Meandering its way through dense forests, spurting volcanoes, snowcapped mountains, stunning glacial lakes and foggy fjords is the 1,240 kilometer-long Carretera Austral – Chile’s most incredible and adventurous road trip that runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. Don’t be fooled by the term ‘Southern Highway,’ the route is not well-paved and will include numerous ferry crossings, which adds to the beauty of it!
Begin your epic journey here, albeit not traveling for long until you reach the Alerce Andino National Park where you can walk among the ancient alerce trees that are thought to be between 1,000 and 4,200 years old. Among the forest keep a look out for pudú, pumas, vizcachas, condors and black woodpeckers. Once you have left the park you will see your first fjord, the Reloncaví Estuary and when you reach Cochamó you’ll be able to see the Yate Volcano to one side of the Estuary and the Calbuco Volcano the other.
Anglers frequent the beautiful Yelcho Lake due to its great fly-fishing, there are also a handful of lodges and hotels along the banks which provide a room with a spectacular view. Thrill-seekers should go white-water rafting down the renowned Futaleufú rapids, while east of Futaleufú is where you will find the border with Argentina, for those wanting to reach El Bolsón or Bariloche.
The Termas de Puyuhuapi shouldn’t be missed, with 40 degrees Celsius pools. If you’re looking for a treat the Hotel Termas de Puyuhuapi is a fantastic hotel, with an inspired menu and enticing thermal baths. From here you can visit the expansive Parque Nacional Queulat that stretches over 154,093 hectares. The hikes are spectacular, roaming through the forests towards the famed Queulat hanging glacier.
Founded in 1929, Coyhaique is a great base for those that fancy skiing, fishing or hiking. Embark on a trek through the forests of the Reserva Nacional Coyhaique where you can enjoy a multi-day hike and either camp or stay in rustic refugios. Keen anglers can enjoy an abundance of brown and rainbow trout fishing at both Atrevesado and Elizalde lakes, or further south in the Castor, Frío and Pollux lakes. The quaint ski resort of El Fraile has five pistes and two lifts for those looking for a day’s skiing in Chile.
Villa Cerro Castillo
Hikers and climbers must stop here, the majestic pinnacles of the snowcapped mountains offer great scenery and the Cerro Castillo National Reserve spans a massive 179,550 hectares, providing bountiful hikes and climbs. The Cerro Castillo trail can take between 4-5 days covering 45 kilometers through thick forest, offering fantastic views of the cordillera and surrounding valleys.
Puerto Río Tranquilo
Hop on a boat or kayak over the sensational azure blue lake of General Carrera towards the marvellous marble caves. These grottos are extremely photogenic, with their artistic swirls created by over 6,000 years of waves washing up against the calcium carbonate. Another trip from here that shouldn’t be missed is the glacier tour of Laguna San Rafael National Park – with your crampons, enjoy a jaunt over the glimmering glacier and into the magnificent glacial cave.
This quaint and quirky village is connected by passages of creaky timber bridges, its unique style has made it a national monument as well as its popularity among anglers as a fishing village. Sat on the creamy green waters, the place oozes character, as do the locals.
The end of the road is at Villa O’Higgins, a town surrounded by jagged mountains, looming glaciers and wide fjords. You can visit the world famous O’Higgins Glacier, the lake underneath is a stunning turquoise, thanks to the glacial waters. Enjoy the abundance of hikes in this area where you will be able to appreciate the stunning Northern Patagonian scenery.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.