Off the Grid South America

What the Hell are Marble Caves? | Chile

Marble Caves Chile - Marble Caves Tour Boat

I’m reluctant to visit any place famed for being “colorful”. I know this sounds oddly specific, but I’ve seen lots of pink lakes and rainbow mountains that photograph well but look quite average in real life. The Marble Caves in Chile (Capilla de Mármol) ran the risk of being another such “as seen on Instagram” attraction. Some people really know their way around an Instagram filter, and these caves are hard to get to. Going was taking the risk that, in actuality, the Marble Caves would be dull and flat.

I ended up there by some set of unusual circumstances. Argentina was proving to be more expensive than I had budgeted. I had hitchhiked there after hiking in Torres del Paine, and I needed to leave before I ran out of money entirely. I looked at a map and Puerto Rio Tranquilo was on the other side of the border. The quickest ferry to Chiloe was a few days away. So I went to the Marble Caves instead. After some reading, I learned that the history of the Marble Caves spans 6,000+ years with waves carving the caves out of calcium carbonate. The brilliant blue glacial lake perfectly mirrors time-worn splendor. And while I ended up there quite by accident, I have to say that it really was beautiful. Perhaps not worth a trip across Chile, but at least worth a border crossing or a lazy stopover on a long trip through South America.

Planning to visit the Marble Caves in Chile? Read below for more information on booking a Marble Caves tour, renting a kayak, where to stay in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, and how to get there from Chile Chico and Coyhaique below.

Navigating the Marble Caves in Chile

Marble Caves Chile - Tour Boat

Marble Caves Chile - Standing on the DockMarble Caves Chile - Inside the Caves

Marble Caves Chile - Marble Caves Tour Boat

Marble Caves Chile - Outside the Caves

Marble Caves Chile - Outside the Caves

Marble Caves Chile - Closeup of the Rocks

Marble Caves Chile - Rock Formations in the Caves

Marble Caves Chile - Inside the Caves

Marble Caves Chile - The Cathedral

How to Get to Puerto Rio Tranquilo

Puerto Rio Tranquilo is a tiny town on the Chilean side of Lago General Carrera. You can get from Coyhaique to Puerto Rio Tranquilo by bus (4.5 hours) or from Chile Chico to Puerto Rio Tranquilo by minibus (3.5 hours).

Where to Find a Marble Caves Tour

The easiest way to explore the Marble Caves of Chile is by boat from Puerto Rio Tranquilo. There are several operators offering boat tours of the Marble Caves for 10,000 CLP ($15 USD) per person. If you prefer, it is also possible to rent a kayak and paddle to the Marble Caves for about 35,000 CLP ($50 USD). Groups can negotiate a reduced rate.

Where to Stay in Puerto Rio Tranquilo

Don’t expect hotels or backpacker hostels in Puerto Rio Tranquilo – the town is absolutely tiny. Most of the places to stay are family-owned cabañas with basic interiors, but there’s plenty of Chilean hospitality to go around. Here are some of the most recommended accommodations in Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Cabañas Don Hugo | Cabañas Don Hugo are stand alone wooden cabanas for groups of all sizes with sensible bedding, an ensuite fireplace, and lovely gardens. Doubles from $67.

Cabañas Rio Tranquilo | Groups looking to stay together should check out the apartments at Cabañas Rio Tranquilo. Their apartments sleep up to 4 travelers and have waterfront views. Apartments from $119.

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  • Reply
    Melissa Huckson
    January 21, 2018 at 6:05 pm

    Question: roughly how far offshore are the caves? I may be in the area with a whitewater kayak (not the most efficient for paddling across broad expanses of flatwater) and am considering just paddling to the caves rather than doing a boat tour.

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      January 22, 2018 at 7:20 am

      Hi Melissa. Glad you’ll get the chance to go! The map is saying about 5km by land, and I guess the water route will be a bit further. That being said, I have heard of people doing this, so you’d have no problem! In fact, I’m sure kayaking is a cooler experience all around. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Daniel Piggott
    May 19, 2020 at 8:21 am

    Hi Taylor,

    Your post on the Marble Caves was a nice precise guide. We visited the Marble Caves earlier in the year and had a great time. Thank you for helping us relive the experince.

    However, one thing we found in preparing to go there, was the difficulty in just being able to reach the town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo! Did you also find it hard to get there?

    We also found that a lot of information online in regards to getting to the Marble Caves was outdated. That’s understandable given the fact that the transport companies going there seem to change on an almost yearly basis.

    We wanted to make sure that anyone visiting the Marble Caves would have an up to date guide on how to get there. Therefore, we wrote an in depth Getting To The Marble Caves guide which is up to date as of March 2020. We hope that other people, and perhaps your readers, will be able to more easily plan their trip to the Marble Caves by using our in depth guide. Here’s the link –

    Let us know what you think 🙂

    Cheers, Dan & Beck from Travel Made Me Do It

    • Reply
      Taylor Record
      May 30, 2020 at 12:43 am

      Hey Dan & Beck. To answer your question, YES! It was very tough to coordinate our visit to the Marble Caves and to time it with our ferry departure from Chile Chico. Thanks for sharing your updated resource with the info!

  • Reply
    Dan & Beck
    June 1, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Taylor,

    No problems at all.

    Interestingly, we didn’t read much about the ferry option. But we met people in Chile Chico who were getting the ferry also.

    Cheers, Dan & Beck from Travel Made Me Do It

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