This is one of those places you see pictures of online and think… that’s photoshopped, right? Too much editing and it’s probably not as nice in real life. You build yourself up for disappointment.
I was so wrong. It’s breathtaking.
The entire region used to be a glacier many years ago and the entire lake is a beautiful turquoise color. Not only that, these rock formations have mineral deposits and is made of marble. Over centuries, the glacier lakes have carved these beautiful marble sculptures of caves and caverns. Only accessible by boat, we take a 3-hour boat tour of the region.
The marble walls have a weird texture to them – like beehives? And when you see it, it looks sharp and edgy. But when you touch it up close (because this is South America and you can touch things), it’s smooth like someone has been polishing it.
Surrounded by the 2nd biggest lake in South America, it’s hard to imagine the colors you see, but seeing it in person really put everything else you’ve done in perspective. I mean, it used to be once giant glacier and it melted and became this beautiful lake and then started polishing away the rough rocks into these beautiful smooth marble sculptures. Once the sun comes out, it sparkles with the turquoise blue waters and it’s definitely something that is incredibly hard to capture on camera – you really have to see it in person.
For the past 10 days, we’ve been driving through the Northern Patagonia region in Chile. It’s supposedly the most spectacular and challenging road in Chile since it was isolated from visitors until the first section was finished in 1983. Someone we met in Peru described it as the best road he’s ever driven on and he’s driven Argentina and Chile for the past 4 years.
We decide from the very beginning to take our time and really enjoy the road instead of driving through it as fast as possible. It’s the last ‘big’ thing we will do before we start heading south towards home, so it’s a weird feeling for us. We start the journey by crossing over from Bariloche, Argentina to Puerto Montt, Chile. We have been warned by others that there are really limited supplies on the route (since everything is brought on boats or grown in the region) and cash is hard to come by, so we stock up on both in Puerto Montt. From there, we drive to Hornoprien and then take a 7am ferry ride for 6 hours to Caleta Gonzalo. From here, we can drive the full 927km road to Villa O’Higgins then backtrack up to Chile Chico or take a ferry down further or do a modified route to Chile Chico at 632km.
Now the entire route drives through countless national parks and natural reserves. You could easily spend probably months doing hikes and camping in this region with no shortage of views and spectacular glaciers surrounding you. But we are limited for time so we are doing the modified route to Chile Chico to cross into Argentina instead.
I won’t list every little place we stayed at, but this is some of the best camping we’ve done in South America. The land is so vast and every 10 minutes we see something beautiful and want to pull over for pictures and stare. We stay put in places until the rain clears, because we are afraid if we drive further we might miss something. The region is covered in glaciers, mountains, lakes, rivers and beautiful scenery that really does make you go whoa-whoa-WHOA. Everyone should do this drive once in their life.
Cherries from our campsite
Honestly, we didn’t even get to do the many hikes or side roads to other beautiful places you can do. And all the beautiful parks you can imagine clustered into one semi-paved road. It’s really something you have to see in person.
After the vast emptiness of Bolivia, we are now entering Argentina and Chile. The roads are better, there are modern rest stops like in the US, and everything is conveniently close – it’s weirdly familiar.
Because the two countries are so close, we will be going in and out of both countries at least two or three times. The plan is to drive down Chile abit and then cross into Argentina for abit and then cross back into Chile to drive the Route 7 aka Carretera Austral. It’s supposed to be the best drive of Chile and as one man we met described it – “every km is like whoa, ooo, ahhh”.
But first, we drive through the Atacama desert in Chile and then crossover into Argentina to visit Mendoza – the wine heart of the country. We don’t particularly like the heat, so we drive through the vast emptiness quickly. But even then, we see landscapes that look like the moon and stars that litter the night sky. It’s not so bad.
Finally, we cross into Argentina. One of the final countries we will be visiting on this trip. The first thing we do in Mendoza is to obviously go find a restaurant, and we end up at Cava de Caño out of sheer luck.
Since I don’t drink, the food is for me and the wine is for Steve. The set menu is $835 Argentinian pesos per person – after double checking our math – it is $18 CAD. so we nod a hungry yes and get inside. Normally, you need reservations since it’s a set menu and normally, they don’t allow dogs in the restaurant. But it was 27 degrees outside so they gave us a private room with ac so our dog can sit with us while we enjoy a feast that we didn’t even know was coming. It included:
25 various tapas
3 courses of empanada, stewed beef in wine, freshly made pasta
A bottle of Malbec
Icecream with Dulce de Leche
Dessert drinks or coffee
Cigars (which we politely declined)
It was a wonderful start to an amazing Argentinian meal experience and hospitality.
What a perfect start to our final months in South America.