Hiking the Cerro Castillo, Chilean Northern Patagonia

StefanoBudget travel, Chile, HikingLeave a Comment

During my 3-weeks stay at the Cerveceria Caiquen in a little village in Northern Patagonia, I had the chance to hiking the Cerro Castillo, a mountain – believe me, it’s not a hill as the literal translation would suggest – which is the highest peak in the central Patagonian Andes.

This one-day hike is not particularly difficult, although a good shape is required. Some traits are steep and the last one is on pure stones. Watch out where you put your feet. There is also a 4-days hike and I strongly suggest to do it if you have time: it’s considered by many to match Torres del Paine National Park for landscapes, trails, and wildlife. Yes, you can spot condors and guanacos also here!

I’m assuming you will leave from Villa Cerro Castillo, the little village at the foot of the mountain. To reach Villa Cerro Castillo from Coyhaique, the easiest way, and most probably the fastest is hitchhiking. Just outside Coyhaique put your thumb up and wait for a ride. Many people, mostly locals, go back and forth the Carretera Austral every single day and your chances to get a ride are fairly high. Otherwise, go to the bus terminal and ask if there is any colectivos or micros leaving soon. In Villa Cerro Castillo there are several campings and alojamientos.

Beside your daypack with enough food (be sure to include some chocolate or cereal bars to munch on the way up) and water for a day hike, it’s better to bring trekking poles. 

Once you are on the main road, the Carretera Austral (the pueblo at your back) turn right on the dirt side road which leads to a camping: in 15 minutes you’ll cross a bridge. Keep straight and you’ll find a wooden cabin. Hiking the Cerro Castillo requires paying a toll because it goes through a private property. Thus, you have two options:

  • Pay the 5000 CH$ toll at the wooden cabin, or
  • Wake up early in the morning and be there before 7 a.m.

If you choose the second option as I did, just climb over the gate and start your hike. It’s not unlikely to see sunrises like this one below, early in the morning.

Sunrise at the foot of the Cerro Castillo

Sunrise at the foot of the Cerro Castillo

Furthermore, this will also give you the benefit to walk solo (or almost) and enjoy the sounds of nature. If you are extremely lucky, you might spot a huemul deer, the animal you find in the emblem of Chile. It’s a pretty rare animal and the population (just 500 animals left!) keeps shrinking due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. Otherwise, be happy with cows, guanacos and a lot of birds. Condors are easy enough to see if you keep your head up for a fair time.

Following the red and white trail signs, you shouldn’t have problems. If you don’t see them, just follow the horses’ droppings. If you don’t see them, you surely smell them. At a steady pace, I got to the top in 3 hours, taking pictures every now and then and stopping often for water breaks.

The lagoon at the top of the cerro is immensely beautiful. Colors are stunningly bright. Enjoying this scenery alone (well, there were just two other guys) has really been a privilege. If you hear a sudden rumble, don’t worry: it’s likely some avalanches are ongoing on the glacier. Enjoy the time and the peace here. It really worth. This place recalled me the Laguna Humantay in Perù, on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. If you are Scandinavian enough, you can also try to take a bath inside.

The brave guy approaching to swim in the lagoon

The brave guy approaching to swim in the lagoon

The downhill takes more or less the same time of the uphill; in three hours you will be right where you started in Villa Cerro Castillo. I enjoyed this hike so much I would have done it again the day after! Hiking the Cerro Castillo will soon become a must-do activity in Patagonia. Still in time to avoid the tourist crowd. 🙂

Stefano

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