Adventure tourists near the San Rafael Glacier in the Laguna San Rafael National Park in the northern Patagonian Ice Field in southern Chile.

© SteveAllenPhoto/Getty Images/iStock

Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael

Northern Patagonia

Awesome and remote, this national park brings visitors face to face with the 30,000-year-old San Valentín glacier in Chile's Campo de Hielo Norte. Established in 1959, the 12,000-sq-km Unesco Biosphere Reserve is a major regional attraction. The park encompasses peaty wetlands, pristine temperate rainforest of southern beech and epiphytes, and 4058m Monte San Valentín, the southern Andes' highest peak. Scientific interest centers on the extreme fluctuation in water level of the glacier-fed lagoon.

Until recently, getting here was expensive and time consuming, but a road built through Valle Exploradores has created options to go overland with a little help from tour operators local to Puerto Río Tranquilo. Visitors who arrive by cruise shift to smaller crafts to approach the glacier's 60m face. Unfortunately, this approach permits only a few hours at the glacier without exploring the surrounding trails. Stay overnight to hear the sighs, splintering and booms of calving ice.