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Why there's more to Aysén than the marble caves

Chile carretera austral marmol cathedral rock formation carretera austral highway 7 chile

You’ve probably seen them on the Internet, Chile’s Marble Caves are a true photography haven and a kind of “as seen on Instagram” attraction for the average traveller.

While they may look artificial, the Marble Caves are probably one of the most spectacular natural rock formations on Earth. Thousands of years of erosion slowly turned the walls of the ‘Cathedral’, the ‘Chapel’ and the ‘Cave’ into colourful works of sculpture.

In truth, the marble itself isn't a brilliant blue, the colour is in fact due to a reflection of the lake’s cerulean waters. As a result, it changes in intensity and hue, depending on water levels and time of year. During the springtime, the cave's shallow waters appear more turquoise, as opposed to the summertime when everything is a deeper blue.

The Cuevas de Mármol - as it is known locally - are nestled far from any road off Lake General Carrera, a remote and deep glacial lake that spans the Chile-Argentina border. Therefore, the easiest way to get there is from the small village of Puerto Río Tranquilo, which is located just a few miles away. There, you’ll find several operators offering boat trips as well as kayak tours that will take you up close and personal with the mesmerising caves.

chile-patagonia-carretera-austral-marble-caves-c-pura-aventura-thomas-powerEnjoying a boat ride to the marble caves, Lago General Carrera

Tours most often happen in small motor boats, big enough for 5 to 8 people. They generally leave around 8 am in the morning or 4pm in the afternoon and last for about an hour (sometimes longer) - ducking in and out of the caves, driving through larger formations and getting up close the main cathedral formations.

Whilst the caves are such a marvel, it would be silly to claim they are worth a trip on their own. Fortunately enough though, these geological formations are located in the Aysén region, an area of staggering natural beauty located in northern Chilean Patagonia.

Considered as one of the world’s greatest emerging adventure destinations, Aysén is nothing but dry Patagonian steppes, turquoise rivers, incredible deserts, evergreen rainforests, glaciers tumbling off mountain tops and stunning fjords. In fact, only few places in the world can offer such diversity!

chile-patagonia-carretera-austral-neff-glacier-helicopter-on-beach.jpgHelicopter over the northern Patagonian Icefield

Aysén is a real dream destination for outdoor enthusiasts, those who want to experience Patagonia at its most remote, untouched and beautiful. There is plenty of opportunity to get out walking here but equally, if all you wanted to do is sit and stare at the landscapes, it would remain a great destination.

This quote from a client of ours who recently travelled to Aysén, couldn’t describe it better:

"The scenery changed as we travelled with mountains, lakes and rivers on a grand scale, but also beauty on the small scale too, with the abundance of exquisite wild flowers such as orchids, anemones and the startling fire bush. Tucked in amongst this grandeur were the little towns and our always welcoming guesthouses, each with their own character and perfect places to recount the day’s adventures over a glass of the local red wine. On our travels we were privileged to meet some of the people who live in Patagonia and be inspired by their knowledge and passion for their homeland. We learnt something of the rich history of the area from prehistoric to recent times, about the geology and the wildlife and to appreciate the efforts being made to conserve all that is best. So it was not only an adventure, but a very memorable journey of discovery into the wonders of Patagonia."

You might be interest in signing up to our Chile Expert Guide to learn more about our favourite little-known gems in this beautiful region.

We won’t hide you that Aysén is still pretty hard to access though: after a 14.5-hour flight to Santiago de Chile from London, you’ll then have to take another 2.5-hour flight to the city of Balmaceda. Once there, the only way to move around will be by car/bus on the spectacular (and unpaved) Carretera Austral - a 1,200km-long road (with mandatory ferry crossings at some points) running from Puerto Montt in the north to Villa O'Higgins in the south. As with every unspoilt and gorgeous places, you need to travel out of your comfort zone to get to see them I suppose.

chile-carretera-austral-bahia-exploradores-carretera-austral-highway-7-chile.jpgDriving through Bahia Exploradores, Carretera Austral highway 7

However, we promise the journey is absolutely worthwhile. If you still have doubts, ask Pura Aventura’s co-founder Thomas Power, who’s recently been to Aysén on a family trip with his wife and two kids aged 8 and 10 - they all loved it. Well, jumping out of hot springs into icy fjords, hiking through desert landscapes to see ancient cave paintings, or walking under fallen tree trunks to see a glacier emerging from under the cover of clouds, just for them - how could one not enjoy it?

Aysén’s incredible scenery and attractions are at their best between October and April. If you’d like to know more about this unique destination, please have a look at our Carretera Uncovered itinerary, or feel free to contact our travel experts to discuss about it. We have been travelling this road since 1995, which means we're fussy about our trips…

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The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

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