Cruising through the Patagonian Fjords is surely a dream for anyone planning a trip to Chilean Patagonia. Sadly it’s an expensive dream if you’re looking at travelling all the way from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. However, I have good news! A new route starting in Caleta Tortel going south to Puerto Natales or vice versa has given the slightly more budget traveller an option.
This 2 night and nearly 2 day ferry crossing aboard the Transbordadora Austral is totally worth the 120,000CLP you spend on the trip. The route also means you can explore other more northern parts of Patagonia which you miss out on with the traditional Puerto Montt route.
(Check out my other posts from South America for some inspiration)
This route is only a few months old and not that well publicised – it really feels like something off the beaten track which is rare in well-travelled Patagonia.
Whilst on the ferry your meals are included and they are decent – not haute cuisine but nice. Your bed is a semi-reclining seat much like on a night bus. The slight discomfort of sleeping in bus seats is made up for by the constantly stunning views as you mosey down the west coast of Chile. Take some cards, your ipod and a book or two – or do what I did and use the time to learn to knit with some amazing local Patagonian wool I was given in Tortel.
The ferry is mostly used by locals travelling between hard to reach Patagonian villages or sending supplies of clams and other produce down. At the Puerto Eden port the ferry pauses to pick up and let off some passengers. You can watch the process of loading and unloading all the bags and crates of local produce and livestock that make the journey themselves. Chile is a fairly westernised country, it has modern cities, good quality infrastructure and many people you meet have lives similar to yours at home. This is a little taste of Chile through the back door, outside of the cities. Patagonian people who are disconnected from the rest of the country – divided by impassible natural phenomena like glaciers and huge bodies of water. A tough life but lived in a beautiful and tranquil place.
We saw glaciers up close, amazing sunrises over the islands which reflected in the stillness, equally impressive sunsets, glaciers creeping slowly into the dark waters of the fjords, mountains standing quietly by – snow capped and majestic just watching the boat go. The noise of the engine quietly chugging away as the Captain steers the large vessel through narrow passes between islands is quite something. It was peaceful, it was refreshing, it was a side of Patagonia not many people see. I’m hankering for more.
The ferry runs on Saturdays throughout the summer season but less often during the winter. Look here for more information.
Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org to book and to confirm dates – the schedule is pretty changeable.
Pay in cash in Caleta Tortel – the tourist office on arrival can give you directions to Christian’s office.