The scorched forests of the 1940s were more than just embellishments on Aisén’s landscape; their foliage softened the impact of heavy storms and impeded soil erosion. One effect of fire-fed devastation was to increase the Río Simpson’s sediment load and silt up Puerto Aisén’s harbor, forcing authorities to build new port facilities at Puerto Chacabuco, 14 kilometers west.
Now the region’s main maritime gateway, Puerto Chacabuco is also the departure point for excursions to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael  and a stopover on some voyages between Puerto Montt  and Laguna San Rafael.
Just 10 kilometers east of Puerto Chacabuco, Aiken del Sur is a private 250-hectare nature preserve and botanical garden, with several hiking trails at Lago Riesco’s south end. Owned by the same company as Catamaranes del Sur and Hotel Loberías del Sur, it’s most often visited as part of a hotel stay, including a midday lamb barbecue.
Just beyond the port, the so-so Hotel Moraleda (O’Higgins 82, tel. 067/351155, US$9.50 pp) is cheap but otherwise undistinguished.
With 60 rooms in three separate modules, Hotel Loberías del Sur (J.M. Carrera 50, tel. 067/351115, US$170 s or d with buffet breakfast) may be the region’s best pure hotel (as opposed to lodges and resorts). Everything runs like clockwork, including a first-rate restaurant, its own catamaran excursions to Laguna San Rafael, and its own private 250-hectare woodland nature reserve nearby. The rooms are spacious, with bay windows and king-sized beds; amenities include a gym and sauna, and lobby wireless Internet reaches some (but not all) of the rooms.
Buses shuttle frequently between Puerto Chacabuco and Coyhaique , 82 kilometers east via Ruta 240.
Both long-distance ferries and excursions to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael  leave from the Terminal de Transbordadores, part of the port complex. Navimag Ferries (tel. 067/351111, fax 067/351192, www.navimag.com ) operates passenger/vehicle ferries from Puerto Montt  to Puerto Chacabuco, with extensions to the national park.