Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas may be farther away, but there is no place in Chile more distant and pristine than the inner reaches of Aysén.
Bounded by the Lakes District in the North and the inaccessible expanse of Bernardo O’Higgins National Park in the South, the Aysén Region is geographically one of the largest in Chile. The entire Carretera Austral (the legendarily scenic and notoriously difficult road through the area) lies within its borders, as does Chile’s largest lake, Lago General Carrera.
Despite these sights, Aysén receives much less tourist traffic than its more popular and easily accessible neighboring regions. A new route not far from the town of Villa Cerro Castillo, capitalizes on this distance, giving adventurous travelers an opportunity to explore Chile well off the beaten path.
Several routes through the forgotten landscapes of Aysén have been established recently, including possible excursions into the northern ice fields of the Patagonian Andes to see glaciers and to Lago General Carrera to see the water-carved rock formations at the nature sanctuary Capillas de Mármol, which translates as Marble Chapels.
But few routes bring visitors quite so close to the untainted glory of the region’s landscape as the new cabalgatas (horseback trekking) organized and led by Guido Vásquez. In a stretch of the Aysén interior over 114 miles (185 km) from the regional capital of Coyhaique, visitors spend up to five hours on horseback, crossing untouched rivers and ascending hills with glee-inducing views. They will have the opportunity to try their hand at fishing using traditional long canes, or to bathe in the bracing water of untouched rivers and lakes.
“There are lots of people who don’t like bumping into other tourists,” said Vasquez’s associate Cristian Vidal in an interview with La Tercera. This route through the center of Aysén, some 20km from the nearest town at Villa Cerro Castillo, is designed specifically for them.
Rather than follow a road or an obviously marked trail, the route traverses a 370 acre (150 ha) tract of land inherited by Mr. Vásquez, who leads the cabalgata. Vásquez understands that visitors here are not looking for a packaged or highly structured experience, leading them along narrow trails and byways that few people know. In a place like this, where the nearest “beaten track” is the dusty snake of the Carretera Austral, visitors need the expertise of a guide like Vásquez, but he nevertheless knows how to give latitude when it is asked, allowing independent days of bathing for guests who want to experience a piece of undisturbed nature undisturbed themselves.
Including food, guide and safety equipment, the route costs roughly US$140 (CP$70,000). For more information on the route, contact Guido Vásquez by phone at 0056 (0)9 294 3413. For general information on tourism in Aysén, check www.recorreaysen.cl or www.sernatur.cl.
This post is also available in Spanish