Laguna San Rafael is a small bay at the farsouth end of the
Moraleda channel. It is connected to the sea through the Témpano
Channel. Its main attraction is the San Rafael Glacier, a
wall of ancient ice over 40 kilometres long, coming down the
4.000 metres high Mount San Valentín, which is part
of the Northern Icefield. This is the most distant glacier
from the Poles that gets to the sea.
From its 1 km wide and 30 to 50 metres high frontline, icebergs
frequently break with an outburst and then remain floating
in the lagoon, some of them the size of a building. The excursion
with small boats through thousands of icebergs in all imaginable
shades of blue is just an unforgettable experience. In order
to properly celebrate the occasion, the captain will pick
up one of these icebergs, that originated at the top of the
glacier and took centuries to arrive to the sea, and then
will make a toast with whiskey on the "millenary rocks".
starting points to this excursion are Puerto Montt and Puerto
Chacabuco. Puerto Montt is easy to reach by land or flight.
The small Puerto Chacabuco is 800 kilometres to the south.
To get there you must take a ferry, travel by land through
Argentina or take a flight to Balmaceda, Coyhaique's airport,
which is two hours away by bus.
you are on a tight schedule, taking a flight from Santiago
or Puerto Montt to Balmaceda and then make the day trip with
Catamaranes del Sur to the Laguna San Rafael may also be a
good idea and save you time (this way you cover the whole
journey in only three days).
the construction of the road there is now a new route from
which offers a more adventurous trip. It is a good option,
specially for tourists driving their own vehicle along the
Navimag does not offer its popular trip with a ferry
anymore. For a long time, this was the most economic
option to visit Laguna San Rafael. At the moment, no other
provider arrived to fill this space.
There are no departures either scheduled with the cruiser
Mare Australis, that used to make this trip
the last seasons 2010/2011 and 2011/2012.
season 2012/2013, Patagonia Connection does
not offer programs that include the visit by catamaran to
Laguna San Rafael anymore.
there are several vessels and motorboats which offer charter
trips through the labyrinth of channels, including the Laguna
San Rafael. They have room for 6 to 10 passengers and the
navigation takes from 3 to 7 days. It is the most exclusive
way to know the region, and a good option if you are travelling
with a group. However, if you are an independent traveler,
it could be hard to find an "opening".