Bernardo O’Higgins is Chile’s largest park––and one of the largest in the world. Around a quarter of the park lies in the Aysén region, with the rest in Magallanes. The park’s central feature are its 49 glaciers, part of Chile’s Southern Icefields. They form part of the third-longest expanse of continental ice on the planet, after the Antarctic and Greenland. The most famous of these glaciers is Pío XI, the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere and the only one in the region that is not receding. The park is also known as a habitat for Huemules (South Andean Deer), South American Fur Seals, and South American Sea Lions. Travel by boat is the best way explore the beauty of these landscapes, ancestral home of the Kawésqar people.
Virgin evergreen forests and extensive peat bogs cover the park. Coigües, Canelos, Cipreses de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron), Mañíos, and Tineos are a few of its most emblematic tree species. At altitude, Lenga and Ñirre trees dominate the landscape.
The park is home to one of the largest Huemul (South Andean Deer) populations in the country, especially in the areas near the Jorge Montt, Bernardo, and Témpano Glaciers. The fjords are ideal habitats for the Huillín (Southern River Otter), Chungungo (Marine Otter), Penguins, and different types of Cormorants and Wild Geese, such as the Canquén (Ashy-Headed Goose), Canquén Colorado (Ruddy-Headed Goose), and Caranca (Kelp Goose). Pumas, Güiñas (Kodkods), Zorros Culpeo (Andean Foxes), and Zorros Chilla (South American Gray Foxes) can also be found in the park, along with birds such as the Condor and the Aguilucho (Red-Backed Hawk).
Seven thousand years ago, the Kawésqar people sailed between the south of the Gulf of Penas and the Strait of Magellan in boats known as the «queens of American canoes» because of their perfect construction. Made from Coigüe bark and covered with plant fibers, the canoes were a central feature of the Kawésqar peoples’ lives. The men spent much of their time rowing in them, hunting and exploring the labyrinthine fjords, while the women were expert divers. The Kawésqar people stood an average of 5 feet, 5 inches tall, and their name means «people rational in skin and bones.» It’s estimated their population reached over 3,000. In 2006, cave paintings were found on Madre de Dios Island, south of Puerto Edén, suggesting that the Kawésqar developed some type of writing or symbology.
The park has no land access at this time.
Various tour agencies offer trips by boat from Puerto Montt, Tortel, Villa O’Higgins, and Puerto Natales.
From Puerto Montt, you can take a four-day cruise to Puerto Natales.
In Tortel, local tour guides offer excursions to the Montt Glacier in boats or kayaks.
At Puerto Yungay, you can find ferries that leave for Puerto Natales, in a trip of around 41 hours that will take you through the park’s channels.
From Villa O’Higgins, you can take a day trip to the O’Higgins and Chico Glaciers.
In Puerto Natales, you can find day-long excursions to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers.
1.2 miles Out-and-back
October to April
Starting Point: : Pier
After a 3-hour boat trip from Puerto Natales, you’ll dock at a pier, where there’s a trail that will take you to a close-up view of this glacier.
Cross the largest lake in Chile from Puerto Ibáñez to Chile Chico to tour Jeinimeni and then cross the border to Paso Roballos. From there, returns to Chile to cross the impressive Chacabuco Valley, and then continue to Puerto Yungay to navigate the Kawésqar canals to Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine.
Discover one of the most pristine areas of Patagonia, visiting Cerro Castillo National Park, and then head towards Puerto Tranquilo, the gateway to the Laguna San Rafael National Park. Continue south to explore the wonders of Patagonia National Park, Tortel and Villa O'Higgins.
Discover the Pali Aike National Park, with an incredible lunar aspect due to its volcanic cones and lava scoria. Then take Route 9 to Puerto Natales and embark on a boat to the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, visiting the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers, and then explore the wonders of the Paine massif.
With boardwalks made of Ciprés de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron) in place of traditional streets, this town is located at the mouth of the Baker River, 273 miles south of Balmaceda.
Located at the southern tip of the Carretera Austral, 143 miles south of Cochrane, this village is one of the main ports of entry for visits to the glaciers of Chile's Southern Icefields.
The main port of entry to Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales lies 153 miles north of Punta Arenas, between the Almirante Montt Gulf and the Última Esperanza Sound.
Punta Arenas is the largest city in the Magallanes region and the main port for maritime travel north and south along the Chilean coast and to the Argentine port of Ushuaia.
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