Chile // Tierra del Fuego //

Los Dientes de Navarino circuit

Many travellers come to Puerto Williams to complete the Los Dientes de Navarino Circuit challenge, a strenuous four- to seven-day hike in the Isla Navarino wilderness, where there is no infrastructure whatsoever, and you are faced with unpredictable weather as well as the rigours of the trail. This is for experienced hikers only and not to be attempted alone.

The trail

Follow Vía Uno west out of town; the trail starts behind the statue of the Virgin Mary in a grassy clearing. The road leads uphill to a waterfall and reservoir, from where a marked trail climbs steadily through the coigüe and ñire forest. It is a two-hour ascent to Cerro Bandera, a miradór with a wonderful view of the town, the Beagle Channel and the nearby mountains; this climb is definitely worthwhile, even if you’re not doing the circuit. The rest of the trail is not well marked; there are 38 trail markers (rock piles) spread out over the 53km route, which entails crossing four significant passes and negotiating beaver dams in between.

Once past the starkly beautiful Laguna El Salto, you can either cross a fairly steep pass and make a detour to the south, to the remote expanse of Lago Windward, or head west to Laguna de los Dientes. Continue west past Lagunas Escondido, Hermosa and Matrillo before reaching the particularly steep and treacherous descent of Arroyo Virginia; beware of loose rocks. The trail markers end before Bahía Virginia, and you have to make your own way over pastures and through scrubland to the main road. The trail officially finishes 12km out of town, behind a former estancia owned by the MacLean family, which has been developed into a centolla- and shellfish-processing factory. From here you can follow the main road back to Puerto Williams or hitch a lift.

Maps and essentials

The best map is the Tierra del Fuego & Isla Navarino satellite map by Zagier & Urruty Publications, available in Ushuaia in conjunction with GPS. Make sure you have plentiful food and water supplies (water on the island is not drinkable owing to the giardia carried by the beavers), sunscreen and warm and waterproof outdoor gear, and inform people in town of your plans before leaving.