With glaciers, aquamarine lakes, shimmering blue caverns, and steaming temperate rainforests, the Aysen region of Chile has much to offer, but is often overlooked in favor of more famous Patagonian landmarks such as Torres del Paine. But that’s changing as more travelers take a chance on its outdoorsy charms, and come away greatly rewarded.
Sandwiched between Chile’s Lake District and the Magallanes region, Aysen was just named as one of Lonely Planet's top spots to visit in 2017 in the latest edition of their popular "Best in Travel" guides. To experience the best of Aysen, our travel specialists will hand-craft a customized trip for you, perfectly suited to what you want to do and see, so whether you enjoy cycling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, or incredible vistas, Aysen has it all and is waiting to be discovered. So, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to start planning your Aysen adventure, and for now, enjoy these eight reasons Aysen should be on your travel list!
1. The Marble Caves – These celestial caves are like something out of an Impressionist painting. The Marble Caves of General Carrera Lake are arguably the region’s main tourist draw…and for good reason. The waves have worked their magic on the calcium carbonate rock formations in the lake and along the shoreline, producing swirling rock eddies of cerulean, teal, cobalt, and azure. Add sunlight and the clear, blue glacial water, and a dazzling light show is created as colors shift depending on time of day, season, and water level. The caverns are very popular with photographers for this reason. Touching is off-limits, but who needs it with these visuals?!
2. General Carrera Lake – Straddling Chile and Argentina, General Carrera Lake (Lake Buenos Aires on the Argentine side) is mostly well-known as being the location of the captivating marble caverns. But the lake’s mineral-rich, iridescent waters have also made it a popular spot for trout and salmon fishing, as well as boating and kayaking.
3. San Rafael Lake and Glacier – The best Patagonian glaciers aren’t just found in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares. One of the most stunning and accessible examples of Patagonia’s ice giants can be found in the Aysen Region at the Laguna San Rafael National Park. Creeping outwards from the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the San Rafael glacier regularly calves off huge icebergs into the San Rafael Lake, where boats and ferries must carefully skirt around the icy monstrosities while getting visitors as close to the advancing front wall of the glacier as safely possible. This park is also home to the entire Northern Patagonian Ice Field, which spawns multiple other lakes, rivers, and glaciers.
4. Carretera Austral – Starting in Chile’s enchanting Lake District and ending in the remote town of Villa O’Higgins in Aysen, this 1240 kilometer road is the result of a passion project originally dreamed up by dictator Augusto Pinochet as a way to unify Chile’s southern extremes and bring together isolated communities. Twenty years later, the still-incomplete road – which alternates between gravel, dirt, and pavement – is now extremely popular among cyclists as a great route for seeing the misty mountains and luscious forests of northern Patagonia.
5. Patagonia Park – This relatively new addition to Chile’s illustrious park system is the brainchild and darling of Kris and Doug Tompkins, of Patagonia, Esprit, and North Face fame and fortune. The couple bought up huge swathes of land around Patagonia for conservation and wildlife protection, with the goal of gifting the land back to the government when their conservation projects were underway. In the largest of these parks, Parque Patagonia, fences and other impediments to wildlife have been removed, allowing guanacos and other fauna to return, helping restore lands damaged by sheep farming. Parque Patagonia was recently opened to the public as a park-in-progress, with access to hiking, fishing, boating, and overnight backpacking.
6. Queulat National Park – This hidden gem of a national park is home to one of Chile’s few examples of a temperate rainforest, which can be experienced whilst driving or cycling down the Carretera Austral which snakes through the park. Trekking paths take guests through humid, evergreen forests, past clear streams and trees almost dripping in soft mosses. The main attraction is the park’s hanging glacier – between two mountain peaks, a glacier sits poised on the edge of a cliff as twin waterfalls cascade down the face of the mountain.
7. Cerro Castillo National Reserve – The battlement-like rock formations and towers of Cerro Castillo (Castle Hill) are a commanding sight for visitors to this national reserve. For those seeking something a bit less regal, the human-esque features of the Piedra de Conde are also a whimsical reason to stop by. The area is popular amongst mountaineers and hikers, and is also one of the best places to try and catch a glimpse of the rare huemul deer, as well as guanacos and even pumas.
8. Baker River – Streaming out of General Carrera Lake, Baker River carries the glacial sediments from the lake down-river with it, creating a brilliant aquamarine ribbon that cuts and slithers through the landscape. The largest river in Chile, the Baker has constantly come under threat from damming projects, but the preservation efforts of the communities who live close to the river and visitors who enjoy the river’s tranquil waters – ideal for fishing, kayaking, boating, and more – have made it one of the only rivers of its kind in the world to be undammed. One popular spot is the Caleta Tortel, a community of stilted houses built along the waterfront near the mouth of the river.
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