Route 5 is Chile's longest route

Part of the Panamerican Highway, Ruta Nacional 5 is said to be Chile's longest route. It's a notoriously dangerous drive filled with deep valleys, steep drops, and desert.

Ruta Nacional 5

How long is Ruta Nacional 5 in Chile?

Chile Highway 5, or Route 5, is 3,337 km (2073 miles) long, running north-south from the Peruvian border near Arica (a port city in the northern part of the country) to Quellón (a port city in southern Chiloé Island). Four tunnels are part of Route 5: El Melón, La Calavera I, La Calavera II, and Angostura.

Is Ruta Nacional 5 in Chile dangerous?

Despite its relative modernity, the part of the Chile Highway 5 or Route 5 (known locally as Ruta 5) between Arica and Iquique is a notoriously dangerous drive. It’s a two-lane paved road with a speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), winding through deep valleys with steep drops, littered by the occasional vehicle carcass sitting eerily at the foot. The surrounding landscape is bare, almost vivid, and often void of any distinguishing characteristics. It would be easy to lose concentration, as the vehicle skeletons suggest many have, and plunge into one of the imposing voids on either side. Also, the frequent dense fog can reduce visibility to zero in a matter of seconds if losing your focus wasn’t easy enough.

How to drive Ruta Nacional 5 in Chile?

The surrounding landscape of the road, in Chile's Atacama Desert, is almost featureless, making concentration extremely difficult, and thick fog often descends on the road, dramatically reducing visibility in a matter of seconds. But the main danger factor here is the monotony: hundreds of miles through endless, empty lines leading to numerous accidents. On the gutters, there are small mausoleums in memory of those who gave their lives to the road. This long flat road with some steep drop-offs often catches speeding drivers unaware, resulting in many fatalities each year. The few times you can see cars and buses passing by, they were doing so at such a speed that you may think they are either tempting fate very foolishly or perhaps they are just ghosts whizzing past.

How remote is Ruta Nacional 5 in Chile?

The danger of this road is that with no surrounding civilization, speeds easily rise, and safety goes right out of the window. This road crosses the desert from north to south, with gas stations very few and far between. Strong winds are also an issue here; the area is known for gusts so strong they'll blow you off the road and throw you down a valley. The mono-hued and isolated scenery is well capable of endowing you with the capacity to have such visions, so concentrating and avoiding the use of any form of hallucinatory substance is essential here.