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.

Can’t Miss

  • Travel by boat from Puerto Natales through the Última Esperanza Fjord to visit the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers. You can also go up the Serrano River to the neighboring park, Torres del Paine.
  • Visit the Jorge Montt Glacier, in kayak or via boat trips offered by locals in Tortel.
  • Take in the vastness of the Pío XI Glacier, the largest in the southern hemisphere, with walls that reach up to 246 feet tall. It’s the only glacier in the region not receding––in fact, it has grown more than 6 miles in the last 50 years.
  • Take a trip to Villa O’Higgins, where guides offer boat trips to the impressive O’Higgins Glacier and the Chico Glacier.
  • Travel the maritime route that connects Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, which provides a view of most of the park via its fjords and channels.
  • Take the ferry connecting Puerto Yungay and Puerto Natales, which stops in Puerto Edén.

Open

From October to April

Area

8,712,691 acres

Climate

Rainy and cold temperate climate, with polar effect

Rainfall

160 inches annually

Ecosystem

Mountainous evergreen forest, periglacial shrubland

Founded

July 22, 1969

“No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty”,

John Muir.

Flora

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.

Fauna

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).

Culture

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.

infrastructure

  • Bathrooms
  • Lodging
  • Camping
  • Restaurants
  • Information Center
  • Trails
  • Trekking Circuits
  • Picnic Area

How to Get There

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.

Various airlines offer daily flights to Punta Arenas. LATAM also offers flights to Puerto Natales during high season. DAP Airlines offers twice-weekly flights connecting the Balmaceda and Punta Arenas airports.

Trails

Serrano Glacier Trail

  • Difficulty

    Low

  • Duration

    1.5 hours

  • Distance

    1.2 miles Out-and-back

  • Open

    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.

Tips

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