Road Trip in Chile – 5 Unmissable Stops in Carretera Austral

Patagonia Travel Chile Travel Posted on 10/12/2018

Are you planning a road trip through Carretera Austral in Chile? Then you have chosen wisely! Route 5 or Carretera Austral has all the makings that are guaranteed to make your road trip an unforgettable one. Why wouldn’t it be?

Updated to November 2023

1. How does a road trip in Carretera Austral in Chile look like?

The Southern Highway is a stretch of 620-mile winding road that passes through some spectacular sights. We are talking about everything from dense forests, winding rivers, steep hills, and frozen glaciers to snowy peaks. 

Carretera Austral also looks like this:

  • It is a road that runs south through Southern Chilean Patagonia. 
  • It is an unpaved road that helps connect to other roads by ferry and passes through abundant moderate rainforests and skirts fjords.
  • It is surrounded by hanging glaciers.
  • It begins where Chile’s Lakes District ends and then leads its way into a land of snow-tipped mountains, swift-flowing rivers, and dense forests.
  • This road, to date, is Chile’s most challenging road trip.
  • While some parts of it are properly paved, most of the highway is still full of gravel and dirt so you will probably be hitting a lot of potholes while you are on the road.
carretera austral road trip

2. Nothing like the freedom of an open road

When talking about Carretera Austral, you can’t simply miss out on the fact that some of the most exciting and thrilling road trips can be made along this road. People generally say that there is nothing quite like the freedom an open road gives you but in the words of most travelers, There is nothing like the freedom of the Carretera Austral.

As it follows the Southern Highway, you get to see the most breathtaking fjords and lakes, and then it climbs over the magnificent peaks, which itself is a truly unforgettable experience.

carretera austral road trip

3. Road trip in Chile: Are there any crucial pit stops? 

The Carretera Austral road trip begins from Puerto Montt and winds up in the Villa of Higgins. In between these two ends, you might have to make a few pit stops. 

Albeit, you love nature as much as we do, these pit stops may be triggered by a need to admire the land rather than refuel your engines.

We know that you’d love to explore the land on your own. That is the most exciting part of this adventure trip. 

However, keep an eye out for these breathtaking sights on the Carretera Austral road trip.

A view of Queulat Glacier in Carretera Austral.

4. Road trip highlights of Carretera Austral, Chile

The Perfect Start – Puerto Montt

Your journey will begin by crossing one of the oldest forests (Alerce Andino National Park) in Chile.

Here you will get to meet the ancient trees (almost 4000 years old) and hear the whispers of this enchanting forest. Bird watchers may be able to identify some exotic creatures fluttering around the branches.

Next, a little down the road you will behold the first fjord named, Reloncavi Estuary which is soon followed by the Yate Volcano.

Parks Galore – Parque Nacional Queulat

Your next stop in your Carretera Austral road trip could be the Parque Nacional Queulat. If you are up for a hike, then head on to witness a natural phenomenon. The park features a hanging glacier.

This jaw-dropping glacier is hanging between two snow-capped mountains. It then gradually converts into a waterfall that drops into the Ventisquero lagoon.

Vital Sights – Villa Cerro Castillo and Lago Carrera

Next up, the second largest lake in South America, Lago Carrera is sure to stop you in your tracks. We suggest you walk on the suspension bridge named, Puente General Carrera to see the tranquil waters flowing below.

Driving further on, you will start noticing the Cerro Castillo rising in the distance. This next stop will give you a chance to ski on the icy slopes or dive into calm waters.

Purely Carved – Puerto Río Tranquilo

Interested in visiting the Marble Cathedral?

Puerto Río Tranquilo is a small fishing town that is a ferry ride away from nature’s pristine sculpture. The Marble Caves are a series of caverns and one of them is called the Capilla de Mármol. They open up to cerulean marble-walled caves that have silence echoing through them.

Enjoy Carretera Austral amazing woods!

The End – Villa O’Higgins

This isolated town is your last sight of Northern Patagonia. The most attractive feature of this land is that it is still hidden among the snowy mountains. Not many reach this far on the trip as they run out of gas or get lured into staying in and flying out of accessible areas like Chalten or Coyhaique.

Are you ready to drive through this trail of terrific sights?

We hope so!

If you want to enjoy the Carretera Austral road trip or travel to other destinations in Chile, you can schedule a free video call with one of our travel agents. 

Questions? Write to Us