As we travel along the Carretera Austral, we find various options for glacier tours. Thus, both the Southern Ice Fields and the Northern Ice Fields offer us alternatives, some of them are easier to access than others. Prices also vary, so we recommend planning well, and for that, what can be better than traveling with Aysén Journeys!
Below we will tell you about the glaciers that are among the most requested by our travelers. In this first part, the San Rafael Lagoon and its homonymous glacier, one of people´s favorite:
The San Rafael Lagoon and its homonymous glacier are, without a doubt, the highlighted attraction in many of the tours that are done on the Carretera Austral. However, the experience in not complete without the rest of its ingredients, like shapes, colors and flavors that nature provide. That is why during our trip we also get ready to enjoy everything else: the southern fjords, the evergreen forests, the flora, the fauna and sailing for long hours aboard a catamaran or speedboat. In short terms, there are two main ways to reach one of the most important tourist attractions in the Aysén region: setting sail from Puerto Río Tranquilo or from Puerto Chacabuco.
We headed to this last town, where we embarked in the morning towards our destination, the San Rafael Lagoon, on a 12-hour tour and a distance of 250 round-trip nautical miles (option from Chacabuco). Upon entering the catamaran we are invited to sit at a table and make ourselves comfortable in one of the many seats for passengers. Everything inside is very tidy, with heating for those colder days. We can order different drinks and things to eat on board. And as we sail, we realize that a good reason to travel to Laguna San Rafael from Puerto Chacabuco instead of Río Tranquilo is that it allows us to explore the Patagonian channels in depth, a very tasty and desirable alternative to that offered by the route by car along the Carretera Austral. But from Tranquilo we get a good taste of nature, as we also have to drive 2 hours to the wharf, passing through areas with lakes, rivers and cascades.
We travel south through the Moraleda Canal, which offers us spectacular views of the mountain range, on whose slopes we constantly see waterfalls and pristine forests. Shortly before arriving, we come across the Témpanos River, which rises further south from the San Rafael Lagoon and flows north for 10 kilometers, flowing into the Elefantes fjord south of the channel. This is the first point on the road where we see hundreds of ice floating in the water. Suddenly, the imposing San Rafael Glacier appears before us. From a distance, its ice appears small, but as we begin to get closer, we realize its true dimensions.
Laguna San Rafael is connected to the Pacific Ocean and other inland channels, forming part of a large national park of almost 2 million hectares, of which approximately a quarter corresponds to Campos de Hielo Norte. This makes it the second largest in Chile behind PN Bernardo O'Higgins. Also we have within this protected area, Mount San Valentín, the highest in Patagonia with its 4058 meters above sea level. The San Rafael Glacier was discovered in 1674 by a European named Bartolomé Gallardo, while he was sailing between Chiloé and the Strait of Magellan.
We spend approximately two hours in the lagoon enjoying the surroundings, so it is not necessary to rush to take photos as soon as we arrive at our destination, since we will have good time to take shots from different angles. We put on our life jackets, we receive some talks, and we are told that we are going to approach 500 meters away from the glacier aboard zodiacs. In addition, they ask us that during the journey we will not stop or put our hands in the water. We are struck by the fragility of the landscape. Of the ecosystem. We felt the crunch of the ice and witnessed some impressive landslides.
From the boat we begin to see icebergs of different sizes, which are ice that broke off from the San Rafael Glacier. It is also the largest glacier in the Northern Ice Fields, with a front wall from 50 to 70 meters high, a width of 2 kilometers and a glacier tongue of almost 15 kilometers. If we are lucky, in the lagoon we can see some native animals, such as the Leopard seal, sea lions and black-necked swans, among others. At the beginning of the return trip, the passengers are invited to make the traditional toast with whiskey and thousand-year-old ice.
Next week, MONTT GLACIER. Don't miss it!
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