Ventisquero Colgante Glacier: Visiting Queulat National Park, Chile
As one of the most famous natural marvels in Chile and Patagonia, Ventisquero Colgante and Queulat National Park is somewhere you don’t want to miss during your Patagonia itinerary. Ventisquero Colgante translates to ‘Ventisquero Hanging Glacier’ and it’s a massive wad of ice that hangs off a mountain shelf that feeds the glacial lake below by a dramatic waterfall that cascades down the mountain. It’s one of the most unique natural sights in all of Patagonia if not the world. Driving through the park and visiting this marvellous area is a must for all adventure and active travellers. In this short guide find out how to visit Ventisquero Colgante and Queulat National Park as well as my top tips for visiting.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The Aysen Region of Northern Patagonia has a harsh, cold climate. Winters are snowy and frigid and summers are cool. The area also receives a lot of rainfall all year round so make sure to come prepared with good boots, layers and waterproofs. Chilean summer (December- February) is the best time to visit but it’s also the most crowded, especially February. November and March are also great months to visit with fewer crowds but cooler weather.
HOW TO GET THERE
Ventisquero Colgante or Ventisquero Hanging Glacier is located in the western part of Queulat National Park along the infamous Austral Highway in Chile. It lies 211km north of Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysen Region.
Most people visit the national park as part of the Austral Highway road trip and it makes a stunning and convenient stop. There are a few different ways to visit, however.
Private vehicle – the most popular and the best way to visit the national park is with your own wheels. If you’re flying into the region, you can rent a car from Balmaceda airport or Coyhaique. Rentals are easy but make sure to reserve a vehicle well in advance as they tend to book up quickly. We used Rental Cars and were more than happy with their service and vehicle.
If you’re travelling the entire Austral Highway then you’ll arrive in Queulat National Park eventually. Try to arrive in the morning so you have most of the day to explore and hike up to the viewpoint.
Public Transport– Public transportation in the area is limited but it can be done. Any bus going up or down the Austral Highway, from Coyhaique to Chaiten for example, will be able to drop you off at the Ventisquero entrance to Queulat National Park. Just make sure to warn the driver where you’d like to get off.
Tour– Tours can be arranged from Coyhaique or the neighbouring village of Puyuhuapi. Even though Puyuhuapi has fewer tour options, it’s much closer so you won’t spend most of the day in transit. Your accommodation will easily be able to sort out a tour for you. The day tour is rather long and normally includes breakfast and lunch. Some also include the boat tour of the lake into which the glacier feeds in Queulat National Park.
Find the best tours to Queulat National Park from Coyhaique and beyond here.
HOW TO SEE VENTISQUERO COLGANTE
Ventisquero Colgante is a sight that really has to be seen to be believed- a glacier perched precariously on a mountain shelf with two waterfalls of meltwater flowing down ferociously into the glacial lake below. Its one of the most beautiful and accessible glaciers in Chile and one of the highlights of Northern Patagonia.
The glacier is best seen from a viewpoint that you trek up to from the Ventisquero entrance of Queulat National Park. This entrance is right by the Carretera Austral. This sector of the park has three viewpoints, two right by the car park and the best one, a short trek away.
The trail (1 on the map) starts at the car park and you’ll immediately cross the Ventisqueros river on a wooden suspension bridge. The bridge itself is a great photo spot and from here you can really experience the power of the crashing waters below and the beauty and purity of the area. After crossing the bridge turn left and begin the trek. The trek takes about 3-3.5 hours round trip and its a fairly easy to medium walk. On the way, you’ll encounter spectacular viewpoints, native forests and even the Copihue flower, the national symbol of Chile growing naturally.
There are no particularly steep parts but you might have to take extra care avoiding mud and bog- saturated trails. It was extremely muddy when we visited and we spent much longer doing the trail than expected due to having to navigate the mud. Towards the top, you’ll also find a stream that flows down the trail for about 20m so take care navigating this or, like me, you’ll end up doing the rest of the trek with a soaked shoe!
The trail finishes at the Ventisquero Colgante viewpoint, an uninterrupted view of the beautiful hanging glacier and its waterfall of meltwater. This is the viewpoint from which most photos on social media are taken from.
Upon descending down to the suspension bridge you can then take the trail to the right which leads to the lake that the glacier feeds. At the lake, you’ll be able to see the glacier again at a distance and have the opportunity to do a boat trip for a different view.
Boat trips cost $10,000 per person and take you out across the lake from where you are able to see the glacier from below. The view is spectacular- you’re surrounded by mountains on all sides, water flowing down them into the lake and in front of you the otherworldly Ventisquero Colgante. There are very few places left in the world to be able to connect with pure nature quite like this.
If you do have some time left then you may also want to check out the last viewpoint left- directly north of the car park from which you can see a very small glacier indeed. Don’t worry if you miss this, however, you’ve already seen the best viewpoints.
TOP TIPS FOR VISITING QUEULAT NATIONAL PARK
↠ Entrance to Queulat National Park is $4,100 CLP per person and its open from 9am-5.30pm
↠ If visiting the park during the COVID-19 pandemic there are a few extra things to be aware of. You’ll need to reserve your entrance to the park online before visiting. You can do this here (in Spanish) and it’s free. There are only about 100 entries to the park per day. Note that the park is closed on Monday and you have to enter by 2.30pm. On arrival, they’ll check your temperature and log your details before you can begin exploring. For all official and up-to-date information check the CONAF website here.
↠ The most popular entrance is the Ventisquero entrance as this has a direct trail to the hanging glacier viewpoint however there are other entrances such as Angostura that are less crowded with a variety of other treks that can be done in a day.
↠ Arrive as early as you can to get the most out of your day.
↠ The weather in this area can change in a flash so come well prepared. Make sure you have waterproofs, a warm fleece layer and good hiking boots as well as snacks and plenty of water. You can refill your water bottle from the rivers in the park- it’s the purest glacial water around!
Do you have any comment or questions about visiting Ventisquero Colgante or Queulat National Park? I’d love to help you plan your trip- leave your comments below.
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