Water can create or destroy with equal efficiently. Our own Southwest is awash with examples, the most impressive being the Grand Canyon. While water was not the only force carving into the earth, it was a major player along with wind. And look what it left behind, an incredible natural wonder of rock and earth in endless and elegant forms for us to marvel at and enjoy.
The same can be said of other remarkable natural wonders such as the Marble Caves in Patagonia. These magical caverns are partially submerged in the turquoise waters of glacial Carrera Lake, which shares itself with both Argentina and Chile.
The Marble Caves (Capillas de Mármol) rest in the Chilean side of the lake, in the country’s least populous region. This ridge of sculpted rock sits in the General Carrera Lake in the heart of Patagonia and encompasses three main caverns: the Chapel (La Capilla), the Cathedral (El Catedral), and the Cave (La Cueva).
As your kayak slips past an irregular opening of one of the caves, the colors can’t help but impress with dramatic shades of sapphire, seafoam green, lavender and rich turquoise as well as yellow, grey and streaks of white.
This charmed seascape of sculpted rocks began more than 370 million years ago, when the mineral formations of calcium carbonate were deposited deep in the glacier. Nature takes her time in sculpting her artwork, taking some 6,000 years to create this barrier rock wall.
The whole effect of the caves is enhanced by the striking azure water it sits in. This is Chile’s largest glacial lake as well as the second biggest freshwater lake in South America. It is known to fishermen for both fine salmon and trout. At its deepest point, the lake is some 586 meters, 1,923 feet deep. The age of the lake depression is not known exactly but did not exist 10 million years ago and may be younger than four million years. The existence of the lake was first reported to the outside world by an Argentinian geographer, Carlos Moyano, in the late 1800s.
The Chilean side of the lake was isolated for much of the 20th century because of its limited access by boat and later by plane. In the 1990’s, Chile’s government funded the building of the southern route, Carretera Austral, which opened up the region.
This amazing natural treasure is currently under threat by plans to build five large dams in the area. To experience these enchanting caves, explore our 17-day Chile & Argentina or create your own adventure including the magical Marble Caves.