The Chilean Fjordlands are a labyrinth of fjords, islands, inlets, straits, and twisting peninsulas, lying to the west of the snow-capped peaks of the southern Andes. The fjordlands extend for most of the length of southern Chile, as far south as Tierra del Fuego, and their total area is some 21,500 square miles (55,000 square km).
Some 10,000 years ago, this region was covered in glaciers, but these have largely retreated into large ice-filled areas within the mountains on the Chile–Argentina border called the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields.
The glaciers left behind a network of long, deeply gouged valleys, which were filled by glacier meltwater and then flooded by the sea to form today’s fjords. Rainfall here is heavy, and clear skies are rare because the moisture-laden Pacific air cools and forms clouds as it rises to cross the Andes.
On the edges of the fjords, waterfalls cascade down steep granite walls, while hundreds of species of birds nest and feed around the often mist-shrouded coast and islands. Mammals that live along this coast include sea lions, elephant seals, and marine otters.