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  • Writer's pictureMarion Marquardt

Dientes de Navarino - the most beautiful trekking in Patagonia?

Trekking away from the crowds - the southernmost hike in the world
Exciting journey to the trailhead - we fly into Puerto Williams in a small plane
Harsh landscape, rough terrain and unpredictable weather - we are fully exposed to nature
A charming island capital, Puerto Williams has a lot to offer

We've heard of the Dientes de Navarino Trek before. It is said to rival that of world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park for its beauty. That means something. In everything else it's probably the complete opposite. There is no infrastructure and the trekking is very little frequented. That's exactly what we are attracted to. And it is not easy to reach, after all the hike is on the Chilean island of Navarino, south of Tierra del Fuego. You can only get there from mainland Chile, from Punta Arenas, either by a 30-hour ferry ride or by flight with DAP Airlines. We choose the latter.

Five days are planned for trekking, we arrive one day before. We pack our backpacks in Punta Arenas, including food for the hike. Right at the airport of Punta Arenas, the camping gas is taken from me. Oh no, I should have thought about that. Before he destroys the gas cartridge, the friendly airport employee assures that I can buy one on the island. Well, certainly not the brand Campingaz compatible with our European stove.

Getting to the island is an adventure itself! We are flying a small 16 passenger plane with 5 other people. Exciting views of the glaciers and lakes of Tierra del Fuego open up again and again. What a wild, rough landscape.

Flug von Punta Arenas nach Navarino Dientes de Navarino, schönste Wanderung Chile Feuerland
Flight from Punta Arenas to Navarino

Cecilia in whose hostel we'll spend the night before the trekking is waiting for us at the airport. Matthias, a German guy who fell in love with the island 9 years ago and has been there for several months every year since then, was on the plane with us. First stop is the local pub "Dientes de Navarino" for a beer and empanadas. The football match Argentina - Netherlands is currently on. The Chileans don't seem particularly interested, nonetheless the atmosphere in the bar is great. What a warm welcome. Same as at the Hostel El Padrino. Cecilia sincerely takes care of the guests; it's heated, tea and biscuits are served. We feel right at home. And Cecilia assures us that there will be a solution to our "gas problem". No worries :-) A couple from Italy who just returned from the trekking gives us their gas cartridge and Cecilia has a compatible gas stove to borrow.

Hostel El Padrino auf Navarino Chile Dientes de Navarino Feuerland
Hostel El Padrino on Navarino

The next morning we enjoy an extensive, late breakfast at the hostel. The daily stages of the hike are only about 5 hours, the days so far south very long. No need to hurry. Around 11 a.m. Cecilia gives us a ride to the trailhead. On the way we stop at the local police station. Every hiker should register there, with the planned route and duration, as well as an emergency contact. Of course we do. After all, the trekking is very remote and little frequented, no infrastructure, no mobile coverage. We are told that the path usually is poorly marked or not marked at all, and that the GPS does not always work. In terms of the weather, we prepared ourselves mentally for everything. We already experienced the unpredictable weather in Tierra del Fuego and don't expect too much. Hopefully we don't have to hike in constant rain, at least. It starts promising. The temperature is around 10 degrees, sunshine, no wind. We have to check the GPS regularly, only gradually our eyes get used to recognizing the path. With a lot of attention you can see footprints of the few previous hikers, from time to time a colored bow on a branch or a cairn. The path meanders through the forest, always uphill. It's very muddy. We often sink ankle deep. Getting ahead is difficult. Although the daily stage is only about 10 km, it takes us 5 hours. Our campsite is idyllically situated on a lake, the Laguna del Salto, right on the tree line. At these latitudes, it is already at 500 meters above sea level. By the way, campground in this case means a proposed site, usually near a water source, with reasonably flat terrain to pitch a tent. Sometimes a few rocks or roots are piled up to create a windbreak. With the Patagonian wind speeds, however, it only helps to a limited extent, especially since the wind is coming from all directions. The weather on the first day is kind to us. We hardly have any wind. Thank God. We are using our 4-season tent for the first time, so we lack the routine when setting it up. Let me anticipate, our learning curve during the 5 day trek will be fast.

Laguna del Salto Dientes de Navarino Trekking Chile Feuerland
Camp at Laguna del Salto

Despite the pleasant weather conditions, we snuggle up in our down sleeping bags right after dinner. Around 8 p.m. Matthias, whom we met the day before, shows up. He is out alone there for a few days. And we also meet a guide with 2 people at the camp. That should have been our encounters with other people for the next few days. We are warned that a thunderstorm is forecast for around 3pm the following day. Not what you want to have being in the wilderness.

The next day, two passes are on the agenda. We circle a part of the so-called Dientes de Navarino, in English, the teeth of Navarino. Right at the beginning we have a short climb ahead of us. The Laguna del Paso at about 700m still is partially frozen. Ice floats on the lake. A beautiful view. We hike along the shore on boulder fields, uphill to the Paso de los Dientes. Here, too, we don't make very fast progress due to the terrain. At the Laguna de Pichaco, in the midst of stones, we discover a beaver. What is he doing here? As a vegetarian, it's not easy for him to find something to eat. Well, maybe he's looking for solitude like us :-) On the island of Navarino too, there are plenty of beavers. As in Tierra del Fuego, they are a real plague, changing and destroying the flora noticeably. Along the path we continue seeing tracks of the big rodents. Dams change river courses, new lakes are dammed up, eaten trees block paths. Nevertheless, nothing is done to contain or eradicate the beavers, as already mentioned in our >>> blog about Tierra del Fuego.

Laguna del Paso Dientes de Navarino Feuerland Chile Wandern
Marion at Laguna del Paso

Just as we want to take a little break at the Laguna del Picacho, it starts to sleet, accompanied by strong gusts of wind. Not a good time for a break. Let's keep on walking. Such weather conditions make the terrain even more demanding. The stones are slippery and on steep slopes you have to be careful not to be blown by the wind. But we can manage everything. Unfortunately, the weather continues until we reach our camp at Laguna Escondida. It would be good to set up our tent a little faster than the day before... Pressure on. Well, we make it somehow, but us and our luggage are pretty soaked. Ironically, it clears up a few minutes later. Bright blue sky! Due to the constant wind, the weather changes dramatically within a short time. Not too bad. If you are not satisfied with the weather, you only have to wait 15 minutes :-) Now we can at least dry our clothes. Unfortunately, Micha is not doing well, he has chills and can hardly move. I'll do the dishes today and enjoy reading a bit. Actually, I feel quite comfortable in the tent. Our equipment proves itself. The temperatures are not exactly warm at 0-5° Celsius, but we never are freezing.

Dientes de Navarino Patagonien Feuerland Trekking Wanderung Highlight Chile
Die Dientes de Navarino

Blue skies and sunshine wait for us the next morning. The panorama is breathtaking. Micha is up again, it probably was just hypothermia. Behind us are the distinctive lines of the Dientes de Navarino, in front of us the Paso Ventarran. And as we get to the top of the pass, another magical view take our breath away. To our left is an extensive range of lakes. The area looks really enchanted due to the little vegetation and the intense colors; in the distance the sea and mountains of Cape Horn.

Dientes de Navarino am Morgen vom Paso Ventarran Chile Hiking Feuerland Tierra del fuego Patagonien
Dientes de Navarino in the morning from the pass

In front of us is a beautiful valley into which we descend. After another small pass we reach the Laguna Martillo. This is where our camp for today is supposed to be. However, the place does not look very inviting. Mud everywhere and no wind protection. Also, we want to move on a bit further to have the option to return to Puerto Williams on day 4. After about 5 hours hiking we still have some energy. We follow the cairns that keep marking the path. It's constantly going uphill. Wait - something is wrong. The path should meander through the valley at a more or less even height. Checking the GPS we are more than half a kilometer from the trail. At least the direction is not completely wrong. We don't want to go back. My strategy is to follow the cairns. There is only one (partially) marked path and someone will have had a good reason. Micha would rather bushwack to hit the trail. The (by the way not new(!)) discussion soon ends when we lose the markers. Micha takes the lead and we go bushwacking. The terrain is ok. No ravines or other impassable places. Still, I'm annoyed. And as I sink in the mud, calf-deep and fall, my contenance is gone. It's just too much! Well, defying and scolding doesn't make it better either. I have to continue. Around 6 p.m. we are finally back on track. And fortunately we find a beautiful camp quite close. Sheltered from the wind and with an amazing view. One could think that we are standing in front of the "Drei Zinnen" in the Dolomites.

Zeltplatz nahe Laguna Martillo Dientes de Navarino Chile Feuerland Trekking Wandern Highlights Tierra del Fuego
Camp close to Laguna Martillo

The only drawback of this beautiful place: no water source. Well, just a beaver lake. The water is brownish, insects roam the surface and a bird carcass floats on the shore. Despite our water filter, we don't want to risk anything. That means we do an evening walk to the nearest river. We memorize the track well - we don't want to get lost again today :-)

Day 4 - probably the most demanding part is on the agenda: Paso Virginia. So far the trekking is technically not difficult. The biggest challenges tend to be the rough terrain and the constantly changing and extreme weather conditions. I can already guess from the map that the pass is quite steep on the way down. At the top we actually meet two hikers walking the trek counterclockwise. For that reason? We look down, desperate for a doable way. Across the glacier is not an option. There are cracks in the overhanging snow field. To the right there's rock, but still it's more or less direttissima downhill. The first descent is crazy, slipping away could actually end badly. I can hardly find a footing on the blown-out terrain. There are unpredictable gusts of wind and - to complete the dramaturgy - some sleet.

Dientes de Navarino Paso Virginia Trekking Patagonien Chile
Sometimes you don't want tailwind

Fortunately, after the first 50 meters of descent, the terrain becomes a bit more doable. Small scree allows a pleasant lateral slide. That's almost fun (except for the knees). And the sun is shining again. Now we move along the steep bank of Laguna del Guanaco. Looks easy going. However, as soon as a gust of wind blows through the valley, the only thing that helps is throwing yourself on the ground. With the heavy luggage and loose terrain, it is extremely difficult to balance. So it has happened that some hikers have fallen into the glacial lake. And that can be deadly, given the temperatures.

We arrive safely at the other end of the lake, where a camp is located, and decide to end today's stage. When setting up the tent we fight with the wind. A brief moment of inattentiveness and the tent blows away before we can attach the pegs. We are so lucky that it was only a short gust and we can pick up it some hundred meters away. It could have ended badly. Well, we enjoy the last night in the tent, once again enjoying all the seasons.

The next day we descend towards the coast, back to Puerto Williams. We've already heard that the trail markers get sparser towards the end. That's completely understated. We are bushwacking all the time, orienting ourselves roughly by GPS and the contour lines, always keeping an eye on the coast. Down there is the road that leads to Puerto Williams. Glad it's a new day. It takes us about 3 hours (for 3 km!). Finally on the road it is 6 km more to Puerto Williams, 8.5 km to our hostel. Of course we stay with Cecilia again. We left some luggage at her's during the hike. However, we do not want to take a pick-up service. The weather is gorgeous. Sun is shining, hardly any wind - it feels like spring on the coast. I feel the need for an easy walk to mentally wrap up this exciting and beautiful hike. Ok, after about 3 km I was done with that, my feet and back wished for something else. But all or nothing.

Schlussetappe ans Meer auf dem Weg nach Puerto Williams Dientes de Navarino
Final stage towards the sea

In the town supermarket we stock up first. We ate our provisions down to the last nut. The shop has everything you might need and at really fair prices for an island at the end of the world and for Chile. We buy coce, crisps, chocolate, just about anything we feel like. And a bit of fresh fruit for your conscience. A heated room awaits us at Cecilia's hostel. Splendid. After an hour of relaxation and a hot shower, we almost feel regenerated. Then we hear that there will be a party in the evening. Alfredo, Brazilian, is celebrating his 69th birthday and invites all guests for dinner. What a lucky coincidence! He too has been coming to Navarino Island every year since crossing the Beagle Channel in January 2014. True! In 31 minutes he swam the 1.5 kilometers from Punta Peña on the island of Navarino to Punta McKinley on Tierra del Fuego at a water temperature of around 5° Celsius. Accompanied by the Chilean and Argentine navies. Impressive! That shortens the pride about my polar plunge in the Antarctic (>>> see our blog) - I only touched the ice-cold water for a few seconds.

The party starts at 8 p.m., at least that's what they say. After Micha and I reported back to the local police, we are on time in Cecilia's campsite. With us Matthias and two other Germans, Sophia and Tim, who plan to start the Dientes de Navarino Trek the day after. There is no sign of the host or Cecilia preparing the food. Well, we are in Chile. The clock ticks different. We talk, start drinking and snacking. Especially Micha and I are very hungry. Finally everyone is there and it is served. Fresh salmon braised with tomatoes and onions, king crab salad and other delicacies. Wow, that tastes so good. Everything fresh from the sea! We enjoy the benefits of civilization and then fall into bed stuffed and happy.

The next morning, a delicious breakfast waits for us at Cecilia's. Then it's time to say goodbye. What a pity. The island has so much more to offer. I can understand Matthias and Alfredo, who come back every summer. Nature is rough but beautiful. There are endless opportunities for hiking, kayaking, etc. And Puerto Williams, the "island capital" also has its own special charm. With just over 2,000 inhabitants, it is officially the southernmost city in the world as of 2019. Prior to this point, the INE (National Institute of Statistics) criteria for being a city was a population of at least 5,000. Puerto Williams does a lot to create a livable environment for its residents. Of course, this includes affordable basic services, medicine, schooling and also the daily connection (by flight) to the mainland. In addition, there is always entertainment. Whether classical concerts, exhibitions or parties, it never gets boring. We are now heading back to the mainland, to Punta Arenas to stay for a few days with Nina, a dear friend we met on the voyage to Antarctica. We really enjoy having a kind of everyday life from time to time. And of course we enjoy the Chilean company with pisco sour and grilled lamb.

P.S.: The question remains whether the Dientes trekking is the most beautiful in Patagonia? Since we have already done some hikes and seen a lot, we have to say no from our point of view. However, it was by far the wildest trekking.

Here you find the GPS track of the Dientes de Navarino trek:

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Egy Paro
Egy Paro

wow complimenti siete dei veri esploratori alla ricerca di emozioni e di avventura. dovreste pubblicare un libro grazie per condividere sul web ciaoo :)

Marion Thurner
Marion Thurner

È molto divertente. stiamo già lavorando ad un video che racconterà i prossimi anni 📷

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