Patagonian Fjords & Pumalín Park Self-Drive

Few places conjure up the images of soaring glacial topped peaks covered in dense temperate rainforest rising from the depths of the ocean as do the Patagonian fjords. It is a sparsely populated area boasting 4,000 year-old Alerce trees, 6.5 meters/20 feet of annual rainfall, and steep walled fjords that rise over 1,500 meters/4,800 feet straight from the cold blue Pacific waters.

This region was partially opened starting in the late 1970s by the construction of the Carretera Austral, or Southern Highway. Thanks to US conversationalist and visionary Douglas Tompkins, Pumalín Park was later created and the region began to garner international fame as an adventure tourism destination. Shortly after Tompkins’ passing, his widow Kris has since donated Pumalín and two other stunning national parks back to the Chilean government; the plan is to integrate this land into a new Route of Parks. This Route will include 17 national parks, covering an area the size of Switzerland.

Year round ferry service allows visitors to enjoy the stunning beauty as a self-drive option.

Book Your Self-Drive Fjord Adventure Now

5 days/4 nights of pure adventure in Southern Chile:


Day 1
  • Flight from Santiago to Puerto Montt - 1.5 hours
  • Pickup rental for 3-hour drive (including ferry) across the northernmost fjord along the Carretera Austral to the village of Hornopirén - nestled under a wooded volcano of the same name.
  • Overnight in Hornopirén.
Day 2
  • Take the first of two small ferries through the majestic fjords of Pumalín Park. Soaring glacier topped peaks, crystal clear waters and abundant nature provide the backdrop.
  • Drive 10 kms between the first and second ferry.
  • Once disembarking the second boat, arrive in Caleta Gonzalo where you'll overnight in comfortable cabins.
Day 3
  • Take your pick of incredible short hikes into the rainforest including the Alerce Trail, walking among 4000 year old trees!
  • There are trails for all levels, though many are quite vertical, they are superbly built with ladders and bridges to minimize impact.
  • Evening arrival to the village of Chaitén - partially destroyed by a 2008 eruption, but home to brave and determined locals.
  • Overnight in Chaiten.
Day 4
  • Visit the El Amarillo southern section of Pumalín Park, which has access to the huge ice fields of the 2400 meter/7,900 foot Michinmahuida Volcano.
  • There are hikes or nearby El Amarillo hot springs just outside the park.
  • Same lodging in Chaiten for the evening.
Day 5
  • Return drive covering the 60 kms of the Carretera Austral to the double ferry journey through the fjords followed by the 3 hour return to Puerto Montt.

Note: a 5th night's lodging in Hornopirén is possible for those not wanting such a long journey on Day 5.

This itinerary is only a sample and can be extended/customized to your liking.