Frommers top endangered destination: Aysen region, Chile

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Frommers - The wild and remote Aysén region of southern Chile is getting a lot of press these days not just for its gorgeous nature reserves and world-class fly-fishing. Latin America's most stable economy is in the midst of a fierce debate over whether or not to dam two of its most pristine rivers.

Hydroelectricity produced by proposed massive dams on the turquoise Baker and Pascua Rivers would feed Chile's burgeoning industrial growth, key in a country heavily dependent on imported energy. Hydro power would be sent north via thousands of miles of power lines.

To explore this rugged wildernesses before it's too late, grab your hiking boots, fly-fishing gear and a spare tire and head south, way south.

Keep in mind that traveling through Aysén isn't easy. The only airport, in Coyhaique, has inconsistent service. Ferries only get you part way. Your best bet is to rent a 4x4 and hit the gravel of the legendary Carretera Austral highway. Start with a visit to the hot springs at Puyuhuapi Lodge and finish at the mystical, road-less seaside village of Caleta Tortel, truly the end of the road.

En route, you'll cross rivers home to legendary trout. Dozens of lodges cater to those hankering to cast a woolly bugger into glacier-fed lakes, rivers and streams in places like Lago Bertrand and Rio Sympson.

Need another reason to make the trip? How about the fast-disappearing Laguna San Rafael Glacier, the closest sea-level icefield to the Equator? Hop on a catamaran from Puerto Chacabuco for an unforgettable two-day excursion.

Your reward? Solitude, adventure, wild scenery and a chance to see supreme wilderness before it's forever folded into modernity.

Christie Pashby is the co-author of Frommer's ChileFrommer's Argentina, and Frommer's South America.

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