PAEX operates in the remote and little-visited Laguna de San Rafael National Park,
a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve that is home to some of the world's most spectacular glacial activity, as well as numerous endangered species.
All our expeditions begin and end in privately-owned, traditionally-maintained Patagonian ranches that abut the National Park. Because we hold the exclusive commercial concession to this area, you will not encounter other travelers during your time with PAEX.
Aysén and the Southern Highway
Aysén is Chile's least developed and least populated region, receiving fewer visitors than any other part of Patagonia despite its incredible scenic beauty. Transected by the Baker River, the most voluminous in Chile, and home to numerous National Parks and Reserves, including the future Patagonia National Park, Aysén is set to become an international ecotourism destination, but for now retains the character of an isolated and remote hinterland. It boasts a fascinating human history, with known inhabitation stretching back tens of thousands of years. The Carretera Austral, or Southern Highway, is the region's primary thoroughfare and one of the world's most beautiful drives. Aysén's bustling capital, Coyhaique, is home to the regional airport and the majority of the local population.
PAEX's Traditional Patagonian Ranches
Sol de Mayo Ranch
A 2,110 acre ranch at the top of the Colonia River Valley, Sol de Mayo functions as PAEX's base of operations. Its position on the shores of Lake Colonia grants it privileged access to the glaciers of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, and it is surrounded by rare old-growth Nothafagus forest that transitions into temperate rainforest, dotted with cypress and mañío. The ranch is straddled by the Claro and Colonia Rivers, and is home to sheep, horses, chickens, cats, and PAEX's beloved dogs. Sol de Mayo makes an excellent base for day hikes, and several beautiful overnight trips are at Sol's doorstep, including an ascent of nearby Mount Nani, which grants an unforgettable view of the valley and the ice field behind it.
The 1,480 acre Palomar Ranch is an extremely isolated outpost of human habitation, located at the top of the remote Soler River Valley. Surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, the Palomar is the launching point for almost all of our treks. Its the ideal place to see witness authentic Patagonian living. The Palomar offers unparalleled access to the Nef Glacier and the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, which are located just an hour or two above the ranch. The Palomar is where we rest up and enjoy simple, rustic, classic Patagonian accommodation before heading onto the ice the following day.
Laguna de San Rafael National Park
One of the world's most remote and least-visited national parks, San Rafael National Park receives a few thousand visitors per year, nearly all of whom glimpse the park only from a cruise ship on the Pacific Ocean. By comparison, Torres del Paine National Park receives over 250,000 visitors per year.
San Rafael is home to the 4200-square-kilometer Northern Patagonian Ice Field, as well as twenty-eight glaciers and extensive virgin forest. In 1979, the 4 million acre park was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, the highest level of conservation protection. It contains extensive sub-tropical and temperate rainforests, as well as iconic glaciers and glacial lagoons. Its flora and fauna include the critically endangered huemul deer, the Andean condor, pumas, cormorants, grebes, albatross, and Magellanic woodpeckers.