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Chile's marble cathedral

Let’s set the scene...

...you are clambering excitedly into a small boat docked in the peaceful town of Puerto Río Tranquilo, perched on the sloping shores of South America’s second largest lake...

...now you are gliding across the gleaming, turquoise waters of Lago General Carrera... the wind whistles through your hair, the sun kisses your face, and before long your hungry eyes are treated to the sight of a mesmerising feat of nature quite unlike anything you have ever come across before...

...your pilgrimage ends as you reach three small islands in the midst of the tranquil waters: Patagonia's Marble Cathedral, Chapel and Cave.

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These marble caves are unlike anything you've ever seen

Formed by over 6,000 years of erosion, these unique geological formations are relatively unknown as a top-of-the-bucket-list travel destination, and yet they never fail to leave those lucky wanderers who stumble upon them absolutely speechless.

The sheer power of the crashing waves over the millennia has hewn these islands out of the lake's calcium carbonate peninsula. Cinderella-like, the mineral impurities in the marble have turned into beautiful calligraphy swirls of rosy pink and robin’s egg blue across the walls.

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Be bedazzled by this ultramarine paradise!

When the lapping waters are at a low level, it is possible to slip surreptitiously through the hallowed marble corridors in a boat or kayak...

And when you gaze upon the mesmerising marble ondulations, don’t forget that those sweeping spirals will never look quite the same ever again. The walls owe their blue tinge to the reflection of the lake’s waters, and the levels of these are in a perpetual state of flux. Ergo, those reflections are one-offs and, just as it should be, your mental photograph is one hundred percent yours to keep!

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Not your everyday cathedral...

Chile shares this vast lake with Argentina, where it is known as Lago Buenos Aires, and its colour oscillates from a shimmering emerald to a hazy azure. It is fed by mighty rivers carrying glacial water down from the Andes. Tiny particles of glacial silt remain suspended in the meltwater, and these in turn refract the blue part of the sunlight falling upon them, lending the lake that remarkable, aquamarine hue which gives the sky a run for its money.

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Lago General Carrera

These caves have entranced geologists, photographers and curious travellers alike, and many consider the lake, and its enchanting, hidden secrets, to be the sapphire in Patagonia’s crown. Yet, as with all of Patagonia’s precious treasures, our marble caves are in need of protection...

Major water sources to the lake, such as the Rivers Baker and Pascua, are under threat from the imminent construction of hydroelectric dams. Mercifully, it was recently announced that the planned HydroAysén project has been halted in the area. The need for new sources of electricity does not cease to be a grave problem facing the Chilean government, however, and hydroelectric power continues to be a viable option. This could possibly involve the installation of high-tension power lines above the very caves themselves, and the flooding of part of the river valleys, to the potential detriment of this pristine paradise of zen and breath-taking natural beauty.

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Simply marble-lous!

Fancy wending your way through the curved cloisters of this extraordinary cathedral at the world’s end? Start planning your trip to Patagonia now by chatting to our travel experts!