Adventure of the parks program
"ruta de los parques"

Adventure of the parks - ruta de los parques

This self-drive itinerary is directed at adventurous travelers that are looking for a program that allows visiting most of the parks of the Route of Parks of Patagonia in a one-way unforgettable adventure.

On this 37-days journey that starts in Puerto Montt and leads all the way to Puerto Williams, you get to enjoy nature in a unique way, passing by volcanos, lakes, rivers, fjords, and all the splendors of the Carretera Austral and Chilean Patagonia. All this, behind the wheel of a comfortable vehicle which allows you to explore at your own pace and reach even the most isolated destinations without a problem. Embark on several extended ferry navigations that will take you even further. Experience Chile in a truly unique way.

The progam

37 days / 36 nights

(Driving time: 35 min approx. – 20 km/13mi)

Your Patagonia exploration begins in the south of Chile, at the airport of Puerto Montt. It is the capital of the beautiful lake district, and the starting point of the famous Carretera Austral that will lead you along the Route of the Parks through most of Chilean Patagonia.

After arrival, a transfer takes you to the nearby town of Puerto Varas, where you receive the rental car that will be your steady companion during the weeks to follow.

The rest of the day is at leisure in Puerto Varas, also called “city of roses”. Located on the shores of Chile´s second largest lake, Llanquihue Lake, it is an ideal base for visiting the area during the next two days.

Accommodation: 3*- Hotel in Puerto Varas

(Driving time: 3 h approx. – 120 km/75mi)

Few people know that Southern Chile´s lush rainforest is home to some of the oldest living beings in the world. Sadly, not too many of them are left, as they have been put under protection only in more recent years. Today you have the opportunity to meet one of them – the millennial coniferous tree Alerce (“Fitzroya”), in the eponymous Alerce Andino National park. Some Alerce trees were dated to be older than 3500 years! But they are just one of the many endemic species that constitute the unique Valdivian Rainforest of Chile´s south. Discover this fairy tale forest on your own during a day hike to the park´s lagoons along thick vegetation, granite walls and waterfalls.

Accommodation: 3*- Hotel in Puerto Varas

(Driving time: 3 h approx.- 150 km/90mi)

It might not be an official park of the Route of the Parks, but notwithstanding Chile´s oldest national park Vicente Perez Rosales is well worth the visit.

The drive along the lake shore to the small village of Ensenada offers scenic views to both Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes. Continue on to the top of the latter for awe-inspiring views over the vast extension of Llanquihue Lake and the rough Andes Mountain chain. The ski centre with restaurant on top make people forget that the Osorno is one of Chile´s most active volcanoes, with the last eruption having occurred in 1835.

From up here, you might recognize the emerald coloured All Saints Lake (“Todos Los Santos”), easily reachable from the same town of Ensenada. The road leads along Petrohué River, that passes through some spectacular river rapids formed by lava formations, remnants of Osorno´s past eruptions.

Accommodation: 3*- Hotel in Puerto Varas

(Driving time: 3,5 h approx.- 140km/86mi. + 45min-ferry crossing)

Leave Puerto Varas today and drive south past Puerto Montt, where the Carretera Austral begins its course along Reloncaví Bay all the way to the small port of Caleta La Arena, from where a short ferry takes you across Reloncaví Fjord in regular intervals. Use any waiting time to try the delicious sea food that is on offer here.
Upon arrival on the other side at Caleta Puelche, continue on driving until you reach the placid little village of Hornopirén. A tempting stop on the way are the Pichicolo Hot Springs, located in the midst of native forest.
Note: The car fee has to be paid directly (approx. 20,00 USD per car)

Accommodation: 2*- Hotel in Hornopirén

The nearby Hornopirén National Park is another (often underrated) natural gem that forms part of the Route of the Parks of Patagonia. It protects an area of well-preserved evergreen temperate rainforest, in fact one of the world’s scarcest ecosystems. The Hornopirén Volcano, although not within park limits, crowns this landscape of mountain valleys sculpted by snowdrifts, lakes, lagoons, and rivers. Discover the magic of its biodiverse richness by yourself on a day hike.

Accommodation: 2*- Hotel in Hornopirén

(Navigation time: 4,5 h approx.– 80 km/50mi)

After some action-packed days, today there is time to relax while contemplating dreamy fjords, flanked by high forested mountains as far as the eye can reach, on a several-hours ferry ride. The ferry leaves Hornopirén mid-morning and travels through Comau Fjord all the way to the small town of Leptepú. From here, drive your car across a small stretch of land before embarking on another ferry that takes you to Caleta Gonzalo, the entrance to the astonishing Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park.

Accommodation: Wooden cabin in Caleta Gonzalo

The Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park is one of the largest private conservation efforts in South America, brought about by former North Face owner Douglas Tompkins. The park protects 715,000 acres of pristine Valdivian temperate rainforest, home to many endemic species including the endangered Alerce trees, of more than 3000 years of age. The dense green forest reaches all the way to the ocean, with a spectacular backdrop of snow-covered Andean peaks. It is one of the most spectacular coastlines on Earth; a landscape of extraordinary grandeur and wildness. The park’s network of trails, information centers, and tourist amenities is exemplary. Spend the day choosing from one of the many natural highlights the park has to offer.

Accommodation: Wooden cabin in Caleta Gonzalo

(Driving time: 1 h approx.– 55 km/35mi)

From Caleta Gonzalo, the Carretera Austral leads you through Pumalín National Park to the town of Chaitén today, bordered by huge ferns and the native, rhubarb-resembling Nalca plants.

On the way, pass by Chaitén Volcano, whose unexpected explosion in 2008, after millennia of inactivity, caused far-reaching damage in the surroundings. Nowadays an impressive hike leads up to its top. While the incredible destruction is still visible, it is beautiful to see how native pioneer plants start covering the barren top once again.

Your destination for today is the eponymous port town, the region´s main commercial and administrative center. In fact, it exists in its current location only from 2008, when the explosion made an immediate evacuation necessary.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén

(Driving time: 2 h approx.– 70 km /43 mi)

As if the lush forests, waterfalls and lakes weren’t enough, the Glacier (“Ventisquero”) El Amarillo, calving off Michinmahuida Volcano, is another highlight that adds to the extreme diversity of Pumalín National Park. Take in the views from afar, or get up close on an easy full day hike through the glacier bed it left behind.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén

(Driving time: 1,5 h approx. – 60 km /37 mi)

Don’t worry if the previous days left you with aching muscles – a visit to the rustic El Amarillo Hot Springs will release any tension. While sitting in the thermal outside pools, contemplate the surrounding mountains covered in lush vegetation.

The rest of the day is at leisure. Choose yourself if you spend it relaxing or engaging in other activities. Besides hiking, there are options to book fly-fishing excursions on-site.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén

(Driving time: 2,5 h approx. – 140 km/88 mi)

A picturesque ride south awaits you today as you continue on south to the town of La Junta. Pass through a majestic mountainous landscape and marvel at Yelcho Lake, considered one of the most beautiful in Chile.

The charming town of La Junta has been built at the confluence of the rivers Palena and Rosselot; yet not only geographically, but also for local gauchos (cowboys) and travelers, it is a traditional meeting point. Take in privileged views and explore the wilderness surrounding you.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in La Junta

(Driving time: 1 h approx. – 45 km/28 mi)

Use your morning to engage in one of many exciting outdoor activities available. Besides trekking, there are options to book fishing excursions or horseback rides.

Later on, continue the journey south to the town of Puyuhuapi, which distinguishes itself through its traditional German wooden architecture and weaving craft, particularly hand-made carpets. Its privileged location on the banks of a protected inlet also makes it a great place for water activities. The unique topography was formed in past glacial periods, which effectuated the sinking of Chile´s central valley below sea level, leaving an impressive network of fjords, sounds and channels.

Accommodation: Cabin in Puyuhuapi

(Driving time: 1 h approx. – 20 km/13 mi)

Another highlight of the Route of the Parks awaits you today: The nearby Queulat National Park is famous for its spectacular hanging glacier, the “Ventisquero Colgante”. An easy hike amidst evergreen forests and jagged rock walls leads to a viewpoint that allows you to appreciate the masses of ice from close-by. The park possesses trail options for different difficulty levels. If you are looking for a challenge, take on the demanding day hike to Laguna Los Pumas, located in the park´s northern section.

Accommodation: Cabin in Puyuhuapi

The area around Queulat National Park is not only blessed with pristine nature; on top of that, it counts with some excellent hot springs that lend themselves well for a day of deep relaxation. We recommend a visit to the nearby Ventisquero Hot Springs, where you can soak in thermal waters while contemplating the view over Puyuhuapi Fjord, surrounded by exuberant vegetation. If you feel like seeing it from another perspective, there is the option to rent sea kayaks as well.

Accommodation: Cabin in Puyuhuapi

(Driving time: 5 h approx. – 230 km/143 mi)

The journey continues along the lush wild vegetation of the Carretera Austral southward. Dense forests, quiet fjords and snow-capped peaks form a fabulous primal landscape. The road winds in tight serpentines toward one of the highest passes of the Carretera Austral and drops abruptly until reaching the raging Rio Cisnes (the Swan River). Here, the impenetrable, evergreen rain forests clear and make room for the harsh southern Patagonian mountain landscape. Through the wild and romantic valley of the Simpson River, you reach Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén region.

As the area´s main administrative center, this is a good place to stock up on supplies, or indulge in some regional delicacies in the surprisingly diverse gastronomy. A local curiosity is the Piedra del Indio, a huge rock resembling the face of an Indian, on the border of Simpson River.

Accommodation: 2-3*-Hotel in Coyhaique

(Driving time: 1,5 h approx. – 100 km/60 mi)

After leaving Coyhaique, the road leads through an increasingly barren steppe landscape and crosses a deep valley, whose rock face shimmers in a variety of colors. The lookout at the “Devil´s Pass” offers a stunning panorama of the Cerro Castillo massif and up to the summits and glaciers of the northern ice field. The eponymous national park is rapidly growing in popularity as a hiker´s paradise, and rightly so.

Accommodation: 2-3*-Hotel in Cerro Castillo Village

The majestic mountain world of Cerro Castillo, “Castle Mountain” is awaiting you today! The national park is a true hiker paradise. We recommend you to enjoy the splendid surroundings on a day hike; there are several trails of varying degrees of difficulty to choose from, depending on your preference. If you are looking for a demanding option, hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo (approx. 8-9 h return).

Accommodation: 2-3*-Hotel in Cerro Castillo Village

(Driving time: 3 h approx. – 120 km/75 mi)

Continue your journey south on the Carretera Austral. After passing the Rio Murta Valley, endless southern beech forests cover the area. Chile´s largest lake, General Carrera Lake, is already visible at a distance. Its blue-green glacial water surface and often gigantic waves are framed by the bare, reddish-colored Pampa hills, massive ice fields and the radiant sky. Spend the next days on its shore in the village of Puerto Río Tranquilo.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Rio Tranquilo

We highly recommend visiting the famous Marble Caves, a unique geological formation mostly made of marble, located on the pristine shore of Lake General Carrera. The rock formation “Capilla de Mármol” (Marble Chapel) is one of the highlights. It is possible to visit the caves either by speedboat tour or by kayaks; both can be booked in Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Rio Tranquilo

Today you have the possibility to visit the Exploradores Glacier. The access road offers impressive views on different glaciers, descending from the huge ice field San Valentin. It is a landscape of blue color, with impressive landslides and ice floes.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Rio Tranquilo

(Driving time: 3,5 h approx. – 165 km / 102 mi)

Along Lake General Carrera, you continue eastwards towards the border with Argentina. The climate changes slowly, and transforms the surroundings into a drier steppe landscape. Thus, the mild climate in the town of Chile Chico, today’s destination, is quite a surprise. It is also called the Chilean “Sun City” because of its microclimate that allows the cultivation of cherries and other fruits.

Accommodation: Cabin in Chile Chico

This day is at leisure, allowing you to visit the Patagonia National Park. Despite its extraordinary biodiversity, ranging from Patagonian steppe to lenga forest and wetlands, the park has been declared national park only quite recently in the end of 2018. It protects around ten percent of the threatened endemic South Andean deer, the Chilean Huemul.

The park was originally founded by the Tompkins Foundation (that also created Pumalín National Park). The land was then officially donated to CONAF (National Forest Corporation), and together with former Lago Jeinimeni and Lago Cochrane National Reserve today constitutes the Patagonia National Park.

Accommodation: Cabin in Chile Chico

(Driving time: 2,5 h approx. – 105 km/65 mi)

There is some time at leisure in the morning, allowing for another excursion into the yet quite unknown Patagonia National Park. Later on, drive back on the same road along General Carrera Lake, until reaching the small lively town of Puerto Guadal. Its privileged location is certainly one reason for its rise as the area’s main tourist hub.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Guadal

While Puerto Guadal is a pleasant place to stay in itself, there are several interesting options in the surroundings to spend this day at leisure. We highly recommend a horseback ride to the Fossil Hills near town, where an abundance of marine fossils can be found. Besides, the views toward the lake and the Northern Icefield are truly spectacular.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Guadal

(Driving time: 5 h approx. – 200 km / 124 mi)

The route leads south to the remote outposts of the Aysén region today. Observe the confluence of the rivers Baker and Neff and follow the course of Baker River through rough Patagonian landscape, between lakes and valleys in the Andean foothills. Today’s destination is Caleta Tortel, a village located at the estuary of Baker River and surrounded by Patagonian fjords. Its location in between of the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Field, one of our planet’s largest masses of ice outside of the poles, certainly owes to its remoteness. In fact, Tortel is only accessible via land since 2004, when the access road was built.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Caleta Tortel

The day is at leisure in Tortel, often considered the most beautiful village in Chile. Apart from its stunning location, maybe one of the most distinguishing features is the fact that it is completely made of (several miles of) wooden boardwalk. For the same reason, the town and its houses of wooden shingles has now been declared a heritage site. Its architecture tells the story of the first settlers that arrived to this area.

Even though admittedly the name is not very inviting, the boat trip to the Island of the Dead is an interesting option for a day trip.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Caleta Tortel

(Driving time: 1,5 h approx. – 40 km / 25mi)

Your journey through Chilean Patagonian wilderness continues tonight – but this time on water. A short drive takes you from Caleta Tortel to Puerto Yungay, where you embark on the ferry Crux Australis that takes you all the way to Puerto Natales. Don’t expect luxury – this ferry is a means of transport and cargo rather than a touristic cruise ship, meaning that service is quite basic, and the 44-hour trip is spent in a reclining seat. Nevertheless, a cafeteria, TV screens and an individual audio system available.
Note: The car fee has to be paid directly (approx. 175,00 USD per car)

Accommodation: Reclining seat on Crux Australis Ferry

After spending your first night on the ferry, contemplate the beauty of this inhospitable landscape of glaciers and icebergs while crossing through the canals and fjords of Bernardo O´Higgins National Park. It is Chile´s largest park and in fact one of the largest in the world. The park contains no less than 49 glaciers, which are part of the South Patagonian Ice Field. The largest of them is Pío XI, one of the few that experienced growth in the past decades.

Around midday, you reach the fishing village of Puerto Eden, home of the last descendants of the Kaweskar people. It is possible to disembark and stretch your legs while walking on its traditional wooden walkways during a 2-hour-break. Continuing on from Puerto Eden, it is another 27 hours to Puerto Natales.

Accommodation: Reclining seat on Crux Australis Ferry

Another morning in this rugged, spectacular landscape awaits. You reach firm ground in the afternoon, when you arrive in Puerto Natales. This charming town on the Ultima Esperanza Sound (Channel of Last Hope) is an agreeable and picturesque place with a steadily growing availability of touristic services and an international gastronomy. Enjoy the comforts of being back to civilization this evening. Drop-off your rental car in Puerto Natales.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Natales

(Driving time: 4 h approx. – 215 km / 134 mi)

After a good night´s sleep, you should be ready for a new highlight this morning: Torres del Paine National Park. It is without a doubt an absolute highlight for everyone visiting Chile. Where the vastness of the Patagonian steppe and the steep peaks of the Southern Cordillera meet, nature shows its most breathtaking side. 2000-meter-high peaks rise out of the vast steppe abruptly; huge glaciers, deep blue lakes and wind-blown, gnarled southern beeches determine the picture. Thundering rivers flow into the valley as waterfalls. This primeval wilderness is a unique refuge for rare animals such as guanacos, Andean foxes, flamingos and condors, the kings of the skies. In the evening you return to Puerto Natales.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Natales

Even though Torres del Paine is certainly the region´s most famous attraction, there are many ways to spend a day in the surroundings of Puerto Natales. The town itself counts with an interesting history museum allowing you to understand the development of the region and the indigenous populations that have been inhabiting this region for a long time. Other popular activities are visits to a traditional estancia, going on a horse ride or renting a kayak.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Natales

(Driving time: 3 h approx. – 250 km / 155 mi)

After you take a public bus to Punta Arenas, another ferry awaits you in the evening. The spectacular ride with the Ferry Yaghan to Puerto Williams, the continent´s southernmost city on Tierra del Fuego, takes 30 hours. Along millennial ice and snow-covered peaks, it takes you through the wind-swept fjords along America´s southernmost tip. Just like your previous ferry ride, this is not a cruise ship, therefore you should not expect luxury. Thus, you spend the night in (comfortable) seats.

Accommodation: Reclining seat on Ferry Yaghan

Today you navigate through the Alberto de Agostini National Park. The third-largest park in Chile is roughly 800 nautical miles south of Punta Arenas and was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is considered one of the 24 most pristine ecoregions on the planet. Marvel at the majesty of the 22-mile Darwin Range that reaches into the Pacific here, sculpting deep fjords molded by the glaciers of Chile’s third stretch of icefields.

Shortly before reaching Puerto Williams, pass through Yendegaia National Park, on the shores of the Beagle Channel. Yendegaia means «Deep Bay» in the Yagan language. The Darwin Range and Lake Fagnano frame its pristine landscapes, showcasing this area of incomparable beauty nestled at the very edge of the world.
You reach Puerto Williams around midnight, and will be brought to your hotel directly.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Williams

With its almost 3000 inhabitants, Puerto Williams is named the southernmost “city” in the world. The town was founded in 1953 on Navarino Island, on the shores of the Beagle Channel. Besides being the area´s port and naval base, it is also the touristic hub for visitors to Cape Horn or even Antarctica. Explore the splendid surroundings on a trekking or horse-ride – your accommodation offers a variety of options.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Williams

After spending these last days in the rough wilderness of this remotest of all places, you travel back to Punta Arenas by flight today, where a transfer takes you to your hotel.

Punta Arenas is in fact one of the windiest cities in the world. It was founded by pioneers from Europe and Chiloé (island in Chile) in the middle of the 19th century. Yet, it defies the extreme climatic conditions prevailing here along the coast of the Strait of Magellan, and has been growing to accommodate a population of over 100,000.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Punta Arenas

Your last day is at leisure in Punta Arenas. Explore the historic city center and visit the large ethnological and natural history exhibition of the Museum Maggiorino Borgatello. It displays a varied collection of flora and fauna of the Magallanes region as well as indigenous craftworks.

If you are not into museums, there are options to book excursions to see Patagonian Condors on an estancia outside town, or visit penguins on a half day boat trip to Magdalena Island.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Punta Arenas

Your adventure of the parks has come to an end. After more than five weeks of travel, it might be hard to say goodbye, but gladly you´ll have many unforgettable memories to take with you. We transfer you to the airport, from where you can take a flight back home.