Southern Carretera Austral

1.100 km of adventure - explore the southern part of the Carretera Austral

After 20 years of building, the Carretera Austral was finally finished in 1996, so previously isolated areas could be developed. Ever since, this road has become a dream for many travelers. Until today it is no more than a narrow gravel road through the wilderness in many parts, yet it is priceless to the people of southern Chile. The 1.100 km long road begins in Puerto Montt and ends in the village of Caleta Tortel. There, the mighty Southern Ice Field makes a passing impossible. It is an unforgettable adventure to head down the famous Carretera Austral with your own rental car - and well planned with the right partner, it is safe and uncomplicated.

Our sample itinerary covers the southern part of the Carretera Austral. It can easily be combined with our sample itinerary on the northern Carretera Austral. This tour is intended for outdoor fans and hiking passionates as well as for all those who just do not want to see a city for a few days.

It’s best to plan your trip in Chile with your own rental vehicle in stages and to cover the long distances with domestic flights.

First, a few tips on trips with a rental car along the Carretera Austral:

Please drive very carefully on gravel, sand, or stones, and keep in mind that on gravel roads you can only go about half as fast as on asphalt. Also, make sure to fuel your rental car at every opportunity, because gas stations are few and far between in such a remote area. Please be sure to choose a suitable vehicle category for this route.

Please drive very carefully on gravel, sand, or stones, and keep in mind that on gravel roads you can only go about half as fast as on asphalt. Also, make sure to fuel your rental car at every opportunity, because gas stations are few and far between in such a remote area. Please be sure to choose a suitable vehicle category for this route.

The accommodations along the Carretera Austral range from simple campsites, hostels, and holiday homes to first class lodges at some places. The villages along the road are very small, so you never find the whole selection in one place. IMPORTANT: Book your accommodations on the Carretera Austral in advance since capacities are limited.

For this trip, be sure to pack a hiking map in addition to the road map. When entering a national park, you will be asked for the passport and to register yourself in the visitor’s list. Generally, an entrance fee is charged. The ranger will also ask you which trail you would like to hike, so they can send help in case you do not return in time. Many national parks only allow entrance until noon for security reasons. There are wild pumas living in the whole area covered by this tour. However, they generally avoid people. In case you should encounter one, please stay calm and create the impression to be a very large animal by staying close together and holding your backpacks over your head.

Sample Itinerary for a Rental Car Trip to the southern part of the Carretera Austral

  • Day 1

  • Day 2

  • Day 3

  • Day 4

  • Day 5

Balmaceda - Puerto Tanquilo

Pick up your rental car at the Balmaceda Airport. If you arrive with a late flight, we recommend heading north first, to spend one night in the nice town of Coyhaique. This way, you can take it easy and start you journey the next morning with plenty of time that day. If you arrive with an early flight, follow the signs to Ruta 7 / Carretera Austral from the airport and then go southwest on the Carretera Austral. Along the road, you will see sceneries of overwhelming beauty. Stop at the Cerro Castillo Nature Reserve to see the impressive prehistoric rock paintings of “Manos de Cerro Castillo”. They are about 10,000 years old.

The national park is named after the mountain „Cerro Castillo“, (“Castle Mountain”), named like that because of its many peaks that remind of the towers and battlements of a castle.

Later on, you will reach Lake General Carrera, the largest lake in Chile, where you will find a real artwork of nature that will leave you stunned, like for example the „Capilla de Marmol“ („Marble Chapel“). Time and the lake´s crystal clear water have formed the rock in an amazing way and created an incredible natural sculpture. A unique marble vault on slim pillars, akin to a cathedral. Locals offer trips on their small wooden boats to take a close look and you can as well go by kayak.

Overnight stay in Puerto Tranquilo or surroundings. Distance covered about 190 km, including 150 km on a gravel road.