Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

Located in the remote and captivating region of Chilean Patagonia, the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park stands out for its impressive glaciers, gigantic ice formations that can be visited by boat. This guide delves into all the important aspects of the national park, from its history, location, temperatures in the region, as well as the recommended activities and tourist attractions it offers.

Introduction to Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

Geographical Location

Located in Patagonia, in the southern zone of Chile, Bernardo O’Higgins National Park encompasses the regions of Aysén and Magallanes, which include the provinces of Capitán Prat and Última Esperanza, and the communes of Tortel and Natales respectively. The largest extension of the park is found in the province of Última Esperanza.

Its geographical location at coordinates: 50°S 74°W makes it a destination of pure natural dream.

History and Designation as a National Park

Officially designated on July 22, 1969, through Supreme Decree No. 264 issued by the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, Bernardo O’Higgins National Park has undergone modifications through different decrees aimed at preserving and protecting this valuable natural area, with the objective of safeguarding a unique region in geological and ecological terms.

This impressive protected area covering an area of 3,524,648 hectares comprises extensive ice surfaces, glaciers that bear witness to the power and beauty of nature, and breathtaking landscapes. It is also a region with a rich cultural history and traces of the Kaweskar or Alacalufe ethnicity, an indigenous people who inhabited these lands for generations. The cultural remnants of the Kaweskar add additional historical and cultural value to the park, making it a place of special importance for understanding and appreciating the human and natural heritage of the region.

Climate in Bernardo O’Higgins

The climate is temperate, cold, and rainy, especially in low-lying areas. This means that temperatures are not usually extremely cold, but the presence of rain is common throughout the year. Summers can be cool, and winters tend to be milder compared to other northern regions.

In higher altitude areas, such as the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the climate becomes polar due to the altitude effect. Here, temperatures can drop considerably, even in the summer months, creating more extreme conditions.

Certain areas of the park have a tundra climate. In these areas, temperatures are colder, and vegetation growth is more limited. Flora and fauna have adapted to these more rigorous conditions.

Geological and Geographic Features


The hydrography of Bernardo O’Higgins Park is formed by channels in the western sector and numerous glaciers, such as Glacier Balmaceda and Glacier Pío XI, in the eastern sector. The latter creates ice walls up to 75 meters high, generating waves of more than 10 meters when falling into the water.


Serrano Glacier, Chile, O’Higgins National Park

El Brujo Glacier, Chile

It has an impressive number of glaciers, immense ice formations that are the main attractions to visit Bernardo O’Higgins. These glaciers bear witness to the Earth’s ancient past and the impact of climate change on the region. Among the most outstanding glaciers is Glacier Pío XI, Glacier Balmaceda, an impressive ice tongue that unfolds in the bay that bears its name.

Furthermore, Bernardo O’Higgins National Park harbors numerous smaller and lesser-known glaciers, but equally captivating, nestled amidst the pristine and wild beauty of Chilean Patagonia.

Visiting these glaciers offers visitors the opportunity to connect with the magnitude and power of nature, and to witness firsthand the beauty and fragility of these ice formations. A truly unforgettable experience for those who venture into this remote and captivating corner of Chile.

Fjords and Channels

The region is famous for its intricate fjords and channels, offering panoramic views and unique opportunities for exploration by boat.

Mountains and Ranges

The mountains and ranges offer challenging trekking and climbing routes, attracting adventurers from around the world. Among the most prominent mountains in the park are:

Mount Fitz Roy

Although much of Mount Fitz Roy is located in Argentina, a part of the park also covers this iconic mountain of Patagonia.

Cerro Balmaceda

Located in the western sector of the park, Cerro Balmaceda is an impressive mountain that is part of the Andes Mountain Range. Its imposing presence adds a spectacular touch to the landscape of Balmaceda Bay.

Other Mountains

In addition to the better-known mountains, the park is home to numerous lesser-known peaks that also offer challenging opportunities for mountaineering and trekking enthusiasts.

Biodiversity in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park


Flora of Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

Different types of forests can be found, such as the evergreen forest dominated by evergreen trees, such as the coigüe and the canelo, which offer lush greenery throughout the year. There are also deciduous trees, such as the lenga and the ñirre, which display a show of colors during the autumn before losing their leaves in winter.

In addition to forests, shrub vegetation is also an important part of the park. Among the most prominent shrubs are the chilco, the chaura, the calafate, the zarzaparrilla, and the murtilla, which add a palette of colors and textures to the park’s landscapes.

Another predominant element in the park’s flora is peat, a type of organic soil characteristic of wetlands present in the region. Peat contributes to the formation of unique ecosystems and is vital for the ecological balance of the park.


Seals of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park

It is the habitat of the huemul, an emblematic species and endangered, along with the pudú, another small deer also in danger. Coipos, huillines, and chungungos are aquatic mammals that can be sighted in areas near water, while cormorants, ducks, eagles, condors, and seagulls soar the skies and coasts of the park in Chilean Patagonia.
Huemules (Hippocamelus bisulcus) of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park in Chile

Activities and Tourist Attractions

Tourist Attractions and Main Activities in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

Campos de Hielo Sur Trail

Here you will find huge formations of ancient ice, including the famous Glacier Pio XI which is growing despite global warming. You can navigate Lake O’Higgins, the deepest in South America, alongside a gigantic ancient ice wall. This place offers you a unique experience to connect with the force of nature and the history of the region. An unforgettable adventure awaits you here!

Glacier Trails

Trail shared between Chile and Argentina, being the first bilateral long-distance trail that can be traveled independently. This unique and demanding activity lasts seven nights and eight days, allowing you to connect with nature and visit various glaciers along the way.

Each stage of the trail corresponds to a different glacier, and although they are of medium difficulty, their length varies. This journey will be unforgettable, as the views, the air, and the entire experience will leave a mark on your heart for a lifetime.

Lake Serrano Trail

An excellent way to explore Bernardo O’Higgins through a hike. It is important to note that this trail is of medium difficulty and is not recommended for people who are not in good physical condition. The path features stairs, bridges, and numerous viewpoints that provide panoramic views to enjoy.

To fully enjoy this experience, it is advisable to wear suitable clothing to stay warm, as temperatures are usually low in the area. It is also essential to have good hiking shoes, as the trail is rugged and may have uneven terrain.

It is important to follow the established route and not stray from the trail, as straying can be dangerous and affect the integrity of the ecosystem.

Cordillera del Chaltén

Established by Resolution No. 74, the Cordillera del Chaltén encompasses the Chilean side of Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding mountain range. Mount Fitz Roy is an impressive mountain with an iconic summit that attracts climbers and nature lovers from around the world.

Glacier Pío XI

Glacier Pío XI is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica, being one of the main attractions for visitors touring the park. Visitors can marvel at its beauty and magnitude. Also established by Resolution No. 74 and being impressive when observed.

Glacier Balmaceda

One of the impressive glaciers in the western sector of the National Park. It is known for its spectacular ice tongue that descends from the high mountains to the bay that bears its name "Balmaceda". The view of this icy formation is simply stunning and leaves a lasting impression on those who visit.

Balmeda Glacier

One of the most popular ways to approach Glacier Balmaceda is through boat excursions that sail the waters of the bay, enjoying panoramic views of this natural wonder. During the trip, it is common to hear the roar of ice falling, adding a touch of excitement to the experience.

Boat Navigation and Excursions to the Glaciers

One of the most popular activities is navigation to the glaciers, which includes landings to explore these impressive ice formations up close. In the area, there is a designated trail approximately 1 km in length, making it an easily accessible route for visitors. Here, you can enjoy a walk of around 1 to 1.5 hours, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and majesty of the surroundings.

Kayak Excursions

Kayaking activities are offered, providing an exciting opportunity to paddle the waters and experience the serenity and magnificence of the park’s natural landscapes from a different perspective.

Recommendations for Visits

How to Get There

To access Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, the only option is by sea route. This protected area of Chile does not have roads or highways due to the presence of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Access can only be made by boat. Regular trips along established tourist circuits can be taken from Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, or Puerto Montt. These navigation trips are offered by various travel agencies and will give you the opportunity to enjoy the beauty and adventure of this incredible national park in Chilean Patagonia.

The only settlement within the park is Puerto Edén, a refuge of the Kawésqar ethnicity.

There is the option to enter from Argentine territory by crossing into Chile through the Marconi Pass, or also, to the area of the undemarcated boundary by the Viento Pass.


The entrance fees to Bernardo O’Higgins National Park vary depending on the season, age, and nationality of visitors. Below are the access rates:

  • National Child (age 11 and under): Free admission.
  • National Teenager (12 to 17 years old): $3,000.
  • National Adult: $6,000.
  • National Senior (over 60 years old): Free admission.
  • National Disabled Child (age 11 and under): Free admission.
  • National Disabled Teenager (12 to 17 years old): Free admission.
  • National Disabled Adult: $3,000.
  • National Disabled Senior (over 60 years old): Free admission.
  • Foreign Child (age 11 and under): Free admission.
  • Foreign Teenager (12 to 17 years old): $6,000.
  • Foreign Adult and Senior (including those with disabilities): $11,500.

It is important to note that during the low season (May-September), the park is closed to visitors and entry is not possible.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Bernardo O’Higgins National Park is during the summer months, from December to March. During this period, the park is open to visitors. The rest of the year remains closed to visits.

Accommodation and Campsites

In nearby towns to the park, such as Puerto Natales and Villa O’Higgins, you will find a selection of hotels and lodges that offer amenities and services for those seeking a more comfortable and relaxing stay. These options are ideal for those who prefer to enjoy a lodging experience with all the comforts after a day of adventures in the park.