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The Southern Coast Travel Guide

  • Photo: Hugo Brizard / Shutterstock

Plan Your Southern Coast Vacation

The sliver of land known as the Southern Coast stretches for more than 1,000 km (620 mi), from the southernmost part of the administrative district of Los Lagos through the northern part of Aisén (locally spelled Aysén). Sandwiched between the tranquil valleys of the Lake District and the wondrous ice fields of Patagonia, it largely consists of heavily forested mountains, some of which rise

dramatically from the shores of shimmering lakes, others directly out of the Pacific Ocean. Slender waterfalls and nearly vertical streams, often seeming to emerge from the rock itself, tumble and slide from neck-craning heights. Some dissipate into misty nothingness before touching the ground, others flow into the innumerable rivers—large and small, wild and gentle—heading westward to the sea.

Chile has designated vast tracts of this truly magnificent landscape as national parks and reserves, but most are accessible only on foot. The few roads available to vehicles are slightly widened trails or the occasional logging route navigable only by the most rugged of four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The Southern Coast is one of the least-populated areas remaining in South America: the population density here is said to be lower than that of the Sahara Desert. The infrequent hamlets scattered along the low-lying areas of this rugged region subsist as fishing villages or small farming centers. The gradual increase of boat and ferry service to some of these towns and the expansion of the major highway called the Carretera Austral have begun to encourage migration to the region. Coyhaique, the only town here of any size, with a population of 50,000, has lots of dining, lodging, and shopping. Meanwhile, a few intrepid entrepreneurs have established world-class accommodations in remote locations near spectacular mountain peaks, ancient volcanoes, and glaciers, with their concomitant fjords and lakes.

Planning a visit to the region's widely separated points of interest can be challenging, as getting from place to place is often difficult. Creating a logical itinerary in southern Chile is as much about choosing how to get here as it is about choosing where you want to go. The most rewarding mode of transport through this area is a combination of travel by boat and by plane, with an occasional car rental if you want to journey a little deeper into the hinterlands.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Scenery The Carretera Austral, a dusty dirt road blazed through southern Chile by former military dictator Augusto Pinochet, has opened up one of the most beautiful places in the world to tourists. Rent a car, preferably a four-wheel-drive truck or jeep, and soak it all in.
  2. Glaciers To watch a chunk of ice break off the glaciers near Mount San Valentín and fall with a thundering splash into the lake below is reason enough for a trip to Laguna San Rafael National Park.
  3. Fishing Fly-fishing fanatics were among the first to explore this area thoroughly. You'll be able to step right outside your door for great fishing at any number of lodges. A short boat trip will bring you to isolated spots where you won't run into another soul for the entire day.
  4. Rafting and kayaking The Futalefeu River is Class V-plus. That's raft speak for very fast-moving water. In fact, this river is considered one of the fastest in the world.

When To Go

When to Go

Late spring through summer—late November to mid-March—is considered high season in this part of southern Chile. It's highly recommended that...

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