Chilean Antarctic Territory

IT’S FREEZING! A tour to the glaciers in the Chilean Antarctic Territory

Visiting the Southern most part of Chile, Patagonia, is the closest we’ve been to Antarctica. Although this part of the world still belongs to South America, it is already called the Chilean Antarctic Territory. From here, one gets to experience some of the things you’d be looking forward to see in Antarctica, though at a smaller scale.

Departing from the Southern city of Puerto Natales, you can take day trips to see glaciers from up close. In this article, we focus on a day trip we took to Bernardo O’Higgings National Park, 31 miles from town.

Only accessible via boat (navigating the Ultima Esperanza Fjord), this area is home to 2 popular glaciers in Chile: Balmaceda and Serrano. Once they are located in such a remote territory, the trip there is fairly long (you depart before sunrise and arrive back to Puerto Natales at the end of the day), but the scenery that awaits you is unspoiled and majestic! Press PLAY to see for yourself:



On route, not only you get to enjoy the surrounding mountains that carve the landscapes around the fjord (with more or less snow, depending on the time of the year) you’ll also encounter cute creatures, such as sea lions and sea wolves.

Sea lions in Ultima Esperanza fjord

Sea lions in Ultima Esperanza fjord


Although in the photo above it looks like the water is very inviting, don’t be fooled – it isn’t. It is absolutely freezing and, although I didn’t get to touch it directly, I can imagine you’d only survive in there with a layer of fat as thick as the one the sea lions have.

So this is perhaps the time when I give you some tips regarding clothing and footwear for this type of trip. Tip number one would be to look at what we’re wearing in the video above and DO NOT wear anything similar. We were absolutely not prepared for this trip and had to pay for our silliness, doing the return trip back to Puerto Natales feeling cold and wet. There are heaters inside the ferries, but those aren’t meant to dry your clothes if they are soaked! Ideally, get yourself water-proof shoes, a decent jacket that cuts out the wind and a pair of pants that won’t let the wetness in. Even track suit pants would do (better with a layer of warm leggings underneath), as long as they are synthetic and non absorbent. Your clothes will obviously depend on the season you are visiting, but I can tell you by experience that, in general,  jeans are not the smart choice around here!

Balmaceda Glacier in the distance

Balmaceda Glacier in the distance – as seen on the way to Bernardo O'Higgings National Park


On these tours, Balmaceda Glacier will be observed from the boat on the way to Bernardo O’Higgings National Park, somehow in the distance (if the weather is not too cloudy).

You’ll be able to get closer to Serrano Glacier once inside the park, after a 1 mile trek. Although the path is short, the terrain gets heavily snowed in during the colder months, so it might take a while. Be careful not to slide all the way inside the water where smaller pieces of glacier are melting and floating away, and you’ll get to enjoy a glorious white and blue sight!

Getting ready to trek in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park

Getting ready to trek in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park

Trekking in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park - the path is snowed-in during winter season.

Trekking in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park – the trail is snowed-in during winter season.

Freezing but happy, in the Antarctic Region of Chile

Freezing but happy, in the Antarctic Region of Chile


And because there is nothing that makes you hungrier than cold weather and exercise, this type of tour will normally include a hot lunch served somewhere along the way, on the return from the national park. In our case, it was at Estancia Perales. One wonders what a farm house is doing in the middle of nowhere, but we couldn’t have been more thankful for the warm servings of Chilean food and a glass of red wine to wash it all down.

An exciting adventure plus a good meal makes for a very happy day!

Lunch in Estancia Perales can make you tipsy... gotta <3 Chilean wine!

Lunch in Estancia Perales can make you tipsy… gotta <3 Chilean wine!


More info:

- How much? aprox. $135 / person (including guide for the trek & hot beverages on board + lunch at a farm house). We booked with Comapa Turismo.

- Where to book? Any tour operator or travel agent in Puerto Natales. There are plenty available, offering very similar rates. Just in case, shop around… the town center is not that big!

- Not in Puerto Natales? There are also tours departing from Punta Arenas (served with an international airport). When starting the trip from Punta Arenas, account for an extra day of travel – when you book the tour with a local travel agent the bus trip to Puerto Natales and on the next day to the pier is normally included.


Would you fancy a trip to the Chilean Patagonia?


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  • Great trip! Very amazing landscapes! I must have felt like visiting Antartica, for sure! If you’re interested, short tourist cruises depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antartica. I want to see you visiting the argentinian Patagonia soon!

    • Zara Says

      Yes, we’d love to consider one of those Antarctica cruises that start in Ushuaia.. let’s see one of these days! :) But independently of that, we will definitely be visiting the Argentinian side of the Patagonia!

  • Sam Says

    Looks absolutely beautiful – but indeed very cold! Brave of you to visit at the beginning of the winter season! We were in southern Chile last year, but didn’t get this far south – only from Aysen north. Glad you had a good time!

    • Zara Says

      Thanks, Sam!
      The cold weather adds a certain charm to the place.. if only we would have been prepared with decent clothing!!

  • Your enthusiasm for snow is very contagious. Tho I am happy that summer is aproaching now in the northern hemisphere. I had luck experiencing glaciers first hand and they are one of the most beautiful things in this world. Sadly dissapearing. I wrote a post about trekking on Perito Moreno recently.

    • Zara Says

      Thanks Marta! For me it still feels weird that it’s going to be June and the winter is starting here in the Southern hemisphere.. Now I’m a bit jealous of those up north! ;)

  • The glacier looks so beautiful and you look like enjoying the moment while freezing. haha! Never thought that Chile has an Antarctic territory. Will wait for your next post:)

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  • My husband and I are actually on our way to Punta Arenas next weekend so this post is very helpful!

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