After a very peaceful and great night’s sleep, we woke up a bit late, 8:15 AM, to 15˚C weather, the coldest since we began our journey. We were going to wake up earlier to do a four hour trek to the top of Ventisquerro Colgante but when we found out you could do a 20 minute hike to a lagoon to see it, so we decided that it was probably more our level because you need special equipment to go to the top.
We drove from the campsite through the small village of Puyuhuapi, about 30km, to the point of entry to the park hoping they would accept Argentinian pesos…well they don’t. Because it’s a national park owned by the government they can only accept Chilean pesos, nothing else. The park ranger directed us back to Puyuhuapi (on those terrible dirt roads) to a couple of places that were known to exchange money (but are not official) but absolutely no one does an exchange. We managed to find a café owner who charged our card CLP$10,000 and gave us back CLP$9000 (he kept $1000 for the credit card tax) which was very lucky for us. However, we do not recommend doing that. Just make sure that when you come into Chile you have money (unless you’re going to Santiago) because there really is nothing below Santiago and it’s very difficult to find exchange houses.
We went back to the park (which was 20 km from the village) and paid CLP$4000 per person for a 2 day pass (the only ticket they have) to Parque Nacional Queulat. Now there’s the 4 hour trek to the top of Ventisquerro Colgante that I mentioned before but since we were not experienced we just did the short 600m hike to the Lagoon to take pictures of the Hanging Glacier. And it was so incredibly beautiful! The Lagoon was a blue green created by glacial waters and you could see the glacier producing a beautiful waterfall just off the cliff and the site was truly amazing. It was also our first glacier so we were really happy!
We then drove basically to the end of the park (all on bumpy, unpaved roads) to the Bosque Encantado, the Enchanted Forest, which was recommended to us by Marcelo. He said this was his favorite place in the park so we had to check it out! We didn’t know what to expect when we walked in but we were met with a truly enchanted site. The forest was dark because the trees overhead created a canopy. The trees on our level were all twisted and mangled and covered in green moss making it look so magical. There were also many streams along the way with cute little bridges that seem to be built by magical elves. The trek is about 2 km in and is very easy because it’s mostly flat, but since we were late going to our next destination, Coyhaique, we only walked for about 30 minutes. We then said goodbye to our secret park (because no one seems to have heard of it from all the people in Chile that we asked) and left for Coyhaique around 11AM.
The roads were unpaved but no so bad because the rocks were small and we could go around 70km/h. The city of Coyhaique is also located in a valley that is surrounded by tall mountains with many, many purple flowers all along the road. You wouldn’t think there would be a city after all those mountain roads but we arrived around 5PM and were met with a lot of traffic. We went to a tourism agency to find out about excursions to the Capilla de Marmol, the Marble Caves. The reason we went through Chile and went off Route 40 was because of the glacier and the Marble Caves (which I’ve seen so many pictures of on Pinterest). We were worried that the trips to the caves would be closed because it was Christmas time and the excursions leave from a very small village. But the travel agent called and they said they were open and it made us so happy!
Afterwards we finally found a place to exchange money and got some Chilean pesos and it made us much less stressed. Downtown Coyhaique is very cute with many shops and small cafés so we chose called Montana and paid for a very overpriced and crappy hot chocolate, but there was WiFi so we stayed a bit. Then we stocked up at a supermarket because our Chilean friends said that imported and processed foods are cheaper in Chile (not that it’s ideal but we needed some camping supplies). There was a MASSIVE line (because it was the day before Christmas Eve) but we managed to leave by 7:30PM.
Since Coyhaique was a mess, we decided to find a campground outside of the city in the direction towards Chile Chico (our next destination). We found a cute one owned by the Chilean government with gazebos and fire pits and had a heater to boil hot water for a shower. It was a really cute and secluded place on the side of the road near a lake. It cost just CLP$5000 for everything and we managed to make a roaring fire and some “delicious” Ramen. Even though we hadn’t planned to stay outside of Coyhaique and we were very nervous about not finding a place to sleep, we managed to push on and find a very good place!
- CLP$8000 = Parque Nacional Queulat [$4000/person]
- Left Puyuhuapi @ 11AM
- Arrived in Coyhaique @ 5PM
- CLP$700 = Parking
- CLP$23,000 = Gas
- CLP$2000 = Coffee & Hot Chocolate
- CLP$14,190 = Market
- CLP$5000 = Camping
- CLP$82000 = Exchange of R$400
- Total = CLP$54000