Southern Aisén Province, Aisén
Concierge.com's insider take:
Traveling south from the Lake Region, travelers will come upon this remote, sparsely inhabited area of southern Aisén (also spelled Aysén), which encompasses some of Chilean Patagonia's most fearsome topography. Accommodations are rustic and the driving gets progressively tougher as you head south, but the rewards include raging melt-water rivers, majestic glaciers, temperate rain forests, and one of the largest expanses of permanent ice outside Antarctica. (Bring your rain gear: The coast here gets up to 200 inches per year.) The main hub is the town of Coihaique, a good base for exploring several nearby areas, including Cerro Castillo National Reserve, an insane jumble of basalt peaks. At Puerto Guadal, a lateral spur leads west to 13,200-foot Mount San Valentín, the highest peak in Patagonia, and the northern Continental Ice Field. Cochrane, a rough-hewn gaucho settlement on the surging Río Baker, is the last real town on the Carretera. The final section of road is long and bumpy (and, of course, gorgeous) and ends with a whimper at Villa O'Higgins (population: 400), a huddle of weathered cabins and base camp for expeditions to the southern Continental Ice Field.