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Puerto Aysén

Thirteen kilometers (8 mi) south of Villa Mañihuales (also spelled Mañiguales) is Bifurcación Viviana. Here the unpaved Ruta 7 Carretera Austral heads southeast. The paved Ruta X-50 is the preferred route. After 28 kilometers (17 mi) it meets Ch-240 with another crossroads: the eastern one to Coyhaique (60 km/36 mi) and the western to Puerto Aysén (20 km/12 miles) and Puerto Chacabuco (34 km/21 mi).


Once upon a time Puerto Aysén was the most important city in this part of the Patagonia. It was the capital of XI Región General Carlos Ibáñez del Campos, before being supplanted by Coyhaique in 1974. Puerto Aysén (also spelled Aisén) also was the most important southern port, until silting of its river forced the maritime door into the zone to move to Puerto Chacabuco. Today Puerto Aysén is the first large city travelers encounter after arriving by boat to Puerto Chacabuco.



Waterfall-laced, forested mountains surround this city on the banks of the Río Aysén spanned by Puente Presidente Ibáñez. This bridge, built from 1964 to 1966, is now a national monument. Just south of it is the Galería de Artesanos (camino a Puerto Chacabuco and Lago Riesco). Salmon fishing is said to be good in the river.


Puerto Aysén has several pleasant parks. Around its shady Plaza de Armas are many of the town’s businesses. Parque Municipal is on Isla Diaz, just in front of downtown. During the summer you can catch concerts here. Cerro Mirador provides a nice view over the town and río (Latauro, between Carrera and Teniente Merino). If you still feel like stretching your legs, then stroll down to Muelle La Balsa, where the fishermen dock. On the Camino Cemeterio northwest of the center is the tomb of Padre Antonio Ronchi, the venerated Catholic missionary priest. Across the road is the wharf (muelle) and Santuario San Pedro where every June 29 the patron saint of fishermen is honored. Regattas and other events are celebrated in honor of him and San Pablo.


Besides walks around the city, Puerto Aysén offers a few inside activities. Stop by the Catedral on the Plaza and check out the large, hand-carved altar screen of the Last Supper. Its Stations of the Cross are of the same technique (Carrera and Prat). The Cine Municipal hosts theater, music concerts, movies and other productions on occasion (Calle Esmeralda, Plaza de Armas). The public library has a great collection of old photographs on exhibit (O’Higgins and Sargento Aldea).


One excursion out of the city is to Laguna Los Palos, 10 kilometers (6 mi) north. Located in a valley of the Andes range, this is a popular place to fish, relax or take a boating tour down the Río Aysén. Lago Riesco (25 km/15 mi southeast) has a beach lined with arrayanes (Myrceugenella apiculata), a member of the Myrtle family, with stunning fragrant white flowers. In summer, a free balsa (small boat) takes passengers to Lago Portales where puma and foxes can be seen.


Summer is also the time of Puerto Aysén’s big anniversary bash. Throughout the month of January, this city’s founding is observed with fireworks, dances, concerts and other activities. The settlement began about 1880, when Ciriaco Álvarez, originally of Chonchi, arrived. Between modern-day Puerto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco he established a warehouse for goods arriving to the region, and the exportation of cypress wood. He earned the title El Rey del Ciprés, The King of Cypress. A hodge-podge of houses spread out until by 1928, the population had grown sufficiently to petition the federal government for recognition as a town. Its importance quickly grew, not only as a port, but to later become the capital of the XI Región. With the twists and turns of fate over the decades, Puerto Aysén may have lost its stature, but it is yet a pleasant surprise on the road through Chile’s Northern Patagonia.




Puerto Aysén has a full slate of services.

Cámera de Turismo (Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-1 p.m., 3-7 p.m.; January-February 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Teniente Merino 668, Plaza de Armas, Tel.: 33-2716 / 52-7425, E-mail:, URL: /

Banks are open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Banco del Estado (Carrera and O’Hioggins, Plaza de Armas) – ATM: MasterCard, Cirrus; exchanges U.S. dollars and euros. The other banks’ ATMs accept MasterCard, Cirrus, Visa and Plus: Banco Chile (Prat and Carrera, Plaza de Armas), Santander and BCI (both at Sargento Aldea and Prat). There are no casas de cambio. Chilexpress is the Western Union agent (Teniente Merino, Plaza de Armas).


Arts and crafts:

Galería de Artesanos (camino a Puerto Chacabuco and Lago Riesco).



Camping La Plancha (Camino Lago Los Palos, Km 7, Tel.: 09-887-8572, URL:

La Posada del Camionero (Sargento Aldea 1860, Tel.: 33-2548; $14 per person)

Hotel Plaza (O’Higgins 613, Tel.: 33-2784; single with common bath $20, double with private bath $50)

Hotel Caicahues (Michimalonco 660, Tel.: 33-5680; single $56, double $70)



Restaurant Isla Verde (Teniente Merino 710, Tel.: 33-4583)

Restaurant Entre Amigos (Sargento Aldea 1033B, Tel.: 33-3433, URL:

Restaurant Munich (Ramírez 1267, Tel.: 33-3728)



(Altitude: 5 meters / 16.25 feet, Population: 22,360, Phone Code: 067)


Other places nearby Puerto Aysén: Chaitén, Coyhaique, Bahía Murta, Parque Nacional Queulat, Reserva Nacional Jeínemeni, Puerto Ibáñez, Parque Nacional Hornopirén, Puerto Chacabuco , Hornopirén Village and Reserva Nacional Futaleufú.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

12 Jun 2009

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