Best of Northern Patagonia
Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael: Southwest of Coyhaique, the ice still reaches the sea at Laguna San Rafael — though it’s receding alarmingly fast.
Termas de Puyuhuapi: It’s not really an island, but this surprisingly affordable hot-springs resort might as well be, for its splendid isolation opposite the northern Carretera Austral.
Futaleufú: Almost every rafter and kayaker places the Río Futaleufú among the world’s top 10 white-water rivers, and many put it atop the list.
Parque Natural Pumalín: It’s been politically controversial, but South America’s largest private conservation project is gradually winning acceptance for its commitment to preserving huge extents of midlatitude rainforest and simultaneously making them accessible to the public.
Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo: Growing in popularity, the trekking beneath the spires of this readily accessible reserve on the southern Carretera Austral makes it second only to Torres del Paine, probably, in its popularity with multiday hikers. It’s a distant second, though, so there’s no Paine gridlock.
Capilla de Mármol: Accessible by water only, the sinuous walls of these blue/white grottos are on the shores of Lago General Carrera.
Caleta Tortel: A road reaches its outskirts now, but the only way to get around this quaint seaside fishing village is still the boardwalks and staircases that connect its waterfront and scattered houses and businesses.
Villa O’Higgins: In scenic mountain surroundings, this orderly outpost of Chilean bureaucracy is almost the end of the road — the Carretera Austral stops just south of here — but it’s also the jumping-off point for the new “Cruce de Lagos” to the Argentine trekking capital of El Chaltén.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition