I’ve finally concluded on the series of the location-based texts from my nearly 8 months trip in Latin Americas. Such occasion presents me with an opportunity to thank all of the 1746 of you for reading at least some of those sixty-odd texts presented on Along The Line. Please note that I have decided to keep this site alive. I am however afraid that it required re-branding and migration to wordpress.org.
Along The Line is dead, long live its successor Quaint Planet. So if you have enjoyed my articles, please stay tuned to Quaint Planet. You can also follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or Twitter, in case you have found my articles interesting.
I understand that there are hundreds of other sites that are covering the same subjects and locations – out of which, unlike me, many operate with proper budget and marketing tools – so the fact that you have picked some of my articles extends my gratitude even further. I do hope that you have enjoyed your reading 😉
This piece is about 4 options to travel by ferries in southern Chile. South to north or wise-versa:
1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón (Chiloé Island) 2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino) 3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt 4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt
If you are like me and like the ferry journeys, Chile’s Lake District is the perfect place to do so. Upon my research, I came across 4 different options:
1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón(Chiloé Island). This is the most basic and therefore also economical option of the four I considered. I opted for it consequently, after spending staggering amounts of money earlier on in southern Patagonia. At the offices of Navierra Austral in Coyhaique, I purchased a semi-cama ticket for 1920,-CLP (€26). Current prices and online booking are here.
There are numerous and inexpensive buses from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen, where I had to change for collectivo which brought me directly to the ticket offices of Navierra Austral in the port in Puerto Chacabuco. Just before 12:00, the bus picked me up to board the ship.
There was a cafeteria on board where I could buy classic mediocre cafeteria-style meals and non alcoholic beverages. But most of all, there were two stories of decks where one could sit down and observe the stunning nature around. The journey takes you though 2 fjords with impressive mountain ranges around with numerous waterfalls – those were literally everywhere in Patagonia.
The major purpose of this ferry service is to deliver goods and passengers to the remote islands in Chile’s Lake District. We are talking very remote here, if the public transport passes by only several times per week and the nearest village is hours away. Some of the settlements however did appear romantic and I’m sure it suits some life styles. During one of the stops, a bunch of children boarded the ferry. Their teacher told me that it’s the whole school. 14 students.
Then the thought of growing up there (in an adolescent age) crossed my mind and the romance was gone. Not much to do once the hormones kick in. Plus, it must most probably be a very hard life to live. Furthermore, imagine you break up with the only girl from your age group on your island and the nearest settlement is some 6 hours boat ride away, plus the chances that the only girl in your age group there is most likely not single 😀
The definition of terrorism is: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political or cultural aims.”
I’ve added “the cultural aims” bit 😀
The boat also takes passengers, the capacity is I think up to 250 people, who jump on and off in its (I believe) 8 stops. Sometimes it only slows down and small boats pick up people on the way. This guy unfortunately did the whole 30 hour trip. He carried a massive 100W loud speaker from which he kept imposing the worst loud reggaetonthat ever existed on others. Was it to attract ladies? If so, he must also suffer from the lack of evaluation abilities because he did jam-dance by himself for almost the entire trip.
But then the sun started setting down. Thankfully, I’ve had the noise cancelling headphones and literally every song played like chocolate and the reggaetonthreat was successfully nullified. I’ve also smuggled a 1/4 of whisky on board (it is illegal to drink on board but I wasn’t the only anarchist here) so I decided to enhance things a bit.
Special moments are usually rather short, at least according to my own past experiences. This moment kept going on and on and from the bit tired me, with a hint of whinging tendencies about the reggaetonterrorist, it transformed me mind into a pure 100% happiness. Two hours of that non stop. Those are the collective experiences one can witness together with people of possibly radically different political views, which makes it somehow more universal than most things, incl. music or art in general.
FYI: You can also board the ferry in Puerto Aysén before midnight but you would miss the epic sunset 😉
Other ferry options
2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino). This 30 hour trip operated by Austral Broom, would take you through the southern fjords of Chile across the Beagle Channel to Isla Navarino. It leaves at 6pm and arrives at about 11pm the next day. It would cost you staggering 140000,-CLP (€184) for a cama seat (fully recline) or 102000,-CLP (€133) for a semi-cama (1/2 recline), using cash only. You’ll be served food, and for some fee you might be also allowed to sleep on board upon arrival to Puerto Williams, the southernmost human settlement on the planet.
Book here or in Ferry terminal at least 24hrs prior to your departure. Please note that this not a passenger boat – like the Navierra Austral route above, this is just a cargo boat that also takes passengers.
I did not opt for this rather seductive option for economical reasons. The ticket was expensive and getting from Puerto Williams to Ushuaia, my next to be destination was also nearly 100,-USD, plus staying at Puerto Williams did not look cheap either. The other tourists usually take this trip to take the challenging Dientes de Navarino trek, which I wasn’t sure if I was up to physically, while my (universal for the full South America trip) gear wasn’t up for it for sure.
3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. This is a 3 day, 400,-USD trip operated by Navimag. It apparently has some signs of being luxurious (you get a bed in the dormitory as opposed to my semi-cama seat only). People I met described this trip as “a hostel on a boat”, while option one was predominantly used by local people. Book and get more info here. Wordlyadventurer has described the trip here, in case you’re up for more details.
4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. This is a 24 hour passenger journey, also operated by Navimag. It runs once a week each way from October until the end of March. It will cost you about €75,- for a bed in a 4 bed dorm. The meals and everything else is apparently similar than on on the ferry from option one. Read more about this journey here from the first hand of Wordlyadventurer, who appears to like ferries like me 🙂
Whatever you will pick – I hope that you will have a great weather to enjoy the full potential of those journeys 😉
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The “Gringo Trail” and links to locations covered on Quaint Planet
On my travels through the Patagonian mountains, I’ve heard many people comparing Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park national parks. Eventhough I find this comparison rather pointless, I decided to give it a go, only because it’s an interesting way to describe both parks in one go.
From the aesthetic perspective, it’s simply a matter of subjective preferences of a spectator. In my opinion, both parks are equally stunning when it comes to views and the actual treks. Both of them are also well maintained and tourism is generally well organised in both either.
Upon your arrival to either of the parks, you will be informed by rangers about your trekking options, park rules as well as about the safety precautions you will need to respect. On the Chilean side, you will also have to sign a declaration that you will follow the park rules.
When it comes to the comparison, I’d say that the only minor difference between these two parks is about their accessibility, which gives El Chaltén a little advantage under certain circumstances and below you’ll find out why.
Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park covers 242 242 hectares (598 593 acres) and it is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile (around 1/4 million people annually). Some of the most epic views from Chile could be found in this place. It’s truly stunning park with beautiful walks but…
But unless you plan your trip well ahead (I’m talking two months at least), you’ll find it rather difficult to secure a spot in the camping places inside the park. And because there’s not much of a tourist infrastructure in the close proximity to the park, you’ll be most likely forced to commute from Puerto Natales that’s 172km away, that’s unless you can afford to stay in Hotel Las Torres inside the park. Commuting from Puerto Natales would leave you with less flexible itinerary, that will only allow you to do some of the numerous day treks in or around the park.
On the positive note, you will still be able to get to the famous iconic Las Torres view point. It’s doable in one day if you take the first bus from Puerto Natales at 7am, catching the last bus back to town. It’s a stunning trek and in spite that it’s a nature equivalent to such places like Eiffel Tower or Charles Bridge places when it comes to crowds, it’s well worth it. You can however lose the crowd if you let the really fast walkers to go ahead.
FYI: you do not have to be 100% fit to make it. There are some steep-ish sections on the way and the last hour on the way up is getting a mild hardcore altitude change signs, with a possibility of a strong winds trying to blow you off the trek but it’s doable.
Unfortunately, when it comes to other highlights of the park, with no camping places inside the park you won’t be able to get to the Mirrador Britanica in Valle del Francés unless you’re extremely fit and fast walker. You will just not have enough time to catch the last bus back ): If you were desperate – you should be able to make 3/4 of the way to the French Viewpoint.
The same applies to other long treks. If you haven’t secured the camping spots, you won’t be able to do the W or O multiple day treks, because they require you to sleep in the park’s camping grounds. I must however say that the day treks in Torres del Paine can’t be called a disappointment though. Read about some of the day treks available in Torres del Painehere, compiled by Stingynomads. Otherwise plan well ahead and you’ll be spared of this problem/dilemma.
The 172km, two hours ride on the bus from Puerto Natales will get you to the park for 15 000,-CPL return (€19,50). The entrance to the park will cost you 21000,-CLP (€27,50). From the park’s entrance you can take a short bus ride further into the park to the Hotel Las Torres for 6000,-CLP return (€7,90).
Please note that there are two stops in the park itself and if you want to go for example to Mirrador Cuernos or if you want to board the catamaran which would take you across the lake to the beginning of the Valle del Francés trek, board your bus again after the rangers’ park introductions and head to the second stop: Pudeto. The catamaran will cost you further 30000,-CLP (€39) return.
A little tip for a late night sip 🙂
You know that great feeling of coming back from a trek. Being pleasantly tired but still full of emotional energy so you kind of want to stretch the eve to maintain that feeling for longer, especially after taking a shower followed by a meal, then what? Well, in Puerto Natales, I’ve came across a perfect spot, where you can keep being excited for a bit longer and, like many places around here, it even comes with the additional cool attribute to it: being something southernmost.
I’m talking about Last Hope distillery. I can’t say that it was the cheapest cocktail I’ve ever had but the overall great social atmosphere and friendly staff made me to forget about the prices and the possibility of the next day’s headache as it felt like a great night out, I have a great memories off. They do make their own Gin and Whiskey and nice list of cocktails (no shots) you will contemplate to try all one by one, which would be rather unwise though…
Parque Nacional Los Glaciaresis situated in the southwest of Santa Cruz province of Argentina. It covers the area of 726 927 hectares (2807 sq. miles). It is the largest park in Argentina’s Protected Areas System. Since 1981 it is a UNESCO”S world heritage site. It’s also a home to the iconic Mount Fitzroy.
Unlike in Torres del Paine, the entrance to the park is free (except the Perito Moreno Glaciar) and all treks starts and end in the town. In my humble opinion it’s therefore far more flexible in comparison to TdP and you will be able to sleep in bed after shower every night. I guess you now know which park I consider to be the winner in this pointless competition. Only if you had time for one of them – I would definitely recommend the Argentinian contestant due to the reasons stated above.
In both parks, all treks available are stunning, clearly marked and you’ll be provided a lot of information about them upon your arrival. In Argentina, I recommend trying some of those that are connecting the main treks – you’d be rewarded by nature with low numbers of the fellow tourists. Please – what ever you do – don’t miss the Laguna de Los Tres trek – it has been one of the highlights of my trip 😉
A little tip for a late night sip 🙂
El Chaltén comes with several nice places one can enjoy the drink outdoors if the weather permits. I mean the establishments I have visited in town did look and felt great from the inside but enjoying a beverage after your trek on a terrace in such place is just something special. Whether it was La Cervecería or La Vinería or in fact any joint in town looked like I wanted to grab a pint or two, especially if their terraces were filled with sun.
Puerto Natales: First night I’ve opted for a hippie-ish Two Monkeys Hostel for €13 per night. It was a friendly and a very social place but due to the consequent hangover, I’ve moved to an Airbnb place called Natales Trip, cama 1 1/2 plaza near the bus station. For €21.25 I’ve had a comfy private room in a walking distance to the centre of the town. There was a good view of the lake, a smoking room/bar and nice friendly owners.
El Chaltén: From the many accommodations this town offers, I’ve picked Hostel “Kaiken”. It was a nice, clean place with friendly owners. The dorm cost me €11. It was an OK place to crash after the trek.
And what lies between Puerto Natales and El Chaltén?
The ultimate highlight: Perito Moreno Glacier. Click here to know more about this unforgettable place.
What have I missed? Or shall I say: What would I do if I had a chance to come back?
Huemul Circuit. Viedma Glaciar, the 975 sq. km (376 sq. miles) is the second largest glacier in South America. It’s apparently challenging 6 days trek with tent and proper mountain gear. There’s rather detailed description of the trek here by ratravelsblog.
Sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres. Recommended by the romantic couple I’ve met in El Chaltén. This is doable from the camping place at the base of the mountain. Otherwise, the whole trek is approximately 8 hours long return from the town. The first 3 hours is pretty much just a pretty walk with not much of an elevation changes and the last hour is quite a hardcore push on the wet rocks.
Valle Frances ):
Sunrise at Los Torres. Unless you have a secured place in the camp near by – it would involve a long night trekking, which is not recommended for obvious reasons.