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“Natural wonder of the world”

Reviewed 7 March 2014

I think the most breathtaking place I have ever seen. I have returned numerous times. The fastest, easiest way to see and enjoy San Rafael safely is by Catamaran out of Chacabuco. This is arranged through travel agents or the Loberia hotel. On arrival a closer experience can be had for the brave, entering the zodiac speed boats and navigating through the ice.

10  Thank CoyhaiqueWoodnut
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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10 - 14 of 43 reviews

Reviewed 9 February 2014

We had almost a full day at the glacier arriving during breakfast while the crew gathered up two open steel boats to take us out to the face of the glacier. Ice flows, seals and falling ice off the glacier kept everyone upbeat and excited. Nobody else out there.

We took this trip last year with the Skorpio small ship cruise line out of Puerto Montt. It was fantastic. About 80 passengers on board with a very friendly crew. It felt a bit like travelling in an earlier time but the coastal views of mountains, rain forest, water falls and finally the San Rafael glacier was exceptional. If you like the wild outdoors, that end of the earth feeling and standing on a deck leaning into wind, sun or drizzle then you'll like this one. The food on board was generally good with the odd spike of excellence and then somewhat ho-hum but you eat four times a day. The Chileans still do English style high tea at 4 and supper at 8. Wonderful !

9  Thank Grivola
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 January 2014

Since I live in Chile and work in the tourism industry, I did extensive research before deciding how and when to go to Laguna San Rafael and its glaciar. Instead of taking the expensive Skorpios cruise or other companies like Navimag that start in Puerto Chacabuco, we decided to take the new, shorter route from Bahia Exploradores. It is much cheaper (about USD300 per person, including transportation from your hotel in Puerto Rio Tranquilo) and allows you to get to the glaciar in 3 hours only, so if you are short of time, you can do the excursion in just one day instead of 2 days minimum with the others (although taking a two-day tour and sleeping in the forest near the glaciar allows to see more things). It is worth it.

As of now, there are only two companies offering excursions from there: Emtrex and Destino Patagonia. All the others sites you will find offering excursions from Bahia Exploradores go through them -and can be more expensive. We went with Destino Patagonia, as they were the first ones to answer my emails (quick email response is important to me) and were friendly and helpful in their reply.

Enough of introduction, let's go to the thick of it. Destino Patagonia's driver picks us up at our hotel at Puerto Rio Tranquilo (the closest town from Bahia Exploradores) at 7am, then drives us to Valley Exploradores with his SUV. The road is quite bumpy and I'm glad I'm not driving, so that I can enjoy the stunning landscape around us, with lakes, numerous waterfalls, impressive mountains and glaciars. At 9am, we cross the Exploradores river in a boat (they still need to build a bridge there) and we continue on another van for a minutes on the other side. We finally make it to the pier and get into a tiny boat, where only 6 clients + 2 pilots and our guide can fit in the small cabin. Don't expect comfort: as I wrote before, this is a more adventurous route, and it's better to have waterproof clothes and shoes on.

There starts the route to the lagoon San Rafael, which takes about 3 hours. Unfortunately the weather is bad so we cannot get out of the cabin much. It also gets very bumpy at some point because of the waves and strong winds (this is definitely NOT recommended for people with neck or back problems). This is also something worth knowing beforehand: since we are on a tiny boat, there is the possibility that the weather is too bad and we have to return -and you cannot really know it until the boat reaches the fjords (we start from a river). In such cases, 90% of the excursion is refunded.

The weather is very cloudy and it rains sporadically, so we cannot really appreciate the beauty of the fjord around us, but once we reach the laguna with all the blue icebergs and the big glaciar, it is spectacular, even with the rain. Because of the bad weather, we cannot picnic on the piece of land next to the glaciar and have to eat inside the boat. The food, however, is unexpectedly good. Then we get close to the big wall of ice and spend about an hour observing it. Amazing beauty, and quite impressive when big pieces of ice dramatically fall on the water.

There is a bit of frustration though: first, the guide's English is just ok, and he doesn't give many explanations about the glaciar's formation, the colors, etc. Second, we cannot get as close as the zodiacs coming from Skorpio's and Navimag's boats. These get really to the foot of the glaciar, while our tiny boat cannot. But it is still a great experience. And instead of having the classic drink in a glass with a piece of ice from the glaciar, our guide does something more creative: he picks a big piece of ice, carves a hole in it with his knife, and pours directly the whisky in it. Great idea! As we return, the weather clears up and we can appreciate better the beauty of the area, with the fjords and cascades, and see a couple of penguins and sea lions on the way.

Conclusion: This is still a very new route, so there are a few flaws that can be corrected with time and experience (the level of English, the lack of explanations, maybe a better boat that could get close to the glaciar...). But the fast is friendly, it is by far the fastest and cheapest option, and you get actually two excursions in one, as the 2-hour road trip from the village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Bahia Exploradores features stunning landscapes, with lakes, numerous waterfalls, impressive mountains and glaciars. Simply one of the most beautiful landscapes in Chile -and I've seen many!

37  Thank Frenchilean
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 January 2014

We were at San Rafael for a 2 day trip with Destino Patagonia, sailing with a small boat from Bahia Exploradores in 2 hrs to the laguna. First afternoon we walked to the look out points over the glaciar. We had blue skies and nice temperature, which meant we could sit and watch for a few hours. Absolutely stunning to see the glaciar calving; pieces of the ice wall broke off every few minutes, with at the certain time a whole section disintegrating. The icebergs popping up from ice falling into lagoon and from ice breaking off underwater is such a weird thing to see, it all seems to happen in slow motion in front of your eyes. Next day we went kayaking on the lagoon, great to see these wonderful shapes and colours of icebergs from closeby. Unfortunately it was raining and cold, which made it less fun.

4  Thank Patrick V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 17 December 2013

Stayed two nights in Hotel Loberias del Sur Chacabuco, comfortable accommodation good restaurant. Place to launch from for boat tour of San Rafael Glacier. Catamaraes Del Sur is a full day tour leaving 7am in the morning, returning by 9pm. Breakfast, lunch and snacks provided. If your not a Salmon lover take a few snacks no facilities to buy anything on board. Plenty of food great staff and most amazing natural wonder to visit. Well worth the time. At the site of the glacier you travel on small zodiac boats closer to the glacier. Totally awe inspiring adventure, the sounds and sights are a must. Long day for younger kids. Take warm clothes, beanie scarf. Water proof ponchos are provided on zodiacs. Good camera is a must?

3  Thank Kimberley H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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