It won’t be easy to decide what to visit or where to begin your adventure in Aysén; but, before you begin setting goals, let us share a bit of gaucho wisdom. One of the most popular sayings in this part of Patagonia goes: “el que se apura pierde el tiempo”, (those that hurry lose time), and it’s SO true! Patagonia moves at its own pace and trying to force your normal velocity is like dancing salsa to bluegrass. Here, you'll need to change your rhythm; the only way to discover the richness, the secrets, the distinctions, and the beauty of Aysén is to leave behind the hectic pace of modern life. Said simply: the magic of Patagonia lies in discovering the contrasts between its enormous, sweeping landscapes and the infinite, miniscule details of its nature and culture.
There’s so much to discover! Like why the coastline is dismembered with so many islands and why the mountains are so challenging even though their altitudes don’t seem daunting. Where are the best places to see huemules, condors, tiny frogs and giant whales? Why does the entire world drink mate here? How you can be included in this special ritual that guarantees interesting conversation and the occasion for sharing stories and legends and the knowledge of the gauchos. Who were the mysterious indigenous peoples who roamed these lands long before the settlers who arrived much more recently? Who was Father Antonio Ronchi? What are troperos, chilotes and gauchos? How has the culture and traditions of Aysén evolved with modernity, technology and other outside influences? You’ll discover why the food here taste so good, local legends like the practice of eating calafate to guarantee you’ll return to these lands, and local customs like drinking wine from a bota. Taking your time opens up the opportunity to spend some time with people like Senora "Tati", Werner Bleicher, Luis Soto, Maria Griselda Nahuel and many others; sons and daughters of pioneers and more recent arrivals, travelers like you, who loved Aysén so much they decided to stay forever. All these small details and special treasures await if you remember the gaucho advice of slowing down and relaxing as you make your way through the cultural areas of Aysén.
One of the things you’ll likely observe as you begin to travel through the region and talk to its people, is the "before and after” distinctions that are associated with the roads: in particular, the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway), running north to south and lateral roads crossing the region, east to west. And we are not talking about an “after” that began centuries ago; the “after” in Aysén began in earnest, just three or four decades ago and in many areas the roads are literally brand new; in fact, there are many roads that are still under construction as we write.
Before these roads, movement within the region was extremely difficult and slow. If a person needed to move their animals to market or go to the doctor or to school, or even just go to the capital to handle some sort of paperwork with the regional government, they often ended up travelling for weeks! Getting to and from the ports and cities usually meant some combination of walking hours and days along rustic trails, horseback riding for weeks, taking a boat (always subject to weather conditions), crossing over to Argentina to access their roads, or taking a plane (if you had the resources). And of course, there was no formal food and lodging infrastructure for travelers; thus, out of necessity, a special and unique form of hospitality emerged in the region of Aysén; an informal system based on the concept of mutual need and respect. Settlers throughout the region welcomed travelers into their houses and farms, always ready with a yerba mate, a bowl of soup and a place to sleep. And travelers didn’t arrive empty-handed. They were accustomed to bringing along additional cargo, special packages, long-awaited equipment, medicine, correspondence and news from the outside; all of the things that isolated families couldn’t wait to receive! The system strangely combined traveler services with rural mail delivery and it worked for the better part of 100 years. The heritage of this system is this reason that “hospitality” in Aysén is SO much more than an industry, it is tradition, our values, the concept of being “gaucho”. It is something that runs in our veins and a special part of our history and identity.
The expansion of roads, with the Carretera Austral as the central axis, changed everything. Today you can travel the region of Aysén from tip to tip in a little over a day, and laterally, from east to west in a little over 4 hours. People can access services more easily and the speed with which modernity has arrived has been amazing; today the majority of Ayseninos enjoy their wifi, their cellular, their cable, and their connectivity as much as anyone else. Nevertheless, while the pioneers of Aysén are no longer so isolated, they remain proud of their roots and traditions, they work tirelessly for their rights and the possibility to continue to grow without losing the natural paradise in which they live. This is a unique place and the people who call it home know how special it is; that’s one of the reasons for the growing interest in the development of forms of tourism that enable Ayseninos to share their special places and people with you. Each year there are more professionals from the region obtaining training, certifications and skills so that they can assist you with your travels through the distinct areas and experiences we’ll describe in this guide.
This is our invitation:
Explore the five cultural areas and more than a hundred experiences presented in this site, which allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and nature of Patagonia in Aysén, traveling at a relaxed pace without spending all your time on buses, vehicles and ferries. You can explore a little bit of each of these areas, touring the Carretera Austral as the connector for your preference of landmarks, culture and experiences. Or, perhaps you’d prefer to focus on a single cultural area and have the opportunity to explore its many contrasts, hidden corners and details. And why not? In fact, you are invited to come and explore each of the five cultural areas of Aysén in depth; returning as many times that you want. But we have to warn you now; repeat visits have often converted into new neighbors!