Reasons to go

  • Get an insight into the gaucho culture and traditional warm hospitality that has dominated here for centuries
  • Discover each of the three contrasting landscapes: listen to birds call in the temperate rainforest, hike peaks in the mountains, and gaze at sunset over the steppe.
  • The Carretera Austral is a world famous road, perfect for a road trip or slower bicycle tour
  • This is proper wilderness, with so few people living here, wildlife has flourished.

Five ways to explore Aysen

1. Hike, horse-ride, kayak, fish...

With so much varied scenery and huge stretches of wilderness, Aysen is a place to get out and about. The hiking here is some of the best in Patagonia, with everything from gentle day hikes to full on expeditions in the mountains.

If you want to immerse yourself in the scenery a little more, horse-riding and kayaking are great ways to get deep into the wilderness and cover bigger distances than you would with hiking. Many trips are suitable for novices, but if you do have experience, you'll find Aysen really can be a challenging adventurer's playground. 

Senderos Patagonia - Cerro Castillo 2

2. Road trip the Carretera Austral

In the 1970s Chilean President Pinochet ordered a new road to connect up Southern Chile, a notoriously challenging environment of mountains, fjords, glaciers and rivers. It took 30 years to forge the 1,200km road which meanders through the most beautiful and secluded areas in Patagonia.

Now, the Carretera Austral is something of a phenomenon, attracting visitors from all over the world for the way it opens up this remote region. You'll pass by mountains for hiking, lush rainforests to explore, rivers for canoeing and white-water rafting, peaceful lakes for fishing, and you'll be driving through some of the best scenery in the region. This is the way to travel in Patagonia.

Careterra Austral Road

3. Visit the three landscapes

SW_4_HARRIET-PIKE_AYSEN-RAINFOREST

Glaciers of the northern ice cap ease their way down into fjords, ready to be explored by boat or on foot. In this area of the Andes you may go for days without seeing another soul. For a full adventure, trek for 5 days into the forbidding Cerro Castillo range, full of hanging glaciers and rocky pinnacles.

Close to the coast the climate becomes wetter, and humid rainforest is dominated by the huge leaves of the nalca (rhubarb). Day hike around the Queulat National Park, or take a boat to explore the forests that descend into the fjords around Laguna San Rafael.

The Steppe is the dry area that spreads out from the Andes to the Atlantic. In Aysen it is rugged, dry, full of wildlife and even hides some Tehuelche cave paintings. In the north, Alto Coyhaique and the Chacabuco Valley are wild and beautiful, a stark contrast with the glaciated valleys and forests to the west. Keep your eyes peeled for guanacos, nandu, condors and, if you're lucky, huemul deer or pumas.

4. Discover Aysen culture

Not many people live in the isolated region of Aysen, but those that do are incredibly proud of their culture and roots. Rodeos are still held where you can watch gauchos show off their horsemanship, and we recommend to never pass up the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with the locals over a yerba mate, a tradition which goes back centuries.

Food and drink are incredibly important traditions here, Coyhaique is now one of the best places to dine in Patagonia, and the growing craft beer scene means you can sample a new beer on every night of your trip.

Aysen Culture

5. Spot the wildlife

The untouched nature of the Aysen region means wildlife has flourished. Close to Coyhaique you can visit a condor nursery, where condors fly within metres of you. In the Chacabuco Valley, puma numbers are steadily increasing due to an abundance of guanacos, and in the Tamango area of the Patagonia National Park there is a higher density of the endangered huemul deer than almost anywhere in Patagonia.

Condor

Swoop Says

Our top trips in Aysen

What our customers think

Plan your trip

How to get there and around

Fly: From Santiago/Puerto Montt to Balmaceda airport, which is a 45 minute drive from Coyhaique. 

Drive: From the north, Join the Carretera Austral at Puerto Montt, or drive from the Argentinean Lake District via Futaleufu. From the south and Los Glaciares, travel up on Ruta 40.

Bus: Buses run between El Calafate and Bariloche. Buses also travel north and south along the Carretera Austal but are not as comfortable or as reliable as elsewhere in Patagonia.

Boat and hike: The Quetru crossing connects Villa O'Higgins with Los Glaciares National Park to the south.

Ferry: Travel from Puerto Montt in the north to arrive into Puerto Cisnes or Puerto Chacabuco. From Puerto Natales in the south you can take a ferry Caleta Tortel.

Where to stay

Tourist infrastructure in Aysen is just beginning to blossom, but the accommodation in the region is still dominated by small homestays and basic hospedajes. These are great places to meet local people and learn a little more about Aysen culture, often run by passionate and warm owners whose families have lived here for generations. To find a little more luxury, travel through the hub town of Coyhaique, where the streets are lined with boutique and upmarket hotels.

ElMiradordeGuadal_5_ElMiradordeGuadal_RTD_El-Chilco-09

Harriet says

FAQs about Aysen

  • If I focus on the Aysen region and skip Torres del Paine, will I be missing out?

    Whereas Torres del Paine is a must-see for tourists, the Aysen region is a must-see for travellers.

    It is hard to deny that Torres del Paine is a more dramatic landscape than anything in Aysen, but if you want to get to know the culture, traverse many different landscapes and get a sense of true wilderness, then Aysen certainly beats Torres del Paine.

  • Do I need to speak Spanish?

    Very few people in Aysen speak English, so a little bit of Spanish will go a very long way here. We highly recommend brushing up your skills before you travel, or at least having a few key phrases under your belt.

  • How long should I spend in the Aysen region?

    We suggest a minimum of six nights, due to the travel time to get to there and around. You could easily spend up to a month in the Aysen region and still not explore the region completely, this is an area the size of England after all!

Customer Tips

Swoop Customer - Sarah, UK

I would recommend that people travelling in Aysen learn some basic Spanish because there is limited English spoken in the area. I felt sad to be unable to communicate (beyond body language) with all the warm and friendly people we met along the way.

Sarah, UK Customer

Explore more of Aysen

Ready to plan your Patagonia adventure?

  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Chloe
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Zoe
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Peter
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Natascha
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Harriett
  • Swoop Patagonia Expert Taylor

Whatever your budget, group size, length of stay, preferred activity or appetite for adventure, we can help.

1-855-369-7866