Chilean Fjords & Glaciers
The first week of our January 2020 South American cruise was spent sailing south down the Chilean coast. We would make one port call in Puerto Montt for a day, then continue south through the inside passages and fjords of Chile’s O’Higgins National Park Preserve, where we would eventually cruise up to the massive Amalia Glacier. From there we would sail back out into a wild Pacific Ocean heading to the Straits of Magellan.
Here are some of the highlights of that first week onboard the Viking Jupiter.
As we cruised south along the Chilean coast, our first port of call was Puerto Montt in what is called Chile’s lakes region. Since there were no large dock facilities, we anchored in the harbor and used the ship’s tender boats to get ashore.
The lakes region is a popular hiking and adventure area of Chile and most of our cruise’s optional excursions were focused on high activity. There were demanding hiking tours, white water rafting and horseback riding. We decided to do the included excursion, a coach tour of Puerto Montt and a visit to the small town of Puerto Varas on the shore of Lake Llanquihue, one of Chile’s largest lakes.
Puerto Varas is a resort town that has summer activities such as boating, hiking, and water sports. There is also a winter influx because of skiing in nearby mountains.
We had an hour of free time to wander the town. The lakefront park and boardwalk offered some stunning views of the lake with two volcanoes in the background. The cone shaped Mt. Osorno looks very much like Japan’s Mt. Fuji.
There was a small artisan center where local handcrafted goods could be purchased. In this part of Chile many German immigrants settled in the mid-19th Century, so many of the buildings, homes and gardens maintain a German look. The local food still retains quite a bit of German influence as well. The surrounding mountains and forests are reminiscent of the Bavarian Alps, so you can see the attraction for the early German immigrants.
After a few hours ashore we returned to the ship and the ship departed late afternoon to cruise south through the inner passage and fjords, next stop, Amalia Glacier.
Puerto Varas Lakefront
Puerto Varas Artisan Center - Handmade Alpaca Garments
Sailing south from Puerto Montt, we left the protection of the inland channel and headed out into the open Pacific. A westerly gale greeted us with its accompanying 15-20ft waves which gave us a bit of a rough ride for the rest of the afternoon and overnight, but we were treated to another beautiful Pacific sunset.
Another amazing Pacific sunset with a thin crescent moon hiding in the clouds
The next morning, we entered the shelter of another inland passage as we sailed through the fjords of Chile’s Bernado O’Higgins National Park. Our destination for that day was the Amalia Glacier. The narrow deep channels surrounded by snow covered mountains and grey clouds made for some stunning landscapes. Once we reached the glacier you could feel the cold wind blowing from this massive icepack. Chucks of glacial ice floated by the ship as the Captain maneuvered to within about one mile of the glacier. The blue colors of a glacier are stunning, exhibiting blue-green iridescent hues. The Amalia Glacier is one of many glaciers that are part of the immense, 4,700 sq mile Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This area of Chile, with the mountains and tidal glaciers is similar to what we saw on an Alaska cruise we took several years ago.
Leaving the glacier behind, we sailed back out into the Pacific. We were on our way to the Straits of Magellan and our next port of call Punta Arenas, which would be our last stop in Chile.
Cruising the Chilean Fjords