Timaukel, in Tierra del Fuego, is one of the less populated communes in Chile. It hosts Lago Blanco, or white lake, the largest in the region, extending 36 kilometers long and 18 kilometers wide.
Its waters are known worldwide as a paradise for fishing (or fly-fishing). There, you can find different types of trout, like the Rainbow and the Brown trout. The lake is surrounded by Magellan forests that are born at the foot of the Fuegian range.
In the Three Brothers estate, you can watch colonies of King penguins. This capricious climate is also home to several types of birds, guanacos, wild horses, and beavers in river dams.
Peace reigns in this corner of the world. The locals are sheep farmers, and tourism has slowly developed over the past few years, due to the impressive and pristine landscapes that can be found there still.
Strait of Magellan Park
One hour from Punta Arenas is the Strait of Magellan. It’s a 4 kilometers drive where you can visit several attractions like
Bulnes Fort (National Historical Monument), which is a recreation of the first Chilean settlement in the territory, in 1983.
Wind Forest Trail (Sendero Bosque del Viento), a pedestrian route 300 meters-long where you can look for boats, birds, and whales pass by
Path of the Coast (Sendero de la Costa), another pedestrian path that’s a bit longer that crosses forests and rock formations surrounding the fort, hosting several viewing points.
The park also has a cultural center offering multimedia and interpretive displays about the natural and human history of the Strait of Magellan. And from its terrace, there is a beautiful view of Port of Hunger (Puerto de Hambre).
The Lighthouse of San Isidro
The Faro de San Isidro it’s 75 kilometers to the south of the city of Punta Arenas, located on the shores of the Brunswick Peninsula.
The Cape s surrounded by mountains and sub-Antarctic forests of coihues, canelos, mousehole trees, peat bogs, wetlands, alpine areas and rivers, lakes, and glaciers. , It’s common to see dolphins and other marine birds while visiting this attraction.
The history of this lighthouse dates to 1904, built to guide navigation towards Punta Arenas. In the mid-19th century, the Strait was a critical trading sea route. As traffic increased, so did accidents, so a navigational aid was required. It’s been restored, and it’s now a lodging.
Very close to the lighthouse is Eagle Bay, an ideal place for camping (as it is protected from strong winds) and for kayaking.
For the more adventurous, Cape Froward is further south, home to the Cross of the Seas, a large metallic cross that sits on the spot where the American continent ends.
To get there, you need to pass Fort Bulnes and San Juan, a beautiful corner where the locals often picnic during the day or collect calafate in March.
Blue Lagoon (northeast of Torres del Paine)
Torres del Paine is a classic destination in Chile and the eighth wonder of the world, no less. Tourists travel from all parts of the world to visit.
However, for those who don't like crowds and prefer to enjoy Patagonia more intimately, the northern part of the Blue Lagoon (Laguna Azul) is ideal.
From this point, you can watch the characteristic blue peaks while hiking and watch wild-horses (or baguales) roaming the Sierra Masle. You can also see mountains, valleys, estuaries, lagoons, and wetlands without bumping into many tourists. Given the path is a dirt trail, it’s necessary to visit with a guide.
Make sure to take your time to explore and try new routes in Patagonia. The following excursions will take you to places and live experiences only locals know about.
1-Hike to Laguna Verde
The Torres del Paine National Park is one of the leading attractions in Magallanes region and Chilean Antarctica. Its blue peaks draw in tourists from all over the world. Nonetheless, the area is home to many other magical places and activities.
Among them is the hike to Laguna Verde. This circuit is low difficulty and crosses the Paine Mountain Range. The Toro hill is surrounded by lakes and valleys.
The hike starts in the Estancia Lazo and its spectacular views of the Sarmiento Lake and its intense blue waters. From here you’ll be able to see the southern face of the Paine Mountain Range. As you continue walking southwest, you can appreciate the incredible Green, Onda and Calafate lagoons.
The south-west face of the Torres del Paine National Park is characterized by its lakes and rivers in pristine conditions.
This hiking is quite soft, and the entire tour takes a full day.
2- Riding the Dorotea Hill
This mountain is a natural border between Chile and Argentina. The horseback riding to its summit offers different experiences every time. From the top, you can calmly watch the entire landscape, especially the city of Puerto Natales, the Almirante Montt Gulf, and the Ultima Esperanza Fjord.
This tour takes about 3 hours and is led by a local horse riding expert or gaucho.
If you are looking for a local experience, this is a perfect way to approach the life of the horsemen at the end of the world. The Magellan horses are used to the hostile Patagonian climate and the obstacles on the way. That’s why it makes the ideal tour for the whole family.
3- The Religious Procession
There are other exciting places around the city of Coyhaique, besides the Marble Cathedral. In particular, if you want to know how the locals live their traditions, the Religious Path is an excellent example.
The walk starts towards the West on Route 240, delimited by the Simpson River on the side (paradise for those who practice fly-fishing). Your path will cross grasslands that are lost on the horizon until you reach a passageway between hills and mountains surrounded by small forests of Lenga and Cypress trees.
The first stop is after 30 kilometers approximately at the shrine of San Sebastian, where many believers thank or ask the local saint for favors. This is a quiet and cozy that doesn’t get that many tourists.
There’s a second place of worship towards the city of Puerto Aysén: Grotto of the Virgin Mary. The waters of the Virgin Waterfall fall on the side, which forms a sort of crown around the structure. Here, on every February 11, the faithful come together to pay tribute to the Virgin with offerings and ceremonies.
4-Ascending the Calbuco Volcano
Puerto Montt is not only a stopover city to take the ferry to Puerto Natales. It also hosts several tourist attractions in the surrounding area. For example, for those who love mountain climbing, The Calbuco Volcano offers a significant challenge.
Although less standard than the Osorno Volcano, this hike is of medium difficulty and requires specific skills. Along the way, you will appreciate the evergreen forest and the consequences from the last eruptions.
The summit is more than 2,000 meters above sea level. The top offers a superb view of the Llanquihue Lake, the surrounding valleys and the Puntiagudo, Tronador, and Osorno volcanoes.
And if you need some rest, about 1,100 meters into the climb there is a Conaf refuge.
The climbing trips usually take place between October and March (high season).
5-Sailing through the Mountains Fjord
This is an alternative tour to make from Puerto Natales and that probably very few tourists have heard of. Only a few tour operators offer this trip, and it’s for the more adventurous. The itinerary is demanding, as it includes a sequence of excursions and sailing.
The adventure begins on top of a boat that crosses from Puerto Natales to the Antonio Varas Peninsula, through the Señoret Channel. From then on, the journey continues in small ships, 4x4 and trekking.
The route offers impressive views and attractions like the Resi Fjord, the Alacalufes Reserve, the Mountains Fjords, the Laguna Cliffs, the Bernal, Hermann, Kiara, Alsina and Paredes glaciers, and the Sarmiento Mountain Range.
This tour can take between 2 and 3 days. Among its key traits is that tourists spend the night in a shelter.
In every trip, locals are the best source of information, and Chilean Patagonia is no exception. If you'd like to know the B-side of this region, and want to avoid tourists, have the locals share with you their best-kept secrets.
It is a place that you probably won't find in any guidebook because it doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure to receive visitors. Even more, very few people know about this site since its discovery 40 years ago.
Monte Verde is approximately 30 kilometers southwest of the city of Puerto Montt. It could be the oldest archaeological site in America, where archaeologists discovered objects that are more than 14,000 years old.
American anthropologist and archaeologist Tom Dillehay made the discovery along with a group of Chilean scientists from Universidad Austral in 1977.
There, they found hunting objects, architectural elements, animal bones, fire remains and even some human footprints.
The finding, however, causes significant controversy until today because several researchers question its validity. The reason is that the discovery of Monte Verde forfeits the most accepted theory so far about human settlement of the American continent.
Before Monte Verde, there was a consensus in the scientific community about the first inhabitants in the continent: the Clovis. This group inhabited what is now the state of New Mexico (United States), and its origins can be traced back to 11,200 years ago.
Currently, the site of Monte Verde is managed privately, so you need to coordinate visits beforehand.
2- Sofia Lagoon
Where do locals from Puerto Natales spend their summer? Probably they do not want many tourists to know where they find a bit of peace during high season.
Sofia Lagoon is 30 kilometers north of the city, between the Señoret mountain range and the Benitez hill.
There, local practice sports, fishing or dive into the cold turquoise waters of the lagoon. And when winter comes, they to this area to go hiking to get the best view of the place and the condors that live there.
3-Curanto en hoyo
A classic dish in Chiloé island is the curanto in a pit.
This is a somewhat unique preparation: people make a hole in the ground and use hot stones, and steam to cook the food; seafood, meats, vegetables and potato preparations like the milcao (potato pancake) and chapalele (made of potatoes, flour, and water).
This technique takes some time. It’s almost a ritual. And it’s not an easy preparation; must be done in the open so only a few places offer this dish. What is more, a minimum of 5 people is required. This is the reason you’ll find that most restaurants cook the curanto in a pot, a simpler version.
For you to enjoy a delicious curanto in a pit go to the open kitchens in Dalcahue (25 kilometers north of the city of Castro), located inside a building shaped like a ship “floating” above the sea. There, you’ll find 20 eating open kitchens offering a wide array of hearty dishes.
Close to this food court is the Craft Fair of Dalcahue, where you will find miniatures of original Chiloe architecture like houses with wooden tiles and the churches.
4-Molino Machmar Arts Center
Only are few places are dedicated to the dissemination of the local culture in the city of Puerto Varas. One of them is the Molino Machmar Arts Center (CAMM).
Besides the art exhibitions, the place also stands out for its architecture; an old mill restored to house this Cultural Center.
Local musicians, artists exhibitions, and all sorts of workshops can be found here. It also hosts the only cinema in the city, where people go to watch films and documentaries.
On the road between Puerto Guadal and the town of Chile Chico, there is a place where you can see remarkable petroglyphs.
The site is not part of any official tour itinerary nor is it marked with signs, so you'll have to resort to the help of locals to locate it.
They are located just 10 meters from the road, in a cave that supposedly housed the original inhabitants of the island.
The road to get there has many curves and cliffs, although it offers some of the most beautiful views of the General Carrera Lake.
These are not typical souvenirs but truly original items that will remind you of a memorable trip.
Forget the usual magnets, keychains or t-shirts with the name of the city you visited. These are some of the things you should buy in Chilean Patagonia, all representing Patagonians’ everyday lives and made from native materials.
These handicrafts and products made from the area’s natural resources have a special value. In addition to supporting local production, you will find pieces that only exist in Patagonia.
Your trip to the end of the world should create unique memories, including the things you take back home. If you plan to return with more luggage, do it with authentic and distinctive souvenirs. Here we recommend four things you should buy in Chilean Patagonia:
Chilote woolen hat
It is a traditional accessory that’s even won a place in national folklore. A classic postcard of Chiloé depicts the typical fisherman going out to sea wearing his woolen hat.
These hats are usually hand-knitted by Chilote artisans from sheep's wool. They provide ideal protection from the usually cold and windy climate in the area.
You can find them in several markets or craft fairs scattered around the Chiloé archipelago. For example, the Dalcahue fair, Los Palafitos in Castro, or the Llauquil crafts fair in Quellón, among others.
Puerto Natales knitwear
If you like sheep's wool and want to wear something a little more sophisticated you can find exclusive designs at the Le Mouton Vert store in Puerto Natales. There, this garments are made in a completely natural way, in an aim to raise awareness of non-industrialized work.
It is located on Avenida Pedro Montt 16, Galpón Patagonia.
Also in Puerto Natales, you can weave your own creations at Krea-Noe. There you can take a weaving class and make your own scarf. There are also bed runners, ponchos, ruanas (oversized wraps), sweaters and many other clothes made from wool.
Salmon is not just sought after to prepare delicious culinary dishes; it now has a second use. The skin that is discarded by most salmon farms is used to make exclusive handbags, shoes, wallets, and several other accessories.
You can find these products at the Melipulli crafts market (opposite the Puerto Montt bus terminal), at Chiloé’s traditional summer fairs, and at crafts fairs in Angelmó and Plaza de Armas, in Coyhaique.
One of the things you need to know about Patagonian culture is the Indigenous peoples who inhabited this southern land, among them the Selk’nam. This group is characterized by its striking bodypainting done with animal fat.
One shop in the Puerto Natales crafts market sells small replicas of rheas made from rabbit skin and figures of Selk’nam men carved in wood made by artist María Guenchugaray, who specializes in rustic pieces.
Huilliche artisan Rosa Paillacar, inspired by Selk’nam rituals, also carves beautiful figures of this Indigenous people. She sells them in Rodemil Bitterlich No. 1650.
You will live a unique experience in Patagonia. Make sure you buy a special souvenir to take home that you find useful or meaningful, one that you will not find elsewhere in the world.
By buying a local piece of craft, you will be supporting local development and own a product with a story.
Also, make sure you are aware of your country’s entry restrictions on products with a vegetable or animal origin.
If you don’t conform with the standard tourism alternatives that travel agencies offer, make sure that you speak with the locals and ask for the best travel tips as soon as you get to Chilean Patagonia.
All cities and destinations in Patagonia have hidden secrets only known by its inhabitants. You could be one of the few lucky tourists to discover them.