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Off The Beaten Track

Marble Caves, Chile

Cross a glacial lake to see caves cut from a swirling marble peninsula

For 6,000 years, nature has been carving a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork out of solid marble: sapphire-blue caves so beautiful, they’re almost holy.

In the middle of the largest lake in Chile, ringed by the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the Andes, is the Cuevas de Mármol: a one-of-a-kind network of show-stopping caverns, tunnels and pillars made of vibrant, precious blue marble.

But it’s not that simple: first you have to get there. The tiny Patagonian town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo couldn’t be more remote. There’s mile after mile of rough roads to travel before catching a boat across General Carrera Lake – you’d better hope the water isn’t too choppy, or you’ll have to wait for it to calm before you cross.

That’s more than enough time to prepare to be awed as you sail into the natural cathedral of blue-and-white marble soaring out of the turquoise water. Close enough to the walls, you can reach out and touch them. The abstract blue patterns swirling into the rock are even clearer through your grey Ray-Ban Chromance lenses, and the hydrophobic coating means they’re completely splash-proof.

‘Prepare to be awed by the natural cathedral of swirling blue and white marble soaring out of the turquoise water.’

The colors of the caves change with the water levels at different times of the year (boat trips usually run from October to May). In early spring, the shallow waters are turquoise and shimmer like crystal against the undulating walls. Darker, deep-blue shades are found in summer, thanks to the higher water levels beneath the expanse of marble.

Whatever the season, the early bird gets the best views. The early hours of the morning is when the lake is at its calmest, with a glassy flat surface that mirrors the swirling marble patterns in the stone. To really get up close and personal, take your own kayak. Gliding silently among the glorious rock formations, avoid the giant freestanding pillars that are so eroded they threaten to collapse at any moment. A striking reminder that nature has not yet finished its work here.

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