Our trip begins at the airport in Balmaceda, Chile. From there we transfer to the town of Coyhaique, the hub of the Aysen region. Only founded in 1929, it still very much feels like a remote outpost from long ago. The easy-to-walk streets are lined with shops selling local goods, restaurants boasting farm-to-table dishes and, a more recent addition, craft breweries. This afternoon is free for us to explore the city and settle in before the welcome dinner this evening. Dinner included.
We set off early down the famous Carretera Austral, headed toward one of the most iconic peaks on the road—Cerro Castillo. After your first sighting of Castillo’s spiky, snow covered summit it’s obvious how Cerro Castillo (Castle Mountain) got its name. After arriving at the trailhead we set off on a hike that takes us from meadow to forest to the alpine, where calving glaciers and a glacier-fed lake await. Along the way, keep a sharp eye out for huemul deer. These endangered deer are a National Natural Monument in Chile, and Cerro Castillo is one of the best places in all of Chile & Argentina to see them. After our hike, we transfer a short way to Mary’s house where we spend the night. Mary runs a small bed and breakfast with expansive views of Cerro Castillo. She also makes a great traditional Chilean dinner. All meals included.
Driving: 1.5 hours; Trekking: 13 miles (6–7 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +3,690’ / -3,690’
We continue our drive down the Carretera Austral, heading south towards General Carrera Lake. This electric blue lake is the second largest in South America, and is surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Nestled in the lake are a series of marble caves carved by the natural forces of Patagonia over thousands of years. After being fitted to our sea kayaks, we paddle along the shore to reach the caves. Glide across the water and through this inspiring natural wonder. After a BBQ lunch on shore, we drive two more hours south on the Carretera. Driving on the Carretera is nothing short of awe inspiring—every turn brings a new and incredible vista. Next, we set off on a Class III whitewater adventure down the Baker River. After a wet and wild ride, we arrive at a local café where we have time to change and relax. If time allows, we may stop by the confluence of the Baker and Nef rivers before heading to our hotel for dinner. All meals included.
Driving: 5 hours; Kayaking: 1.5 hours; Rafting: 1 hour; Trekking: 2 miles (1 hour), Elevation gain/loss: +150’ / -150’
Patagonia Park is part of Chile’s newest expanse of protected land, a whopping 650,000 acres of wildlands and ecosystems. It’s about the same size as the vast Yosemite National Park in the US, and about 50% bigger than Torres del Paine National Park. Chacabuco Valley lies at the heart of the park in a biologically critical transition zone, between temperate rainforest and Patagonia steppe. Our hike today ascends through an abundance of native flora and fauna to reach a high plateau with commanding views of the National Park. It then winds through a series of idyllic alpine lagoons. We’ll also have time to visit the park’s visitor’s center, which highlights the inspiring conservation efforts in this unique part of the world. After our hike we head back to the hotel for dinner and time to relax. All meals included.
Driving: 1.5 hours; Hiking: 12 miles (6–8 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +3,125’ / -3,125’
The Aysen region is located between the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields, and is often called the center of glacier country in Patagonia. After glimpsing glaciers from a distance along the Carretera, today we get to see one up close. We travel south on the Carretera to Cochrane, a small frontier town with a lot of character. From there we continue to San Lorenzo, Patagonia’s second highest peak. The Calluqueo glacier snakes down the flanks of the peak and cascades into a lake at its base—Patagonia’s rugged beauty at its finest. We cross the lake by boat and then proceed to have an experiential education in the life of a Patagonia glacier—moraines, ice tunnels, crevasses, and so much more make up this this awe-inspiring ice kingdom. We return to town in the afternoon and have dinner in one of Cochrane’s lively restaurants. All meals included.
Driving: 3 hours; Hiking: 4 miles (5 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +1,000’ / -1,000’’
A well-deserved lazy morning before we start heading north on the Carretera Austral. We bid a fond farewell to the roaring rapids of the Baker River and the glaciers of the south as we head towards another of Aysen’s famous protected areas: Jeinimeni. We take the drive slowly, with plenty of time for picture stops along the way and arrive in Chile Chico in the early afternoon. We’ll pause for lunch and a chance to view the native flamingos, a strange sight with the wild Patagonia background. After lunch we continue driving to our home for the next three nights, a luxury camp located on the border of Jeinimeni Park. The camp is set on a river and features tents with separate living and sleeping spaces, hot water showers, and a dedicated team consisting of a camp host and gourmet kitchen team. (On fall departures, we’ll stay in a nearby lodge instead.) Make sure to leave time to look at the stars. With no other lights around for miles, you may never see another sky like this! All meals included.
Driving: 4 hours
Today we take a short drive to the national park, where we’ll journey on bike and on foot to Lago Verde (Green Lake) deep in the mountains of Jeinimeni. Once we’re fitted for our mountain bikes, we start the ride towards Green Lake. Following an old logging road, the trail is wide and the views are incredible. After six miles, we reach a river where we leave our bikes and continue on foot. An additional three miles along Jeinimeni Lake and through lenga forests brings us to the shores of Green Lake. The contrast between light blue Jeinimeni Lake and the rich green of Green Lake is spectacular, especially when combined with the pristine snow- and ice-covered mountains ringing the lakes. After a lakeside lunch we head back to our bikes and ride back to the trailhead. There’s free time to hang out by the lake or do another short viewpoint hike before heading back to camp for happy hour and dinner. All meals included.
Driving: 30 mins; Hiking: 6 miles (2 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +1,000’ / -1,000’; Biking: 12 miles, Elevation gain/loss: Minimal
The diversity of landscapes in Patagonia is astounding, and today exemplifies that variety. In contrast to yesterday’s hike along lake shores and through forests, today’s hike tackles an arid, lunar valley filled with sculpted white rock and vibrant red earth. Along the trek, we stop to visit a cave filled with stenciled outlines of human hands. This cave contains some of the most significant cave art in Patagonia, relics of a culture thousands of years old. Return to camp after the hike and enjoy some free time relaxing or exploring before we head to a nearby ranch to join the gaucho for a farewell Patagonia asado. All meals included.
Driving: 30 mins; Hiking: 7 miles (5 hours), Elevation gain/loss: +1,200’, -1,200’
Today we bid a fond farewell to camp and start the journey north towards Balmaceda and Coyhaique. Depending on the schedule of the ferry, we either catch a ferry across the General Carrera Lake or we drive the arid steppe land of Argentina. The journey is picturesque either way and takes approximately 5 hours. Upon arrival at the airport, say farewell to Aysen and board your flight onward. We can also drop you off in Coyhaique if you’d like to extend your time in the region. Breakfast and lunch included.