From Coyhaique, a paved section of the Carretera Austral runs west towards the coast, to the former port of Puerto Aysén, 65km away – a small town you have to pass through on the way to the even more nondescript Puerto Chacabuco, the gateway to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael. From Puerto Chacabuco, a 200km boat ride through the labyrinthine fjords of Aysén brings you to the dazzling San Rafael glacier, spilling into the broad Laguna San Rafael. The journey is a spectacle in itself, as boats edge their way through channels hemmed in by precipitous cliffs dripping with vegetation, passing the odd sea lion colony along the way. After sailing down the long, thin Golfo de Elefantes, the boat enters the seemingly unnavigable Río Témpanos, or “Iceberg River”, before emerging into the Laguna San Rafael. Floating in the lagoon are dozens of icebergs, fashioned by wind and rain into monumental sculptures, with such a vibrant electric-blue colour that they appear to be lit from within.


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