Beneath the basaltic barricade of Cerro Macay, Coyhaique (population 44,850) sits at the confluence of the Río Simpson and the Río Coyhaique, 455 kilometers south of Caleta Gonzalo and 566 kilometers north of Villa O’Higgins . It is 634 kilometers from Puerto Montt  via the Carretera Austral.
Originally known as Baquedano, today’s regional capital was once so remote and obscure that letters addressed here often ended up in an Atacama Desert rail junction of the same name. After a decade of confusion following its 1929 founding, its name became Coyhaique, but it did not become the provincial capital until it succeeded Puerto Aisén in 1973.
Founded as a service center for the Sociedad Industrial Aisén, its growth spurred by the colonists who flooded the region in its wake, Coyhaique is a mostly modern city whose infrastructure hasn’t quite matched its growth—in heavy rain, downtown streets drain poorly and the flow of water is so broad that city workers set out impromptu pedestrian bridges across the gutters. Recent improvements, though, include a rehabilitated Plaza de Armas and conversion of congested Calle Horn into Paseo Horn, a pedestrian mall that’s become a popular gathering place.
Still the region’s only substantial city, Coyhaique has a complete array of services, including fine restaurants, pubs, and travel agencies. The virtual midpoint of the Carretera Austral, it also offers an alternate route into Argentina.
Coyhaique is the region’s transportation hub, with flights north and south, and bus service along the Carretera Austral, to Region X (Los Lagos) and Region XII (Magallanes) via Argentina, and to Argentina itself. Chilean buses to destinations in other regions may not drop passengers in Argentina.
By Air: Commercial jets land at modern Aeropuerto Balmaceda, 50 kilometers southeast of Coyhaique. Small planes still use convenient Aeropuerto Teniente Vidal, only five kilometers southwest of town.
LAN (Moraleda 402, tel. 065/231188) flies several times daily to Puerto Montt  and Santiago , Saturday only to Punta Arenas . Sky Airline (Prat 203, tel. 067/240825) flies daily to Puerto Montt  and the Chilean capital, and south to Punta Arenas .
Transporte Aéreo Don Carlos (Subteniente Cruz 63, tel./fax 067/231981, www.doncarlos.cl ) flies air taxi charters to destinations including Chile Chico , Cochrane , and Villa O’Higgins , but its recent safety record is problematic. Transportes Aéreos San Rafael (18 de Septiembre 469, tel. 067/233408, transrafael [at] patagoniachile [dot] cl) flies to the remote island settlement of Melinka (US$22) and on to Quellón , Chiloé  (US$43) on Thursday. In addition to Don Carlos and San Rafael, Aerohein (Baquedano 500, tel. 067/252177, tel./fax 067/232772, www.aerohein.cl ) offers charters to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael  and elsewhere in the region.
By Bus: More carriers have begun to use the upgraded Terminal de Buses (Lautaro and Magallanes), but several still use their own offices elsewhere in town. Services north and south along the Carretera Austral are most frequent in summer and may be considerably reduced in winter.
To Puerto Aisén (US$1.50) and Puerto Chacabuco  (US$2, one hour), there are frequent departures with Buses Suray (Prat 265, tel. 067/238387), Buses Don Carlos (Subteniente Cruz 63, tel. 067/231981), and Interlagos (tel. 067/240840), at the main terminal.
At the main terminal, Buses São Paulo (tel. 067/255726) goes north to Mañihuales daily at 1 p.m. via the paved Viviana junction, and to off-highway destinations such as Villa Ortega and La Tapera. Buses Daniela (Baquedano 1122, tel. 099/5123500) goes to Chaitén  and intermediates Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8 a.m.
Buses M&C Tours (General Parra 329, tel. 067/242626) goes north to Chaitén  and intermediates Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday at 8 a.m. Around the corner, Buses Becker (Ibáñez 358, tel. 067/232167) goes to Chaitén Monday and Thursday at 8 a.m.
At the main terminal, Terra Austral (tel. 067/254335) goes to Puerto Cisnes  daily except Sunday at 6 a.m.
By Sea: Coyhaique is not a seaport, but several maritime transporters keep offices here. Navimag Ferries (Paseo Horn 47-D, tel. 067/223306) sells ferry berths from Puerto Chacabuco  to Puerto Montt , and to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael .
Geoturismo Patagonia (Eusebio Lillo 315, tel. 067/256100; Condell 117, tel. 067/237456, www.geoturismopatagonia.cl ) is the agent for Catamaranes del Sur, which has high-speed service to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael .
Turismo Skorpios (General Parra 21, tel. 067/213755) operates multiday luxury cruises from Chacabuco to Laguna San Rafael.