Carretera Austral (also known as Ruta CH-7) is one of the most spectacular and challenging drives in the world. The road, which is unpaved for over 70% of its length, runs through northwest Chilean Patagonia.
Due its unique location, and passing through remote areas, 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. The road, formerly known as Carretera General Augusto Pinochet, runs about 1,240 kilometers (770 mi) from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins through rural Patagonia, in Chile. Most of the road is unpaved, ranging from quite good quality to absolutely horrible. 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. This area 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.
Never underestimate this track! The highway opened to traffic in 1988. There is not much traffic on the Carretera Austral. 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.
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