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Carretera Austral

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A Scenic Route through Patagonia


You can explore the Carretera Austral by car or bike. Though most of the trip involves gravel, winding curves and unpredictable weather, the rewards are enormous. It's no exaggeration to say that each kilometer offers picture-perfect vistas. The highway stretches a total of 200 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins, with plenty of forests, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, fjords, mountains and glaciers along the way.

Raft the fast-flowing Futaleufú River, named one of the three best destinations in the world for this sport. Snap pictures of the impressive hanging glacier at Queulat National Park. Trek to Cerro Castillo (2,320 m), an oddly-shaped hill that resembles a castle of rock and ice. Sail Lake General Carrera, where the water has etched cavities and caves out of the marble that surrounds it. Go fly-fishing on the Baker River, the fastest flowing in Chile. Or simply drive to the end of the highway and enjoy the landscapes of Villa O'Higgins.

It doesn't matter how many times you visit – the Southern Highway always has new surprises in store.

Pull Quotes:
The Southern Highway offers access to the most important landmarks in Northern Patagonia, including Pumalín Park, Puyuhuapi, Queulat National Park, Coyhaique, Futaleufú and Palena. This route is definitely worth a visit, be it by car or on bike.

Pumalín Park: This private reserve features marked trails and a number of lodging options. To get to the northern sector, you'll have to travel by kayak or other watercraft and navigate the fjords. Agencies organize land tours and excursions through the southern section of the park.

Puyuhuapi: This beautiful cove on the Aysén Fjord is a point of departure for visits to Queulat National Park and offers views of the hanging glacier. Visitors also will find lodging, luxury hot springs, fishing, trekking and horseback rides here.

Queulat National Park: A favorite destination for nature photographers and tourists thanks to its accessibility and scenic beauty.

Futaleufú: This river is world-famous for its excellent rafting conditions, especially the Class 5 rapids in Cañon del Infierno. It's also home to Valle de los Reyes, which is perfect for fly-fishing. Accessible from Argentina via the Futaleufú Border Pass.

Lake Espolón and Lake Loncolao: Enjoy spectacular views of the mountain and their reflections in the water. Visitors can choose from lodging and agro-tourism options.

San Rafael Lagoon: Thousands of tourists visit this World Biosphere Reserve and the imposing San Rafael Glacier each year.

Cerro Castillo: The unique shape and beauty of this hill make it one of the most iconic and eye-catching mountains in the area. It also is home to some of the best local hiking trails.

Lake General Carrera: Chile's largest lake wows visitors with its turquoise waters and pristine natural surroundings. Highlights include the Capilla de Marmól Nature Sanctuary and local fishing lodges.

Baker River: Chile's largest river is known to be one of the best fly-fishing destinations around. Visitors can choose from several local fishing lodges.

Caleta Tortel: This small coastal village located at the mouth of Chile's largest river features wooden walkways (made of cypress from Guaitecas) instead of streets. It's also known for the wooden houses that sit on stilts above the water, an architectural style known as "palafitos" that is also typical of Chiloé.

Villa O'Higgins: This is the point of entry to the Southern Ice Fields and marks the end of the Southern Highway.


Featured Destinations of Northern Patagonia

aCarretera Austral
bIce Fields
cCoyhaique

 

Tours you can do

San Rafael Lagoon
Palena - Queulat
Pumalín - Futaleufú Cerro Castillo National Reserve
Villa O'Higgins -Tortel General Carrera Lake and Baker River
Exploradores Glacier

 

Getting There

en avion
By Plane
Flights depart Santiago daily for Balmaceda Airport (3h), which is located 55 kilometers southeast of Coyhaique. There are also flights from Concepción, Temuco, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas.
en auto
By Car
The Chilean route begins in Puerto Montt and involves several ferry crossings. You can also take Route 40 from Argentina, crossing over at Futaleufú, Coyhaique Alto, Paso Huemules (Balmaceda) or Chile Chico.
barco
By Boat
Boats depart Puerto Montt for Puerto Chacabuco, the main port in Aysén, 82 kilometers from Coyhaique. The trip takes 24 hours, and the boats are equipped to carry passengers and vehicles. Some companies offer a Puerto Montt-Laguna San Rafael-Puerto Chacabuco route.

 

Tips

01

Mountain Road Take Your Time Futaleufú Border Pass
La Carretera Austral es considerada un camino de montaña. En promedio tiene cinco metros de ancho, muchas curvas y apenas unos 200 km pavimentados. La velocidad promedio es entre 40 y 50 km/h. Es importante programar las horas de viaje, ya que en ripio los tiempos se triplican en comparación con una carretera pavimentada. Due to the complex geography between Puerto Montt and Chaitén, certain stretches of the Carretera Austral involve ferry crossings. Many prefer to go through Argentina and cross into Chile at the Futaleufú Border Pass before continuing south.

02

Bring Cash Stay on F
You will only find banks and ATMs in Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén, Chile Chico and Cochrane, so be sure to carry cash. If you decide to travel the Southern Highway by car, fill up your tank whenever you can. You’ll find gas stations in Coyhaique, La Junta, Puyuhuapi, Puerto Río Tranquilo, Chile Chico and Cochrane.

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