This piece is about visiting Marble Caves near by Puerto Rio Tranquillo as well as getting there from El Chaltén through Los Antiguos, Argentina.
In case you are coming from southern Argentina, to get to Marble Caves, you need to take a long-ish night bus from El Chaltén to Los Antiguos first. I’ve opted for the bloody expensive (they all were) 2090,-ARS (€49), 9pm – 6:30am bus that took me to the town of Los Antiguos. The night bus was comfy and I had a good nite sleep after an epic sunset over Argentinian steppes at the famous Ruta 40.
Due to the useless politicians and some unfortunate historical facts, there’s no public transport between the border towns of Los Antiguos and Chile Chico. Regardless if it’s silly or not, it leaves one to hitchhike or walk the 7km of no man’s land between two two towns on each side of the border. Getting through here was however rather easy as I was picked up by the second car passing by me without even hitchhiking. People there are very friendly.
I must admit that originally I wanted to skip Marble Caves and cross the Lago Gral Carrera (the 2nd biggest in the continent after Titicaca), because I just love ferries, especially if they are moving around steep snow capped mountains. I mean, that on board “you can smoke, have a coffee and if you do it together it’s fantastic, or when you hands are cold, you can rub them together”. Don’t ask – I just love such atmospheres – they boost the feeling of travelling or anything else to me.
Back to Marble Caves. We have appeared in Chile Chico there on a national holiday on Sunday morning and there was only one agency operating only the Puerto Rio Tranquillo route so I had not much of a choice, other than to pay 20000,-CLP (€26) for a 3 hour drive in 4×4 or stay in the village. Although it was a nice place that’s famous for it’s pleasant microclimate, I’ve decided to move on. The driver of the 4×4 was very nice and stopped at several stunning viewpoints.
Overall, the whole journey was as a great experience and good fun. I didn’t regret the sudden change of plans because the rewards were unquestionable. Marble caves, although being a very tourist trap-like place were – how to say it – really really beautiful 🙂 We were lucky for the weather and everything went smooth.
In Puerto Rio Tranquillo, Marble Cave tours are widely available and cheap. I’ve paid 10000,-CLP (€13) for a 90 minute tour. It did involve bit of embracing the mass organized tourism but the nature helped a lot to make that embracing easy. FYI, you could also rent a kayak or even spend a night in the literally tranquil village to take it easy for one night as it appeared to me as really quiet and peaceful place.
Alternative route: walking across the border from
El Chaltén to Villa O’Higgins
In case you didn’t want to take this route via Los Antiguos – Chile Chico, you can alternatively walk across the border back to Chile via Villa O’Higgins (the beginning or the end of Carretera Austral) right from El Chaltén. Unfortunately, I haven’t done it because my bags were rather heavy for long treks but people I’ve met on my journey talked about it as one of the highlights of their trips.
It involves taking two ferries across the lakes and a night spent by Lago del Desierto. In case you wanted to find out, the most recent description of this trip I found is here, published by Stingynomads. From Villa O’Higgins you can then head north towards Puerto Rio Tranquillo.
Other popular destinations near by
- If you are in the area, I’d definitely recommend exploring Carretera Austral
- You can also visit the remote Isla Chiloé, the largest island in Chile
- Further north, there are the resorty towns of Puerto Varas (Chile) and Bariloche (Argentina)
Other popular destinations travelling south
- Get multiple views of the iconic Mt Fitzroy during your treks around the town of El Chaltén in Los Glaciares National Park
- Please don’t miss out on majestic Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate if you are in the area
- Visit the touristy town of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park
- A bit further south, well, nearly as south as one can get, you can enjoy the Tierra del Fuego National Park near the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia