Reasons to go
- Hike to snowy peaks, through glacial valleys and up to panoramic viewpoints
- Get a 'condor's view' of the icecap and Mount Fitzroy with scenic flight
- By far the most adventurous border crossing between Chile and Argentina starts here
- Take to the lakes and rivers on a kayaking excursion
- Discover the recent history of the first settlers in the region, the 'Pioneers'
Things to do
Step right out of your hotel door and onto paths that will take you up into the mountains, or take a short 10-minute drive out of town to find even more trailheads.
Villa O'Higgins is completely surrounded by classic Patagonian landscapes, from snow-capped mountains to turquoise-blue lakes, and hiking up to one of the many viewpoints is the best way to get a sense of the vastness of the landscape, and quite how remote the town is! Most day hikes can be done self-guided, but we recommend a guide for the Cerro Submarino hike.
Surrounded by lakes and rivers, there's opportunities for beginners and advanced kayakers to explore the area by drifting down its waterways. Our favourite places are the Lago Cisnes and also on the Rio Mayer.
Villa O'Higgins sits on the Careterra Austral, one of the most famous cycling routes in the world. Grab a mountain bike and have a bit of an explore - heading north will take you into the wilderness (and eventually, after 1,200km, the rest of Aysen), whereas south you can follow the road for its final 7km until it comes to a halt at the lake. From the town there are also a few other tracks that are great for a day out on a bike.
Fly over the ice cap
Villa O’Higgins sits just underneath the Southern Ice Cap and as the condor flies it is very close to Mt Fitzroy and Cerro Torre.
Whilst in the village, take the opportunity to take an overflight of the ice cap - it is an experience that will leave you totally speechless. It is immense, and almost hard to conceive that it is what you are seeing before your very eyes. You'll fly right above the seemingly endless stretch of glistening white ice, and will circle the highest peaks of Los Glaciares National Park.
There's so much to be explored, treat Villa O'Higgins as a destination in itself and spend a day hiking and soaking up the atmosphere before moving on.
Crossing into Argentina
Villa O'Higgins to El Chalten
If you are an adventurous soul and relish crossing a border by various means of transport (boats, on foot and 4x4) and with the potential for unpredictable hold ups, then this is certainly the most exciting way to cross from Chile into Argentina.
- Transfer VOH to Bahia Bahamondes (15 mins, 7 km)
- Boat Bahia Bahamondes to Candelario Mancilla (2-3 hrs, weather dependent)
- Port to Chilean passport control (1 km on foot)
- Passport control to border (16 km of 4x4 track)
- Border to Argentinian passport control (5 km on foot on a trail)
- Argentinian passport control to Lago del Desierto dock (100m on foot)
- Boat from Lago de Desierto at 5pm (1 hr)
- Transfer Lago del Desierto to El Chalten (1.5 hrs)
It is possible to do the crossing in a day, but doing it in two days gives you the opportunity to visit the O'Higgins glacier on the way and spend the night in Candelario Mancilla.
Trips that visit Villa O'Higgins
Where to stay
Our favourite by far is the luxurious Robinson Crusoe Lodge, which offers trekking, ice hiking and sailing excursions as well as comfy, warm, cabin style rooms that make use of local materials.
Entre Patagones has simple cabins, and a rustic restaurant where you can have a delicious meal after your day out exploring. El Mosco is a longtime favourite of cyclists and campers alike, it has some simple ensuite double rooms and a great atmosphere.
Supplies arrive to Villa O'Higgins from Santiago after a flight to Balmaceda and a 10-hour drive down the Careterra Austral, a boat and then another drive. It’s a long way for fresh produce to come, so fresh fruit and vegetables are sometimes hard to come. Don’t be surprised if things just simply aren’t available.
Entre Patagones have a menu of the day which is traditionally read out to you, rather than making use of menus. There will be a few choices of classic Patagonian fare, expect empanadas, soups, fish, beef and chicken. They also have a small selection of austral beer, wine and soft drinks. If printed menus are a must, Lago Cisnes is a larger restaurant that offers lamb, beef and fish, all pan fried with a variety of side dishes (potatoes, rice or salad).
Discover more of Aysen
Spanning the length of southern Chile, Pinochet designed this incredible highway to penetrate an otherwise impregnable natural fortress, defended by the Andean mountains, the …
Hiking in Aysen
Dramatic snow-capped mountains, glistening glacial lakes and lush forested valleys make for superb trekking in this unsung region. Explore the fantastic hiking routes in Aysen's …
Kayaking in Aysen
Aysen's rivers are forces of nature; immense bodies of water that carry glacial melt from the ice cap to the ocean. Kayaking along these rivers gives you access to some wildly …
Queulat National Park
The Queulat National Park is located in the Aysen Region, and offers over 1500 km2 of immaculate scenery, forested landscapes and distinct wildlife. Among …
Where to Stay in Aysen
Aysen offers a variety of charming lodges, all set in beautiful scenery with some spectacular views. With lodges throughout the region there are plenty of places to base yourself during your stay, or to stop of on your road trip. Many of these lodges also offer daily excursions including hiking, kayaking, fishing and horse riding.