If you’re looking for one of the best road trips in the world, The Carretera Austral won’t disappoint. Still untouched by mass tourism, You’ll find yourself amazing once again how beautiful the world is.
The Carretera Austral is a nickname for Chile’s Route 7, a highway that beginnings in Puerto Montt and travels 1240 KM all the way down to Villa O’Higgins. In between, you’ll find a land filled with evergreen forest, fjords, ice fields, lakes and snow-tipped mountains that will leave you breathless.
A large part of the highway is still a dirt and gravel road which forces you to drive at a slower pace and let me be the first to tell you that you are not going to mind. Being mostly dirt road, time definitely needs to be on your side. Most recommend a minimum 15 days if you want to drive the complete Carretera one way but you can easily spend a whole month exploring this region.
Emergency services don’t exist, so if you do break down, you can only depend on yourself and your fellow motorists; if you see someone in trouble, stop and help.
Here are some of the stops we totally recommend you visit
If your an adventure seeker, you must stop here and try white-water rafting or kayaking. This river is constantly named as one of the best destinations for these sports with numerous Class IV and V runs.
Parque Nacional Queulat
Wedged between craggy mountains, you’re just a short hike away from one the most visited spots in the park, Ventisquero Colgante, the park’s hanging glacier.
This is a must stop because of your halfway through the journey. This capital city is filled with restaurants and just outside you’ll find some of the best fly fishing in the region.
If you want to get up close and personal with a glacier then this detour is for you. Take a tour to visit to visit San Rafael National Park and it’s glacier.
Cerro Castillo National Reserve
Castillo means castle in Spanish, and the steep basalt walls of the mountain indeed make it look like one. On its sides are a few small glaciers and lakes fed by them. Castillo is more famous with mountaineers than hikers. So it’s best to look at the mountain from a distance, which you have plenty of viewpoints to check this beauty out.
Jeinemeni National Reserve
Just outside Chile Chico, an amazing town with its own microclimate and lagoons is this national reserve that’s worth the day to visit. Jeinimeni National Reserve is the 4th largest reserve in Chile and has one of the largest varieties of landscapes in the country. You can camp out if you want to connect more with earth, take a canoe out on the lake, or hike the historical trail and learn about the nomadic people of the region.
Cochrane is a must-stop destination along the Carretera Austral for several reasons. It’s close to the Patagonia National Park, and Tamango National Reserve. Finally, if you’re into fishing, Lake Cochrane is a place you don’t want to miss. It’s also a great place to stop and refuel your tanks, the next stop is quite a distance.
Another beautiful fishing destination in the heart of the two Patagonian Icefields.
Villa O Higgins
The approach to Villa O’Higgins is nothing short of spectacular: narrow, sharp bends, and a bumpy road that must be driven with a lot of precaution. Once you reach Puerto Yungay, you must cross over via ferry and then travel another 100km before reaching Villa O’Higgins and the end of the Carretera Austral.