This piece is about 4 options to travel by ferries in southern Chile. South to north or wise-versa:
1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón (Chiloé Island)
2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino)
3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt
4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt
If you are like me and like the ferry journeys, Chile’s Lake District is the perfect place to do so. Upon my research, I came across 4 different options:
1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón (Chiloé Island). This is the most basic and therefore also economical option of the four I considered. I opted for it consequently, after spending staggering amounts of money earlier on in southern Patagonia. At the offices of Navierra Austral in Coyhaique, I purchased a semi-cama ticket for 1920,-CLP (€26). Current prices and online booking are here.
There are numerous and inexpensive buses from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen, where I had to change for collectivo which brought me directly to the ticket offices of Navierra Austral in the port in Puerto Chacabuco. Just before 12:00, the bus picked me up to board the ship.
There was a cafeteria on board where I could buy classic mediocre cafeteria-style meals and non alcoholic beverages. But most of all, there were two stories of decks where one could sit down and observe the stunning nature around. The journey takes you though 2 fjords with impressive mountain ranges around with numerous waterfalls – those were literally everywhere in Patagonia.
The major purpose of this ferry service is to deliver goods and passengers to the remote islands in Chile’s Lake District. We are talking very remote here, if the public transport passes by only several times per week and the nearest village is hours away. Some of the settlements however did appear romantic and I’m sure it suits some life styles. During one of the stops, a bunch of children boarded the ferry. Their teacher told me that it’s the whole school. 14 students.
Then the thought of growing up there (in an adolescent age) crossed my mind and the romance was gone. Not much to do once the hormones kick in. Plus, it must most probably be a very hard life to live. Furthermore, imagine you break up with the only girl from your age group on your island and the nearest settlement is some 6 hours boat ride away, plus the chances that the only girl in your age group there is most likely not single 😀
The definition of terrorism is: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political or cultural aims.”I’ve added “the cultural aims” bit 😀
The boat also takes passengers, the capacity is I think up to 250 people, who jump on and off in its (I believe) 8 stops. Sometimes it only slows down and small boats pick up people on the way. This guy unfortunately did the whole 30 hour trip. He carried a massive 100W loud speaker from which he kept imposing the worst loud reggaeton that ever existed on others. Was it to attract ladies? If so, he must also suffer from the lack of evaluation abilities because he did jam-dance by himself for almost the entire trip.
But then the sun started setting down. Thankfully, I’ve had the noise cancelling headphones and literally every song played like chocolate and the reggaeton threat was successfully nullified. I’ve also smuggled a 1/4 of whisky on board (it is illegal to drink on board but I wasn’t the only anarchist here) so I decided to enhance things a bit.
Special moments are usually rather short, at least according to my own past experiences. This moment kept going on and on and from the bit tired me, with a hint of whinging tendencies about the reggaeton terrorist, it transformed me mind into a pure 100% happiness. Two hours of that non stop. Those are the collective experiences one can witness together with people of possibly radically different political views, which makes it somehow more universal than most things, incl. music or art in general.
FYI: You can also board the ferry in Puerto Aysén before midnight but you would miss the epic sunset 😉
Other ferry options
2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino). This 30 hour trip operated by Austral Broom, would take you through the southern fjords of Chile across the Beagle Channel to Isla Navarino. It leaves at 6pm and arrives at about 11pm the next day. It would cost you staggering 140000,-CLP (€184) for a cama seat (fully recline) or 102000,-CLP (€133) for a semi-cama (1/2 recline), using cash only. You’ll be served food, and for some fee you might be also allowed to sleep on board upon arrival to Puerto Williams, the southernmost human settlement on the planet.
Book here or in Ferry terminal at least 24hrs prior to your departure. Please note that this not a passenger boat – like the Navierra Austral route above, this is just a cargo boat that also takes passengers.
I did not opt for this rather seductive option for economical reasons. The ticket was expensive and getting from Puerto Williams to Ushuaia, my next to be destination was also nearly 100,-USD, plus staying at Puerto Williams did not look cheap either. The other tourists usually take this trip to take the challenging Dientes de Navarino trek, which I wasn’t sure if I was up to physically, while my (universal for the full South America trip) gear wasn’t up for it for sure.
3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. This is a 3 day, 400,-USD trip operated by Navimag. It apparently has some signs of being luxurious (you get a bed in the dormitory as opposed to my semi-cama seat only). People I met described this trip as “a hostel on a boat”, while option one was predominantly used by local people. Book and get more info here. Wordlyadventurer has described the trip here, in case you’re up for more details.
4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. This is a 24 hour passenger journey, also operated by Navimag. It runs once a week each way from October until the end of March. It will cost you about €75,- for a bed in a 4 bed dorm. The meals and everything else is apparently similar than on on the ferry from option one. Read more about this journey here from the first hand of Wordlyadventurer, who appears to like ferries like me 🙂
Whatever you will pick – I hope that you will have a great weather to enjoy the full potential of those journeys 😉