Have frequent flier miles burning a hole in your pocket and need new ideas for where to go? Check out our weekly Have Miles Will Travel column for strange, wonderful and unique destinations around the world.
On this week’s edition of Have Miles Will Travel, we’re heading very near to the ends of the earth to find the breathtakingly beautiful Marble caves of Chile. They’re one of the least-known wonders of Patagonia because they’re famously hard to get to (but famously worth the effort).
Where Can I Find It?
These magical caves are found near the tiny village of Puerto Río Tranquilo in southern Chile.
The nearest airport is Balmaceda Airport. Your best bet to get there from the United States is LATAM airlines. There are local buses that leave from bus Terminal Coyhaique that leave Balmaceda airport twice per day and take you to Tranquilo. You can also rent a car and drive.
But, if you’re up for the adventure, travelers overwhelmingly recommend biking the Carretera Austral, a partially paved and gravel road that takes you along beautiful lakes, mountains and villages in the area.
The caves themselves are in the middle of the General Carrera lake. The best way to get an up-close view of them is by boat. You can kayak which takes about half a day. Or, you can hire a local guide which will take you there by speedboat and show you all the best caves and where to catch the light just right.
The price for a boat tour should be around $15 USD (10,000 CLP) for a 2-hour tour and around $40 USD (30,000 CLP) to rent a kayak for 3 to 4 hours. When you get to Puerto Río Tranquilo you’ll see several travel agencies around town. Pop into several to see who will give you the best trip at the best price.
Does It Really Look Like It Does in the Photos?
The internet can be a hive of scum and villainy that will lure you halfway around the world with a beautiful photo of a faraway place only to have you get there and find out that the image has been edited or Photoshopped or fabricated with a mirror.
But, from what we can tell, this place does look just as beautiful as it’s photographed. Says one Redditor:
“This place is as incredible as it looks. Even on a mostly cloudy day, which is how I experienced it, the erosion is breathtaking.
Pro-tip, if you’re physically able, kayaking lets you get as close (or even closer) as its pictured here. Taking a boat tour is less immersive.”
However, someone else pointed out that the brilliance of the colors in your photo depend heavily on the time of day that you’re there. And, we just want to say, that while the water does look delightfully swimmable, it isn’t really. The water in this area of the world is pretty cold.
When Should I Go?
The best time to visit The Marble Caves in Chile is from December to March. They look beautiful all year long but the road to the caves is often closed in winter due to inclement weather. And because it can take so long to get to these caves, we highly recommend making a trip to the Marble Caves of Chile a side trip. Need recommendations? Head to the South America FlyerTalk forums on Chile to see where people have been and ask questions about VAT refunds, why they fumigated your luggage, or any other questions you can think of!