Chile Things to Do Tips by vtveen
Chile Things to Do: 371 reviews and 743 photos
Puerto Natales: pier
..... Full day Fiordo Ultima Esparanza .....
That is the announcement on the website of ‘Turismo 21 de Mayo’, the company which operates this boat trip during summer. And it is the truth, because we (and you) had to sail for 7 long hours on a rather small boat, leaving from Puerto Natales at 8.00 am and returning around 5.45 pm.
What to see during this trip:
- the first hours we were sailing along Puerto Bories and some remote estancia’s on the shores;
- Barrosa Cliff with a breeding colony of Cormorants;
- a couple of sea lions, almost invisible from the boat;
- Condor Cliff, for us without condors;
- Glaciers Balmaceda and Serrano, interesting but by far not as impressive as the glaciers we saw in Argentina;
- weather depending a view of the Torres Mountains.
All together we were not very satified with this trip, also regarding the price.
Be aware it can be VERY cold on deck and I highly recommend wear heavy clothes and a WINDPROOF jacket.
There is a cafeteria service on board and we got tea/coffee and on our way back a glass of pisco with glacier ice for free. During the way back we made a stop at the Estancia Perales, where one can have a lunch or walk around.
The company - Turismo 21 de Mayo - has two boats: Cutter ’21 de Mayo’ and a motor yacht ‘Alberto de Agostini’.
Price (Nov. 2006): 40.000 pesos and eventually a lunch for 11.000 pesos.
I would recommend booking one day in advance (at the office of the company) if the weather forecast is good.
Address: Eberhard 560, Puerto Natales
Other Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: +56 61 411176
Monte Balmaceda with its glacier
We were not aware of it, but when we left Puerto Natales on the ‘Alberto de Agostini’ we already could see this glacier. Due to the clear air it seemed if the glacier and the surrounding mountains were rather close, but it took about 3 hours sailing before we reached the bay in front of the Balmaceda Glacier.
Ahead of us was the Balmaceda Mountain range with the top of Balmaceda at 2.035 metres and the glacier tumbling down the slope almost into the sea. This glacier is also on retreat (as all glaciers) and it is interesting (or better alarming) to know that 15 years ago the foot of the glacier was still at sea level.
The boat came rather close to the mainland and we could see the crevasses, peaks and ‘coloured’ ice. And we were lucky with the weather, because even the top of the mountain and the whole glacier were (temporary) visible. The only way to see this glacier is by boat on the trip with ‘Turismo 21 de Mayo’.
Directions: Parque Nacional Bernardo O'Higgins.
Glacier Serrano - viewing point
This glacier is also tumbling down the Balmaceda Mountain, but on the north slope. It ends in a glacier lake and ice breaking off the main ice wall causes several icebergs floating in the lake. Depending on the wind this icebergs do reach a shore and we could get very close to them.
(It is possible to make a (short) boat trip on the glacier lake in a zodiac around the icebergs and close to the glacier.)
We couldn’t come as close as we expected, because the viewing point is on a very safe distance from the main ice wall. This viewing point is reachable through a walkway from the pier at Puerto Toro.
The only way to see this glacier is by boat on the trip with ‘Turismo 21 de Mayo’.
Directions: Parque Nacional Bernarda O'Higgins.
PN Bernardo O'Higgins - 'unknown'
Perhaps the most impressive and at least most amazing and remarkable part of our trip to the glaciers in Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins was our walk from the pier at Puerto Toro (after 3 ½ hours sailing) to the viewing point for the Serrano Glacier trough a fantastic part of native forest.
Amazing, because it is almost unbelievable that these kinds of flowers and bushes are able to survive in environs with snow and ice all around. Remarkable, because we were walking on a narrow and winding walkway with ice and icebergs on one side and a green dense native forest on the other side.
We saw some familiar flowers (like the fuchsia) and a lot of beautiful and completely unknown species.
This part of the National Park can only be reached by the boat trip of Turismo 21 de Mayo.
Directions: Parque Nacional Bernardo O'Higgins.
Santiago - Plaza de Armas
During our stay in Santiago we had our B&B in Providencia and afterwards we were very happy with this neighbourhood. Rather quiet and convenient for visiting the city centre by bus or metro.We had just 1½ days for Santiago and to be honest it was more than enough.
Ahumada is by far the most important shopping street, but shops were not something special and the crowds were just terrific. It was hard to find even postcards or a calendar. Later on we found the very nice gift shop of ONA on Victoria Subercaseaux 299, opposite to one the entrances to Cerro Santa Lucia.
Plaza de Armas is the central square and was full with artisans trying to sell their paintings. The plaza is surrounded by some nice buildings like the post office and the cathedral. A couple of blocks away lies the Palacio de la Moneda, a beautiful white coloured building, nowadays Chilean Government Palace. We were invited by a policeman to take a look inside.
At the end on the pedestrian road lies the Mercado Central, built in 1872 from steel. Nowadays one of the markets in Santiago where one can buy fish, vegetables and fruit. There are also a lot of restaurants inside, with even more annoying touts.
Next to the hustle and bustle of the city centre lies Cerro Santa Lucia, a green lung in the polluted city. We were rather early in the morning and it was great fun walking around, sitting on one of the benches and looking down onto the city from the viewing points. Don’t be scared by a huge bang at exactly 12.00 am, they are just firing one of the old cannons at St. Lucia.
The other (half) day we visited Cerro San Cristobal. We went up with the railway (funicular) to the viewing platforms and the immense white statue of the Virgin Mary. The views over the city to the Andes Mountains must be spectacular, but we were unlucky having some haze. We walked through the park, without seeing tourists, to Tupahua with a swimming pool on top of this mountain. We went down with the gondola and ended our visit in Providencia.
Other Contact: www.allsantiago.com
Cajon del Maipo
One of our ‘wishes’ during our stay in Santiago was visiting the Andes Mountains. We decided to make a trip with a rental car (Budget) on our own to Cajon del Maipo. Even on a quiet Sunday morning it took one hour to reach the outskirts of this metropolis and the village of Pirque.
From here we were driving a very narrow and winding road along the river Maipo along (sub) tropical flowers, but this changed very quickly into a dry landscape with lots of cactuses. We reached the main road through the valley with some nice hosteria’s for a drink or lunch. Or make stop in San José del Maipo, the capital of the valley.
In Romeral - 1.390 metres high - the paved road ended and a gravel road started and sometimes it was really bad to drive in our small Toyota Yaris. The road was climbing higher and higher, we were passing the old miners village El Volcan and had to cross a couple of streams coming down from the mountains.
But the scenery was fantastic: a green valley along the Rio El Volcan and surrounding mountains till a height of 6.000 metres.
We reached a height of 1.845 metres and parked our car along the road.
From here we walked (didn’t dare to drive) a very steep narrow road, which leads to the settlement of Banos Morales. A couple of houses, some accommodation and the mineral pools. Three of these pools each with a different colour of the water. In this stunning scenery we had our lunch and just enjoyed the sun and the mountains in this breathtaking and overwhelming scenery.
Address: Cajon del Maipo
Directions: South east of Santiago, along Ruta G-25.
Torres del Paine and Lago Sarmiento
We got our (Emsa/Avis) car at our hotel and started around 9.00 am for the trip to Torres del Paine National Park. We passed the small airport of Puerto Natales and came on a gravel road; our ‘companion’ for the rest of the day. (Since 2007 there is a 'new' road to the western entrance of the park, which takes about 75 minutes and makes it possible to drive a loop.)
The scenery in Chilean Patagonia is quite different from the Argentinean side: much more trees and bushes, meadows, some hosterias along the road. Not so empty and sometimes oncoming traffic with more or less crazy drivers on this dirt roads.
Cerro Castillo is about halfway between Puerto Natales and the National Park. The settlement is located in the middle of vast and empty plains, where the terrible Patagonian wind was blowing all the time. There is a shop/café and we had a cup of coffee. Don’t expect ‘French cuisine’ and good coffees in the middle of nowhere.
After Cerro Castillo the landscape is getting more and more impressive with the mountains of Torres coming closer and closer and the steppe starting next to the road. Lago Sarmiento was the first lake with its turquois coloured water and the Torres del Paine in the background. Really fantastic scenery.
After about 115 km’s we reached the entry gate at Lago Sarmiento and had to pay the entrance fee of 10.000 pesos per person.
After our visit to the park we returned at 7.30 pm in Puerto Natales and had driven 340 km's through really unbelievable scenery !! We still regret not having stayed one or two days IN the park.
Directions: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
Fort Bulnes - Fuerte Bulnes
Fort Bulnes (Fuerte Bulnes) is located 60 km south of Punta Arenas and we reached this fort driving in our rental car along the Strait of Magellan. In and around Punta Arenas it looked a little bit messy with lots of small rusty boats and skeletons of old vessels on shore. But the scenery was getting more and more remote with only some houses and villages.
Before reaching Fort Bulnes over the gravel road there is a stone, marking the geographical centre of Chile. Here we made a ‘detour' to the small fishing harbour of Bahia Mansa.
The last kilometres of the trip we were driving through a forest and had some nice views of the coast and reached Fort Bulnes on a hill top overlooking Strait of Magellan. This was the first Chilean settlement in the Magellanes Region established in 1843 by Captain Williams
We couldn’t almost believe, but there was no entrance fee for the fort itself. We strolled along the restored buildings like the barracks, the jail, a powder magazine, post office, stables and old cannons. For us the most ‘impressive’ building was the church, which obviously is still in use.
Being almost at the end of the world, sitting for an open fire in the summer, having an instant coffee and trying to talk - Spanish,English, hand en feet, signs - with the owners of the cafeteria next to the fort and just enjoying being there.
Directions: 60 km's south of Punta Arenas along Strait Magellanes.
Punta Arenas - Plaza Munoz Gamero
Plaza Munoz Gamero (or Plaza de Armas) is the central square in Punta Arenas. It is surrounded by a couple of old impressive mansions, dating from the 19th century, which can be visited. On one side is the Cathedral of the city, the first brick building dating from 1892.
The square itself is full of trees, during our visit early December with yellow flowers. There are a lot of booths, where locals are trying to sell there ‘home made’ craft, wool clothing and jewellery.
The heart of the plaza however is the huge statue of Fernando de Magellanes, a famous discoverer. On the statue were also some indians from Tierra del Fuego and one of them had a very shining toe. There is a saying which tells that everyone who touches these toe will return to Punta Arenas someday. We also rubbed it, but if we ever come back ……
Directions: Punta Arenas, Region Magellanes
Torres del Paine: Zapatito de la Virgen
Of course Torres del Paine means: huge and impressive mountains, glaciers and lakes. But there is a lot more to see on the ground. The flora of the park is varied due to a micro climate and shows several kinds of vegetation: bushes, forest, steppe and alpine flowers.
Just walk around, keep your eyes open and you will see the most interesting species.
Directions: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.
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