The New York Times recently highlighted Chilean Patagonia’s National Parks System as one of the top tourist destinations to visit in 2018.
The region ranks sixth among 52 on the list, which is not bad!
The main reason is that Patagonia hosts some of the most beautiful corners of Chile and the world.
Here’s a description of some of the best parks in Chilean Patagonia to visit with your family.
Chiloé National Park
It’s located on the west coast of the Grand Island of Chiloé, in the Lagos region. It stretches for almost 42 thousand hectares, and its main sectors are Chepu and Abtao.
Chepu is in the north, and it’s notorious for its rich cultural heritage, as well as places of paleontological interest like Rahue beach.
Native Huilliche communities living close to the park preserve their customs and traditions. Most importantly, they are fully integrated into the operation of the park, and there are hosting alternatives for travelers to learn more about their culture.
Because the park is found on an island, endemic species of birds and mammals have endured, including the Chiloé concon and diuca, the cocoi heron, caranca, the southern pilpilen, among others. Also, you will be able to observe Chiloé foxes, monitos del monte, mice tree, and others.
The park includes trekking circuits like the El Tepual, Dunes of Cucao, Chanquín-Cole Cole, Cole Cole River- Anay River, the Chanquín-Grande River, and Castro-Abtao, although some require some preparation.
Also, there are observations spots like the one at Cucao Lake and the coastal dunes that are a must-see attraction.
We recommend you access the park through the Cucao-Chanquín sector. You can arrive by land from the city of Castro by Route 5 until you reach the Notuco junction and then head off to Cucao.
The accommodation found in the area consists of cabins and camping sites.
Torres del Paine National Park
In 2013, Torres del Paine was declared the Eigth Wonder of the World. That is why, year after year, more tourists want to visit this park, making it of the best-qualified national parks in Chile.
Also, it’s located 112 kilometers to the north of the city of Puerto Natales, so it’s easy to reach by land.
There, you'll find different types of accommodation, from comfortable hotels to camping sites. The same applies to activities and attractions; there is something for all tastes and ages.
Without a doubt, the main attraction is the Paine Massif, with its impressive blue peaks. However, other beautiful spots are as remarkable, like the Gray Glacier, the Pehoé Lake, the Salto Grande waterfall, and the Nordenskjöld Lake.
If you’re traveling with children, you’ll be probably wondering what to do in Torres del Paine. It all depends on their interests, the number of days the visit will last, and their physical conditions.
If your family likes to go trekking but without so much physical preparation, avoid doing the W hiking circuit or the O trekking trail, which are more demanding.
Prefer shorter excursions (you can do some on top of a tour van, even) and other alternatives like horse riding, fishing or rafting (for kids older than 12).
If you want your children to learn about the species they’ll see in the park before you visit, check out this site.
Take note of these tips to make the perfect trip to Torres del Paine.
Laguna San Rafael National Park
It’s the largest in Aysen region, extending 1.74 million hectares, of which 400,000 consist of only millennial ice that is part of the Northern Chilean Ice Fields, which gives shape to several glaciers, lagoons, and rivers.
Its main attractions include the San Rafael glacier and lagoon, a natural pool of crystal clear water, ice and a diversity of marine species such as dolphins, sea lions, chungungos, elephant seals, whales and much more across 700,000 hectares.
Here, one of the most common activities is the boat tour (and then by zodiac) that takes you closer to the glacier. The experience includes navigating through the fjords and channels appreciating the magnificent landscape, and finishing the journey enjoying a glass of whiskey (or non-alcoholic beverage) with millennial ice extracted from some of the floating chunks of ice that have fallen to the water.
The most striking aspect of this tour is the different shades the icebergs have depending on their exposure to light, and the resonant sounds the ice makes when breaking off the glacier.
This is an ideal family trip. However, make sure beforehand that your children don't suffer from motion sickness.
San Rafael is a reservation for bird species like the Black-necked swan, the huet huet, the Black-browed albatross, the cormorant and the chucao, which makes it a perfect destination for travelers who love birdwatching. The local fauna also includes mammals like the huemul (a Chilean emblem) and the kodkod.
You can easily access this park by sea from Puerto Chacabuco or by land through Exploradores Bay.
Queulat National Park
This beautiful park is close to Puerto Cisnes, 165 kilometers north of the city of Coyhaique. It is known as "the evergreen forest" due to its abundant vegetation composed mainly of coigües, tepas, and tepus.
Meanwhile, its fauna includes the Black woodpecker, condor, pudu, puma and four-eyed frog, among others.
Its main attraction is its hanging glacier, a vast mass of ice in a groove in the mountain that you can observe from a lookout point located on the front, to which you arrive after walking a hiking trail of 2.500 meters.
You'll also find the salto Padre García Hurtado waterfall, the Risopatrón Lake, the Pumas Lagoon, the Queulat slope, the Iceberg Lagoon, and the Condor waterfall.
Queulat also hosts resting areas like the Puyuhuapi Hot Springs, with thermal waters that reach up to 47ºC.
Inside the park, you can also do biking, fishing, and boating tours.
This is an ideal park for children because it has short walks for all public and its landscapes seem to come out of a fairy tale. Proof of this is the path called the Enchanted Forest, 1,700 meters long, which gives your access to a lagoon at the foot of a rocky wall that shapes like an amphitheater, the birthplace of the Cascada River.
You can get to Queulat Park directly through Carretera Austral (Austral Highway or Route 7).
Yendegaia Bay National Park
This park, founded in 2013, is the center-south of the Grand Island in Tierra del Fuego and adjacent to the Tierra del Fuego Park in Argentina.
This is an ideal alternative for families looking for extreme adventure because there are no routes but a few marked trails.
Here the forests are thick, some sectors are swampy, and the rivers run strong.
One of its main attractions is the path that crosses the Darwin Massif in the Andes Mountain Range.
The area is surrounded by snow mountains, glaciers, channels, glaciers of different sizes and unique flora and fauna where baguales (wild horses), the leopard seal or birds such as the southern giant petrel roam.
More interestingly, this is a place that few get to see.
Due to its remoteness, it is necessary that you guide yourself with the help of a GPS and, as expert recommends, a local guide who knows the place. Bear in mind there are no accommodation alternatives in the park.
Given that the Yendegaia involves some physical demand, it is advisable to go with children older than 12 years in good physical shape; keep in mind that even if they are prepared, you may need to carry their backpacks during part of the journey.
Take note of this practical tip: arrange your visit directly with the Military Body of Work (CMY), which is building a road that crosses the park.
Visitors often arrive from the city of Punta Arenas to the town of Porvenir on a ferry. Then they drive to the Fagnano Lake, where the trekking route to Yendegaia begins.
Alerce Andino National Park
In the Lakes region, in Llanquihue province, lies this Biosphere Reserve of temperate rainforests of the Southern Andes.
In its almost 40 thousand hectares, the alerce tree or Patagonian redwood dating back to 3,000 years predominate; this tree grows approximately 1 centimeter every 15 years. You’ll observe that some trees reach 50 meters high, even.
There’s also a large number of lagoons (around 50) that spread between the alerce forests.
The park is 40 kilometers away from the city of Puerto Montt through Carretera Austral. Access is quick using two alternatives routes:
- The Camino Público V-65 that joins Puerto Montt with the town of Correntoso.
- The south entrance through the road that connects the village of Lenca with Puerto Montt.
Inside the park, you will find several hiking trails, like the one that stretches between the Chaiquenes Lagoon and the Triángulo Lagoon, or the path between Sargazo Lake and Fría Lagoon, or the one between the Correntoso River and Pangal River, among others.
Other attractions in Alerce Andino include the Reloncaví Estuary, where the waters of the Petrohué River flow into; Cochamó and Puelo; a clutter of alerces close to Fría Lagoon, and fauna composed by pumas, monitos del monte, pudu, vizcachas and much more.
This park has two sectors for camping and picnic areas that are ideal for day visits.
The southernmost region in the world hosts a variety of natural parks for families to enjoy their trip. While some are equipped with first-class services, others are near-pristine conservation areas.
If you are planning a family trip to Chilean Patagonia and want to visit any of these parks, it is essential that you know first the abilities and interests of each member.
If you have small children or they are not used to this kind of voyages, a park that is more equipped with essential amenities, like Torres del Paine, is a better alternative.
Now, if your children are used to going on excursions and like adventure, you can go to parks that are more remote or less intervened.
For necessary information like the entrance price, services, or visit the website of the Chilean forestry corporation Conaf, in charge of managing the parks.