Learn how to visit Marble Caves (Capillas de Mármol) from General Carrera lake, how to get there, excursions and prices, one of the obligatory stops if you are going to travel the Carretera Austral.
🔎 Check here the quide to travel to Carretera Austral.
Table of Contents
What to see in Marble Caves
Although its official name translated to Spanish is Marble Chapels (Capillas de Mármol), you can find different rock formations and caves in the lake. The largest one is called Catedral de Mármol (Marble Cathedral) and many know the place by one of these names.
Declared as a Nature Sanctuary in order to protect them, these mineral formations composed of calcium carbonate and located on the shores of General Carrera Lake, the largest in Chile, have been eroded over millions of years by water and wind, exposing the marble as they can be seen today.
The beauty of the place and the tourist attraction is given by the visit to the caves that were created by the erosion of the lake water on the rock and where you can observe the different shades that acquire the rock formations along with the turquoise color of the lake water.
You will also notice the imposing formations over the lake known as the Marble Cathedral and the Marble Chapels.
🔎 Check here the Top 5 Things to Do in Carretera Austral.
Best time to visit Marble Caves
Although the excursion can be done all year round, the best time to visit the Cathedral and the Marble Chapels is during the fall and spring of the southern hemisphere. In summer the water level of the lake rises and it is often impossible to enter the caves with the boat.
In the middle of winter, due to the cold and the low number of tourists, the offer is considerably reduced and it may happen that there is not the minimum of five people required to go on the excursion.
Getting to Marble Caves
There are three options as a starting point to do the excursion to the Marble Caves.
- Contract a tour with a travel agency in Puerto Río Tranquilo, a small town where there is a lot of offer. From here, boats leave on General Carrera Lake to the Marble Caves.
- Go on your own to Bahía Mansa, five kilometers south of Puerto Río Tranquilo, where there are boats and kayaks with guides and cheaper prices. In addition, navigation on the lake to reach the Cathedral and the Marble Chapels is much shorter. On the downside, be careful with the road that goes down from Route 7 to the bay (it is a kilometer and a half) because it is steep and is usually in pretty bad conditions.
- Hire a tour from Coyhaique, 220 kilometers north of Puerto Rio Tranquilo. We only recommend this if you arrive by plane to this area of the Carretera Austral from Balmaceda airport and you are not going to visit any attractions south of Puerto Rio Tranquilo. In this case, the excursion is a full day trip.
– Arriving by plane from other places in Chile
The closest airport to get by plane and visit Marble Caves is Balmaceda, located 57 kilometers from the town of Coyhaique and 200 kilometers from Puerto Río Tranquilo. From Puerto Montt or Santiago de Chile there are direct flights to Balmaceda airport.
If you don’t come by car, it’s best to go from Balmaceda airport to the town of Coyhaique and from there hire the tour to the Marble Caves with round trip transfer included.
✈️ Check here for cheap flights to Balmaceda.
– Arriving from Argentina
The Marble Caves can be visited from Argentina by car. To do this, take Route 40 to the town of Perito Moreno (not the glacier). Then Route 43 that borders General Carrera Lake to Los Antiguos, the border crossing to Chile.
The first town on the Chilean side is Chile Chico. From here along Route 265, which also borders the lake and Route 7, you get to Bahía Mansa or Puerto Río Tranquilo, where the excursions to the Marble Caves start.
From Perito Moreno to Puerto Río Tranquilo there are 240 kilometers, of which only 60 kilometers are paved, rest is gravel. The duration of the trip may vary according to weather conditions (we don’t recommend doing it in winter) and the time it takes to get through customs on the Argentinean and Chilean side.
Also keep in mind that there are many curves, downhills and uphills on this road.
Excursion to visit Marble Caves
The only way to visit Marble Caves is by navigating the General Carrera Lake. And theres is the option of doing it by boat or kayak (for the more adventurous).
Keep in mind that there must be a minimum of five people to do the excursion. Sometimes you will have to wait until the minimum number of people is reached. Although if it is high season you will not have to wait long.
The tour begins bordering the lake to see and enter the Marble Caves, one of the most impressive moments of the excursion. It is really impressive to see the color of the water reflecting on the stone.
Afterwards you will visit the large formation known as the Marble Cathedral and then the smaller ones known as the Marble Chapels.
📷 Take a look at this Marble Cave tour from Coyhaique (in Spanish) with a local agency. Book your place!
Price for the excursion to the Cathedral and Marble Chapels
Prices to visit the Marble Cathedral vary depending on where the excursion departs from, whether it is done by boat or kayak, the tour operator you choose and if there are additional places included in the tour.
If you do the tour by boat, the duration of the excursion is one hour and a half. On the other hand, if you decide to do it by kayak, the excursion can last from 3 to 4 hours.
There are more complete trips that include other places within the tour, such as the visit to the abandoned ships of Las Chivas mining company or Puerto Sanchez Caverns, even more impressive than Marble Caves.