Getting There & Around
Coyhaique's Aeropuerto de Balmaceda (BBA; no phone) is a gorgeous 1-hour drive from downtown and is the landing and departure point for larger jets. LAN Airlines has two to three daily flights from Santiago, with a stop in either Puerto Montt or Temuco (there are no nonstops from Santiago); there's also one to two daily flights from Punta Arenas. The LAN office is at General Parra 402 (tel. 600/526-2000 toll-free; www.lan.com). Sky Airline has one or two daily flights depending on the season, with a stop in Puerto Montt and several flights per week to Punta Arenas, which originate in Puerto Montt (Prat 203; tel. 67/240827 in Coyhaique, or 600/600-2828 toll-free; www.skyairline.cl). Note that this airport doesn't have an ATM.
Charter flights (all small propeller planes) to closer destinations, such as Villa O'Higgins, Chile Chico, and Cochrane, leave from the Aeródromo Teniente Vidal (no phone), 7km (4 1/4 miles) outside town. Two charter-flight companies offer tourist overland flights, even over the Laguna San Rafael Glacier. Both are the same in terms of price and quality (about $1,000/£667 for 3 hr. for one to five people): Aerotaxis del Sur (tel. 67/252-253; www.aerotaxisdelsur.cl) and Empresas Don Carlos, Baquedano 315 (tel. 67/232261; www.doncarlos.cl). The latter also flies to Cochrane and Villa O'Higgins.
Some travelers arrive at Puerto Chacabuco by boat from Puerto Montt or Quellón on Chiloé and then transfer to Coyhaique. It is 67km (42 miles) to Coyhaique. In Coyhaique, Navimag is at Ibáñez 347 (tel. 67/233306; www.navimag.cl).
Coyhaique has a bus terminal at Lautaro and Magallanes streets and companies are gradually moving their offices there. For buses with a final destination in Chaitén, try Buses Becker, Presidente Ibáñez 358 (tel. 67/232167; firstname.lastname@example.org), which leaves on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday at 8am ($27/£18 one-way). For Puyuhuapi and La Junta, try Buses Terraasutral at the terminal (tel. 67/254335), with buses daily at 6am, or Buses Queulat at Parra 329 (tel. 67/242626), which connects with Futaleufú-bound buses on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday departing at 8am. For Cochrane, take Buses Don Carlos, Arturo Prat 334 (tel. 67/522150; www.doncarlos.cl), which leaves on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 9am ($18/£12). For Puerto Aysén and Chacabuco, take Suray, with 20 trips per day, at Prat 265 (tel. 67/238387); or Interlagos at the Terminal (similar frequencies; tel. 67/240840). For Puerto Ibáñez, try Minibus Don Tito, Pasaje Curicó 619 (tel. 67/250280).
Heading south on Rte. 7, the highway comes to a fork -- one paved road and one dirt. The choice here is clear, especially if you've been driving on gravel all day. The well-signed, paved route heads first toward Puerto Aysén and then heads southeast for a beautiful drive through the Río Simpson National Reserve before hitting town. At the city entrance, a sign points left for the center of town.
Car Rental for Local Trips & the Carretera Austral -- Car rental is very expensive here, but there are plenty of offers; even the odd cafe has a pickup truck it will rent. Fortunately, the popularity of this trip has made competition fierce and prices have dropped considerably. Most require that you rent a truck if heading anywhere off paved roads (about $90/£60 per day for a truck, $120/£80 for a 4*4). Hertz (Balmeceda airport; tel. 67/231648; www.hertz.cl) or Budget (Errázuriz 454 and at the Balmeceda airport; tel. 67/255171; www.budget.cl) are here. For local rental, try: AGS Rent a Car, Av. Ogana 1298, and at the airport (tel./fax 67/231511; email@example.com); International, General Parra 97 and at the airport (tel. 67/214770; fax 67/212771); Rent a Car Aysén, Francisco Bilbao 926 (tel. 67/231532); Traeger, Av. Baquedano 457 (tel./fax 67/231648; www.traeger.cl); Turismo Prado, Av. 21 de Mayo 417 (tel. 67/231271; firstname.lastname@example.org); Ricer Rent a Car, Horn 48 (tel./fax 67/232920); or Automundo AVR, Francisco Bilbao 510 (tel. 67/231621; email@example.com). If you can't find what you want with these companies, request a list from Sernatur.
Coyhaique has a pentagon-shape plaza -- which happens to also be a Wi-Fi hotspot -- in the northwest corner of town and many one-way streets that can easily confuse a visitor with a rental car. Most services and hotels are near the plaza, and you'll find it convenient to stick to walking downtown. The rest of the city is on a regular grid pattern.
A helpful English-speaking staff can be found at the Sernatur office at Bulnes 35 (tel. 67/231752 or 67/240290; www.sernatur.cl); it's open January and February Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 8:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm; and March through December Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Sernatur produces a glossy magazine packed with information about the region and full listings of services, and provides a brochure on fishing. Don't skip the Oficina de Turismo Rural, 2 blocks away on Ogana 1060 (tel. 67/214031; www.rutatranspatagonia.cl), which is very helpful, offering contact information and a good brochure for even the remotest lodgings well beyond the end of the Carretera Austral. For information about the natural parks and preserves, you can try Conaf's office at Los Coigües s/n (tel. 67/212125; www.conaf.cl).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.