In the late 19th century the largely wild Chacabuco Valley became home to Estancia Valle Chacabuco, an immense sheep and cattle ranch, covering almost 300 square miles. The town of Cochrane grew up to support the workers and sits on the southern end of the Carretera Austral highway. Decades of agricultural grazing decimated the ecosystem, until American philanthropists bought the Estancia and began the ambitious task of restoring it to its natural state and re-establishing the wildlife population. As of January 29 2018, merged with Jeinimeni National Reserve and Tamango National Reserve, the valley is now a national park, with remarkably high levels of biodiversity and ongoing projects such as puma collaring and the reintroduction of Andean condors. Parque Patagonia is a fantastic spot for walking, mountain biking, birdwatching and fishing.
The damaged landscape has returned to its natural unspoiled magnificence and there is always lots of wildlife to see, even if you're not lucky enough to spot a puma. Elegant guanacos abound – these inquisitive and charismatic camelids are a joy to see – while the rare huemel (Andean deer) graze on the banks of Lake Cochrane and Chilean flamingos line the banks of Lake Seco. Everywhere there is a feeling of rebirth, a new beginning – and it's exciting to be privileged to be here at this time.
Reasons to visit Chacabuco Valley and Parque Patagonia include:
The warmest months are October to April, and the busiest period is late December to February. Spring (late October to December) and autumn (March to April) are particularly beautiful. Ice and mud make it difficult to get around in the winter.
Time: GMT -4 hours
There are direct flights from London Heathrow to Santiago, which operate 4 times a week and take 14 hours 40 minutes. The Chilean airline, LATAM, flies via Madrid.
Language: The official language is Spanish. but other local languages are also spoken. English is spoken quite widely.
Visas are not currently required for British passport holders staying for up to 90 days, who are issued with a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo-Tourist Card’ on arrival. You must retain this and present it to immigration on departure.
Generally none is compulsory but we recommend the following: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus, rabies and polio. There is no malaria in Chile. A yellow fever certificate is required if you are coming from an infected area.