Backpackers seem to have a shared, irrational decision making process when it comes to transport. Price is the heaviest weighted variable, while important things like time, enjoyment, comfort, and personal space hardly factor in. Weird pillows and snoring bunkmates have crashed our standards for comfort. We’ve slept on train station floors and sacrificed our stomachs to tepid chicken skewers. If a bus is just a bus, then we might as well take the cheapest bus, even if it’s the longest bus.
… or is it just me?
Traveling from Patagonia back to Santiago promised to be long journey. A bit of research yielded indirect bus routes, expensive flights, and hitchhiking mishaps, but there was a ferry from Puerto Chacabuco to Quellon that sounded pretty compelling. For just $17,250CLP ($25 USD) the 28 hour ferry ride would serve as transport, accommodation, and a tour through the fjords of Patagonia. Sounds too good to be true, right?
What could easily have been a glorified long distance bus ride turned out to be one of my favorite travel experiences in South America. It was picturesque and even kind of awesome.
Are you looking for an alternative to bus travel from Patagonia? Here are some photos from the journey with Naviera Austral along with details about booking travel.
More details on Naviera Austral and their ferries at the end of this post!
Cruising the Fjords with Naviera Austral
About Naviera Austral
Naviera Austral offers ferry services for passengers, cars, and cargo between Puerto Montt and Patagonia. It makes mainland stops in Puerto Chacabuco, Puerto Cisnes, and Chaíten, but it also stops in tiny towns like Ayacara, Melimoyo, Melinka, Puerto Aguirre, Puerto Gala, Puerto Gaviota, Raul Marin Balmaceda, and Santo Domingo.
The Boats: Naviera Austral operates two barges – the Queulat and the Jacaf – that seat between 245-286 passengers. The boats really are slow (cruising at around 12 knots) but as you’re cruising through the fjords, the journey is good enough to warrant the 20+ hours onboard. The ferry departs twice a week from most ports.
Sleep: The seats are comfortable and recline much like semi-cama bus seats. Your luggage will go into storage, so if you’re traveling with a sleeping bag or pillow, you’ll definitely want to bring it to your seat. During the journey, you’re free to walk around and sit outside on the deck. The perks of traveling in low season are that you may end up with a whole row to yourself.
Eat: You’ll want to go shopping before your ferry ride to stock up on food. There is a cafeteria onboard with simple things – cakes, empanadas, cookies, etc – but you’ll only want to eat here as a backup plan. The staff will give you hot water for free, but you have to pay if you don’t have your own cup. The tap water onboard is potable, but it doesn’t taste great so you might also want to bring your own. Alcohol isn’t permitted on board, but we may have brought along 3L of wine and we may recommend that you do the same.
Cost (2017): $17,250CLP ($25 USD)
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