Small villages, 2nd biggest lake of South America, risk of tsunami and Chiloe island: discovery of the beautiful South of Chile

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April 28th 2014
Published: April 28th 2014
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After a wonderful month in Argentina, I crossed the border to arrive at the border town of Chile Chico. I was now going to visit the South of Chile.

The small village of Chile Chico is nice with wooden houses and the lakeside view. I however didn’t stay long there as it was a small city and it was mainly just a border town used as an entrance to Chile.

From Chile Chico, I wanted to go to Puerto Tranquilo, which was about 100kms away to the West. Looking at the map, I thought that I should be there quite quickly as it isn’t a lot of kms, well once again my lack of knowledge entering a new country proved me wrong: the roads in this part of Chile are very bad and not paved, so with a normal car you couldn’t drive quicker than 40km/h… It thus took me the whole day to arrive in Puerto Tranquilo. Moreover, I had some difficulties to leave Chile Chico as a group of 10 people decided to hitchhike all together at the exit of the city, which isn’t good at all while hitchhiking, as no car will stop seeing such a
On the way to Puerto Tranquilo. On the way to Puerto Tranquilo. On the way to Puerto Tranquilo.

Laguna Verde and sewage of the mine :(
big group. So, I had to walk some kms away from them to get a car more easily and to not be linked to them. I was however lucky: a car stopped 1 hour later to give me a ride and he accepted because I was French and not from Israel, like this group was. I would discover in Chile, that tourists from Israel aren’t very well liked here… My driver Sandro was a really nice guy and I was even more lucky than he liked photography and we thus stopped often to took some pictures 😊 This scenery along the lake General Carrerra -2nd biggest lake of South America after Lake Titicaca in Peru/Bolivia- is indeed amazing!!! The lake is from a dark blue that you aren’t often seeing and there was mountains all around. The landscapes was very different from the one I was used to see in Argentina: it’s much greener, with lots of forests. It’s indeed raining much more in South of Chile and South of Argentina. It’s crazy when you think that there is only a border separating the 2 countries and the Andes Cordillera.

However, as in Argentina with the fields to get petrol, Chile has also its downside: the mine industry is very important in the country (mainly closed to Chile Chico and Laguna Verde and in the North, in Antofagasta and Calama, which are cities where the majority of the population works at the mine and is thus very rich). I am talking about it because I had a look at how mine industry can destroy the wonderful nature around the plant. Thus, the so-called Laguna Verde wasn’t green anymore but between blue and green and you could see a small lake nearby, but it wasn’t in fact a lake: it was the sewage of the plant. Such a pity… Close to the mine, there was a sign, where was written “Protect the nature”. I thought it was quite ironic so close to the mine plant! For information, there is at the moment, a project of hydroelectric plant close by to that lake as well. The people living close by are demonstrating against such a project, which would destroy nature. Moreover, because of this project, the area around the lake General Carrerra was taken out of the list of must see places in Chile, as it should respect some criteria. And now, that I visited some places in Chile, I can tell you that it’s really a shame, because this area is definitely one of the most beautiful, I have seen in Chile.

After some hours on the road, we arrived to the small village of Puerto Guadal. Let me give you an idea of what small here in the South of Chile means: a main square with a colourful, a small supermarket, one restaurant/café, and a maximum of 2 blocks each side of the main square resembling all the houses of the villages. I like it though: it was so quiet and peaceful, especially with the chickens running around. Another thing in such a small village: don’t imagine finding an ATM… As I had no Chilean pesos, I exchanged - for a very low rate 😞 - some of my Argentinian pesos at the supermarket. We then followed the lake again and it was as beautiful as before. We finally arrived early evening in Puerto Tranquilo. The cheap places in the village were full and the other places were overpriced, so I slept on the car that night. I thought that it would be as cold as camping, well it wasn’t: it was colder as the car isn’t isolating anything…

After such a night and the long journey of the days before, I decided to go today to Coyhaique, which was the biggest town of the region to relax for a while. On the way, we stopped at Bahia Murta, another very small village. Those villages are really nice. From Bahia Muria, as Sandro had to go back to Puerto Tranquilo for a couple of hours, I decided to hitchhike there and to see whether I would get lucky and get a car and if not well, then I will go to Coyhaique with Sandro. I hitchhike there but it wasn’t successful..; After 1 hour, a couple of French people, who were hitchhiking as well arrived. I was alone for some time and it was cold so I was very happy to meet them and to have a nice chat with them. Sandro then came by and he was very nice as he accepted to also give a lift to the French couple – Anne-Sophie and Charlie-. We all went together to Coyhaique.On the way there, we crossed a high altitude road and it was snowing there!! First time for me this year!!!

In comparison with all the small villages, I saw since my arrival in Chile, Coyhaique is much bigger with an industrial area and a huge city center.I stayed there for 2 days with the French couple in a nice hostal –Hostal Bon- to rest from the long journey since El Chalten. I didn’t thus visited a lot this city but I liked it a lot because of its surroundings: all around Coyhaique, there are mountains. Very nice 😊

During my last evening in Coyhaique, Ignacio –the hitchhiker that I met on the road in Argentina with whom I went up to Chile Chico-, joined me again to go the next day together to Puerto Chacabuco and from there take a ferry to Chiloe Island.

From Coyhaique to Puerto Chacabuco, we stopped in Puerto Aysen, which is a nice little village. We stocked up with food there –the ferry ride was 2 nights and 1 day-. The journey to Puerto Aysen was nice with the mountains and the river.

The ferry was leaving at 11pm on that day, so I directly slept when we arrived there. I was a nice ferry with comfortable seats and even a shower 😉 !! After a good first night on the ferry, I could enjoy the day on the ferry to look at the small harbours where we would stop by and the fjords with snowed-capped mountains. It was a really nice journey and I could see the sunrise and sunset there!! :D

Around 8pm, they switched tv and put the news: there had been an earthquake in the North of Chile –in Iquique and Arica- and they were evacuating the city in the area. Then, they talked about the risk of tsunami: they listed the cities, which could be touched by the tsunami and Punta Arenas –more South of where we were- could be affected around 2am…-. At first, seeing the news of the earthquake, I was just listening to the news and seeing how they were evacuating the mountains but with the tsunami alert, I started to be afraid for a while. I thought “there could be a tsunami and I am in the middle of the ocean!!”. But, everything went well: we stopped on a harbour, picked up inhabitants of an island, which had to be evacuated and waited 4 hours until the tsunami risk was over. I have to say that I was really impressed by how the situation was handled: we were seeing the evacuation on tv, and the next morning the president was already in the North of Chile, to talk to the inhabitants and especially to the fishermen, who were the most touched by the disaster. Ignacio even received a few texts on his phone from the tsunami alert and one to tell him it was over.

With the tsunami alert, we arrived only in the beginning of the afternoon in Quellon –so a total of more than 36 hours on the ferry-, which is the harbor at the South end of Chiloe. Quellon has nothing special to offer but it was nice to look at the sea, the volcanoes in the background and the small boats of fishermen. On the island, I found some signs saying “evacuation tsunami” this way. This was in ad equation with the event of the night begore 😊 So, from Quellon, we went to Chonchi, a small village on the East Coast at the middle of the island.

I really liked this village with its churches, harbor, its small houses. We spent a nice time there, sharing a good dinner with our host Fabian. We then went to Castro, which has the biggest church of the island. It was a beautiful church made of wood –as it is the speciality of the Chiloe island’s churches- and with nice colors.

Chiloe Island is a really nice place and that’s a shame I didn’t have much time to enjoy it. I think it’s a nice place to enjoy the nature, hike and see some small typical villages.

The last place I went to in the South of Chile was Puerto Varas. It’s not of Chiloe in the Lake District. As Patagonia, Chile also share the Lake District with Argentina. Puerto Varas was like a shock for me after seeing only typical places of the South: it was a touristic and rich city and you could see the difference in its buildings. The lakeside and the view over the 2 volcanoes was however priceless and I could enjoy it plainly as I spent the night there camping with my tent on the beach 😊

The South of Chile is definitely an amazing place to discover, I advised it to anyone, who is looking for a way to come back to nature and to traditional way of life. In my next week and in my next post, I will go to the vibrant area around Santiago, which is really different.

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