Driving the Chilean Carretera Austral is a lifetime adventure
Carretera Austral is one of the most spectacular and challenging drives in the world. Running through the northwestern part of the Chilean Patagonia, it’s a lifetime adventure for anybody.
Where does Carretera Austral start and end?
The winding road, formerly known as Carretera General Augusto Pinochet, is 1.240km (770 miles) long, running north-south from Puerto Montt ((in the Chilean Lakes District) to Villa O'Higgins (in the Aysén region), through the northern stretch of Chilean Patagonia. Due its unique location, and passing through remote areas (among the least inhabited in Chile), it is important when driving in these conditions to be prepared. Along the whole path it is possible to find an incredible variety of mountains, lakes, glaciers and woods that make this land one of the World's wonders.
Is Carretera Austral in Chile paved?
Most of the road (70%) is unpaved, ranging from quite good quality to absolutely horrible: be prepared for a bumpy drive. If you are driving, you will not need a 4WD but your car will be suffering. You will probably have to take a ferry or two to get in or travel along the road. The Carretera Austral area is pretty wild, with often wild weather extremes. It is characterized by thick forests, fjords, glaciers, canals and steep mountains. It has endless stretches of empty dirt roads surrounded by forests, mountains, glaciers and lakes, with scenic villages, free campsites and hot springs along the way.
When is the best time of the year to visit Carretera Austral in Chile?
Tucked away in the south-austral area of the country, never underestimate this road, also known as Ruta CH-7. The highway opened to traffic in 1988. There is not much traffic on the road. The road conditions usually don't allow driving at too high speed. However, some people still drive quite fast (usually locals). Passing cars will create clouds of dust, which can be from annoying to dangerous if you are biking or hitchhiking. The best time to visit the Carretera Austral is between November and April.