Puerto Tranquilo is a sleepy, lakeside town in the heart of Aysen, Patagonia; home to the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice-fields, as well as the largest lake in Chile, Lago General Carrera.
Perfect blue and turquoise rivers and lakes flow between snow-capped mountains and through deep valleys as the many glaciers gradually melt away, providing us with amazing ice caves to explore in the process – A beautiful, but a sad reminder that one day, they will disappear completely.
This quirky little town and its friendly people are often missed by visitors to Patagonia, who either travel to Torres del Paine for the famous O Trek, or head straight for Villa O’Higgins for Argentina crossing to climb Mount Fitzroy. (Related Article: Best Backpackers Hostels in Chile)
To help make sure you don’t make the same mistake, here are 5 reasons not to skip Puerto Tranquilo!
1. Capillas de Marmol
These stunning marble caves, carved by the wind and the water over thousands of years are like stepping into another world. The variety of patterns and colours in the naturally smoothed marble seem to dance in the light reflected from the crystal blue-turquoise water. In the winter, when the lake drops, you can walk around inside the caves. One couple loved them so much, they had their wedding inside the caves themselves!
1 ½ hour boat trip – 8,000 Pesos p/p (Call Anselmo Soto – Carrera Tours)
2. Glacier Trekking
The town itself is less than an hour’s drive away from the Exploradores Glaciers in the Northern Patagonian Ice-fields. The true scale and beauty of a glacier is impossible to comprehend until you’ve walked, hiked and climbed for three hours to stand face to face with the giant itself – A wall of ice towering above your head, peppered with the melting holes and caves which mark its constant retreat and inevitable disappearance. The trek lasts a whole day including the round trip in a van and it is suitable for beginners, but they may find the rocky sections a bit tricky. Have a drink from a small river or pool while you’re up there, there’s no other water like it!
Contact Expediciones Explorasur(firstname.lastname@example.org) for a 1 day glacier trek – 40,000 Pesos p/p (approx) inc. lunch, transport and equipment.
3. Incredible Scenery
These pictures speak for themselves; it’s simply impossible to take a bad photo here! There is stunning natural beauty in every direction and try to catch at least one cloudy sunset, the colours are magnificent!
4. Ridiculously blue water
The water from the melting glaciers flows directly into the regions many lakes and rivers and it’s so clean, pure and unpolluted that it keeps its perfect blue colour that you just can’t stop staring at it. It’s hard to believe water can be that colour at all and it’s so clean you can drink it!
5. It’s en-route to everywhere
A journey along the length of Patagonia’s Carretera Austral is a pilgrimage made by many travelers who are looking for something more than a fly-in-fly-out trek and some photo opportunities. Buses are not very frequent on this old dirt road, so instead, you’ll find cyclists, hikers, motorcyclists and hitchhikers making their way along the 1,240km route, sleeping in tents and family guesthouses on the way. Whether you’re heading north or south, the Carretera Austral leads you to Puerto Tranquilo.
How to get there: You can start your journey from Puerto Montt in the very south of mainland Chile, or you can take a Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Chacabuco, in the heart of the Aysen region, from where you can travel to Coyhaique, a small beautiful city, from where you can join the Carretera Austral. Simply head south whichever way you can. If you’re coming from the South having crossed from Argentina, you have no choice – Take the Carretera Austral North!
Where to stay: There are quite a few options, from one mid-range hotel, to private cabañas, but we found that the best accommodation is in one the alojiementos familials, small family-run hostels that are relatively cheap, have real log fires and great home-cooked food! We chose Residential La Paz and were really happy there, they even have a little grocery store with fruit, vegetables and loads of snacks.
Price – Approx. 10,000 p/p per night.
Where to Eat: If you don’t want home-cooked food in your family hostel, then head to Donde Kike. It’s really easy to find, right next to the lakeside road and they serve great, tasty, simple dishes that’ll fill you up and leave you feeling satisfied!
Price per dish – Approx. 5,000 Pesos
Where Next: Head south to Cochrane, then on to Tortel and Villa O’Higgins. If you’re going north, your next stop is Coyhaique, the small city surrounded by stunning farmland in every direction!
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