Tortel – Puerto Natales Ferry: A Backpacker’s Guide to Patagonia, Chile
If you’re traveling down the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7) in Chilean Patagonia, chances are you’re wondering what you’re going to do when the road abruptly ends near the town of Villa O’Higgins in the south. There are several options if you want to continue to explore the rest of Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia and not simply turn back the way you came.
Here are your choices:
Border crossing in Villa O’Higgins
The border crossing in Villa O’Higgins is not a popular one because it is totally inaccessible to vehicles. Although reportedly very beautiful, it involves a combination of busing, jeep-riding, ferry crossing, hiking, hiring pack horses, and camping. Unless you’re prepared for a long and tough adventure, we wouldn’t recommend this route.
Border crossing in Chile Chico
If you want to cross to Argentina this is probably the most popular border crossing in the area. It means skipping the southernmost part of the Carretera Austral, but at least the road is a good one and can be accessed by all vehicles, and the crossing is a straightforward one.
Border crossing in Paso Roballos
The last option for crossing the border in this region is through Paso Roballos near Cochrane. It’s a bit further south than Chile Chico, but the road is not as good and consists mostly of gravel. It is technically accessible to vehicles, but depending on weather conditions such as rain or snow it could be impassable at certain times of the year.
Ferry crossing from Tortel (Puerto Yungay) – Puerto Natales
If you don’t want to cross to Argentina yet, there is another option which we chose to take: a 2-day ferry through the southern Patagonian islands. You can get on the ferry either from the town of Tortel (if you’re traveling without a car) or in the nearby port of Yungay (if you have a vehicle to transport). 41 hours later you will be deposited in Puerto Natales, where most Torres del Paine tours leave from.
The ferry costs 120,000 CLP/person plus a fee for any vehicle (the price depends on the size). To see departure times, you can go to the TABSA website– the official ferry company in Chile.
The journey itself is quite a unique experience. The ferry sails through an untouched landscape of fjords and islets, making only one stop about halfway through in the isolated town of Puerto Eden (pop. < 200). We had about an hour to walk along the wooden platform that runs around this small fisherman’s village, situated half in the water and half out, a day’s sail from any other civilization.
Worth it? Yes. This is a part of Patagonia that few people get to see, and if you’re in the area you don’t want to miss it.
What to bring: All your stuff and your sense of adventure.
– Iris & Roi
Do you have questions about the ferry crossing from Tortel (Puerto Yungay) to Puerto Natales, or about any of the border crossings in the area? Feel free to ask us in the comments!
7 thoughts on “Tortel – Puerto Natales Ferry: A Backpacker’s Guide to Patagonia, Chile”
My husband and I are really interested in this ferry ride. How did you find the 40 hours on a reclined seat? Is it comfortable? Thanks!
We actually had our car so we slept in that. But you don’t have to sit for 40 hours- you can move around the ferry freely and go to the upper deck outside to enjoy the scenery 🙂
Looks like a fantastic voyage. Any suggestion how to make the booking, while we not yet know the rental vehicle size and numberplate. Is there a sailing only once a week on saturday night?
Thanks for your advice
You can try to make a booking on the TABSA website (http://www.tabsa.cl/portal/index.php/en/) once you know the size of the car, but it doesn’t always work so it might be easier to just come in person to the ticket stand the day before. There’s usually not a problem with tickets being sold out- we had no issue getting a ticket and we bought one the night before. You can also find the schedule here: http://www.tabsa.cl/portal/index.php/en/services/319-puerto-natales-en
Hello! Thanks so much for posting about this we have been trying to find information about how to get from Puerto Natales to Tortel for ages. We are planning on doing the trip in reverse (with 4 adults) and had a few questions:
1. We are planning on renting a car (one way) ideally from Tortel Yungay if possible. Do you know if this is a possibility in this small town? Otherwise I suppose we will have to rent one in Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales and transfer on the ferry with it.
2. Is there a restaurant on board and if so how much were the meals. Did you bring your own food?
3. Is there a shower on board or only toilets.
4. What are the reclining chairs like? Do they lay all the way back so you can sleep or are they more like a normal bus seat?
Thanks so much!
Hi! In answer to your questions:
1. You definitely cannot rent a car from Puerto Yungay or Tortel. In Tortel you cannot drive and Yungay is merely a port.
2. There is food on board and its included in the cost of the ticket.
3. There is both a shower and toilets on board.
4. The chairs do recline, but not 180 degrees- it’s more like on a bus.
If you have any more questions we’re happy to help!
Great thanks! Sorry for the duplicate message. We were having no luck getting our question to go through.
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