Like every year during the Easter break, we take off and explore Latin America as a family. This year we got to tour the lakes district and a part of the Carretera Austral. We were late in the season and I was actually a bit afraid that we would see a lot of rain and many things closed, but the weather was kind to us and while cold, we had a blast exploring this part of Patagonia.
The first time we visited this region was 20 years ago, on a long overland trip getting to know Argentina and Chile as backpackers. Since then so little has changed, the roads are better for sure, but the towns, communities, and landscapes are as amazing as I remember them. Endless forests, deep blue lakes, glaciers and the warmth and hospitality of everywhere we went, made this a special trip.
We were fortunate enough to be driving part of the ‘Ruta de los Parques’ when the Tomkins Conservation signed over their private parks to the Chilean government to become national parks. While being in this region we learned a lot about the foundation, the vision of Douglas Tomkins and what it has meant for this region. They changed the destiny of this region and have been converting it from agriculture, logging and salmon farms into one of the largest conversation projects worldwide.
The route is simply spectacular, it is incredible to see the hanging glaciers and to walk through rainforests that have been untouched for thousands of years. The people that live along this road are also very different from other parts in Chile, most are native communities that live in close harmony with nature. This region is far away from any sort of city life, it is remote and only reachable by ferries that run once a day. The Tomkins foundation managed to keep the big mining, salmon and foresting companies away and gave the local communities a new income in the form of real eco-tourism.
The parks have no entrance fees, the trails are amazing, well maintained and with clear signposts so that every hiker can do this on their own. To top that, the whole route has an amazing camping infrastructure.