When an unknown volcano decided to wake up on May 2, 2008, this quiet village underwent a total siege. Locals were able to evacuate, but suffered years of uncertainty as the government formed a response. Residents resisted the initial government decision to move the town 10km north, in the coastal enclave of Santa Bárbara, and have rebuilt their shingled town with pride.
The Futaleufú's wild, frosty-mint waters have made this modest mountain town famous. Not just a mecca for kayaking and rafting, it also boasts fly-fishing, hiking and horseback riding. Improved roads and growing numbers of package-tour visitors mean it isn't off the map anymore – just note the ratio of down puffs to woolen mantas. That said, it's still a fun place to be.
Verdant and pristine, this 2889-sq-km park encompasses vast extensions of temperate rainforest, clear rivers, seascapes and farmland. A remarkable forest-conservation effort, stretching from near Hornopirén to south of Chaitén, Parque Pumalín attracts international visitors in great numbers.
Tucked into the Jurassic scenery of overgrown ferns and nalca plants, this quaint seaside village is the gateway to Parque Nacional Queulat and Termas de Puyuhuapi, a prestigious hot-springs resort. In 1935 four German immigrants settled here, inspired by explorer Hans Steffen's adventures.
The last stop on the Carretera Austral, this mythic village is alluring in its isolation. First settled by the English (1914–16), the outpost attracted few Chileans – the road didn't arrive until 1999. The spectacular surroundings can be explored on horseback or foot, and there's world-class fishing.
Valle Chacabuco (Parque Nacional Patagonia)
Eighteen kilometers north of Cochrane, this reformed estancia (grazing ranch) is home to flamingo, guanaco, huemul (endangered Andean deer), puma, viscacha and fox. Conservacion Patagonica, the NGO behind the Patagonia National Park project, began this initiative in 2004.
Puerto Río Tranquilo
A village of shingled houses on the windy western shores of Lago General Carrera, Puerto Río Tranquilo is a humble pit stop in a growth spurt. For many travelers, it's just a fuel stop, but growing outdoor opportunities have put it on the map. It's the closest access point to Capilla de Marmol's cool marble caves.
Few take advantage of the lush surroundings of this salmon-farming and transport hub. If the ferry is full, you may spend more time here than originally planned. The Ruta Bi-Modal ferry links the roadless northern section of Parque Pumalín to Caleta Gonzalo, where the road continues south.
On the bank of the ultramarine blue Lago Bertrand below the snow-covered San Valentín and Campo de Hielo Norte, Puerto Bertrand is a show of contrasts. Weathered shingle homes overgrown with rose blossoms and high-end fishing lodges share the space of this humble stop. Bertrand occupies the southeast shore of the lake, situated 11km south of Cruce el Maitén.
With the slow feel of a Rocky Mountain backwater, La Junta is a former estancia (grazing ranch) that formed a crossroads for ranchers headed to market. Midway between Chaitén and Coyhaique, it's also an important transfer point for north–south connections, with solid lodging options.