Carretera Austral

Patagonia & Antarctica

Traveling the Carretera Austral is a unique opportunity to enjoy yourself observing landscapes and villages, trekking through the national parks, or rafting down the voluminous rivers. You can also relax in aspa surrounded by fjords and forests.

Current weather Puerto Montt

4.2ºC | Partly sunny

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.

This is divided into 5 sections from north to south:

  • Section 1- Puerto Montt-Chaitén
  • Section 2- Chaitén-La Junta
  • Section 3- La Junta-Coyhaique
  • Section 4- Coyhaique-Cochrane
  • Section 5- Cochrane-Villa O’Higgins

 

Know the experience of our visitors in Chile, through this video!​

 


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. It is accessible from Argentina via the Futaleufú Border Pass.


Lake Espolón and Lake Loncolao

Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and their reflections in the water. Visitors can choose from lodging and agro-tourism options.


Palena river

This place stands out for its beauty, fly fishing conditions, and for being an ideal place to go kayaking.


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 has some of the best local hiking trails.


Lake General Carrera

Chile’s largest lake astounds visitors with its turquoise waters and pristine natural surroundings. Highlights include the Capilla de Marmol Nature Sanctuary and local fishing lodges.


Exploradores Glacier

The spectacular route to our destination stretches from the town of Puerto Río Tranquilo on the western shore of Lake General Carrera to the entrance to the viewpoint of the Exploradores Glacier about 52 km east of there (2 and a half hours travel time). A 30-minute uphill walk through the woods offers incredible views of the glacier and Mount San Valentín, Patagonia’s highest peak (4058 m).


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 Carretera Austral.


Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is a very good option if you want to enjoy and explore the beautiful trails of Northern Patagonia. It is certainly a unique and fascinating experience.


Fly fishing

Patagonia’s many rivers and lakes make fly-fishing one of the main activities.


Rafting and Kayaking

Due to the number of rivers, lagoons, lakes, and glaciers found in Northern Patagonia, this is a favorite destination for rafting and kayaking lovers.


Trekking

This activity is an excellent choice if you want to discover unexplored places that can only be accessed on foot. Within the National Parks and Reserves, which abound in this area, you will find trails that will carry you away to enjoy natural landscapes that you will not see anywhere else in the world.


How to travel the Carretera Austral?

This incredible journey can be done by car, motorbike, or bicycle. If you are a bit more, it can be done on foot. Before starting this adventure, do not forget to read about the frequency and departure times of buses and barges, road conditions, the villages where you can stop, the climate, and food services and accommodations.


Proper Clothing

Make sure you are prepared for the cold, heat, and rain. Walking boots are essential, as well as waterproof gear, a coat, sunhat, wool hat, sun block, and mosquito repellent.


Mountain Paths

If you plan on taking the mountainous Carretera Austral, you will have to prepare well for it. The road is mostly unpaved, and its curves and turns mean that you will travel at an average speed of 40 to 50 km/h. Due to the road’s conditions; travel time is three times longer than on a paved highway. We strongly recommend using a 4×4.


When to travel?

The best time to visit Northern Patagonia is between December and March. Fall and winter are also beautiful, as the forests turn hues of red and the landscapes become snow-covered. We recommend that you check the highway and secondary road conditions and bring thermal and waterproof clothing.


Keep your tank full

If you decide to travel the Carretera Austral 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.


Futaleufú Border Pass

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.


Bring Cash

You will only find banks and ATMs in Coyhaique, Puerto Aysén, Chile Chico, and Cochrane, so be sure to carry cash with you at all times.

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