Explore Valle Exploradores: Ice-trekking a magnificent Patagonia glacier in southern Chile

Southern Chile’s extraordinary Valle Exploradores is punctuated by a persistent – but slowly-shrinking – glacier.

The iridescent azure mass of ice known as Exploradores Glacier is being studied by scientists who are observing its gradual retreat. The rate of shrinkage is low, however, and Valle Exploradores will continue to provide thrilling ice-trekking activities for years to come.

Surrounded by snowy mountains swimming in clouds, Valle Exploradores contains the highest peak in Patagonia, San Valentín, which reaches 4,058 meters into the sky. Waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and expressive Patagonian forests pronounce the area’s poetic landscape.

But Exploradores Glacier is the valley’s crown jewel, a precious crystal that absorbs all colors of the rainbow except blue – and this is the hue it reflects.

Compared to other glaciers in Chile, Exploradores Glacier is relatively accessible, making this unique valley an ideal location for ice trekking and climbing, as well as for simply appreciating first-hand the beauty and power of a living glacier and the impressive geologic formations in its wake.

Trek across a real glacier

Exploradores Glacier is 9 km long and 2.5 km wide, a satisfying mass of ice to be traversed. Feel the glacial palisade beneath your feet as you experience this truly monumental and magnificent trek in Valle Exploradores.

Exploradores ice treks vary in levels of difficulty, but every visitor can find a pleasant adventure here.

Ice-trekking Exploradores Glacier involves a moderately-strenuous, guided day hike across challenging and icy terrain. Appropriate clothing and equipment are essential, – including crampons, which are typically provided by tourism agencies.

Professional ice-climbers can also conquer the glacier’s daring athletic challenges, but with additional preparation and assistance – also provided by local tourism services.

For a less physically-intense – but aesthetically-intense nonetheless – quest, simply visit the valley and drink in the area’s clean and striking scenery with a brief forested walk to Mirador Explorer, a priceless outlook over the Patagonian wilderness and the Exploradores Glacier, for a small entrance fee.

How to arrive?

Valle Exploradores is approximately a six-hour drive from the town of Coyhaique, and 52 km west of Puerto Río Tranquilo.

Where to stay?

Some visitors choose to camp on the glacial ice in Valle Exploradores, but others require the comforts of home.

The small community of Río Tranquilo offers comfortable accommodations. Cabañas, hotels and hostels are also available surrounding nearby Lake General Carrera, in the heart of Patagonia.

Chile’s summer is considered the best time to visit Valle Exploradores, primarily between November and April.

By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel
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