Castillo range. Lodging in Coyhaique. Includes: (B).
Day 7: Coyhaique - Balmaceda.
Coyhaique is situated to the east of the high summits of the Andes and more specifically in the intermediate zone between the mountains and the pampas (Patagonian steppe).Towards the west, high mountain tops rise covered with glaciers and beautiful Coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi) and Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) forests grow on steep slopes.
Towards the east the landscape becomes much softer with lower hills covered with Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica) forests that disappear definitively toward the pampas. Departure to Balmaceda to drop off the car and take an outgoing flight to Puerto Montt, Santiago or Punta Arenas. Includes: (B).
Also see tour packages in:
South America Chile Local Culture Self Drive Glacier Tours
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