19 December 2019
Patagonia Verde is the northern part of Chilean Patagonia and is significantly different to the better known – and busier – southern Patagonia.
The Carretera Austral (Ruta 7) is the principal road through the region and is part of the inter-continental pan American highway. Patagonia Verde starts with a ferry journey from Puerto Montt and essentially ends at the township of Coyhaique. The Carretera Austral took us through mountain fjords, fishing villages, mountain views, and spectacular meadows of wild flowers. The mountains are neither lower nor less grand compared to further south, but the climate is better, the soil is richer, and the forests are denser and more diverse.
While Patagonia Verde has much less ice and snow in summer, being further away from the Chilean ice shelves and glacier region, Queulat National Park offered a mountain hike that took us up to the stunning hanging glacier of Queulat, from which springs a count of seven waterfalls dropping several hundred metres down the side of the mountain, atop of which the ice-blue glacier rests and slowly melts.
Patagonia Verde has a continuing changing landscape of river-rapids, ice-capped high mountains and volcanos, luxuriant green forests and some very muddy and eye-opening hairpin bends in driving rain. Opting for a 4WD is highly recommended.
Sendero Cascadas Escondidas
An immersive walk through Patagonian temperate rainforest
Coming from Victoria, we thought we would be in our stride visiting the temperate rainforests of Patagonia Verde – but nothing prepares for the Cascadas Escondidas, which is about 30 minutes south of Caleta Gonzalo on the Carretera Austral.
The river and waterfalls of this small and rarely visited park are located not so much in temperate rainforest as thick, temperate jungle… this was a challenging but delightful and hugely satisfying obstacle course of ladders and log bridges, mud trenches and sheeting rain that took us through a rococo wonder-scape of elegant, drooping birch boughs dressed in lichen and moss, mountain mists, vertical ferns and fragile 2,000 year old giant alerce trees.
The walk also starts and ends at the most beautiful (and quiet) campsite we enjoyed in Patagonia – “Camping Cascadas Escondidas.”
Many villagers in Patagonia have converted their land to accommodate camping – this timelapse is the view from one of them in Hornopirén, before taking the ferry in our journey further south.