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A Budget Cruise in Patagonia: The Navimag Ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales

I should mention straight away that the trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales isn’t your typical cruise. There are no swimming pools, tennis courts, spas, fancy meals or alcohol. There is plenty of stunning scenery though, and at $300 for a 3 night trip it’s great value (we went in low season; it’s a lot more expensive in high season!). Here’s a quick look at what it’s like to go on a budget cruise in Patagonia on the Eden, a cargo ship / ferry run by Navimag.

The weather

We did this trip in late October / early November and it was freezing. We were very close to the geographical “end of the world” and it definitely felt like it. The wind constantly raged and it even snowed once, but luckily we didn’t get too much rain. The bitterly cold wind stopped us from spending much time outside. If you’re doing this trip through Patagonia (at any time of year) make sure you bring a warm jacket, gloves and a hat.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Amazing scenery

The Scenery

We drifted slowly past the desolate snow-covered mountains that surround the narrow channels.  We passed a hill with dozens of tiny waterfalls crashing down its side. We saw big pieces of ice scattered throughout one section of a wide channel. We cruised past so many rugged hills and quiet fjords. It’s a lonely, bleak kind of beauty. Patagonia is full of scenery like this and seeing it from the front deck of a ship is a great way to experience it.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Rugged mountainsA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Floating iceA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: IcebergsA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Snow-capped mountainsA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Waterfalls

The route

We started in Puerto Montt, an uninspiring city in Chile’s Lake District. We spent the previous few days in and around Puerto Varas, which is a much better nearby alternative. After arriving on the Eden we slowly made our way past Chiloe Island towards Puerto Natales. We were on the boat for around 72 hours, passing very few signs of human life along the way. We saw a small lighthouse surrounded by sea lions, a rusty shipwreck, 2 tents occupied by local fisherman and eventually a small town, Puerto Eden. The route took us to the rough open ocean but most of time we were navigating through narrow channels. We arrived in Puerto Natales at about 11 am but didn’t disembark the boat until 9 pm, as the wind was too strong to dock.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Sea lionsA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: A shipwreckA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Puerto Eden

The Ship

The Eden definitely isn’t luxury. Its main purpose is to carry cargo between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales — a town that isn’t connected by road to the north of Chile. There are some cabins aimed at intrepid tourists, which combine to house a few hundred people. We stayed in a private cabin with a window, 2 bunk beds, a sink, a small table and a cupboard. It was warm, clean and there was plenty of room for 2 people.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: The Eden 2 person cabin

There’s a naturalist on board who gives short talks on the flora and fauna in the area, as well as providing information on Torres del Paine National Park (the eventual destination for almost everyone on board). He would also hang out on the front deck with his huge camera. You can tell he’s passionate about what he does — he was always up for a chat about anything to do with Patagonia.

The food was also surprisingly good. We never went hungry and actually enjoyed most of our meals, which didn’t seem to be the case for some people (the food is a common complaint on Tripadvisor). Meals usually consisted of soup, meat and a small dessert, while the breakfasts were made up of bread and fruit.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: The front deck of the EdenA budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: The Eden heading through a scenic channel

The Budget Navimag Cruise through Patagonia FAQs

  • What type of cabin should I book? If you’re travelling outside of high season (high season is November to April) it’s a good idea to book the cheapest cabin possible. We booked two beds in 3 bed shared cabin and were upgraded to a private cabin. It’s a bit of a risk (you might not get upgraded) but we saved $100 by going for the cheapest option. There are also more expensive cabins with private bathrooms.
  • Should I take the Navimag ferry, fly or go overland through Argentina? Those are the 3 options for getting to Puerto Natales and we looked into all of them before deciding on the boat trip. The flights that we found from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales were around $200 — which we felt was far too expensive for such a short trip. We thought about going overland through Argentina (via Bariloche) but we didn’t have a lot of time and figured we would be too rushed. The bus ride from Bariloche to El Calafate (which is close to Puerto Natales, Mount Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier) is well over $100 and takes around 30 hours. I’ve never heard anything good about that trip. The ferry cost us $300 each for 3 full days and nights. It was great value, considering we didn’t spend any other money during those 3 days. If you’re travelling during high season you’ll have to pay around $550.

A budget cruise through Patagonia on the Navimag ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: Rocky hills and islands

We arrived in Puerto Natales at 9.30 pm and were on our way to Torres del Paine National Park at 7 am the next morning. The W Trek was tough but rewarding, and the views were consistently breathtaking. It’s one of the highlights of South America and the boat trip from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales is the best way to get there.

Further reading: The W Trek, Torres del Paine National Park: Trekking in Patagonia

Is Patagonia on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below!

*I didn’t work with Navimag or receive anything for mentioning them here.

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Jon Algie

Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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8 Comments

  1. January 18, 2016 at 12:22 am — Reply

    I was in Patagonia last April and was in constant awe at its beauty. I looked into the Navimag ferry, but as I am a little weary of boats and the fact that the Navimag has been known to have some troubles (hit rocks) I opted against it. Instead, I went from Buenos Aires to El Calafate via plane and then slowly worked my way by bus from town to town down to Ushuaia. The buses were easy and comfortable. The longest ride was the 11-hour trek from Puerto Natales to Ushuaia. Glad you had a good experience and I’d certainly look at this option when I return to Patagonia.

    • Jon Algie
      January 18, 2016 at 9:21 pm — Reply

      Just read about that! We flew from El Calafate to Buenos Aires and actually got a pretty cheap flight, it was good to overland it (or over water it) one way though.

  2. January 20, 2016 at 2:53 am — Reply

    Hi Jon, I’m panning a trip to South-America, this is definitely going on my bucketlist! Looks beautiful!!

    • Jon Algie
      January 21, 2016 at 4:55 pm — Reply

      South America is a great choice; enjoy your trip!

  3. January 22, 2016 at 6:10 am — Reply

    Ahhhhhh I can’t wait to visit Patagonia and you just got me HEAPS more excited! Thank you for the post 🙂

    Crystal recently posted… How to Kill a Man with Your Bare Hands

    • Jon Algie
      January 22, 2016 at 10:26 pm — Reply

      Thanks Crystal, it’s a special place!

  4. Alessandro
    February 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm — Reply

    Hi Jon, what would you mention ad the highlights of Patagonia (chilean side, not so touristy places?). I will do the W in Torres del Paine and I would like to go somewhere else around, after that…

    • Jon Algie
      February 22, 2017 at 3:41 am — Reply

      Hey Alessandro, we didn’t get to explore off the beaten path too much as we were a bit short on time, so in Chile we only did the W Trek, the boat trip from Puerto Montt and spent a few days in Puerto Varas. It was a great trip but if you have longer you’ll probably want to explore a bit more.

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