Day 1: Balmaceda – Coyhaique (L)
Coyhaique “koikaikek”, which probably means in Tehuelche “camp near the water”, is the main city and the capital of the Aisén region and has a population of a little bit more than 43.000 people. The city was founded October 12th, 1929 in a beautiful valley at the junction of two rivers: the Coyhaique and the Simpson, at the foot hill of the Divisadero Range. At the beginning Coyhaique provided the basic services for the first settlers and the Sociedad Industrial de Aisén, SIA, which had its administration buildings since 1906 by the Coyhaique river. The town hall was created in 1948 and in 1974 the town becomes capital of the region. You don't need to go far in Coyhaique to surround yourself in wilderness. The Coyhaique National Reserve is just less than 3km (2 miles) from town and has an area of approximately 8.700 acres. It is a great place for a walks through native forest or a hike to the spectacular lookout point with views of the city of Coyhaique, the MacKay Mountain and the Divisadero Range.
Arrival to Balmaceda airport on the first plane of the day. Reception and transfer to hotel in Coyhaique. Lunch in the city. In the afternoon: hike and plant and bird observation at the Coyhaique nacional Reserve. Back to hotel. Overnight at Coyhaique
Day 2: At dawn with the condors, Visit a Patagonia Estancia (B,L)
The Andean Condor, symbol of the American Andes, is the largest bird in the world, he is the calm guardian of the sky always gliding over the high peaks of the Aisen landscape. This untamed, wild and still virgin land, one of the least contaminated on earth, is the last redoubt for the 1000 and more condors left in the region and for several nestling and reproduction places. In this program we invite you to visit one of the few remaining places where the bird can be seen in its habitat, learn a little bit more about it and take many pictures to bring back home.
The excursion: We will depart from the hotel very early, before dawn break and will drive eastward to an Estancia (sheep ranch) from where we will switch car and use an old army “unimov” to continue the trip following a very rough road. A mile or two before reaching our destination we will continue walking, very silently until the top of the cliff where the condors nest. We will approach the border of the cliff for pictures of condors and their chickens. We will stay there for a couple of hours, as motionless as possible, so the condors get use to our presence in this nestling area which has probably been used as such for thousand years. We will watch the adults start their flight and glide over our heads, searching for food for them and the chickens who cannot fly yet and feed themselves. On the way back we will hike as much as the group wants and then do the rest of the road in unimov. Departure very early to an Estancia (sheep farming ranch) located at the border with Argentina. Light breakfast at the hotel. Drive to a Condor’s communal roost : observation and photography. 12 and a half miles from the Estancia / 1 hour drive. Patagonia Barbecue back at the Estancia. Visit of the Estancia. Back to hotel. Overnight at Coyhaique
Day 3: Pictographs in the Castillo Area (B,L)
A few miles from Villa Cerro Castillo is the “Alero Las Manos” with remains from ancient people that arrived to this area 6.000 to 5.000 years ago. “Many cliffs and rock walls, called in Aisén “aleros”, can be found in the Ibañez River valley. It is a wooded valley, surrounded by high mountains, with its access somehow hidden when approaching the area from the pampa. This valley was first occupied by men in a period of time when the earth temperature was starting to descend to the averages we have today, but with drought conditions still existing in some areas. These people who had a rich tradition in cave painting and rock art, came to the area to make wood for their huts and to hunt guanacos recently born (chulengos), their skin was very valued for clothing (capes). First they probably came only in summer time, when “chulengos” were born and to avoid the heat and dryness of the pampas” (Francisco Mena Culturas Del Extremo Sur: Donde la cordillera se hunde en el mar). The hike we propose starts in Lago Tamango and descend toward the rock wall with the pictographs. The trail is through native forest and is about 7,5 miles long. The total hike is about 4 hours. On the way one can also see the effects of the terrible fires that occurred in the region at the beginning of the century when settlers arrived and needed to clear land for their cattle. The highlights of this hike are the views of the Castillo Moutain range and the chance to meet the settlers`families since we must introduce ourselves when crossing their lands.
Breakfast. Departure toward the south to the Castillo area, crossing the Ibañez and passing by Villa Castillo. Picnic by the Tamango Lake - 10 miles from Villa Castillo / aprox 1 hour. Hike from Lago Tamango to “Alero Las Manos” , a rock cliff with the rest of ancient art rock (hands) – 4 hours hike cross country through native woods – birds and plants observation. Back to the hotel. Overnight at Coyhaique.
Day 4: Coyhaique – Carretera Austral –Queulat National Park (B,L,D)
The Queulat National Park is a wild and pristine territory where the evergreen forest is topped with the glaciers and ice fields of the Austral Andes, and complemented with the rich bio diversity of the fjords and channels of the Austral Pacific. Before being a park this land was never inhabited by anyone or any road or path ever crossed it, it is the only national park in Chile with virgin land that can be reached by car. It is the forest mentioned by Nobel price Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, in his memoirs. The park, located 165 km north of the city of Coyhaique, was created October 13th 1983 and has a total approximated area of 595 square miles. It can be reached using the beautiful Southern Highway which was finished only in 1982. The park is in the northeast of the region, on the occidental slope of the Patagonian Andes; the very irregular topography, with rocky hillsides, deep and steep valleys and spectaculars glaciers is the proof of the glaciations that occurred thousand years ago. The highest summit within the park and the source of the Hanging Glacier is the Alto Nevado with 7.300 ft. above sea level. The weather is temperate and influenced by the sea, with high levels of rainfall (from 11,5 ft. to 13 ft. a year) especially on the occidental shore. The park is also crossed by several rivers such as the Queulat, the Ventisquero and the Bordalí. The vegetation of the park is Coastal Temperate Rainforest (Per-Humid) with magnificent trees such as coigues, tepas, lumas, arrayanes, tineos, mañios, canelos, ciruelillos,... and an under wood with a huge variety of ferns, coicopihue, vines, bamboo, fucsias, nalcas,... The wild life is basically birds such as the woodpecker, the chucao, the huet huet, the cachaña and the kingfisher, it is also the habitat for pudus, foxes, pumas, huiñas,...From the shores of the park, sea lions and austral dolphins can be seen swimming in the Queulat fjord and in the Puyuhuapi sound together with huillines, chungungos and a lot of aquatic birds such as the black necked swans.
Breakfast. Today we will follow the southern highway route from Coyhaique to the Queulat National Park, pausing at the most interesting view points for photography or simply to enjoy the magnificent vistas : río Simpson, río Mañihuales, Lago Las Torres y Las Torres National Reserve, río Cisnes, Piedra del Gato y Queulat National park. Picnic on the road. We will take a short walk at the Fiordo Queulat Lodge to find early familiarity with the plants and trees that we will be observing many times during our hikes. Dinner and overnight at Eco-Lodge Fiordo Queulat
Day 5: Fiordo Queulat Private Park (B,L,D)
The Fiordo Queulat Park has a roundabout circuit made of three connecting trails of 3 to 4 hours total walking time. The trail goes into the rainforest, reaching first the “Vida Salvaje” waterfall – 300 ft high – from where there is a spectacular view of the outflow of the Queulat River into the fjord. Then the trail descends back toward the sea to a white sand beach with a view of the fjord. On the way the visitor can admire remarkable species of native trees such as Tepas Laurelianas (Laurelia philippiana), several groups of hundred years old Arrayanes (Luma apiculata), many tall and beautiful Tenios (Weinmannia trichosperma) and plenty other trees, permitting an overview of the native evergreen rainforest of Queulat. Also we can see birds such as Chucao (Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula), Hued Hued (Black throated Huet Huet Pteroptochos tarnii) , Rayaditos (Thorn tailed Rayadito Aphrastura spinicauda), Picaflores (Green backed firecrown Sephanoides sephanoides) and if we are lucky also the Colilargos (Des Mur’s Wiretail Sylviothorhynchus desmursii). Along the hike the guide will be instructing you on the plants and wild life.
Hike on the “Cascada Vida Salvaje & Chucao” trail - 3 hours. Back to the lodge for lunch. Navigation on the fjord to a private little island called “Isal Mona” where the fjord meets the Puyuhaupi sound – 2 hours. Back to the lodge. Dinner and overnight at Eco-Lodge Fiordo Queulat
Day 6 Queulat Nacional Park (Hanging glaciar / Fishing day) (B,L,D)
Morena Trail. This trail goes up hill through the imposing austral forest, to the top of a moraine left behind 12.000 to 14.000 years ago by the retrieving glacier. After an hour and a half hike (medium to difficult) the visitor reaches a view point just in front of the glacier, as watching it from a helicopter, and from which you can observe and hear the ice breaking loose. We recommend to do this hike only when the weather is sunny or with scattered rain. We do not recommend it on warm rainy days because of bad visibility, the visitor being unable sometime to see the glacier after the hard walk. The trail is 3,5 km / 2 1/5 mile, the whole excursion last about 3 hours and the drop from top to bottom is about 330 yards.
Breakfast. Transfer to the Hanging Glacier area. Hike over the Moraine for a spectacular view of the hanging glacier. Back to the Lodge and lunch. In the afternoon time to relax, or go to the Puyuhuapi Hot Spring hotels or go fishing rainbows and cohos (both excursion optionals). Dinner and overnight at Eco-Lodge Fiordo Queulat
Day 7: Queulat nacional Park – Coyhaique - Balmaceda (B, L)
Breakfast. Return trip to Coyhaique, stopping for a short hike at Padre. García trail and waterfall. Picnic on the road. In Coyhaique, rest of the dat free. Transfer to Balmaceda for flight back. End of our services.
3 nights stay at Mincho’s Lodge in Coyhaique (single/double). 3 nights stay at Lodge Fiordo Queulat (single/double). Meals as indicated (B: breakfast, L: lunch, D: dinner). Park entrance. Excursions mentioned in program. Guide. Minivan for 14 pax with driver.
Excursions except those indicated in the program. Meals except those indicated in the program. Hotsprings. Drinks, liquors and wine with meals. Tips and personal expenses. Air fares and taxes. Travel insurance
1) The program can me modified according to the passengers interests
2) On day 1, instead of staying in Coyhaique, there is the possibility to spend the night at the Estancia where passengers will be going on day 2. This will prevent waking up so early on day 2. Lodging is at the estancia owners’ house and facilities have to be shared with them.
Price in US$ considering 1Us$ @ Ch$ 440 – requote with new exchange rate when booking – price only for foreigners non resident
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