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Border Crossings

Gonzo travelers can skirt the Southern Ice Field on foot to get from Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and El Chaltén to Villa O’Higgins, the last stop on Chile’s Carretera Austral. This one- to three-day trip can be completed between November and March (the border closes in low season). Bring all provisions, Chilean currency, plus your passport and rain gear. Boat delays are not unheard of, so be prepared to stay overnight and pack enough food and extra cash in Chilean pesos. Here are the nuts and bolts:

  • Grab the shuttle bus from El Chaltén to the south shore of Lago del Desierto, 37km away (AR$450, one hour).
  • A ferry/tour boat travels to the north shore of Lago del Desierto (AR$1025, one-hour ferry or 4½-hour tour). Another option is to hike the demanding mountain trail (15km, five hours) that follows the coast at a distance. Warning: cyclists will have to carry their bikes in many places on narrow trails thick with vegetation. Pass through Argentine customs and immigration here. Camping is allowed at the border post only.
  • From the north shore of Lago del Desierto, trek or ride to Laguna Larga (1½ hours). Camping is not allowed.
  • Trek or ride to Laguna Redonda (1½ hours). Camping is not allowed.
  • Trek or ride to Candelario Mansilla (two hours). Candelario Mansilla has lodging in a family farmhouse, guided treks and horse rental (riding or pack horse per day CH$30,000). Pass through Chilean customs and immigration here.
  • Take the Hielo Sur catamaran El Quetru (CH$36,000, four hours) from Candelario Mansilla, on the south edge of Lago O’Higgins, to Puerto Bahamondez, with an optional side trip to Glaciar O'Higgins (CH$40,000). Trips go one to three times a week, usually on Saturday, with some departures on Monday or Wednesday. A bus goes from Puerto Bahamondez to Villa O’Higgins (CH$2500).
  • Ruedas de la Patagonia uses a smaller, faster boat to shuttle between Candelario Mansilla and Puerto Bahamondez (1 hour 40 minutes, CH$35,000), including transfer to Villa O'Higgins.

In Villa O’Higgins, El Mosco has good lodging options. For Chilean ferry information, consult Robinson Crusoe in Villa O’Higgins.