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Kawésqar National Park is one of the largest parks in the world and the second-largest in Chile. It includes large swaths of the archipelagos in the provinces of Magallanes and Última Esperanza, as well as half of Isla Riesco. Its landscapes are a mosaic of cordilleras, forests, glaciers, fjords, lakes, wetlands, and valleys––virgin ecosystems of unmatched beauty––and are home to a wide variety of plant and animal species. The Montañas Fjord and the Sarmiento Range are just a few of the natural wonders in this park that draw visitors from around the world.
Magellanic Rainforest rules the landscape with species including Coigües de Magallanes, Ciprés de las Guaitecas (Pilgerodendron), and Canelo trees, although there are fewer of the latter. You can also find Lengas and Ñirres, along with species common to peat bogs, in addition to bushes like Chilcos (Hardy Fuchsia), Calafates (Magellan Barberry), Zarzaparrillas, and Murtillas, along with scrubland and coastal grassland made up of strips of coastal grasses.
The park is home to around 24 mammal species. Highlights include the Huemul (South Andean Deer), the Puma, the Gato Montés, the Zorro Culpeo (Andean Fox), and the Zorro Chilla (South American Gray Fox). There are also 136 distinct species of birds, including the Condor, the Fio, the Churrín del Sur (Magellanic Tapaculo), and the Magellanic Woodpecker. Kawésqar is also home to marine birds, such as the Black-Browed Albatross, the Golondrina del Mar, and Cormorants. Along the park’s coasts, you can find four types of Dolphins, Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Penguins, and Whales––including the Humpback Whale––along with Leopard Seals, Southern River Otters, and Marine Otters.
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 road from Punta Arenas to the entrance to the National Park (via Isla Riesco) is approximately 93 miles. Take Route 9 north to Puerto Natales and, after around 30 miles, merge left onto Route Y-50. At mile 25 (kilometer 40), you’ll arrive at Villa Ponsomby, the only town along the road. There, ferries run from the Río Verde Municipality across the Fitz Roy Channel to Isla Riesco. The route continues along the northern border of the island, on Route Y-500.
You can also take Route 9 from Punta Arenas and travel 154 miles until you arrive at Puerto Natales. In Puerto Natales, there are various options available for exploring the Montañas Channel.
Boat expeditions for exploring the Montañas Fjord are available in Puerto Natales. The trip takes around two days.
In Punta Arenas, you can also organize boat trips to visit Kawésqar National Park.
Start exploring the end of the world routes from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, then enter the Patagonian channels to the remote Canal de Las Montañas. Later continue to Torres del Paine and immerse yourself in the amazing landscapes of the Eighth Wonder of the World.
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.
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.
Located 60 miles from Punta Arenas, this is the only town in Río Verde and the main port of entry to Isla Riesco. Its population density is 0.1 people per square mile, and 250 people live there year-round.
Near the border with Argentina, this small town is the capital of Torres del Paine and can be found 39 miles north of Puerto Natales.
Located between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, this town is part of Laguna Blanca and has around 270 inhabitants.
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