Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa is located in the incomparable setting of the beautiful and solitary Aysén region in Chilean Patagonia. Aysén sits in the northwestern area of Patagonia and its borders are: to the north, the Los Lagos region; to the east, Argentina; to the south, the Magallanes region and Chilean Antarctica; to the west, the Pacific Ocean.
The Aysén region has a population of approximately 91 thousand inhabitants, a surface area of 109 thousand km2 and a population density of 0.8 inhabitants per km2. Fifty percent of the population is concentrated in the city of Coyhaique.
The hilly geography of the Aysén region turns it into one of the most beautiful places in Chile and even on the planet, enchanting with unique natural sights, where you can appreciate the effects of tectonic movements, volcanism and glaciations which gave rise to islands, channels, fjords, ice fields, snowdrifts, and mountain ranges.
The Aysén region also offers magnificent lakes, like Palena, Rosselot, Risopatrón, Yulton, Elizalde, General Carrera, Cochrane, and O´Higgins. Among its rivers are Palena, Cisnes, Mañihuales, and Aysén, as well as the famous Baker River, the largest river in terms of water volume in Chile, which has excellent fishing opportunities and numerous rapids apt for rafting that are currently being threatened by the projects for construction of various hydroelectric dams.
The region is extremely rich in tourist attractions of singular beauty; a short list of which includes: San Rafael Lagoon National Park and Queulat National Park, the National Monument Las Manos (The Hands) of Cerro Castillo, the impressive Marble Caves Nature Sanctuary, the Northern Ice Field, the National Reserves Río Castillo and Río Simpson, and the scenic Carretera Austral (Southern Highway).
HISTORY OF AYSÉN
Throughout time, various meanings have been given for the word Aysén. According to old seafarers it meant “Ice End”. However, the first name in historic records was “Tierras de Diciembre” which means “Lands of December”, as noted in 1520 in the journal of discoverer Ferdinand Magellan. He passed by in the month of December and from his ship, at precisely 48° latitude south, he sighted the broken coastline with tall hills. The ship’s scribe, Antonio Pigaffeta, called the natives “Patagones” due to the fact that their height reminded him of the giant Patagónfrom the Spanish novel of chivalry Primaleón, and by extension the region became known as Patagonia. Later on, during the Spanish colony, it was named “Trapananda”, or “Tierra que está muy lejos”, which mean “far away land”.
Despite its isolation, climate and inhospitable conditions, the region was populated for thousands of years by different indigenous tribes who were nomads and lived from hunting, fishing, and harvesting. The Chonos, Alacalufes (Kaweshkars), and Yamanas (Yaganes) were canoers, and the Onas (Selk’nam) and Tehuelches were hunters.
However, it was only in 1870, with Chile then independent, that the government commissioned Admiral Enrique Simpson to explore the extreme south of the country. In four successive journeys, he travelled the Guaitecas Archipelago and explored the river Aysén, the Taitao Peninsula, the river Huemules, the Moraleda Channel as far as the Laguna San Rafael (San Rafael Lagoon), the Ofqui Isthmus, the Río Cisnes estuary, and the river Queulat. During these journeys he named many geographical points, drew up maps, made observations about the flora, fauna, and climatic conditions, and also confirmed the gradual extinction of the Chonos.
Colonization and development in the Aysén region
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Aysén was a virgin land with no significant population, and practically the only visitors, apart from the scientific expeditions, were natives of Chiloé who came to extract wood. Various border conflicts between Chile and Argentina brought both countries to define territorial limits, and the need to colonize and develop Patagonia became clear. So, between 1900 and 1904, the Chilean government granted fiscal concessions to various farming companies, hoping that these would stimulate colonization of Chileans and foreigners, and commercialize their farming products across the Pacific Ocean.
In the early years, there was a strong dependency on Argentina. The region’s isolation and lack of services, infrastructure, and road network made contact with the more developed Patagonian populations from Argentina more convenient as they were blessed with facilities and ports that allowed access to the Atlantic market. Communication and contact with Argentina continued to be habitual for many decades, due to the isolation of these lands and the lack of investment by the Chilean government.
On 28th January 1928 Puerto Aysén was founded, but only in the 1930s did the state consolidate services and start an incentive program for colonization. As of then, Aysén fully became Chilean territory. In the 1940s, laws were declared that incentivized economic development of the region and the arrival of new colonies.
In this very era, with the procurement of farming lands, fire grazing was used to remove vegetation, provoking great fires that lasted for many years and destroyed 2.5 million hectares of native woodland, the equivalent of a quarter of the total surface area of the region. In the present day, large stretches of burnt land are silent testimony to the fire’s savagery.
In 1976 the regional capital was moved to Coyhaique, and in the 1980s the weak economy recovered with fishing and salmon industries that were set up in the area, making the most of the cleanliness of the water of its coasts and the abundance of bays and fjords naturally sheltered from the wind and waves.Without a doubt, an important source of development for the region is its enormous touristic potential. Its exceptional scenery is brought together with positive citizen safety rates, scarce delinquency, and the inexistence of environmental contamination. To this, it can be added that the region possesses protected natural areas that represent 53% of its surface area, among which areas of incomparable beauty can be found.