Culture and adventure in Patagonia’s Aysén region

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When summer comes to the Aysén region in Patagonia, color and vegetation flood the roads among the towns here. Fields of daisies, lupins, wild fuschias and Chilean rhubarb are ever-present along the 1240km-long Carretera Austral, which is travelled along by hundreds of travellers on bikes, motorbikes and in cars, attracted by the beauty.
The Aysén region is full of contrasts that make it a captivating destination for any visitor. Its climate sometimes even lets you experience all four seasons in a single day. The region’s diverse geographical features also mean that when you travel from one place to another, at times you might look out on the Patagonian steppe on one side, and on the other admire the always-green vegetation which is characteristic of southern Chile.
If you want to experience an exhilarating tour of Aysén’s roads, the scenic route along the vast Carretera Austral, or Southern Highway, in particular is not to be missed, which covers a distance of 266km from the town of La Junta to Coyhaique, the capital of the region.
Queulat National ParkQueulat National Park
One of the great wonders of the Aysen region is Queulat National Park,  comprising an area of 154,093 hectares and home to the Ventisquero Colgante, or Hanging Glacier. The park’s surprising flora and fauna, typified by leafy ferns and native trees such as tepa, myrtle and luma, allow to you enjoy genuine contact with nature, and if you are lucky you might glimpse one of the enchanting species which populate the landscape, such as pudús, pumas, fox and birds such as the Magellanic woodpecker, the chupao tapaculo and the black-throated huet-huet.
The town of Puyuhuapi, which is home to a mixture of German and Chiloe-style architecture, is located near the edge of a fjord. Numerous activities are possible there, including a bike ride, regional beer tasting, or a visit to a historic German carpet factory. It also has a variety of hot springs, which make this journey an unforgettable experience.
The southern section of the Carretera Austral offers a stunning landscape, with the reddish ñire trees native to southern Chile and Argentina, clear blue sky and a series of imposing rock masses.
Cerro CastilloCerro Castillo
The best cultural tourism experience can be found along the paved road which begins in Coyhaique and connects you with Cerro Castillo and Río Ibáñez. Highlights include the Museo Escuela [Museum School], the cave paintings and the charming “cacharritos,” clay pots decorated with leather and cave drawings. You can also take part in a number of outdoor activities, such as trekking in the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, hiking, horse riding and of course tasting lamb roasted over an open fire, a typical Patagonian dish.
Capillas de MarmolCapillas de Marmol
From here you can admire the General Carrera Lake, the largest in Chile and the second-largest in South America. You can travel across it in the barge Tehuelche to reach the town of Chile Chico, whose name means “little Chile” in Spanish and which stands out for its microclimate, cherry production and the magnificent Lago Jeinimeni National Reserve. Another option is a visit to the town of Puerto Tranquilo, home to the famous “Capillas de Mármol” nature sanctuary which can be crossed in a small boat or by kayak. Puerto Tranquilo is also a key logistical center because of the many services it offers and because it is a good base to travel to other attractive destinations such as Puerto Cristal, Bahía Exploradores and Laguna San Rafael.
Caleta TortelCaleta Tortel
Following the route to the south leads to Cochrane, Tortel and Villa O’Higgins. This stretch is better known as La Ruta de los Glaciares[The Glacier Route] and covers a distance of 571km. As you travel along this stretch of road you can admire not only the many rivers, lakes, glaciers, vast plains and impressive vegetation, but also the characteristic turquoise waters and wildlife like guanacos, huemul deer and viscachas.
Then there is the adrenaline and excitement of the 175km-long Baker River when kayaking or rafting down the river, or just looking out on its confluence with the Neff River.
A Chilean-style rodeo in Aysen.A Chilean-style rodeo in Aysen.
Enjoy the Aysén region cultural festivals!
From January to April, Aysén is decked out to welcome thousands of tourists who come from all over the world to experience and enjoy its traditions, heritage and food and drink in the almost fifty local cultural activities which take place across the region.
The various cultural experiences include rodeos, voluntary work in the community, local customs, arts and crafts, and food and drink. Visitors can enjoy these experiences alongside the locals, sharing the traditional yerba mate drink, Chamamé folk music or the delicious lamb roasted over an open fire. The festival showcases the artistic forms produced by the cultural exchange between Argentina and the Chiloé Archipelago and celebrates the history forged by the Aysén region’s settlers.
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Translation by Rebecca Neal