Ventisquero Colgante – the famous hanging glacier in Chile – is the obvious attraction within the easily accessible Queulat National Park. You may see plenty of glaciers on your trip through Patagonia, but you’ll struggle to find one perched in a more dramatic setting than this one.
Chile’s Hanging Glacier is not to be missed, and, unlike the majority of Patagonia’s other highlights, is pretty straightforward to visit. But the impressive Ventisquero Colgante and its easy access mean that the site is now becoming more and more crowded.
The glacier has slowly begun to feature in photography publications all over the world and, naturally, that attracts big crowds.
If you’re in town during the peak times (between late December and early February), then you won’t have the park to yourself – far from it. You’ll need to plan your visit carefully and avoid the coach tours.
But with our advice, you’ll get to see the glacier with at least a little peace and quiet.
- How to Get to Queulat National Park & Ventisquero Colgante
- About Puyuhuapi
- About Queulat National Park & Ventisquero Colgante
- Your Ventisquero Colgante Options
- Take the Boat
- The Mirador del Ventisquero Trail
- Other “Trails”
- Los Pumas Trek
- El Bosque Encantado
- Moving On
- Where to Stay When Visiting Ventisquero Colgante
How to Get to Queulat National Park & Ventisquero Colgante
Ventisquero Colgante is found within Queulat National Park, some 20km south of Puyuhuapi – the nearest “major” settlement. If you’re staying overnight, this is the only realistic place to base yourself.
The National Park is also around 120km north of Villa Mañiguales, which is not somewhere you want to be stuck (like we were).
WEE TIP: the drive between Cohyaique and Puyuhuapi is mind-blowingly beautiful – try your best to take it all in.
In general, Patagonia isn’t friendly for fliers. Your only real flying option is Balmaceda Airport, some 300km south. Sky and LATAM both fly direct from Santiago for very reasonable fares. Esquel Airport, across the border in Argentina, is a similar distance away.
There are also local flights between Puerto Montt and Balmaceda, but these come at a much higher price.
On paper, there are technically no buses between Puyuhuapi and Queulat National Park.
The owner of our campsite told us about a local bus (heading for Puerto Cisnes) that departs from the town’s only real supermarket (Entre Verdes). It doesn’t officially stop at Queulat National Park, so you’ll have to speak nicely to the driver.
Apparently it leaves at 8am. Or maybe 9am. But it might not be running. And we have no idea how much it costs.
Such is Patagonia.
Needless to say, when we passed by around 8am the next day, there was absolutely no sign of a bus.
Other backpackers told us about getting a ride with the park ranger on his way to work early in the morning. You’ll have to hand over a few notes, but it’s not a bad option.
The ranger we met within the park kindly offered to give us a ride back to Puyuhuapi if we were still struggling to get a ride when he finished work. We managed to get back just fine hitchhiking.
As we’ve already mentioned in other blog posts, the best way to travel around the region is with your own vehicle. But as with all things Patagonia, this isn’t particularly budget-friendly.
If you’re on a strict budget, then hitchhiking from Puyuhuapi to Queulat National Park is a pretty decent option. The bus stop at the entrance to Puyuhuapi from the Carretera Austral is your best bet.
We came from the other direction, which was a bit of an ordeal (ordeal = a 27-hour journey).
We saw around 15-20 hitchhikers get picked up while we were waiting the next day no problem. Please don’t depend on hitchhiking as you’re always relying on the generosity and kindness of others. But people here didn’t wait too long.
WEE TIP: hitchhiking in Patagonia is pretty unique. It’s going to be the first time you take your place in a hitchhiking queue – you’re not the only one on a budget. Play by the rules, be friendly, and wait your turn.
There are no ATMs in Puyuhuapi or Queulat National Park. You’ve been warned.
Puyuhuapi is a typically Patagonian town. There’s not much going on, and there’s not much there to see. The water is really pretty (and really reminded us of home), and it’s a pretty spectacular setting. But everybody’s here for Queulat National Park and Ventisquero Colgante.
There’s a decent supermarket in Entre Verdes and one or two restaurants that were actually open as well. We got some snacks and empanadas from a food truck just off the main street which hit the spot!
If you’re hitchhiking, know that there are two entry and exit points for Puyuhuapi from the Carretera Austral. There’s a chance that you could miss cars that enter Puyuhuapi from one side and exit from the other.
About Queulat National Park & Ventisquero Colgante
Now for the national park itself! Even the most enthusiastic visitors will struggle to spend more than half a day here, so don’t worry about any multi-day expeditions.
The first thing you’ll notice is that, yes, the locals pay an awful lot less than you do for their entry fee. Get over it. It’s the same in so many other countries around the world, rightly or wrongly.
It may stick in your throat a bit, especially since nothing in Patagonia is particularly affordable, but try not to be bitter and instead, focus on enjoying your day in a wonderful national park.
As for the National Park itself, there’s little there apart from the official campsite (more on that later) and a small café at the front of the park near the Carretera Austral.
A hundred meters after entering the park, you’ll meet the ranger booth where you’ll pay your fee and fill out some personal information. This is where the official campsite is. You can either park here (for campsite access) or further within the park itself at the second car park.
From the ranger booth, walk a few hundred meters and you’ll reach the second car park. Follow the path left, cross the footbridge over the Ventisquero River, and enjoy the site.
The Entry Fee
We begrudgingly paid CH$5,000 each to enter the park. It has since risen to CH$8,000. Locals pay CH$3,000. You can also pay with card. Yes, we couldn’t believe it either.
The friendly rangers will ask for your passport information and ask you to sign in for the day. We had all of our luggage with us, and they let us store it their cabin (CH$1,000 per bag) while we explored.
If you’re really struggling for a lift back to Puyuhuapi as well, then try working a little charm and there’s a good chance the rangers on the backshift will drop you back into town when they’re finished with work.
It’s Patagonia at its finest here. Be prepared for anything and everything – and quick.
If it isn’t a clear day, then you’re probably wasting your time visiting the park. We were really happy with the pictures we got, but our 200mm (400mm full-frame) lens was maxed out.
The truth is that the mirador is still some distance from the glacier. The sight and sound of the falling chunks of glacier probably mean they need a pretty big splash zone!
So watch the weather forecast carefully (easier said than done in this part of the world) and try to make your way there on a clear day. If it’s cloudy and overcast, you might end up leaving very disappointed.
We recommend arriving first thing (08:30 or earlier) or just before it closes (around 15:00). We arrived in the early afternoon and the park was relatively quiet.
Your Ventisquero Coltange Options
Ok, so now you want to actually see the Ventisquero Colgante! There are a few options, and they all depend on your level of fitness, budget, and time.
Take the Boat
You can take a boat ride on Ventisquero Lagoon but, honestly, we wouldn’t recommend it. At a pricey CH$6,000, you and around a dozen others enjoy a pretty predictable 30-minute cruise toward the Hanging Glacier and back.
You’ll also need to wait until there are the required numbers (6) for the boat to leave.
In truth, you won’t get too much closer than the onlookers at the mirador, and you’ll be poorer for it. If you did take the boat tour and loved it, then please leave a comment below and let us know how it was!
On the other hand, a kayak tour is the best way to get up close and personal with Ventisquero Colgante. Bear in mind that you won’t be able to kayak all the way to the glacier itself because of the huge chunks of collapsing ice.
You’ll need a minimum of three passengers, but there’s a maximum of six per tour with a Spanish-speaking guide.
You’ll pay at least CH$15,000 per person for a couple hours on the water. Let us know if the price has since gone up.
The Mirador del Ventisquero Trail
Now we’re talking! This is the most popular trail in the park, since it leads you to the money-shot view of Ventisquero Colgante.
It’s very well signposted once you cross the footbridge. Just follow the path through thick forest and after around 45 minutes, you’ll have arrived at the tiny mirador.
If it’s crowded and there’s no space to move, then just wait until a few people have left and work your way back in.
The trail is 3.3km in total, and you can easily complete the walk in an hour or two. Take some snacks or some sandwiches to enjoy lunch with a pretty incredible view. Don’t leave until you’ve seen one of the huge chunks of ice crash into the water from the glacier!
We think this is the best mirador for getting a perspective of the size of the lagoon, the glacier, and the impossible waterfalls coming from it. It’s a picture-perfect shot of Patagonia, and you’ll understand why when you visit.
WEE TIP: even when the weather’s dry, your path is pretty wet and muddy! Wear decent hiking shoes and expect a few slips and slides along the way. If you walk with inappropriate footwear, you’re not going to get very far.
There are a number of other, ahem, “trails” once you’ve crossed the footbridge as well. “Trails” may be pushing it, since they’re only a few hundred metres each, but a couple of them are still worth exploring.
The Laguna Témpanos Trail (1.1km) takes you to the beginning of the lagoon. This is also a pretty cool viewpoint, and it’s where the boat and kayak tours begin from. If you’re walking to the Mirador, you can combine this walk with the Mirador one.
The Mirador Panorámica Trail (400m) is an even shorter walk that takes you to a higher mirador, but it’s a very similar view to the Témpanos Trail. The Aluvión Trail, on the other hand, takes you through some forest around the Ventisquero River.
Los Pumas Trail
We didn’t even know about this trail until after we left! What awful travel bloggers we are.
But it seems that for those who enjoy hiking and are looking for something more challenging than the Mirador del Ventisquero trail, this is for you.
This time, you’re heading north of Puyuhuapi (around 12km) to the shore of Lake Risopatrón. A steep 10km hike brings you to Los Pumas Lagoon. Please note that you will not see the Ventisquero Colgante on this hike.
If you do the Los Pumas trail, please drop a comment below to let us know how it was!
El Bosque Encantado
The enchanted forest – El Bosque Encantado – isn’t part of Queulat National Park. This forest features all sorts of trees bent and twisted into strange shapes and formations, and is a very pleasant and intriguing walk (3.5km).
If you have your own vehicle, you’re in the area, and you have the time, then you should definitely add this onto your trip.
Entry is CH$5,000, and the site is frequently closed by some pretty serious avalanches.
UPDATE: just like right now. The site is closed until 2022!
So that’s everything you need to know about visiting the Hanging Glacier of Chile – Ventisquero Colgante.
If you’re heading further south, then you’re in for a wild ride. Why not check out our guide to trekking Cerro Castillo? Or what about a boat tour along the glimmering shores of Lago General Carrera, taking in the marvellous Catedrales de Marmol?
Where to Stay When Visiting Ventisquero Colgante
Like almost everybody else, we stayed in Puyuhuapi. We really liked our campsite, but there were a few other ones to choose from in town as well.
You also have the option of staying nearer Queulat National Park. There are a couple of cabañas (Aonikenk Karho) well-situated outside the national park, and a rough-around-the-edges campsite (Camping Leontina Fuentes) just down the road as well.
You won’t get any closer than staying within the park itself though. There’s a perfect, grassy area to pitch, toilets, and hot shower facilities, but there’s not a single other building except for the café at the entrance to the park. There are also only 10 pitches.
We didn’t regret staying in Puyuhuapi and venturing out to the park from there.
Camping Adhonai (Puyuhuapi)
Cheap and cheerful camping at Adhonai! The owner was lovely, the camping area is sheltered, the kitchen is well equipped, the wifi’s ok, and it has a good social vibe as well. What more could you ask for?
from CH$4,000 pp
La Sirena Camping
Just next door to Adhonai, you can expect much of the same. Both campsites are very well reviewed.
from CH$4,000 pp
Camping Rio Mar Puyuhuapi
For something a little more original, Camping Rio Mar is a little further down the road. The owners even bake their own bread on site! Wherever you end up, you should be able to pitch your tent in comfort in Puyuhuapi.
from CH$4,000 pp
Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa
We can’t fail to mention this luxury spa – the absolute opposite of all the camping recommendations we’ve listed so far!
This is the waterside-retreat you’ll pass by on your way to and from the park (assuming you’re coming from Puyuhuapi). It’s very famous, its spa has healing properties and bla bla bla…anyway it’s extortionate.
If you can afford it, then go for it! If you’re a budget traveller like us, then forget about it.
Rooms from $350
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