The Carretera Austral and an expedition cruise to Antarctica
Of all the trips you can make in the world, put this one on your list. You're on the road for a while, but that's more than worth it! The first part of the journey we drove over the Carretera Austral in Chile in 17 days. From Puerto Varas in the north to Punta Arenas in the south where we could also see a piece of Argentina. During the trip you see the landscape change every day, from rainforest to desert, from valleys full of flowers to barren plateaus with dozens of kilometres of nothing. At the end of this journey the following started: on an expedition to Antarctica!
Travel with Sapa Pana Travel
Sapa Pana Travel has arranged this whole trip down to the last detail. The transfers, the rental car and the hotels and lodges. We were given a nice itinerary that seamlessly fitted our wishes and even included a few ferry connections. Nice, because we are both ferrymen. Johan, thank you! Using the convenient app maps.me we drove effortlessly from hotel to hotel.
Watch the inspirational video of the tour our travellers made below. Click on the image and the video starts playing.
On the road with our rental car
From Santiago, the capital of Chile, we fly to Puerto Montt. At the airport we immediately pick up the rental car and drive to Puerto Varas located in the Lake District. In a nice hotel we can recover from the long journey. We leave Puerto Varas and immediately there is our first highlight; the Cascada de los Enamorados. The most beautiful waterfalls we have ever seen, with a volcano in the background!
While driving to the Andes Lodge we pass lakes full of salmon farms, small ferries, rows of hives and very few people! In the morning it rains, this is part of the rainforest of course. Because of this driving goes as fast as expected. The advantage is that we get to know our car well right away. Our companion for the coming time is a Toyota 4x4, no superfluous luxury! Because of the rain the surroundings are spectacular green with many thundering waterfalls.
Hot springs and a small party
The rain lasts for 4 days and nights, but we enjoy it no less! In Caleto Gonzalo we stay at the Yelcho Lodge. We have a rest day and visit the national park Pumalín. There is a hobbit-like atmosphere and the nature is so beautiful that it seems to be constructed. We end the day with a visit to natural hot springs, fed by a volcano. All alone we lie in the bath, in the rain and fog in the middle of the rainforest, wow!
The next day we drive on to Puyuhuapi, again in the rain. In the surroundings of Puyuhuapi you can hike beautifully, in the village there are a few small supermarkets. We drive on to Coyhaique, for us the first big city we encounter here. On the way we take a hitchhiker with us. Because the distances are long and the locals often don't have a car, this is quite normal in this part of Chile. You help each other! Our lodge in Coyhaique, Patagonia House, is just outside the city and we are happy with that. A lovely room, super nice staff and together with the other guests and staff we build a small party until late in the morning!
After every turn it gets more beautiful
The next day we leave early for our next destination. It's dry and sunny, finally! We drive to Puerto Guadal and because we read that this is a beautiful route we don't feel like rushing. Leaving early turns out to be a wise choice, because every time we think it doesn't get any nicer, the next turn shows the opposite. At dusk we arrive at Mallín Colorado Ecolodge. When we wake up, we don't know what we see! We look out on a glacial lake, around us a fresh green forest, birds, waterfalls, a kaleidoscope of colours through all the flowers and a white wild horse grazing next to our house. We have to rub our eyes for a moment. We have a rest day here and decide to go for a walk in the surroundings. The view of the Andes Mountains is spectacular.
After this rest day we ride along the glacier lake, via Chile Chico, to Perito Moreno in Argentina. The landscape is getting drier now and the roads dustier. The vegetation changes, which created very different colours. Arriving in Perito Moreno (not to be confused with national park and glacier Perito Moreno!) it looks like a ghost town. Of the 2.000 inhabitants we only see 3 on the street. It turns out to be Sunday and the whole village is in church. Around four o'clock the streets are full again with life, children, music and sociability.
A warm welcome by the gauchos in Argentina
Early in the morning we drive in the direction of El Calafate. The distance we have to drive is about 800 kilometres to the next lodge. Already a few kilometres outside the village border we almost have a guanaco, family of the llama, on the car. Stop, because we have to take a picture! One hour later and more than a hundred guanacos further it is mostly maintaining speed and honking. We drive through an immense no man's land, pass maybe 5 cars all day, can look for miles and only see wild animals. Also the American ostrichs, are well represented and because it's spring we all see little ones. The last part of the route from El Calafate to the lodge, is another tough part of the road and that while we are already very tired.
Then we arrive at Estancia Nibepo Aike, situated in a beautiful valley next to the Perito Moreno Glacier. We are warmly welcomed by gaucho Juan, while the other gaucho's outside on horseback put the cows and sheep in their stables. Another gem, Johan and team, how do you find them anyway. At Estancia Nibepo Aike we have a rest day which we fill on horseback and of course a visit to the glacier which is not to be missed. The glacier is still growing and moving, you can just hear it cracking!
The most beautiful hotel ever
With pain in our hearts we drive on the next day, back to Chile, where strangely enough it's greener again right away. Our destination is The Singular Patagonia, in Puerto Natales. This is the most beautiful hotel where we have ever been allowed to stay. Everything is right; the architecture, the view, the rooms, the service, the food and drinks. Everything is great! Luckily, we also have a rest day here. We drive through the national park of Torres del Paine. Because of the strong wind, wind force 9, hiking is not an option today. The next day we drive on to 'el fin del mundo' and arrived in Punta Arenas we hand in the car and start our preparations for the trip to Antarctica!
On expedition to Antarctica
We feel so blessed to have been through this. Antarctica is a pristine part of the earth, where the bright colours underline the serenity. It's magical. Words and pictures cannot express how special this is!
Waking up between icebergs and kayaking with penguins
By plane we fly from Punta Arenas to King George Island, also called Frei Island. Here you will find a number of scientific and military bases and 1 runway that we are allowed to use. In the bay our expedition ship is ready and with zodiacs we go on board. At night we sail to the Antarctic Peninsula and in the morning we wake up between the icebergs. We have signed up for the kayak team, so we miss most of the zodiac rides. In exchange we float in total silence along icebergs. Penguins swim along next to the kayak and we float along icebergs full of seals.
Click on the image to see the video of Antarctica.
The best expedition staff ever
We sail for six days on the Magellan Explorer, a brand-new expedition ship, with a maximum of 73 passengers on board. The rooms are luxurious, spacious and have a balcony. The food is exceptionally good, but most important: we have the best expedition staff ever! Scientists and outdoor specialists who show us Antarctica full of passion. Lectures are stopped when whales pass by and they take care of our safety. Thanks to this team, we are now ambassadors of Antarctica, because once you have seen this beauty, you have no choice but to lobby for the preservation of this fragile piece of earth.
The locals are very friendly everywhere. It does help if you speak a word of Spanish, because the deeper you go into Patagonia, the fewer other languages are spoken. During our trip there were protests in Chile, which we also experienced a number of times, but all very peaceful and only in the larger cities.
The food was very good. Especially in Patagonia many local products are used, from fresh salmon to delicious lamb. And the Pisco Sour, a local drink you can order anywhere, is highly recommended! But don't forget to taste the local wines, it's undeserved that Chile is still not really taken seriously as a wine country.
We sometimes had long days in the car which makes it active travelling, but that is why we have seen so much! Moreover, after every long day of travelling, we had a rest day to explore the surroundings. Because of this it was very doable. The roads were only partly paved and that made it an adventurous route, along beautiful lakes, waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers, through forests, mountains and wide, open spaces, because Chile has it all!
Make your own roundtrip?
Would you like to make such an unforgettable trip yourself? Then take a look at the travel itineraries that we have put together for inspiration. You can book these trips directly, but we are also happy to create a personal programme based on your wishes and ideas.
Do you have a question? Feel free to contact us. Call +31 73 610 62 04 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help.