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A DIY Day Trip from Puerto Chacabuco to the Canyons, Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region

A DIY Day Trip from Puerto Chacabuco to the Canyons, Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region


By avatar  Stacy
Posted On 12/17/2018 17:37:06
Trip Date 01/23/2018  

Destinations | Cruises | South America | Chile | Norwegian Sun South America Cruise | Puerto Chacabuco | Simpson Valley | Simpson River | Coyhaique | DIY Shore Excursion from Puerto Chacabuco



While the port city of Puerto Chacabuco does not appear to have a lot to offer visitors, it is the gateway city to more. Just over an hour away, travelers have the opportunity to see the Aysen Region including canyons, mountains, rivers and valleys.

If you enjoy exploring on your own and don't mind traveling on very inexpensive public transportation - just like the locals do - this post is for you. During the few hours that your ship is anchored in Puerto Chacabuco and at a cost of less than $10.00 per traveler, you can see so much more than the port city. Read on for the details on where to catch your ride, what to see and even some tips for making the most of your visit.



Planning for Puerto Chacabuco

When researching each of the ports of call while planning day excursions for our South America cruise aboard the Norwegian Sun, we read these quotes about Puerto Chacabuco on Cruise Critic:

"There is absolutely nothing in Puerto Chacabuco - you will not find private tours or cabs waiting for you - the cruise lines have to bring the buses in ..."

"I concur! This isn't a good port at all. There's nothing there. Even if you start walking to look around, it will take you a while to find anything ... I wouldn't spend any money for an excursion out of this port."

Of the few options that we read about, the only day trip that piqued our interest was traveling through the Simpson Valley to spend a couple of hours in Coyhaique. While NCL offered a 5 1/2 hour Coyhaique & Scenic Simpson Valley bus tour priced at $125 per person, our research pointed us in the direction of attempting a similar excursion on our own.

Arriving in Puerto Chacabuco, Chile

Our journey to required us to travel to shore via a tender boat followed by a short walk to the passenger terminal. There was printed literature about the area inside the terminal (mostly in Spanish), as well as some guides offering their services. From there, we caught one of the complimentary shuttle buses which dropped us off near three white domed buildings (reportedly a handicrafts market). Upon our arrival at the drop-off point, there were taxis available for those wanting to travel by car.



Using Public Transportation for Travel to Coyhaique

From the shuttle drop-off point, traveling to Coyhaique is a two step process in each direction. The journey starts with a short ride via a small bus / van to the town of Puerto Aysen. From there, a longer ride via coach takes passengers directly to the bus station in Coyhaique.

Bus Service from Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Aysen

Upon exiting the shuttle, we walked on the paved path to the left through the park area until we reached the main road, Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins (240). At the intersection, we turned right (away from the port) and continued walking along the road until we reached the "PARADAS" (bus stop) sign. The bus stop is easily found in front of a small blue shack on the right side of road. After a short wait, the bus (actually a mini-bus with a cardboard destination sign in the window which read "Aysen") arrived. The four of us piled in for a 15 minute ride to Puerto Aysen.


Bus Service from Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Aysen

Bus Service from Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Aysen

As we exited the bus, we paid our $500 CLP (less than $1.00 USD) per person fare.



Bus Service from Puerto Aysen to Coyhaique

Reaching the Ali Bus Station from the local bus drop-off point required a two block walk back in the direction from which we had come. After reviewing the posted bus timetable, we selected the next outbound journey scheduled for an 11:20 AM departure along with a 1:55 PM return. Fortunately we were able to communicate to the sales agent that we wanted to purchase round trip tickets for bus service to Coyhaique! After paying the $3,400 CLP per person fare (about $7.50 USD), we had tickets for our preferred times in hand.

We had a little time to see the town of Puerto Aysen prior to our scheduled bus departure. During our short walk in the city, I was excited to see one of the Monkey Puzzle Trees (aka Chile Pine) that we had heard about. The nickname "Monkey Puzzle" is apparently due to the difficulty that monkeys would encounter in an attempt to climb one of these trees. The prickly "leaves" are pointed and rigid (like needles) and grow in a spiral formation on very stiff branches.


Monkey Puzzle Tree

Monkey Puzzle Tree

Shorty after 11:00 AM, we boarded the bus for a one hour and ten minute ride along the Simpson River to Coyhaique. I had read a recommendation to sit on the left side of the bus when traveling outbound for the best waterfall view, so we chose seats that we thought were near the cleanest and best windows for photos. Little did we know that we actually had assigned seats! Fortunately, most others didn't seem to know that seating was assigned either, and when anyone questioned the driver about their reserved seats, he just directed them to sit in an open seat.



Scenery on the Journey from Puerto Aysen to Coyhaique

As the journey was direct, there was no time for stopping at any of the sights along the road. Other than a few very quick stops to either pick up or drop off passengers, the bus went directly to the bus station in Coyhaique. As we passed La Virgen, the best that we could do was to snap a quick photo of the water cascading over the cliff through the dirty bus window. (We later learned that those on NCL shore excursions made an actual stop at the waterfall. During their stop, those who wanted to had the opportunity to shoot clearer photos by getting off of the bus.)


La Virgen Waterfall

La Virgen Waterfall

Our ride continued along the Rio Simpson, across the Andes Mountains and through the beautiful Aysen district filled with canyons, rivers and valleys.


Canyons, Mountains and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region

Canyons, Mountains and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region

Exploring Coyhaique

After our arrival in Coyhaique, the region's capital, we walked through the main square to Plaza Mirador Rio Coyhaique. We enjoyed the beautiful view of Reserva Nacional Coyhaique (Coyhaique National Reserve).


View from Plaza Mirador Rio Coyhaique

View from Plaza Mirador Rio Coyhaique

As we had just under 1 1/2 hours in Coyhaique, we continued our walk through the town to Plaza del Pionero.


Plaza del Pionero

Plaza del Pionero

I continued a short distance further from the main square in an attempt to get a less obstructed view of the surrounding mountains.


View of Mountains surrounding Coyhaique

View of Mountains surrounding Coyhaique

Our leisurely walk back toward the main octagonally shaped square included a few comfort stops. Clean restrooms were available in the main square for a nominal fee, and there were plenty of places at which to buy water, soft drinks, snacks or even lunch. We met some fellow cruisers and during our short conversation we were able to confirm the itinerary of their NCL shore excursion. It was then nearing time for our return bus journey - a ride that we did not want to miss! (The next later scheduled bus to Puerto Aysen was too close of a call to ensure that we didn't miss the last tender.)



Return Journey from Coyhaique to Puerto Chacabuco

Since we now knew about the assigned seats, we decided to properly follow the rules. Although we were not seated on the reported "best" side of the bus, at least we had a slightly different view on our return.


Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region

Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region

Just like our outbound journey, our return from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen took just over one hour. As returning to the ship required another ride aboard the "mini bus", we located the bus stop and waited for just a few minutes before a bus pulled up and stopped. From our seat in the back row of the bus, we got a slightly better view of the President Ibanez Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in Chile.


President Ibanez Bridge

President Ibanez Bridge

Within about 15 minutes, we were back in Puerto Chacabuco, and after paying our fare ($500 CLP; less than $1.00 USD per person), we exited the bus. The four of us opted to walk (rather than ride the NCL shuttle) the short distance back to the port - or so we thought! Pedestrians are not allowed into the port administration area, so we hopped on a bus at the port entrance for about a one block ride to the passenger terminal. We could then complete our walk to the tender loading dock.



The "WE Did It!" Evaluation

For less than $10.00 USD per person, we were all pleased with our day's adventure. The buses were all comfortable (even the mini-bus from Puerto Chacabuco) and the route was identical to that of the NCL Coyhaique & Scenic Simpson Valley shore excursion. Although we now know that we would have a better waterfall picture had we taken the ship's excursion, the Wordy Explorers still can't justify the extra $115.00 USD (per person) for that photo!

Based on what we read and heard about Puerto Chacabuco plus the little that we saw, there is not a lot that will keep you occupied during a full day in port. Getting away from the port area will allow you to see some beautiful countryside including canyons, mountains, rivers and valleys. If you enjoy do it yourself adventures like we do, this is an easy and very inexpensive one - and it doesn't even require driving in a foreign country! Whether you choose to join a tour or explore on your own, escaping the port area to see more of the country's natural beauty is a day well spent in the opinion of The Wordy Explorers.



Tips for a DIY Port Day in Puerto Chacabuco

Here's a few tips to help make sure that you enjoy your day and get the most out of your time in Puerto Chacabuco:
  • Ensure that you have cash (Chilean Pesos) for your bus fares;
  • Confirm that your ship offers a free shuttle service from the passenger terminal. Although the walk is not very long (we did it on our return), taking the shuttle will most likely save you a little time and spare you an uphill walk. Every minute counts when relying on public transportation;
  • Follow instructions found in your cruise line's daily information source so that you can be among the first to disembark your ship (i.e. wait in a certain location, line up early for tender tickets, etc.);
  • Look for the bus stop (PARADAS) in front of a small blue shack on the right side of Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins (240). The stop is a short walk from the shuttle drop-off point in the opposite direction of the port;
  • The local bus traveling the Puerto Chacabuco-Puerto Aysen route reportedly runs every 15 minutes or so. If you see the bus headed to your destination ("Aysen" on outbound trip or "Chacabuco" on return) and you aren't quite at the stop, just flag it down. The bus regularly stopped for passengers not at an official stop;
  • Head straight for the bus station office immediately upon reaching Puerto Aysen so you can be sure to get a seat on the earliest departure. The Ali Bus Station (which we walked to) is just two blocks away from your drop-off point (towards Puerto Chacabuco). Although we didn't search for it, we read that there is also a competitor bus company Bus Suray located on the same street as the bridge;
  • Review the posted timetables for the Puerto Aysen-Coyhaique route to choose your departure times. When planning your schedule, make sure to allow enough time to walk to, wait for and ride both the bus back to Puerto Chacabuco and the shuttle bus back to the port;
  • Once you have selected your preferred times, join the line to purchase your round trip tickets. Buying round trip tickets will allow you to spend all of your time in Coyhaique enjoying the scenery, etc. You'll avoid waiting in another line and hoping that there is still availability for your preferred return time;
  • If your preference is to avoid traveling by bus you should also be able to find either taxicab or van service for the one hour drive to Coyhaique, albeit at a much higher price. Although many of the drivers will likely speak limited English, you can probably arrange for a private tour that can include stops at the bridge, waterfall, etc.;
  • Make sure to be on the lookout for a fish farm during either your sail in or sail out of Puerto Chacabuco. Fish farming is popular in the area, and as we were leaving the port, I caught a glimpse of one of the farms while sitting on our balcony.


    Fish Farm

    Fish Farm

Punta Arenas

If your cruise itinerary includes Punta Arenas as one of your ports of call, stop back again soon so that you don't miss our upcoming post titled A Three Hour DIY Tour of Punta Arenas. You will find some completely no cost ideas for what to see in this port city - all of which can be reached by the power of your own two feet. This post will also provide information on how to spend a part of your day on Magdalena Island with penguins!

Exploring a City That You've Never Visited

When you have a choice, which of the following do you prefer ... and why:
  • touring on your own to explore a city;
  • riding on a Hop-on Hop-off bus; or
  • joining a tour (either free or fee-based) to learn about the city?




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A DIY Day Trip from Puerto Chacabuco to the Canyons, Mountains, Rivers and Valleys of Chile's Aysen Region






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Created On 12/11/2018 04:21:39  
Updated On 12/12/2018 12:11:21
Scheduled On 12/11/2018 12:37:06
Posted On 12/17/2018 17:37:06
Last Editor Stacy
Location  Terminal de Buses Municipal de Coyhaique, Coyhaique, Ais~n, Chile
LinkId  PuertoChacabucoCoyhaique
StoryId  1544520099674





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