Chile, Patagonia. Besides the breathtaking landscape, it is the remoteness and wilderness that make a kayak tour in Patagonia so unforgettable. It is easy to get the feeling to be really out in the nature. In a landscape that offers a number of highlights: the bizarre mountain massif of the Torres del Paine, glaciers, icebergs and wide untouched glacial rivers. Learn more about kayaking in Patagonia in my following article. What are the highlights? How strenuous is it? What to pack?
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At a glance: The highlights of our kayak tour in Patagonia
- View of the Torres del Paine mountain range and other fantastic mountain panoramas
- Paddling on Lago Grey with icebergs from Grey Glacier
- Rio Grey and Rio Serrano with wild shoreline landscapes
- Serrano waterfall
- Paddling in front of the Serrano Glacier with icebergs
- Animal observations: Condors, geese, wild cows
- Picnic and camping on the banks of rivers or fjords
- Super delicious food
- An impressive starry sky
Icebergs in Bahía Grey
After an early start at 6am in Puerto Natales we are already rewarded with great views during the two-hour drive to Bahía Grey. We see the striking mountain massif of Torres del Paine and other great mountain panoramas.
The Bahía Grey is then the starting point for our kayak tour in Patagonia. The Grey glacier calves into this bay and on the opposite side of the bay we see the first icebergs. Due to the wind conditions, icebergs accumulate in the bay and can be seen here with great probability.
We get our paddling equipment, get into our waterproof suits, put on our life jackets and then pack the rest of our stuff in waterproof bags. We even get helmets. Not if ice from a glacier falls on our heads, but rather if we tip over in a kayak and then drift helplessly in the river. The rivers have a stronger current and there are stones and fallen trees in the water.
After a safety briefing we also get some helpful tips for paddling and then we go to the icebergs. We learn how to hold the paddle correctly, how to use the steering wheel and how to be careful when getting in and out of the car and so on...
On the water, in the middle of the bay, it is windy. We warm up quickly as we paddle against the wind. But the ever growing icebergs motivate us. Icebergs can suddenly move. They can break apart or tip over. Therefore we keep a safe distance with our kayaks.
After we have inspected our first iceberg from all sides, we continue in the other direction, along the Rio Grey.
Floating on the Rio Grey
Even without a paddle we already make a good trip. Because the current of the Rio Grey carries us forward and a wild shore landscape glides past us. The broken bank embankments testify that the river can flow even faster and be even wilder than today. Again and again we see wild geese. Other people we do not see during our river trip. With the wind and the current the paddling becomes more relaxed and we can enjoy the view. On our left we see the impressive Torres del Paine mountain range, which also includes the impressive Paine Grande with a height of 3,050 metres.
We paddle to the confluence of Rio Grey and Rio Serrano - the "Confluenza". Here the grey glacier river Rio Grey flows into the blue Rio Serrano. Shortly afterwards we reached our destination for the first stage and our escort vehicle takes us to Camp Los Andes. Our guides Angelo and Julia from Espíritu Patagón start the grill and spoil us afterwards with a Patagonian barbecue and Chilean wine.
By the way: There are also day tours. Then you paddle on Lago Grey by the icebergs and then down Rio Grey.
Patagonian big Game Safari at the Rio Serrano
After we have had an extensive breakfast and stowed our luggage back in the boats, we continue on the Rio Serrano. The river is wild and pristine. Sandbanks alternate with steeper banks, sometimes the river is wider, sometimes narrower. The current helps us to paddle the kilometres that are planned for the day. Without the current this would be quite a challenge. With the current, the biggest challenge is navigating. In some places you have to help the paddle with bow strokes in addition to the rear steering. But everything goes well and we avoid the stones and the trees lying in the water like real kayak professionals. I even dare to unpack my big reflex camera from the waterproof bag. Because there are plenty of motifs.
Patagonian geese rest on the shores and from time to time we also see a herd of wild cows. As if they had been engaged for our kayak tour in Patagonia, the herd changes from one side of the river to the other directly in front of our kayaks. I only hope that the cows are faster than the current of the river, which drives us to the herd of cows.
But after a relaxed start it gets more exhausting: the Serrano waterfall forces us to carry the fully loaded kayaks around. Two of us carry in front, two carry behind. But the boats are still damn heavy. We use the paddles as a carrying aid.
After a little refreshment the Rio Serrano continues to the camp at Puerto Toro. This camp is beautifully situated at the foot of the Balmaceda mountain and the Serrano glacier.
The Serrano Glacier - the Highlight of our Kayak Tour
The Serrano Glacier rises right in front of us. We approach the edge of the glacier as far as safety allows. Our kayaks look tiny opposite the mighty wall of ice. As if spellbound, I look up at the jagged and cracked ice and enjoy being here.
The Serrano Glacier is a popular excursion destination. There is a boat dock next to the camp, a small hiking trail and two different vantage points. One is right below the lagoon. The other one leads via a path on the mountain flank up to the glacier.
Before the day trip guests arrived, we were already with our kayaks on the lagoon Serrano and paddled past icebergs towards the glacier. The sight of this mighty wall of ice was spectacular and made us quiet while we paddled.
Ship to Perales - the End of our Kayak Tour in Patagonia
From the camp at Puerto Toro we will cross the fjord of Last Hope and return to Puerto Natales by excursion boat. The kayaks are loaded onto the boat and we look for a sunny spot on deck. With a view to the Serrano Glacier we toast with a glass of whiskey on glacier ice.
And how exhausting is it?
As long as the weather plays along, the tour is good for anyone in average fitness. The indicated track lengths seem very long at first. However, as you paddle with the current, these distances are well feasible. Especially in double kayak.
Day 1: 18 miles, 4-5 hours paddling time
Day 2: 26 miles, 6-7 hours paddling time
Day 3: 2 miles, 1-2 hours paddling time
With head wind it can become however fast strenuous. That's what we felt on our last leg.
Tip: Wear gloves right from the start, because it prevents blisters. Loosen and stretch in the breaks extensively your arm and shoulder muscles.
You will get a kayak, paddle, waterproof suit, gloves, paddle paws, life jacket, spraydeck, helmet and waterproof packing bags. On request you can rent a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. All meals and snacks were provided.
We were able to leave some more luggage, which we didn't need during the kayak tour, in the office of our tour provider Espíritu Patagón
What you shouldn't forget to pack:
While you paddle:
- Drinking bottle
- Sunglasses with good UV protection
- Chocolate bars, student food or similar for a snack between meals
For the camp:
- Wet wipes (certainly this was not planned - but the showers were cold or there was no water if the generator in the camps was not switched on)
- earplugs, if the generator in the camps runs a little longer
- Thermal underwear and fleece as underwear (fast-drying synthetic)
- Wool or synthetic socks (no cotton)
- head lamp
- Warm down jacket for the evening
- Rain jacket and rain trousers
- Trekking shoes
- Insect repellent
- gloves, cap, scarf
- And of course all your personal stuff you need, toothbrush and co.
Have you ever done a kayak tour in Patagonia yourself? How did you like it? Do you have any questions about my article or any other tips? If so, please write me a comment!