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Travel Guide to Visiting Marble Caves in Patagonia

Travel Guide to Visiting Marble Caves in Patagonia

Do you love nature? I bet almost everyone does! If you want to experience it in its best form, then the Marble Caves in Patagonia are an excellent place to plan your next tour.

There are so many places to see around the world. Some of these spectacular attractions are artificial, while others are natural. And while planning for holidays, people keep on searching for places that are less explored and have not lost their unique and natural charm.

If you wish to visit a place that would literally take your breath away, then marble caves in Chile are sure to leave you spellbound. The beauty and serenity of this place lie in the fact that it is far from civilization and has maintained its natural charm.

Formed at the General Carrera Lake in Chilean Patagonia, it is amongst the best attractions of South America. The lake itself is an isolated glacial lake covering the border of Chile and Argentina, making it the largest lake in Chile and the fourth-largest in Argentina.

So, would you wish to see this nature’s marvel up close? Here’s a guide on the best way to visit the famous marble caves in Chile.

Why Visit the Marble Caves in Chile?

Marble cave image

Often listed in the places to see before you die, this is a natural formation of caves made out of huge marble deposits as a result of water clashing with the calcium carbonate walls for the past 6,000 years. The result of this ages-long process was these stunningly beautiful caverns that awe everyone visiting Chilean Patagonia.

There are crystal clear, smooth-edged walls reflecting innumerable colors that make up these caves. And with the difference in light and level of water throughout the year, you can witness various forms of these caves.

Everyone is spellbound by this natural sanctuary; from the deep blue to turquoise to the lightest of blue, you can witness the color changes all around you. The change in General Carrera lake water levels, caused by the nearby glaciers, is also a major contributor to the varying shades of these caves.

Scientists say that the finely ground glacial silt gives the water its unique color and clarity. Photographers from all over the world come here to capture the various moods of this cavern. This means that a whole new experience is waiting for you to explore each time you visit.

So, in what part of Chile are the marble caves?

These awe-inspiring caves sit in Patagonia, Chile, a few kilometers from Puerto Río Tranquilo. The caves sit on a marble peninsula bordering Lake General Carrera. This lake is shared by two South American countries: Chile and Argentina.

This place is surrounded by the Andes mountains and offers a stunning view of General Carrera Lake. The cave entrance is a short boat ride from Puerto Río Tranquilo, which is approximately a four-hour drive from Coyhaique.

How to Get to Chile’s Marble Caves

Marble Cave

Getting to Marble Caves in Chile can be quite an adventure. With only tiny boats to carry tourists from the shore into the caves, it is worth the experience.

The boats are the only means of travel due to road inaccessibility. There are several local operators that offer half-hour tours of the caves.

Some people have gotten so mesmerized by this astonishing place that they have built holiday homes near it to experience living in heaven while still on earth.

There are no direct flights to take you to the Marble Caves. However, there are many good, local tour companies that can facilitate your visit to the Marble Caves. These tour operators arrange packages with cars to help you reach these caves from the nearest possible airport, train station, or bus stand.

As such, your tour will follow this route:

  • From Santiago, Chile, book a flight to Balmaceda Airport, located 870 miles south of the city.
  • Travel by road for around four hours to Puerto Tranquilo via Carretera Austral Road
  • Take a boat trip or a kayaking tour to the marble caves

So next time when you’re planning a holiday, don’t forget to tick the marvelous Marble Caves off your wish list; it is worth every penny and maybe more.

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Best Time to Visit the Marble Caves

Patagonian Ice Glacier

It’s no doubt that the over 6,000 years of water action on limestone have resulted in the most beautiful cave network in Southern Chile. Even better, the caves change appearance with each passing season. And as such, these intricate caverns present a different wonder for visitors every season.

But which is the favorite season for most travelers? Well, December to March takes the day. Why? It’s summertime, and the weather and access conditions are most favorable at this time.

If you visit the area outside this season, you might not be able to enjoy all that the Marble Caves have to offer. For instance, the gravel road leading to Puerto Rio Tranquilo might be closed due to heavy rains. Also, past April, Patagonia is generally quiet, with only a few services active, including the tour operators.

Subsequently, reaching the Marble Caves might take a long time and even cost you more when traveling during the off-season. So, unless your schedule completely disagrees with December to March, a tour to the Marble Caves in Southern Chile is best within this time.

Touring the Famous Marble Cathedral

Also known as the Marble Cathedral, Chile’s Marble Caves are indisputably stunning. And a tour of the place is always more than fulfilling to visitors.

But how do you visit the caves? How do you make the most out of your tour, especially due to the fore-mentioned accessibility issues?

Well, there are several tours that will take you to the famous Marble Cathedral. For example, you can choose to go with a local company or book a tour through websites like Viator to ensure you have the experience of a lifetime.

Here are your best options:

1. Local Boat Tour

As mentioned earlier, several local tour operators are there to help visitors reach the marble caves in Chile. So, when you land at the airport, the first thing would be to book that bus ride to Puerto Tranquilo and a boat tour to the caves.

Generally, these tours are available in two blocks. The first batch leaves for Puerto Rio Tranquilo from 8:30 am and extends through the morning hours. There is a second batch that leaves from 2:30 pm, extending through the mid-afternoon hours.

Once you reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo, there are friendly locals waiting for you there. Here, you can book a boat tour from several local operators. Usually, they offer group tours at $12 USD per person, and the prices are uniform for all the companies. Once you book your tour, the guide will take you through the beautiful cave network for an amazing experience.

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2. Kayak Tour

Marble Cave in Chile

Are you seeking more adventure? Then, kayaking is certainly the way to go. The feeling can’t get any better as you paddle down the caves on those turquoise water. The unique features and beautiful colors that adorn the caves offer breathtaking sights.

Usually, your tour will start three miles south of Bahia Mansa. The guide will brief you on the route and safety and then lead you toward the caves. The best thing here is that you get more up close to the caves, unlike with a boat tour.

Your tour ends at the marble tunnel, known as the Tunel de Marmol, just next to the Marble Cathedral. This tunnel allows you to paddle even closer to the marble walls, where you can better enjoy the sights. You’ll even be able to see the browns, grays, and patterns they form on the marble formations.

And while it might cost you a bit more ($52 USD), the experience is worth it.

3. Full Day Navigation to Marble Chapels from Coyhaique

Marble Chapels Full Day Navigation Adventure
Image source: Viator

If you want to enjoy your time fully at this amazing world’s marvel, booking this full-day tour is what you need. The full day navigation tour not only allows you to visit the marble caves but also gives you an excellent opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the turquoise Lake General Carrera.

The turquoise colors of this lake, plus the incredible marble rock formations, will certainly take your breath away. The action of water over time has resulted in some of the most stunning caves and chapel-like figures that you’ll undoubtedly love to see.

This tour also allows you to experience the life of the Aysen people. Plus, before you even get to the marble caves, the extensive nature comprising rivers, lakes, snowdrifts, lagoons, waterfalls, forests, and national parks, will also satisfy your quest for adventure.

4. Try it Solo

Solo traveling

If you are one of those people who enjoy solo traveling, you can decide to do just that – doing it solo. To do this, travel to Bahia Mansa, which is around three miles from Puerto Río Tranquilo.

From here, you can book a boat or a kayak, with a guide, to take you to the caves. The boats here are much cheaper.

The only downside of this option is that the road to the bay from Route 7 is quite steep. As such, you must be really careful as it’s also in bad condition most of the time.

See Related: Best Places to Travel Alone in the World

What to Pack When Visiting the Marble Caves

Marble cave features

When packing for your trip, remember that you will spend most of your time outdoors. So, pack accordingly. You don’t want to spoil your entire tour just because you forgot something as small as sunglasses.

As such, ensure to include items such as:

1. Sunscreen

EltaMD's UV Clear Face Sunscreen

As we said earlier, the best time to visit the marble caves is between December and March. And this is usually summer in the region, meaning that the temperatures are high.

Usually, the sun can be quite harsh here, especially when you are out on the water. Therefore, a good sunscreen will come in handy to protect your skin from irritating sunburns. Ensure that you apply your sunscreen before heading out on that boat or kayak tour to the caves.

EltaMD’s UV Clear Face Sunscreen will be an ideal option here. It’s light and easy to pack and will protect your skin from the harmful UV rays that can easily harm your skin.

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2. Hat

Columbia Unisex-Adult Hat

Even with sunscreen, it’s prudent to protect your face from direct sunlight, and a nice hat will help you do just that. This Columbia Unisex-Adult Bora Bora Hat is an excellent choice.

This breathable hat has a sweat-wicking headband, which absorbs all the sweat from your face to keep you cool throughout the tour. Plus, it will keep your entire face shaded away from the sun; it’s made from UPF 50 materials that block harmful UV rays from reaching your face.

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3. Sunglasses

Bolle Anaconda Polarized Sunglasses

Still, on the sun issue, ensure you pack your favorite pair of sunglasses. As you’ll be spending time in the clear waters of Lake General Carrera, you’ll want to keep your eyes well-protected. A good pair of polarized sunglasses will be perfect as they protect your eyes from the sun and reduce the glare from the water’s surface.

Bolle Anaconda Polarized Sunglasses have been designed specifically for outdoor activities. They are lightweight and have 100 percent UV protection. The lenses are also scratch and impact-resistant to protect your eyes and your investment in these shades.

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4. Light Sweater or Jacket

White Adult Fleece Crewneck Sweatshirt

Even during summer, the temperatures can drop in the evening, especially when you’re out on the water. So, it’s essential to carry a light sweater or jacket that you can easily wear when the need arises. This way, you’ll be prepared for any eventuality and won’t have to spend all your time shivering.

This Adult Fleece Crewneck Sweatshirt by Gildan is an excellent option. It is lightweight and easy to pack and will provide enough warmth when temperatures drop.

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5. Hiking Shoes

Columbia Women's Waterproof Trail Shoe

When visiting the marble caves, you’ll most likely want to do more than see the caves from a boat. For instance, you might want to go hiking to explore more areas in Patagonia if you have the time.

For this reason, it would help if you had a good pair of hiking shoes to protect your feet. We recommend you go for waterproof shoes as they will keep your feet dry and comfortable even when you have to walk through puddles of water.

The Columbia Women’s Waterproof Trail Shoe is an excellent choice for women. They are comfortable and offer good support to your feet and ankles, which comes in handy when walking on uneven surfaces. The shoes are also waterproof and easy to clean – perfect for any outdoor activity.

For men, we recommend the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot. These boots are also comfortable and offer good support and traction. They are waterproof and can withstand any terrain you might encounter while hiking.

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6. Bug Repellant

Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent

Patagonia is home to many species of insects, some of which can be quite harmful. As such, carrying bug repellant with you is essential to keep them at bay.

One natural option that works well is the Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent. This repellent is safe for both adults and children and can protect you from mosquitoes, ticks, and flies. So, as you make your final arrangement for the tour, ensure you have one in your backpack.

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Crucial Tips When Visiting Marble Caves Patagonia

1. Get an Entel SIM Card

Usually, not many phone companies offer coverage around the marble caves region. In fact, Entel is the only phone company you can reliably use in Puerto Rio Tranquillo.

Therefore, we recommend that you buy an Entel SIM card as soon as you arrive in Chile. This way, you’ll be able to stay connected with your tour guide and the rest of your group. Also, ensure that you have a working phone. It can be quite crucial in case of an emergency.

2. Plan your Visit During the Summer Season

The weather in Patagonia can be ruthless, especially during winter. Also, the cold weather halts many activities in the region, especially the marble caves, due to inaccessibility. As a result, planning your trip to the area during winter wouldn’t be the best idea- although some people still love it that way.

The best time would be during summer when there are more visitors to the area, the roads are in good condition, and the weather is favorable. Also, the lake’s colors keep changing during summer, offering the most stunning views.

You can’t also imagine being on a boat or kayak tour during the rains or the cold of winter. Even a few minutes there might be unbearable.

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3. Carry Warm Layers

Patagonian weather can be quite unpredictable. It might be pretty warm during the day but experience heavy rain or colder moments in the evening. This calls for a well-planned trip, where you have included some warm clothes and layers to protect you from the cold.

Some waterproof bags for your gadgets might also be necessary if it rains during your boat or kayak tour. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s always wise to prepare.

4. Plan to Tour the Caves in the Morning

While there are tours available to the marble caves throughout the day, morning hours are the best. Why? in the morning, the lake is calm as there are no strong winds in the region.

However, as the day progresses, the wind might become stronger, causing the lake to become a bit violent. So, try the morning hours for a quiet, relaxing tour that allows you to enjoy even the beauty of the underwater features.

Other Attractions in Patagonia to Consider

In addition to the famous marble caves, there are many other attractions that you can visit while in Patagonia. As such, if you have more time on your hands, you can always make your visit to the marble caves region more exciting. Some of the most outstanding attractions in this region include:

1. Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares National Park

This nature’s haven is part of Patagonia’s attractions, located on the Argentine side. And with a total area reaching 600,000 hectares, this expansive region consists of a National Reserve and a National Park.

And as the name suggests, this attraction’s main feature is the glaciers. In total, this park has 47 large and small glaciers – with 13 of them flowing into the Pacific.

Most of these glaciers are part of the South Patagonian Ice Field, a massive relict formed through the glaciological processes. And due to the presence of numerous glaciers, the park also boasts a huge freshwater reservoir.

The most stunning glacier is the Perito Moreno Glacier. Other glaciers, like Perito Moreno, Upsala, and Onelli, also calve into Lake Argentino.

Besides the glaciers, the park also has other stunning features, including lagoons, rivers, mountains, and forests that make up an incredible landscape. If you’re lucky, you can see some animals like guanacos, condors, rheas, and pumas.

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2. Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre

These two mountain peaks are some of the most difficult to climb globally. In fact, it was only in 1952 when an Italian expedition managed to conquer Mount Fitz Roy.

Cerro Torre is especially unique because of its highest peak reaching around 10,262 feet high, and the fact that it’s covered in ice all year round. The first successful attempt to climb this mountain was made in 1977 by an Italian mountaineer, who used special equipment to overcome the challenges of harsh weather conditions.

The view from the top of either mountain is simply breathtaking. You can even see as far as 60 miles away on a clear day. Generally, if you love adventures in the most remote areas, these two mountains are arguably some of the most remote mountains in the world, considering their distance from civilization.

So, if you are an avid mountain climber, these two mountains present the best place to explore while in Patagonia. Also, booking a 4-Day Hiking tour would allow you to take in all the beauty and adventure the place offers.

3. Torres del Paine National Park

Torres del Paine National Park Scenery

This national park is yet another amazing attraction located in Southern Chile. In fact, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Chile, with over 250,000 visitors every year.

The main attractions in this park are its three granite towers (Cordillera Paine), which have been worn down by glaciers over the years. The tallest of these towers is over 10,000 feet high and is known as the Cerro Paine Grande.

In addition to the granite towers, the park is also home to many glaciers, lagoons, rivers, and mountains that make up its incredible landscape. If you’re lucky, you can even see some wildlife like guanacos, pumas, and eagles. Book this Full-Day Tour to Torres del Paine, and you won’t regret it.

4. Tierra del Fuego National Park

Train in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Image source: Viator

This national park is located on an island at the very southern tip of South America. As such, it’s one of the most remote places on earth. The main attractions in this park are its forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains.

Also, there is abundant wildlife in these parts of the world. For instance, wildlife like guanacos, rabbits, foxes, and muskrats can be seen. And if you are a bird lover, you’ll have the best chance to see some of the over 90 bird species, including Andean condors, kelp goose, oystercatchers, torrent ducks, and Austral parakeets.

In addition to its incredible landscape and wildlife, the park also has a rich history. So, if you’re looking for an adventure in one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth with a rich history, this national park is the place. And a half-day train tour of the area park will certainly allow you to enjoy most of the park’s beauty.

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5. Laguna San Rafael National Park

Laguna San Rafael Glacier

When traveling to Chile, visiting Laguna San Rafael is one of the famous tourist destinations that most travelers will have on their to-do-list. This national park is not only among the largest parks in Chile but one that also offers immeasurable adventure for travelers.

The park, which sits on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, offers a magnificent view of glaciers, mountains, and even icebergs. Some of the higher Patagonian Andes mountains, including Cerro Arenales, Cerro, Pared Norte, and Monte San Valentin, are all located here. Also, major rivers like the Exploradores River and Baker River flow through the park.

And to top it off, there is abundant marine and terrestrial wildlife including the south Andean deer, gray foxes, dolphins, marine otters, and elephant seals.

6. Visit the Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguin

If you love penguins, a visit to Patagonia, Chile, gives you an excellent opportunity to see some. The Magellanic penguins are much smaller than the king penguins found in Tierra del Fuego Island, but their colonies are amazingly large.

The best place to get the best view of these magnificent creatures is on Isla Magdalena near Punta Arenas coast. You can also find a good number of them at Punta Tombo.

Isla Magdalena has the largest colonies, reaching over 120,000 penguins. And with such a huge number, you are certain to encounter some. A boat ride from Punta Arenas gives you the best opportunity to spend some time watching these cute, flightless birds.

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7. Whitewater Rafting in Futaleufu

Whitewater Rafting Adventure in Futaleufu
Image soirce: Viator

While southern Chile offers stunning tourist attractions, the northern parts of the country present even more unique features for you. For instance, if you are more drawn to dense forests and rivers, then Futaleufu is the ideal destination.

Futaleufu river is located in the heart of Patagonia, and getting there can be quite a challenge. But once you are there, the experience is worth it all. It offers some of the best whitewater rafting experiences, almost impossible to find anywhere else in the world.

The combination of its remote location, challenging rapids, and beautiful scenery makes it a favorite among the rafters. For example, its rapids are class five rapids, and the area is ranked the third best place to visit in the world for rafters.

If you are looking for more adventure, Futaleufu is also home to some of the best trekking trails in Chile. So, whether you want to raft or hike, Futaleufu has something for everyone. Book this Rafting Puente a Macal tour, and get all the fun!

Where to Stay Near the Marble Caves Chile

The best place to stay while visiting the marble caves in Chile is Puerto Rio Tranquilo. This small town sits on the edge of General Carrera Lake, and it’s where the Marble Caves are. You can also book a hotel at Bahia Murta, which is just four miles from the caves.

There are several accommodation options here, ranging from camping and hostels to bigger hotels. Plus, a number of tour operators in the town offer boat tours to the Marble Caves. Some of the best accommodations near the caves include:

1. Mallin Colorado Ecolodge

Mallin Colorado Ecolodge Scenery
Image source: Booking.com

Mallin Colorado Ecolodge is a 3.5-star hotel near the Marble Caves that provides shuttle services to and from the airport. It offers elegantly furnished rooms with a patio that has an amazing view of the lake and mountains.

As for the rooms, your comfort is taken care of. From the large bathrooms with eco-friendly toiletries and a hair drier to the functional heating system and a mini bar, your stay here is all sorted.

Other major benefits that guests here enjoy include:

  • Large parking spaces
  • Free continental breakfast
  • Free pet stay
  • Concierge services
  • A 24-hour customer service desk

In other words, after giving your eyes and soul a treat of a lifetime from the beautiful marble caves, you can extend the feeling by sleeping in this top-notch hotel.

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2. Chelenko Hotspring and Lodge

Chelenko Hotspring and Lodge
Image source: Booking.com

With an 8.8/10 customer rating, Chelenko Hotspring and Lodge is a 3-star hotel is another cool place to rest after a long day. The Chelenko lodge offers great amenities, including a gym, spa, and pool. Plus, you get easy access to six nearby hot springs.

Their rooms are spacious, clean, and with a private bathroom. The only downside about this hotel is that it doesn’t have onsite parking, and pets are not allowed. Otherwise, the property is well maintained to guarantee the most comfortable stay for all its residents.

The Marble Chapels are just 1o miles away from this hotel, making it one of the most convenient hotels. Bahia Murta is also around four miles from the hotel. Balmaceda Airport, the nearest airport to the property, is approximately 110 miles away.

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3. Cabañas Marianela

Cabañas Marianela Lodge
Image source: Booking.com

This is a great option for those looking for an affordable place to stay. The Cabañas Marianela hotel has comfortable rooms and a terrace with a stunning view of the lake and the city.

The hotel is located in Bahia Murta, only 20 miles away from Marble Chapels, making it a convenient spot to spend your nights. Puerto Sanchez is only 14 miles from the property, while Puerto Tranquilo is 19 miles away. Therefore, connecting to these towns and the surrounding tourist attractions is easy.

Some of the best features of this accommodation include:

  • Free parking spaces
  • A garden
  • Spacious rooms with a flat-screen TV, clean bed linens and towels, a fully equipped kitchen, and a dining area

Balmaceda Airport is around 106 miles from the property.

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FAQ

How did the Marble Caves in Chile form?

These caves are a result of over 6,000 years of water erosion within huge marble deposits. The water eroded the marble, causing it to form these beautiful caves, which are true nature marvels.

Is it possible to camp near the Marble Caves?

Yes. There are a few camping sites near the Marble Caves where you can set up your tents and enjoy the night under the stars.

Where are the Marble Caves in Chile?

The Marble Caves are in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, a town in Chilean Patagonia. They are situated on General Carrera Lake, which is Chile’s second-largest lake. A boat tour from Puerto Río Tranquilo will get you there.

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Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

Sunday 16th of February 2014

so stunning!! I'm going to Argentinian Patagonia later this year but only managing a day over in Torres Del Paine so probably won't get a chance to see this - guess I'll be missing out but glad I've had a chance to see it through your post :)

Eddie N S

Sunday 16th of February 2014

I'm glad you liked the post :) Torres Del Paine is an amazing place as well. It's a natural wonder, it has everything, stunning views of lakes, mountains, waterfalls and variety of flora. The scenery makes it one of the very special places. Just be prepared for the weather! I was there about a year ago, this was one of the most amazing trekking I did in my life life.