Welcome to the Marble Cathedral – a natural wonder that could be the world’s most beautiful cave network.
The Marble Caves are a series of natural rock formations located in the General Carrera Lake in the Patagonian region of Chile. The amazing beauty and distinctive colors of these caverns, which are caused by light reflection on the marble walls, are well known.
Visitors to the water-sculpted blue caverns see light reflected off the turquoise waters of South America’s second largest freshwater lake, General Carrera in Patagonia, Chile.
Light bounces into the caverns and strikes the carved marble walls, creating this enchanting lightshow.
The incredible set of pictures has been captured by landscape photographer and environmentalist, Linde Waidehofer, 67, from Colorado, USA.
“It is the water that formed the unique shapes of the marble walls,” explained Ms Waidehofer in her book on the caverns, Blue Light.
“Originally great ice-fields blocked the western end of the lake – today its glacier-fed waters drain into the Pacific Ocean.
“Geologists have a simple explanation for the breath-taking blue of this giant lake.
“They talk of finely ground glacial silt which makes the water an unearthly blue and crystal clear.
“These waters are magic.”
To reach this remote place located in the far southern tip of Chile visitors must fly from the capital, Santiago, 800 miles to the next nearest large city, Coyhaique, and then drive on challenging dirt roads 200 miles south to the lake.
Yet photography students have travelled the world to learn from Ms Waidehofer about light in what could be the world’s most astonishing classroom.
“Since 2003 I have taken many photography students into the caverns and it is always the highlight of their South American voyage,” Ms Waidehofer said.
“The experience is always different because both the light and the water level of the lake are continually changing.
“The water itself can vary from turquoise to deep blue depending on the weather and the time of year.
“In early spring the water of the lake is at its lowest point because the surrounding glaciers have not yet started to melt.
“As a result, the light will be reflected quite differently than it will later in the year, when the water level has risen more than a meter due to glaciers melting.
“This changes what the visitor will see from the small boats needed to access these mysterious formations.”
Because tours to the lake are weather-dependent, you’ll want to be discerning about when you go. The Marble Caves are most frequently visited in the morning. A advantage is that the weather in the Patagonia region is also more calmer in the morning.
If winds are too strong, guides may cancel tours. Try to go early in the morning on a sunny day for the smoothest sailing, and the most beautiful experience. Afternoons and evenings can be more full of tourist, as well as much more windy, which will affect your experience a lot.
Enjoy the turquoise waters, and the art sculpted by the most talented artist in the entire world – Mother Nature herself.