Laguna San Rafael,
Laguna San Raphael, Chile
This one million 742 thousand-hectare lagoon sits in the middle of the San Rafael Lagoon National Park. Its stunning scenery and biodiversity made it worthy of the title of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is the largest park in the south of Chile and contains the Campos de Hielo Norte ice fields -including Valle Exploradores- and Mount San Valentín, Patagonia's highest peak (4058 meters).
Begin your San Rafael adventure with a Silversea shore excursion, the catamaran ride from Puerto Chacabuco, 79 km from Coyhaique, (boats depart daily). Or if you prefer, stay on board and enjoy the sail from Puerto Montt past the Guaitecas archipelago.
No matter which starting point you choose, you'll have an opportunity to discover the unique, craggy geography of the islands, channels and fjords of southern Chile, which is home to underwater mountain ranges formed by the ice that gathered there at the end of the Glacial periods. There are only eight fjord systems in the world, and Chilean Patagonia is one of them.
While you sail, take in the deep green of forests that look as though they were immersed in the sea. Don't forget to keep an eye on the boat's wake -you might spot a Peale's dolphin (also known as a Black-chinned dolphin) surfing the waves.
Just before you arrive, cross Témpanos River, which ships must navigate carefully in order to avoid the ice floating in the water. You will undoubtedly take many photographs on your way, including some of the glacier's huge wall. Wait for the magic and thunderous moment when ice detaches from it; this is the perfect time to say cheers.
The ship will not dock in the park. Independent sightseeing is NOT possible.