Photo Gallery: The Cochamo Valley trail

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Editors Note: This is the fifth article in Patagon Journal’s special series "Travel in Los Lagos" sponsored by Sernatur Los Lagos
 
Text and photos by Carlos Gutiérrez
 
Cochamó is located in the middle of the Andes, just a few hours from Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas. Nestled between mountains, fjords and sea, it is a true natural paradise. Trekking, horseback riding, and kayaking are among the outdoor opportunities here. It is also an important spot for rock climbers. For many, Cochamo’s granite walls are reminiscent of Yosemite National Park in California.
 
If you’re like us, the journey is more important than the destination: take your time and go for a long hike. You can contact a guide or you can simply do it yourself on the marked trails. You will be constantly rewarded by the native flora and fauna, and stunning Eden-like landscapes. 

 

1.There are many attractive bridges on the hiking trails, often utilizing fallen trees. 1.There are many attractive bridges on the hiking trails, often utilizing fallen trees.

 

2. This was built by locals and the tourism businesses that operate here. 2. This was built by locals and the tourism businesses that operate here.

 

3. Thousands of years of erosion and deglaciation has given way to Cochamó’s spectacular mountain landscape. 3. Thousands of years of erosion and deglaciation has given way to Cochamó’s spectacular mountain landscape.

 

4. Thousands of years of erosion and deglaciation has given way to Cochamó’s spectacular mountain landscape. 4. Thousands of years of erosion and deglaciation has given way to Cochamó’s spectacular mountain landscape.

 

5. Visitors marvel at the majesty of the huge mountains, with its beautiful postcard scenery no matter the time of the day. 5. Visitors marvel at the majesty of the huge mountains, with its beautiful postcard scenery no matter the time of the day.

 

 6. Visitors marvel at the majesty of the huge mountains, with its beautiful postcard scenery no matter the time of the day. 6. Visitors marvel at the majesty of the huge mountains, with its beautiful postcard scenery no matter the time of the day.  

 

7. A variety of fungi and small ferns grow in the dense rainforest.  7. A variety of fungi and small ferns grow in the dense rainforest.  

8. A variety of fungi and small ferns grow in the dense rainforest. 8. A variety of fungi and small ferns grow in the dense rainforest.

 

9. Fallen trees are home to the new flora growing at ground level.9. Fallen trees are home to the new flora growing at ground level.

 

10. The trail can be done on horseback. This greatly shortens the time needed to do the route, and is preferable for those who can not walk long distances, carry a lot of gear or prefer to enjoy the scenery from another perspective. 10. The trail can be done on horseback. This greatly shortens the time needed to do the route, and is preferable for those who can not walk long distances, carry a lot of gear or prefer to enjoy the scenery from another perspective.  

11. There are numerous rivers. The constant and sometimes turbulent rivers are relaxing, provide fresh water and make for a great break on a strenuous hike. 11. There are numerous rivers. The constant and sometimes turbulent rivers are relaxing, provide fresh water and make for a great break on a strenuous hike.

 

12. This wonderful rock formation, a natural water slide, is located near La Junta, a small settlement in the Cochamó Valley. This is a true delight on a warm day and great place for a swim. .12. This wonderful rock formation, a natural water slide, is located near La Junta, a small settlement in the Cochamó Valley. This is a true delight on a warm day and great place for a swim. .

 

13. After nearly 5 hours walk, you arrive at Refugio Cochamo. 13. After nearly 5 hours walk, you arrive at Refugio Cochamo.

 

14. Located in La Junta, it has comfortable facilities for overnight visitors in a family atmosphere that is personally managed by its owners.  14. Located in La Junta, it has comfortable facilities for overnight visitors in a family atmosphere that is personally managed by its owners.

 

15. There is a wide range of flora and fauna along the route. 15. There is a wide range of flora and fauna along the route.

 
16. There is a wide range of flora and fauna along the route. 16. There is a wide range of flora and fauna along the route.
 
 17. With so many birds, insects and mammals, its perfect for photography enthusiasts, birdwatchers and others who want to capture the beautiful images of these species.17. With so many birds, insects and mammals, its perfect for photography enthusiasts, birdwatchers and others who want to capture the beautiful images of these species.

 

HOW TO GO

Located southwest of Puerto Varas via Ruta 225, Camino a Ensenada, following the signs south to Ralun, which is 15 km (9 mi) north of Cochamó. Three buses arrive daily from Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas ($2000 clp). If arriving by car, there is affordable parking near the start of the trail.
 
Accomodations
With two locations, at the entrance to Cochamó and La Junta, Campo Aventura (www.campoaventura.cl) has been doing trips here long before the rest, offering all-inclusive options with bilingual guides, horseback riding and kayaking. At La Junta there are also camping facilities in the valley with basic showers and toilets ($3000 clp), or Refugio Cochamó (www.cochamo.cl), a comfortable oasis with pizza, beer, hot showers and a communal kitchen. Reservations recommended for their shared rooms with bunks ($13,000 clp) or private double room ($36,000 clp). 

 
Carlos Gutierrez is a photojournalist from Puerto Varas. He has been published in National Geographic, Newsweek, Discover, and GEO, among others, and collaborates regularly with Reuters, UPI and Associated Press. In 2008, he won several international awards for his photos of the eruption of Chile's Chaitén volcano, including the prestigious World Press Photo 2009 in the nature category.