From the world’s highest desert in the northern part of the country, to the colossal glaciers in the South, Chile is a country that is wild, pristine, and worthy of a spot on any traveler’s bucket list. It is a long, skinny slice of land defined by thousands of miles of coastline, towering, sawtooth-like mountains, and near-endless expanses of unspoiled wilderness studded with soaring volcanoes, chalky blue rivers, and enchanting emerald forests. Adventurous travelers can explore cosmopolitan cities pulsating with energy, visit ancient archaeological sites on a volcanic island, backpack through some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes, surf the Pacific Ocean, sip on craft cervezas with the locals, and so much more.
One region, in particular, rarely in the headlines yet without question worth a visit for intrepid travelers is Chile’s Aysén Region—a rugged swath of wilderness in the far northern reaches of Patagonia where few people live and even fewer people travel. Geographically isolated on all sides by mountains, fjords, and ocean, Aysén was the last place in South America that settlers arrived in, and it was the last region to join the country. It is an impossibly gorgeous place full of snow-capped mountains, windswept grasslands, braided rivers, and glacial lakes.
Whether venturing into the heart of its backcountry, or returning to the cultural hotbeds of Santiago and Valparaíso to unearth their urban gems, here’s a case for discovering the underrated, off the beaten path wonders of Chile…. It’s an easy case to make.
Samantha Larson is a Seattle-based writer, climber, runner, and adventure junkie who has traveled to some incredible places in her time—from the Cascade Mountains, to a sailboat in the middle of the tropical Pacific, and even to the summit of Mt. Everest. Perhaps her biggest claim to fame is that she was once the youngest person to have climbed the world’s Seven Summits (the highest mountain on each continent), which she completed at the ripe age of 18. The first time she went to Patagonia—to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park in 2008—she swore that, one day, she would go back. She spent years daydreaming of the glaciated peaks, pristine lakes, and roaming gaunacos, determined to return. In her own words, “When I got the opportunity to go back to explore Patagonia’s off-the-beaten-path destinations, trite as it may sound, it felt like a dream come true.”
Dylan Jones is an adventure writer and photographer based in an idyllic mountain town in West Virginia. His recent outings have taken him from summits in the Tetons and Sawtooths to the limestone towers of Thailand and Laos. From recreational use studies in the Klamath Mountains of northern California, to collecting water samples in Costa Rica, adventure has always been a way of life for Dylan, and the inner hinterlands of Patagonia have always been on his bucket list. In his own words, “When I clicked an email with the subject line ‘Very cool opportunity!’, my eyes widened as I read and re-read the email several times. It was an offer for the dream trip of a lifetime: adventuring off the beaten path in Chile.”