Tales from the road
Why the Queulat National Park is so special to Pura
Why do we love the Queulat National Park? Perhaps it's that first drive in along lonely tree-lined roads which awakens our sense of adventure. Maybe it's the prospect of foamy rivers, rickety wooden bridges and the exotic flora of the misty Valdivian temperate rainforests. It could be the memory of watching the mountain-top glacier as it spills down the vertiginous cliff face into the milky lagoon far below. Or the details which reveal themselves when you delve into the forests to uncover the extraordinarily rich undergrowth and surprising variety of bird life. What about the view from the lodge across the still waters of the fjord?
I think it's probably a combination of everything. Our adventurous spirits and curious nature have led us away from the tourist trail in search of Patagonia in all its untouched glory, with not a tour bus or gaggle of day-trippers in sight. It's pure Chile, pure Aysén... pure Pura. That's why we love it.
Queulat's Hanging Glacier
The photo at the top of this page is not a stock photo. It's ours. The young boys in the foreground are the offspring of Pura co-founder Thomas Power. It was taken during their 'not your average family holiday' exploring the hidden corners of the Carretera Austral. So if we're going to explain why we love the national park, then it seems a good place to start.
In the background is the emblematic Ventisquero Colgante - the hanging glacier. It would be a spectacular sight on its own, but sit it atop a mountain in a natural ampitheatre, surrounded by thickly-forested hills and with a milky green lagoon to catch its cascading ice and melt water and it is elevated into one of the most special views in all of Chilean Patagonia. No wonder it made such a lasting impression on the youngsters, making the sodden hike through the pouring rain worthwhile. A suitable reward indeed. The glacier can be viewed from below on a boat ride across the lagoon. But to alter the perspective and enjoy the almost eye-level view that the Power family had to themselves, it's a relatively short 3km uphill hike. Trust us, it's worth it. Even in the rain.
Coastal Temperate Rainforests
So precious is this ecosystem that it is found in only five other places on earth. So it's a blessing then that you have to veer somewhat off the beaten path to find it and when you do, there won't be many others to have to share it with. Your endeavours are rewarded with a guided hike through a landscape that precious few will ever see, but which has a remarkable story to tell and a bounty of sights to unviel. The grandmasters of the forest are the arrayenes trees, which can grow as high as 20 metres. They are joined by endemic trees with exotic names and colourful flowers, unique to these distant Patagonian latitudes. The understories are rich with moist ferns, mosses and lichens, adding more and more layers of depth, the closer you look. This is nature unchecked; wild and free.
You're not completely alone here though. There might not be many other human visitors, but there are plenty of birds to keep you company. Among the residents you'll probably catch a glimpse of are the robin-like chucao tapaculos, the rayadito and its impressive flame-coloured tail and the hued hued, whose call bears more than a passing resemblence to that of a yapping dog. Look out too for hummingbirds and Magellanic woodpeckers.
Emerging from the rainforest, your eyes will be taken by a sumptuous view back down towards the Queulat Fjord, from whence you came. It is one of our favourite trails in the private reserve surrounding the waterside lodge and begins with a zodiac ride across the water to the trailhead. The viewpoint is one of a number of highlights, another being the remote Vida Salvaje waterfall which tumbles violently across boulders and cuts its precipitous path through the forest. It's a dose of raw power amid the serene beauty.
The fjord is wonderful to look at. But hiring out kayaks from the lodge will better allow you to appreciate its quiet attraction from a different vantage point. Glorious views abound, sandy beaches beckon and the plip-plop of the water tunes you into a more laid-back rhythm.
How to visit the Queulat National Park
Queulat can be incorporated into a 4x4 self-drive adventure along Chile's Carretera Austral - the Southern Highway. This little-visited road stretches for over 1,000km to link far flung villages and provide access to an astonishing diversity of landscapes. The temperate forests found here contrast sharply with the desert scenery of Jeinimeni, the open grassland of Parque Patagonia, the icefields near Puerto Bertrand and the sparkling blue waters of the Baker River further south. Yet these and more can all be visited by those with an adventurous spirit and pre-disposition towards intrepid exploration. That's why we love it. And it's only the beginning of the story.
If you want a flavour of what we offer, look no further than our Carretera Uncovered itinerary. If you only go to one part of Chile, then let it be this part.
Queulat, indeed the whole of the Carretera Austral, is located at a very southernly latitude and thus the seasons are swapped around. It therefore makes a wonderful holiday destination during the depths of the UK winter. Having said that, there is something truly special about the spring blooms and autumnal foliage of Southern Chile. Ultimately the best time to visit is between October and April. So just let us know when suits you and we'll go from there.
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