7 beauty spots along the Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales ferry route
Can you imagine cruising the Patagonian fjords between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales in a ferry for 4 days and 3 nights? There are no two ways about it… you have to experience this unforgettable trip.
To give you an idea of what it’s like to glide through the channels of southern Chile and soak in its spectacular scenery, we spoke to Captain Nelson Thollander Dolhabaratz, who’s in charge of Navimag’s Patagonian Fjords Route, who shared with us his impressions on the natural wonders that you’ll find along the way.
Captain Thollander knows Navimag’s Patagonian Fjords Route like the back of his hand. He’s overseen the Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales route for the last 5 years and has years of experience crossing the Patagonian straits, which are full of stories and ancient legends. What he loves most about his work is navigating the channels, which are calmer than the open sea, but still thrilling.
So take note of what this old "sea dog" has to say about the beauty spots on this Navimag route. You’ll be continually reaching for your camera and just blown away by the excellent views.
1. The advantage of navigating the fjords
Captain Thollander believes that it is better to cruise through channels rather than the open sea because the former are inland waters and always calmer. "At open sea, we could hit a bad weather front. It’s common for fronts to form in the ocean, as they come from Antarctica and then meet the warm air of the Pacific, forming rain and strong wind, which are dangerous in the open sea."
In contrast, navigating channels on a ferry is calmer even if there’s wind. "For me, as captain, it requires skill sailing through the fjords because in some places they are narrow, but I love that excitement and so do many tourists."
2. Unique landscapes
The ferry route from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales offers many sights and experiences on the 4-day and 3-night journey.
"From setting sail at Puerto Montt, you enjoy the fjords of Chile; on leaving you can appreciate Isla Grande (the largest island of the Chiloé archipelago), the Osorno Volcano, the Calbuco Island, the Gulf of Corcovado, and then you’ll see Melimoyu, a stratovolcano with an ice-filled caldera 40 km northeast of the small port of Puyuhuapi," says Captain Thollander. These landscapes are all awe-inspiring, he stresses.
After Melimoyu, the ferry enters the Moraleda Channel, offering an unparalleled 90-mile view of Chilote waters crisscrossed by the Guaitecas Islands and the Chonos Archipelago.
"The Moraleda Channel is interesting because it’s narrower, then there are the exits to the ocean where the most known channels are. The widest are the Ninualac and Darwin channels, where most of the cruises go," the captain adds.
3. Unmissable landscapes in clear weather
For this veteran of Patagonian waters, the Pulluche Channel is one of the most extensive, but sometimes the climate gets in the way; it depends on good visibility and weather.
"People love the view and, on a good day, you’ll see the Coastal Mountain Range and the Andes beyond on one side and islands on the other. The beauty of this area is it always looks different; sometimes it’s misty, or sunny or there’s a rainbow," he says.
4. The adrenaline rush
Once past Coluche Channel, the real adventure begins! After the ferry rounds the Taita peninsula further south, it crosses the Gulf of Penas, a tricky area to navigate. "This is the most complicated part of the journey. For those who like adventure, it’s exciting to feel how the ferry pitches with the waves and how they pound the boat."
5. Dreamy glaciers and fjords
Then comes the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which feeds into all the fjords and glaciers and can be seen from the ferry. "One of them is Calvo, which looks like a natural amphitheater of glaciers. On the route, before arriving in Puerto Natales, there are also glaciers that hang off the mountainside.
6. The mystery of the stranded ship
Captain Thellonder tells us that a little further south, back in the Patagonian channels, there’s a legendary stranded boat on Cotopaxi Bank.
According to the Ruta Chile website, at the beginning of 1889, the English ship Cotopaxi ran aground on Cotopaxi Bank, located in Messier Channel, opposite Williams Island. On the far north of Cotopaxi Bank, you can see the stranded Capitán Leonidas ship; a radar reflector and lighthouse have been installed on its deck to warn passing ships of the danger nearby.
Captain Thollander confirms that a ship called Cotopaxi "crashed" against the bank two centuries ago and now the area is called Cotopaxi Bank and the stranded vessel, Capitán Leonidas.
7. An historic port with 100 inhabitants
After a narrow channel, comes Puerto Edén, a charming fishing village of no more than 100 inhabitants. Kawésqar still live here, an Indigenous community that date back 6,000 years, according to Chile’s intangible cultural heritage management system Sigpa.
This part of the journey enthuses Captain Thollander: "They made a dock and there are no cars there, but they did create a space to allow an ambulance in, and they fixed a walkway that crosses the whole island. There’s a small school for a few children; it’s picturesque and when there’s snow it looks like an Alpine village."
We trust Captain Nelson Thollander’s testimony will inspire you to make this beautiful ferry trip through the Patagonia fjords between the cities of Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales.
Now you know what most of the route is like, we hope that you decide to come to southern Chile and experience the journey of your dreams in contact with nature.
Traveling through Patagonia is fascinating. Even more so if done by ferry. How to enjoy the most of this transportation alternative? Learn what Rachel and her family have to say about it.
What's it like to travel through Patagonia by ferry?
Traveling through Chilean Patagonia is fascinating. Even more so on board a ferry navigating some of the most pristine corners of the planet.
The following blog describes the experience of Raquel, a 43-year-old Spanish traveler, who explored this southernmost destination by taking a Navimag ferry along the Patagonia Fjords Route.
Sailing through the Patagonian fjords on a Navimag ferry is quite an adventure. On board, you can see views and natural wonders that don’t usually appear in travel guides.
This is what Raquel enjoyed most as she traveled, with her two children and husband, on the ferry route between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales for four days and three nights.
They chose to take the ferry because it allowed them to see spectacular scenery as well as make the most of their time. What struck this family of travelers most was seeing places that were off the beaten track and inaccessible; the spot where they saw the most people on the whole route was in the tiny village of Puerto Edén.
This Spanish family found out about Navimag from a travel guide. They then organized their trip via the Internet. As they were traveling with children and time was limited – three and a half weeks – they had to plan the route well.
“Bearing in mind the time constraints, we decided our itinerary, so we could see the most without becoming too exhausted. After backpacking for a few days, the ferry offered a chance to rest. It’s also a viable alternative to flying where you can’t see the scenery,” comments Raquel.
Although they love backpacking, it was the first time Raquel and her husband traveled on a ferry with their children. In general, they prefer versatile places from where they can trek, camp and enjoy nature broken up with visits to cities.
When seeking accommodation, they follow the same logic: they usually camp but also stay in bed & breakfasts, Airbnb, and hostels. When they were in Puerto Natales, the family stayed in a Bed & Breakfast for a few days before setting off on a three-day trek and sleeping in a tent.
The Patagonia Fjords Route allowed Raquel to become immersed in her surrounding and disconnect from everything else. “It’s a major help for people who have demanding routines. It’s a real break being on board a ferry. Stopping, resting and absorbing the views or the energy the surroundings give you; it's amazing. Although there is no direct contact with nature – because you don’t get off the boat and hike – the very fact of being completely isolated is a rest,” she says.
She’s also grateful that it was possible to disconnect from the world on board the ferry. “There’s no internet or telephone – nothing. Nowadays with technology, you’re always checking where you are or what animal you saw. I loved being disconnected!” she adds.
Raquel and her family arrived with a wish-list of what to see and do but were most excited about seeing Patagonian wildlife.
For both Raquel and the children, the aim of the trip was to see penguins and whales. The waters of Chilean Patagonia are an excellent place to spot these animals, especially after the recent discovery of a new orca species, reported by National Geographic.
In short, no one’s better placed to speak about a travel destination than someone who’s been there. The testimony of Raquel and her family about their Navimag journey is just a taste of the wonders that lie in store on a trip through the Patagonian fjords.
The Patagonia Fjords Route gave this family of travelers little-known views, disconnection from the outside world and absolute peace which helped them enjoy their adventure to the maximum.
Can you imagine yourself practicing yoga on the bow of a ferry, with Patagonia’s unrivaled nature in the background? Moisa tells us how to.
Relax doing yoga as you glide through Patagonia’s pristine waters
Practicing a sport or any physical activity is practically impossible when traveling by plane, bus or car. By ferry, however, it's a different story.
Moisa, a traveler and yoga practitioner, came to this conclusion as she kept up her usual routine on the Navimag ferry while enjoying the remote places and experiences that only a boat trip can offer.
Yoga is synonymous with peace, tranquility, and silence. It requires gentle, but firm movements and practitioners need great concentration to perform them correctly.
But how can you find this peace and calm when traveling on buses, planes, and cars? It's almost impossible.
It’s another story when you’re on a ferry. This motivated 64-year-old Moisa, a Slovenian yoga practitioner who’s been living in Chile for more than 23 years, to travel through Patagonia with her partner on a Navimag ferry.
"I wanted to travel by ferry to experience being on a boat, to feel the sea and see the fjords of Chile," says Moisa. She was also inspired by having space and options to continue practicing her yoga routine on board.
"It’s a huge advantage to practice yoga on a ferry."
Moisa and her partner have been living for some years in San Pedro de Atacama, in northern Chile, where they own a hostel and work in tourism. After years of hard work, they decided to take a break, get away from the desert for a while and see the other end of the country.
But Moisa didn’t want to stop her daily yoga routine. That's why she appreciated the fact there were yoga classes on the Navimag ferry, and she was allowed to practice it on the deck.
"I am a regular yoga practitioner, and that’s why I think it's great that there are yoga classes on board, especially given this is a long trip. This discipline is appealing because of its minimal impact and an excellent workout. I practiced when the weather was good; it helps a lot to clear the mind."
Moisa never found the boat’s rocking a problem. "Personally, if I am traveling for a long time, I do yoga anywhere. Once you start yoga, you get used to it, and it doesn’t matter where you practice. But it's a huge advantage to practice yoga on a ferry. The idea is to stretch and do exercise," she says.
What's more, the peace and calm offered by the slow-moving ferry trip made it easier to concentrate on the exercises. "Initially, it's hard to get used to being on board because you don’t have the usual distractions like Internet, music, or even the phone. It’s difficult to disconnect and focus on this new experience. But after a while, one begins to enjoy being disconnected. It’s an excellent experience; being calm and watching the sea at a slow pace," she says.
"It makes me feel younger."
There are many benefits to yoga. The main ones are related to the physical strength, resistance, and flexibility it gives your body, as well as boosting energy levels, says Healthline fitness and nutrition magazine.
Moisa is aware of this. At 64, she practices it with enviable ease. "It helps keep my body agile, keep the different parts of my body healthier. For me it’s an essential practice, and makes me feel younger, stronger, and more alive.”
Can you imagine doing your yoga postures with the unparalleled beauty of Patagonia as a backdrop?
Traveling by ferry through the fjords and canals of this remote region is an unbeatable experience. It’s also an ideal place to practice yoga at your pace while the boat glides slowly through the pristine waters. We invite you to find out where else to practice yoga in the south of Chile.
Do you want to know what else you can do in this remote corner of the world? Download our free guide to alternative traveling in Patagonia to find out!
Want to travel hassle-free? Read about these two Swiss slow travelers who bet on a ferry to continue their journey through America.
How two slow travelers journeyed through Patagonia
Are you planning to travel slowly through this remote southern region? What must you know before planning your journey? What tips will make it even better?
We spoke to two Swiss travelers who gave us different advice and opinions on how to enjoy this beautiful destination fully.
Gabriella Hummel (28) and Sandro Álvarez (39) are a Swiss couple that has spent more than two years traveling around America. In their Vanabundos account on Instagram, they share some of their adventures on the road with “Luz,” an old van that they have made their home.
They practice “slow travel,” which allows travelers to experience travel destinations more in-depth. They take the necessary time to enjoy each place visited and to meet locals. Before setting off, they saved for two years and currently work remotely for clients in Switzerland.
The last part of their journey took them to Chile – the best country to visit in 2018 according to Lonely Planet magazine – from where they started a long road trip through Patagonia, allowing them to talk about this area based on experience. In this interview, we highlight the best tips to make the most of this incredible destination, organized into five topics.
1. Live the Slow Travel experience
Sandro: “We didn’t know we preferred slow travel. We only realized when we were in Mexico after one year and a half. Slow travel allows you to see and enjoy the place and people more. If you drive all the time, you’ll only see the road.”
Gabriella: “We decided to travel, but we never made an itinerary. We wanted to reach Argentina to visit my family, but they’ve been waiting a long time… we’re only now reaching Buenos Aires. This is the last stage. We fly back to Switzerland in April, but we will leave the van in Uruguay. It will wait for us until November when we’ll resume the journey.”
2. The attractions of traveling by ferry
Gabriella: “One of the best things about traveling by ferry through the fjords was seeing the whales and many dolphins. It was beautiful. We had a lot of luck although the weather wasn’t perfect.”
Sandro: “The ferry journey allowed us to relax and disconnect.”
Gabriella: “I also liked the people. The guides were always very attentive, and we loved the food. We are vegans, so it’s always a little tricky, but it was great because they had alternatives for us. I liked the fact the boat wasn’t new because it had character, its own history.”
3. Tips for enjoying ferry activities
Gabriella: “I liked the talks about animals and the route we were taking. It was also fun to play bingo, visit the captain on the bridge, and, of course, to practice yoga.”
Sandro: “If you take the ferry, I recommend taking sea sickness tablets. Also, a warm jacket for the wind because it’s a little cold sometimes, and books to take advantage of the time and peacefulness to read.”
4. Road trip in Patagonia
Sandro: “Traveling with your home and bed gives you more flexibility and freedom. You can stay wherever you want. That’s what we wanted, and we thought the easiest way was to buy a van. But in large cities, we usually leave the van. It’s easier to park it and stay in hostels. We no longer have a home in Switzerland, we’re thinking of returning for three months, however, we’ll have to rent.”
5. Differences between Chilean and Argentine Patagonia
Gabriella: For driving, I preferred Chilean Patagonia, the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway) section. In that area on the Argentine side, there is nothing, only pampa. But I also loved the area around Bariloche with the lakes. It’s beautiful! Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Torres del Paine National Park because the weather was awful. That’s why we want to return. We were also in El Chaltén and couldn’t see Monte Fitz Roy for the same reason. But we’re planning to go back.
Slow travel allows you to get to know your destination more profoundly according to this Swiss couple who spent around six months traveling through Chilean and Argentine Patagonia.
One of the journey highlights was taking the ferry that navigates the Patagonian fjords between the cities of Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales.
This opportunity gave them the chance to see the region from a perspective that would have been impossible by any other means of transport. Moreover, they were able to take their van, their home throughout this long journey, on board the ferry.
The ferry ride provides some of the most beautiful vistas of Patagonia. Make sure to have your camera ready at all times to capture them.
4 locations to capture the best shots of Patagonia
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a professional photographer or want to upload pictures to your Instagram account. This southernmost spot offers stunning landscapes for any lens. What are the “must-have” photos? Here are 4 locations you mustn’t miss.
In this blog, we leave aside the classic sights — like the horns of Torres del Paine or the Marble Chapels — and recommend less internationally well-known spots, which are also worth capturing on camera.
Photography prizes and international media have featured many of these landscapes. Here we list 4 places that offer incredible snapshots of Patagonia.
If you’re visiting Torres del Paine, you need to pass through the city of Puerto Natales. For many travelers, it’s just a stop-off point, but it also has beautiful corners.
One of them is the view of the Muelle Histórico, an old pier also known as Braun & Blanchard Wharf, from where sheep were shipped off.
The Voy Hoy travel blog has posted some of the best works by photographer Juan Erices, who knows the area well. One of these pictures shows the remains of the former pier on the waters of Channel Señoret.
On the Faro Travel tourist website, you can see 12 pictures that show why Patagonia is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
In first place is Baker River in the south of Aysén Region. Characterized by its turquoise waters and abundant vegetation, it’s regarded highly by people who practice fishing or kayaking.
It is one of Belgian photographer Jan De Roos’s favorite spots — he spent more than a year exploring Patagonia. You can see some of his photos on the Ladera Sur website.
Hanging Glacier in Queulat National Park
Ladera Sur also highlights the Hanging Glacier in Queulat National Park, 165 km north of the city of Coyhaique, even in Aysén Region.
You reach this hanging glacier after walking 2.5 km along a path inside the park, one of the most popular routes in Patagonia, according to the Andean geographic documentation society SGDA on its Andes handbook website.
Sadly, this glacier has notably shrunk, and it’s only a matter of time for it to stop “hanging”, according to this society that provides information about trails in the Andes.
A photo of the inside of the Grey Glacier, an impressive mass of ice in Torres del Paine National Park, won an honorable mention in Patagon Journal magazine’s 4th photography competition.
In this magical place, you can practice activities such as walking on ice. Unfortunately, this mass of Antarctic ice has also lost a large part of its surface; you can look at how much Grey Glacier has shrunk on the Chilean Glaciers website.
Patagonia is full of corners worth photographing. Here, we’ve highlighted four of which promise to provide a great picture, although there are many other equally impressive landscapes at the end of the world waiting to be discovered by your lens.
So get your camera and plan your trip to capture Patagonia’s essence in fabulous photos!
What are you waiting for?
All the testimonies we’ve gathered in this guide recognize that Patagonia is a fascinating place, but it can get overwhelming if you do not prepare for your trip beforehand.
When planning your route, consider their advice on the best places to visit and where it’s worth bringing the camera, and where to look with your own eyes and contemplate in silence the wonders surrounding you.