Pali Aike National PArk, Chile

Pali-Aike National Park

Pali-Aike is one of the lesser-known national parks in the region of Magallanes, located just 3 hours drive from Punta Arenas, but definitely worth a visit! Pali-Aike means Desolate Place in Tehuelche/Aonikenk language, the language of the native people who used to live in this area.

What is special about this small national park? Geography-wise it is pretty interesting because the park is part of the Pali-Aike volcanic field, shared between the borders of both Argentina (to the North) and Chile (to the South). The park is formed by a plateau of lava flows and has various volcanic centers and craters. You will literally be walking on solidified lava. It is a small National Park compared to other parks in the region with just 5,030 hectares (12,429 acres). The size also makes it a good one-day visit and very family-friendly.

How to get there

The park is located 190 km From Punta Arenas, but most of the road is a gravel road and this is why it takes some 3 hours to get there. You will either have to rent a car or take a tour from Punta Arenas. Ask around, and try to gather a group. Some agencies require a minimum of passengers to do the tour. No public transportation goes to the park. From the park, there is a gravel road, Route Y-405, that takes a more straight line directly to Puerto Natales. It saves you 100km, but make sure you have enough gasoline and your car is 4×4 and working. Not many cars drive through here in case something happens on the way.

Hikes in Pali-Aike

At the Conaf office, you will have to register and pay your entrance. For nationals, the price is 2,000 CLP and for internationals, 4,000 CLP. Kids up to 11 years old liberated. There are toilets and they also have a brochure with the routes. The staff will show you a 3D map of the different roads and hikes you can do. There are three hikes in total: The Morada del Diablo, The Pali-Aike Crater, and Laguna Ana. In total, you can use some 6-7 hours in the park depending on how fast you walk.

Pali Aike National PArk, Chile


The Morada del Diablo

This circuit takes approximately 3,5 hours and is an easy hike. This was by far my favorite hike, there were a lot of beautiful viewpoints and you get a feeling of walking around in a mini Jurrasic Park. There are two eruptive volcanic craters during the hike, but the most impressive one is the “Morada del Diablo”, the first one you will see on the circuit. The crater is the evidence of the most recent volcanic eruption, occurred after the latest Ice Age. It is quite impressive!

Pali Aike National PArk, Chile

The Pali-Aike Cave

One of the main attractions at the park is the Pali-Aike cave, one of Chiles National Moments. This circuit takes about 30 minutes and you will be walking in a circle around the crater. The cave was discovered in the early 1930s by Junius Bouton Bird, an American archeologist, who excavated the cave and found a type of projectile, which was later dated to around 8639 ± 450 years old, although some researchers suggest that the sample could be contaminated and the dating could be less. Human cultural remains, vestiges of extinct animals and three cremated human skeletons have been found here as well.

Pali Aike National PArk, Chile

Guanaco taking a break at the Pali-Aike cave

Laguna Ana

This lagoon is located some 15 minutes drive from the Pali-Aike cave and is interesting if you like birdwatching because you will see the Chilean Flamingo here, together with the Black-Necked swan and some different types of ducks and smaller birds. Going down to the lagoon and back takes some 30 minutes.

Other things to see in the area

Are you driving from Punta Arenas, you will be passing by the abandoned Estancia San Gregorio and the shipwreck “Vapor Amadeo”. The estancia was founded by José Menéndez and was built in 1878 by Marius Andrieu. San Gregorio is one of the main testimonies of the agroindustrial management model that represented the estancias en the region of Magallanes. The sheep production of wool, tallow, meat, and leather was for almost a century the main economic resource of the region. Vapor Amadeo was constructed in 1884 in Liverpool, England and in 1892 it was acquired by the shipping company, Menéndez Behety, owned by José Menéndez. It was used to supply the main cattle ranches since, at that time, there were no roads in that region.

Are you in Punta Arenas? Click here, and read more about what to do and see in Punta Arenas


Estancia San Gregorio in Chile

In relation to the two mentioned locations of interests, I would like to include some information that is a bit controversial, but I believe it is important to recognize and inform about the dark side of history as well. There is no doubt that José Menéndez and his work have had a very big influence on how South Patagonia has developed until the day today. When in Punta Arenas, you will see buildings named after him or his family, which also consist of the Braun Family (his wife’s family). They even have a museum of the house where the Menéndez-Braun family used to live and a statue of José Menéndez. But José Menéndez and his influence in Patagonia also have a very dark side of local history. Native people, like the Selknam (also called Onas), the Kawesqar, and the Aonikenk were killed during the introduction of the sheep farming industry. Conflicts between the native people and the sheep farmers occurred, because, for the native people, the sheep were way easier to hunt and kill than the guanacos (relative to the llama, see the picture of the Pali-Aike cave). What happened cannot be changed, but needs to be recognized and very few people know about this genocide that happened in South Patagonia. The first European people who came here are always portrayed as pioneers, but they were not the first people who lived here, the lands were already inhabited.

Vapor Amadeo, Punta Arenas Chile

Punta Dungeness

When driving on route 255-CH (passing by Estancia San Gregorio) going north from Punta Arenas, there is a gravel road on your right side, route Y-545 going towards Punta Dungeness. This point is the southernmost point on the mainland of Argentina, and the easternmost point on the mainland of Chile. This is where the Atlantic ocean meets the historic Strait of Magellan. On the Chilean side, there is a lighthouse and a family lives there (marines). It is a long road to get there because you cannot drive that fast due to the road conditions, but it is a nice place to know. Sometimes you will see penguins and seals. I don’t know if its a good place to end the days as a penguin, but we only saw dead penguins :-s

Punta Dungenes, San Gregorio

Punta Dungenes and its lighthouse


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Pali Aike National PArk, Chile



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