Published October 2019
In the heart of Chilean Patagonia, the Aysén region involves visitors with its amazing landscapes. With an area of over 5 million hectares, in southernmost Chile, it’s home to five national parks and 121 reserves. They are filled with natural beauty, comprised of snowy mountains and breathtaking glaciers. The scenery is perfect for adventure lovers who want to explore the icy charms of this place, whether on a catamaran, on a kayak, or on foot, by taking the trails that cut through woods inhabited by pumas, south Andean deer, and condors.
The port of entry to Aysén is Balmaceda Airport. The city offers travelers the opportunity to enjoy unique landscapes, like the five destinations you’ll find below. Take note and start packing to explore these virtually untouched places in Patagonia.
A one-day hike takes travelers to a lake at the foot of Cerro Castillo, the mountain for which the park is named. During the activity, you need to keep your eyes open in order to spot the south Andean deer (a wild animal that’s a symbol of the country) that live in the region. If you have more time, take the complete circuit in the reserve, with three days of hikes among native vegetation, glaciers, crystal-clear rivers, and snowy peaks.
Getting there: From Balmaceda Airport, take Ruta 7 Sur, also known as the Carretera Austral. It’s 26 miles [42 km], approximately 30 minutes, from the entrance to Las Horquetas, one of the accesses to Cerro Castillo National Park.
Further south on Ruta 7, 118 miles [190 km] from Balmaceda Airport, is the village of Puerto Río Tranquilo, with marble formations that emerge from the bottom of General Carrera Lake. The water and the wind have shaped the unique rocks known as marble cathedral or caves, according to their size. By boat, you can get close to them, but the best experience is kayaking into the rock formations.
Getting there: From Balmaceda Airport, a three-hour drive on Ruta 7 Sur takes visitors to Puerto Río Tranquilo, where they can explore General Carrera Lake. From there, boats set sail for the rock formations.
This is a place to quiet your mind and connect with the region’s vegetation. Northwest of Balmaceda, 38.5 miles [62 km] away, there are several trails that cut through woods inhabited by pumas, south Andean deer, and condors. Tourists’ favorite spot is a waterfall known as ‘bride’s veil.’ The Simpson River naturally divides the reserve in two.
Getting there: From Balmaceda Airport, take Ruta 7 Norte, the Carretera Austral, for approximately 38.5 miles [62 km] to reach the Simpson River Overlook. To spend the night nearby the reserve, the city of Coyhaique offers a wide variety of hotels and inns.
Even though it’s the longest ‘side trip,’ it’s possible to return on the same day by taking a catamaran. The comfortable boat takes visitors to the lake surrounded by ancient blocks of ice, which fall off from the glacier of the same name. San Rafael Lake is next to a huge ice field north of Chilean Patagonia, which extends for 45,210 ft2 [4,200 m2].
Getting there: Start the trip to San Rafael Lake with a two-hour drive on Ruta 7, from Balmaceda Airport to Puerto Chacabuco. There, you’ll find boats that sail for five hours to reach the ancient glacial wall.
Getting to this isolated village takes time, but it’s definitely worth it. Here, the watchword is relaxation. The Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa, a quiet paradise, is the ideal place for it. All you need to do is take a 15-minute speedboat ride to the hotel, which is hidden among huge leafy trees. A tip: in the village, save some room in your bag to buy rugs made by local artisans.
Getting there: Drive for four hours on the Carretera Austral to reach the village of Puyuhuapi, where the hotel offers a speedboat to its guests.