Chile. Puerto natales

Population: 18,1 millions.
Capital city: Santiago.
People: 95% European descent and Mestizo, 5% Indian.
Language: Spanish and a handful of native languages, including Aymara, Mapuche and Rapa Nui.
Religion: 89% roman catholic, 10% protestant, less than 1% jewish.

It extends some 4.300 Km from the desert north to the glacial south; is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and shuttered by the Andes on the east. Chile shares most of its extensive eastern border with Argentina, and borders Peru and Bolivia in the north. Rarely extending beyond 200 Km in width, Chile makes up for longitudinal mincing by rising rapidly from sea level to 6,000 mts.

The country's latitudinal extremes give it a formidable array of landscapes: snow-capped volcanoes plunge to river canyons. The Great North, where some weather stations have never recorded rainfall, is opposite to storm and snow-prone Patagonia. Chile's razored and sculpted coastline has endowed it with beaches and bays perfect for fishing and swimming. Chile also lays claim to the offshore territories of Easter Island (Pacific Ocean 3,700km west the costline), Juan Fernández (700 km west) and half of the southern island of Tierra del Fuego (which it shares with Argentina).

The variety of habitat supports distinctive flora and fauna, which are protected by an extensive system of national parks - one of the country's major draw cards for visitors. In the parks, animals such as the endangered vicuña (a wild relative of the alpaca), the Patagonian guanaco (a wild relative of the Andean llama), flamingos, pelicans, penguins, otters and sea lions do the food chain work. Chilean plant life includes stands of araucaria (the monkey-puzzle tree), cypress and rare larch trees (similar to the giant redwoods of California). Outside protected areas, extensive logging denudes the landscape at an alarming and increasing rate.

Chile's climate is as varied as its terrain, with arid but surprisingly temperate areas in the north, a heartland which enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and the wind, rain and snow-battered lands of Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego (Fireland) in the south. The rainy season in the heartland is from May to August when temperatures are cooler, getting down to an average maximum temperature of 10ºC (50ºF) in July. January's average is 28ºC (82ºF). Chilean Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego have summer averages of just 11ºC (52ºF).


BALMACEDA & SERRANO GLACIERS

"Round Trip" Tonina Agunsa. Catamaran Boat Agunsa-Tonina begin navigating the Señoret Canal, heading NW towards Mount Balmaceda while the passenger will enjoy breakfast on board. Our first point of interest will be the Puerto Bories National Historic Monument, this meat frezzing factory was founded in 1913 by the Tierra del Fuego Operating Company and for more than 60 years was the most important center of slaughtering in the area. It highlights its construction in masonry, post Victorian industrial architecture English style. We delving deeper into the Señoret canal, we navigate close to Isla Guanaco where small and wonderful Magellan or TONINAS Dolphins are appreciated. Then we access through the Estancia (cattle ranch) Margot, where the Cormorants cliffs are located, showing off lots of these birds fanning their wings outstretched to the wind. Continuing the trip to Punta de Lobos where we found some of this marine mammals, then got to visit the waterfall and cliffs where we can see condors. At each point of interest our boats Agunsa Tonina will stop so the passengers will enjoy the scenery of this attractive area. The journey continues to Mount Balmaceda (2035 meters high) where we will see the first glacier of the same name and then disembark at Puerto Toro to start a walk round the shore of the lagoon Icebergs, always accompanied by our bilingual guide. Through a native forest coigües, ñirres and ciruelillos, toward the Serrano glacier, here we enjoy the impressive vegetation and the contrast between the clear skies and blue ice, accompanied by imposing Serrano glacier. In the way back we will enjoy a snack before to get to lunch place the estancia Consuelo where a Rosted Lamb will wait for the visitors. our navigation ends in Puerto Natales.

TORRES DEL PAINE NAT.PARK & MILODON CAVE

We start our tour to Torres del Paine National Park. The first stop is the ancient cave Milodon, declared a historical monument in 1968 and a Natural Monument in 1993, it is located 25 km north of Puerto Natales. This natural monument consists of three caverns and a rocky conglomerate called "Silla del Diablo". The largest of these caves is 150 m.a.s.l. and its dimensions are 30 meters high, 50 meters wide and 200 meters deep. The scientific interest of the place is given by the discovery, in 1896, skin, bones and other remains of an extinct animal, the MILODÓN (Mylodon darwini) a large herbivore which became extinct probably late Pleistocene. After 30 minutes of tour and 36 Km. more, it will be the second stop in Cerro Castillo, where passengers can enjoy cafeteria service. All a preamble to get then to Torres del Paine National Park by Laguna Amarga sector or Porteria Sarmiento, which is even more amazing. Following in the path you can see the Nordenskjold and Pehoe lakes, accompanied by groups of guanacos and Lesser Rheas. The road continues with a walk of 10 minutes, where you can discover the beautiful Salto Grande fall, then headed to Camp Pehoe (Sodexo) where the passenger can go to lunch (not included) with view of the Cuernos del Paine. During the afternoon, the tour continues to the sector of Lake and Grey Glacier, where a stop of about 45 minutes and a beautiful hike from the Grey parking area, cross walking the Pingo River hanging bridge, walk through beech forest and then along the beach will take place Lago Grey peninsula and the shores of Lake is lining up a hill to reach the Mirador Grey that overlooks the lake, the icebergs area and part of the glacier, where the Paine Grande is appreciated. The return trip is exiting the Park by Laguna Amarga or River Serrano, a real show that copies of red foxes and condors usually accompany the fascinating panorama of the Paine Massif and finally concludes this trip coming to Puerto Natales around 19:00 hrs. Approx.