Despite being the third-largest region in terms of territory, Aysen is actually the most sparsely populated in Chile, with only small, remote towns and villages dotted about amongst its wild and unforgiving, yet breathtakingly beautiful landscapes.
This scenic part of Northern Patagonia is a nature lover’s dream. Glaciers, mountains, rivers, and lakes dot the landscape, with lots of fantastic national parks and astounding nature reserves for you to check out. As only one road – the Carretera Austral – links the north to the south, reaching some of Aysen’s more secluded spots can be a challenge, although you will certainly be rewarded with some of the most incredible untouched and unspoiled scenery imaginable once you finally get there.
Map of Aysen, Chile
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It is this rugged beauty that makes Aysen so worthwhile to visit. Hiking, horseback riding, or kayaking through its endless natural wonders is an experience like no other.
Lying at the mouth of the Baker River and backed by forest-coated hills that tumble down to the water, the sleepy fishing village of Caleta Tortel is a magical place to visit, with picturesque fjords, mountains and islands all lying nearby.
While its idyllic setting is certainly as scenic as they come, the sight of the dilapidated wooden buildings, bridges, and boardwalks that snake their way along the waterfront or pop up from amongst the verdant forest is equally pleasing to the eye.
There are no roads at all in Caleta Tortel; this lends the town a lovely laidback feel, as most people get around on foot or by boat as they make their way between the magnificent Chilotan stilt houses.
With the glacier-filled Northern and Southern Icefields for you to explore and the Island of the Dead also nearby, the remote Caleta Tortel really is a unique place to spend some, time with a wealth of things for you to see and do.
Located on the outskirts of the marvellous Tamango National Reserve, with Patagonia Park lying not far away, Cochrane is the southernmost town on the Carretera Austral. As such, many people stop off on their way south or use it as a base from which to explore the surrounding natural sights.
As there is not all that much to do in town apart from basking in its scenic setting, most visitors head to Patagonia Park to enjoy the delightful landscapes and wildlife on show or go trekking or horseback riding in the wilderness, with Monte San Lorenzo being a popular destination.
Alternatively, you can always go kayaking, swimming, or fishing in nearby Lago Cochrane, with boat trips along the Rio Cochrane a fabulous way to see yet more incredible scenery.
Only recently named a national park, Patagonia Park covers a vast swathe of territory. Within its confines, you can find everything from Patagonian steppe and majestic mountains to alpine lakes, forests, and wetlands.
Due to its impressive biodiversity and range of habitats, the park is a delight to hike through, and a myriad of paths and trails snake through its many landscapes. Originally founded as a private nature reserve, restoration and rewilding have seen both the nature and wildlife flourish, with guanaco, huemul deer and Chilean flamingos now found dotted amongst its grasslands, mountains, and lakes.
Straddling the Argentine-Chile border, the huge General Carrera Lake – as it is known on the Chilean side – looks absolutely stunning. Its sparkling turquoise waters are overlooked by the snow-capped Andes mountains surrounding the lake.
Despite being glacial in origin, the lake enjoys a sunny microclimate and is a wonderful place to go kayaking or sailing, with trout and salmon fishing also very popular.
With some charming towns and villages to be found along its shores and lovely scenery and viewpoints wherever you go, Lago General Carrera makes for a great holiday destination.
Named after Bernardo O’Higgins, a Chilean independence hero who is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the country, Villa O’Higgins is located deep in the south of Chile and is the last town that the Carretera Austral passes through.
Due to its proximity to a plethora of incredible landscapes, many people use the remote town as a base from which to explore astounding sights such as the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is full of majestic glaciers.
Surrounded by mountains with numerous lakes, rivers, and waterways in the vicinity, Villa O’Higgins has loads of great outdoor activities for you to try out, with trekking, horseback riding, and kayaking all very popular.
Ringed in on all sides by mountains that dramatically loom over it, Coyhaique is set in a beautiful location, with the Rio Simpson National Reserve and Coyhaique National Reserve lying right next to it. As the largest city in the region, Coyhaique acts as the commercial centre of Aysen. It is a good idea to stock up in its supermarkets and shops before you head off to the remote southern regions of Patagonia.
In addition to this, the city also has some good bars, restaurants, and nightlife should you want to unwind after a long trek or horseback ride. With a laidback almost rural feel to it, Coyhaique is a pleasant place to spend some time. Most people go trekking or fly-fishing before heading off further afield.
Lying on the shores of the enormous General Carrera Lake, the sleepy village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo is extremely small, and people mainly use it as a base for exploring the surrounding region. Puerto Rio Tranquilo truly is blessed when it comes to the astounding natural sights that lie nearby. The glimmering waters of the lake with all the fantastic watersports opportunities on offer is just the tip of the iceberg.
The main attraction is undoubtedly the shimmering marble caves of Capilla de Marmol, which look spectacular. Visitors can either take a boat trip or kayak through them themselves. In addition to this, you can also arrange to take a tour to the breathtaking San Rafael glacier or go hiking and trekking in the hills and mountains that form such a lovely backdrop to the village.
Named after the jagged, rocky peak that lies at its heart, Cerro Castillo National Reserve is a wonderfully wild part of Chile to explore. Within its confines, you can find everything from towering peaks and alpine lakes to glistening glaciers and verdant forests.
Hiking through its many landscapes is a delightful experience, and the views on offer are simply stunning. Recently designated a national park, Cerro Castillo protects and preserves the natural habitat of many different fauna and flora; visitors can sometimes spot South Andean deer, guanacos, and Andean condors off in the distance.
Thanks to its remote location that has helped to protect the environment, Queulat National Park is home to a remarkable range of untouched and unspoiled landscapes, and wandering around the park really is like stepping back into a land before time. Its hanging glacier is undoubtedly the park’s piece de resistance, as two twinkling waterfalls made of melted ice plunge to the ground from a rocky granite cliff face.
However, there are many other astounding sights for you to revel in. Part of the Puyuhuapi Volcanic Group lies within the park, and their majestic, mountainous topography is perfectly complemented by the temperate rainforests and ice fields that lie on their slopes.
Yet another breathtaking sight is the beautiful Lake Tempanos. A number of beautiful paths and trails weave their way between the lake, the glaciers, and the mountains, with lots of great photo opportunities to be had wherever you go.
Located on southern Chile’s Pacific coastline, Laguna San Rafael National Park is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful parts of the country and definitely warrants a visit if you have the chance. The park includes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, which includes both the San Rafael and San Quintin glaciers. These are two of the largest and most impressive in Chile. You’ll also find Monte San Valentin, the highest peak in the southern Andes.
The national park is full of incredible natural sights, with temperate rainforests, wetlands, rivers, and lakes all also on show. As you can imagine, the icy mountain and glacier-filled landscapes are impressive to navigate, whether on foot or by boat. Camping in the park overnight promises to be an even more magical experience, as thousands upon thousands of twinkling stars light up the night sky.