Aisen is the region of Chile south of the lake district and north of the Patagonian Ice sheet. In other words it is northern Chilean Patagonia. It is far less visited than either the lake district or southern Patagonia. The reason is partly that there is no road access to Aisen from the rest of Chile. The terrestrial route passes through Argentinean territory and crosses over the Andes from the east. It is a region of dramatic scenery: dense green forests, glaciers, fiords, icebergs and waterfalls. The main attractions are the San Rafael Glacier, the hanging Queulat glacier, remote fishing lodges and the Alerce forests.
Hundreds of miles of road to nowhere. The carratera austral was built under the instruction of Pinochet in order to strengthen Chile's claim to disputed territory. It can only be accessed in the north either by boat from Chile or by land from Argentina. It claws its way for hundreds of miles through the most dramatic Patagonian scenery, every corner reveals another breath-taking view, terminating abruptly in the south where it collides with the impassable Patagonian ice sheet. For the adventurous traveller it makes an unforgettable self-drive holiday.
Chile's most spectacular glacier. To get there requires a 7-hour journey by catamaran from Puerto Chacabuco or Puyuhuapi through the austral fiords. The route is a sheer delight to the senses: the transparency of the waters, the majesty of the Andes Mountains wrapped in lush forests, the play of light interwoven through the clouds, and sometimes, encounters with playful dolphins. After the voyage through the incredible scenery of the fiords, green islands and snow covered peaks, it is hard to believe that your senses will still respond to yet another amazing sight. But the glacier itself doesn't disappoint. Towering 180ft above the surface of the water it is hard to comprehend the size, scale and power of this frozen giant as it edges back releasing great slabs of bright blue ice from over 10,000 years of entrapment.
The Alerce tree is the second longest living species in the world. Some individuals are estimated to be 4000-years old. These giant trees are now protected by law in a few reserves, their domain having been greatly reduced by settlers starting fires to clear land. The Pumalin park in particular has walking trails through ancient Alerce forests.