February 15 2022

Puerto Montt or Puerto Natales: Where to take the Patagonian Fjords ferry?


If you are thinking of traveling the Patagonian Fjords ferry route, but you can't choose between leaving from Puerto Montt or Puerto Natales, don't worry! We tell you what it means to depart from either city.

This ferry route's unique landscapes and views are a delightful way to discover Patagonia differently. However, choosing where to take the ferry is as essential as the route itself.

Why is it different if you travel by ferry from Puerto Montt or Puerto Natales?

The route is the same, but the experience is not. One is better if you have more time to travel, and the other if you want to watch the local sea life in daylight. Whichever is best depends entirely on you!

If you depart from Puerto Montt

Duration of the trip: 4 days and 4 nights

You begin navigating the Reloncaví Sound and the Gulf of Ancud. Between December and April, you can watch the sunrise from the Corcovado Gulf and enjoy whale watching in the area.

Then, the adventure can take 3 different courses depending on weather conditions and tidal currents in the channels:

Boca del Guafo

Imagine sailing surrounded by thousands of islands, crossing the Chonos Archipelago and Guafo Island, two areas covered by the characteristic wooded landscape of austral Chile. 

The Chonos Archipelago is a group of small islands located in the province of Aysén, surrounded by vegetation and hills of different heights. 

Meanwhile, Guafo Island is an area home to different species of sea life, birds, the Magellanic penguin, and the largest breeding colony of the black shearwater seabird.

Ninualac Channel

Through this route, you will sail through the Moraleda Channel towards Tuap Island, continue through the Ninualac Channel, and then sail into the open sea at sunset.

Pulluche Channel

With this last option, the ferry also goes through the Moraleda Channel but continues through the Errázuriz and Chacabuco channels and then enters the Pulluche Channel, the richest in vegetation, with cypress and lenga forests that in the Fall provide a warm, reddish spectacle.

This route is also rich in fauna, so you will watch different species of sea lions, wild birds, and toninas, a type of dolphin that stands out for being the largest freshwater dolphin. 

Regardless of the path, the ferry will reach the Gulf of Sorrows, an ideal spot for whale watching. However, consider that much of the crossing is made at night.

After you cross the Gulf of Sorrows, you will watch the sunrise as the ferry transits through the Messier Channel and comes across the cargo ship "Captain Leonidas," a stranded vessel that today is a navigation lighthouse and reference for sailors. 

The route then continues towards the Sobenes Pass, the southernmost area of the entire trip, to later head into Santa Maria Channel and enter the waters of the city of Puerto Natales, your final destination. 

Consider that if you depart from Puerto Montt, you will arrive in Puerto Natales in the morning. You will then have enough time to visit the city's attractions and activities.

If you depart from Puerto Natales

Duration of the trip: 4 nights 3 days

This tour is recommended if you are in the southern tip of Patagonia and wish to go north. It is also ideal if you have less time as it is shorter than the course from Puerto Montt.

The adventure starts at Seno Unión and then into the Santa María Channel, which opens the way into the Patagonian Channels, heading for the Messier Channel, where the ferry comes across the stranded vessel "Capitán Leonidas."

In the afternoon of the third day, you will sail through the Gulf of Sorrows, where you can enjoy watching humpback, minke, and blue whales, as long as the weather permits.

The next day at dawn, you could begin navigating through one of the following courses, depending on weather conditions and sea currents, just like in the Puerto Montt route explained above:

Pulluche Channel

Ninualac Channel

Mouth of Guafo

Either path takes you to the Gulf of Corcovado, across from the Corcovado volcano, then the Apiao Channel, the Gulf of Ancud, by the island of Chiloe, and finally the Reloncaví Sound across from Puerto Montt, where you'll arrive in the morning with enough free time to explore its attractions. 

What's the main difference between departing from Puerto Montt or Puerto Natales?

You get to appreciate the local wildlife and milestone attractions in both directions but at different times. 

Check this expert guide for more information about the Patagonian Fjords and our Esperanza ferry

Choose whichever fits your travel plans best!

Both departure ports offer a different travel experience along the same ferry route. It depends on your time and where you want to go in Chilean Patagonia next.

Sailing from Puerto Montt gives you an extra day of travel and enjoying activities on board; departing from Puerto Natales increases your chances of whale watching and other fauna at some points along the route. 

Whatever your choice is, we assure you that both will allow you to live a memorable experience in the southernmost region in the world.

6 requirements to board the Esperanza ferry

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