The distance between Santiago and the stunning Marble Caves (Cuevas de Mármol) is 1,367 miles (2,200 km). As the caves are in a fairly remote area of Chile, the best way to get there is by taking a two-hour flight and an additional four-hour drive. After you land at Balmaceda Airport (BBA), you'll have to continue on to Puerto Rio Tranquillo by rental car.
From Puerto Rio Tranquillo, you'll have to hire a boat to get to the Marble Caves, which are in the middle of General Carrera Lake. Consider asking a local specialist for help in booking one of these tours.
A bus or car ride to Marble Caves can take up to 30 hours, so these options are not recommended unless you're looking to take a multi-day road trip.
If you're interested in adding a few days of desert exploration in San Pedro de Atacama between your stay in Santiago and your visit to the Marble Caves, consider this 11-day itinerary. For a shorter tour, consider this 5-day itinerary that adds a few days of exploration in the Northern Patagonian Ice Field after your time at the Marble Caves.
By Plane and Rental Car
Duration: 6 hours, plus boat ride to the caves
To get to the Marble Caves, you'll first have to take a direct flight from Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (SCL) to Balmaceda Airport, which only takes about two hours.
When you land, you'll need to rent a car at Balmaceda Airport and travel the additional 119 miles (193 km) to Puerto Rio Tranquilo, where the caves are located. This drive takes about four hours. Consider asking a local specialist for help in booking your rental, and make sure you fill your gas tank before taking Route 9 to the caves as there won't be any gas stations on the final four-hour leg of your journey.
Once you reach Puerto Rio Tranquillo, you'll have to book a boat to take you the rest of the way across the lake and into the caves.
Duration: 22-24 hours depending on traffic and duration of stops
Taking the bus from Santiago to the Marble Caves will take you through Coyhaique in Argentina, so make sure you have the appropriate visa before choosing this option.
The buses leave from Terminal Alameda, and you can expect a 22-24 hour journey depending on traffic and stops. About 11 hours into your journey, you'll have to stop in Puerto Montt and change buses to get to Coyhaique. Once you board your last bus in Coyhaique, you'll only have a couple more hours before you arrive in Puerto Rio Tranquillo. As this bus trip is quite long, this option is only advisable if you'd like to spend the night in Puerto Montt and Coyhaique.
In Puerto Rio Tranquillo, you'll need to book a trip across the lake with one of the local companies.
For an itinerary that includes Puerto Montt and adventures across the Chilean Lake District, consider this 5-day trip.
By Rental Car
Duration: 30 hours, more with stops and overnights
As the drive to the Marble Caves from Santiago is so long, this option is only recommended for travelers who would like the flexibility to see a bit of neighboring Argentina and spend a few nights exploring different towns along the route. Make sure you have the correct visas, and tell your rental company that you'll be driving through Argentina so they can provide you with the appropriate paperwork to show the border officials.
The bulk of this route will take you along Route 5, and you'll want to consider scheduling stops in Temuco, Valdivia, and Osorno. After crossing the border into Argentina, consider exploring and spending the night in San Carlos de Bariloche and El Bolsón.
Finally, from Puerto Rio Tranquillo, you'll need to book a boat at the pier to take you across the lake.
If you're interested in learning more about the Marble Caves and four more off-the-beaten-path experiences you can check out in Patagonia, head over to this article. If you'd like to add time trekking in Argentina before you see the Marble Caves, consider this 7-day itinerary in Bariloche.