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Carretera Austral, Selfdrive in the Highway

8 days / 7 nights Code: AIS001

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Places you will see

The Ruta Austral is a scenic mountain road starting in Puerto Montt and ending 1240 kilometers /770 miles south in Villa O’Higgins at the foot hill of the Southern Ice Fields, visiting, lakes, rivers, milenary black forest, glaciers and volcanos.




The “Carretera Austral” (Southern Highway) is a scenic mountain road starting in Puerto Montt and ending 1240 kilometres / 770 miles south in Villa O’Higgins at the foot hill of the Southern Ice Fields. The enormous task of designing and constructing the “CarreteraAutral” started with the explorations and studies of geographer Hans Steffen at the end of the 19th century. Later, in the 1930’s, Augusto Grosse continued with the explorations that were finally completed by the engineer Antonio Horvath between 1976 and 1986. The construction of most of the route was done between 1976 and 1988.

Between Puerto Montt and Chaitén (107 miles), the road includes two ferries, a short one over the Reloncaví sound and a longer one, 5 hours, from Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo. The section between Chaitén and Coyhaique (169 miles), was open to vehicles in 1982, overcoming the belief that it was almost impossible to build an overland road in central Chilean Patagonia.

Day 01: Puerto Montt - Hornopiren - Caleta Gonzalo

Early departure from Puerto Montt to start the tour of the first stretch of the Carretera Austral consisting of 3 ferry crossings. It suggests bring some food in travel. The itinerary is as follows:

7:00 to 8:00: Puerto Montt - Caleta La Arena: 46 km paved and gravel roads.

8:00 to 9:30: Wait and crossing Caleta La Arena - Caleta Puelche: 40 minutes ferry (crossing Reloncavi Sound)

9:30 to 10:00: Caleta Puelche - Hornopirén: 45 km of gravel.

10:00: Presentation Hornopirén.

10:30 to 14:30: Hornopirén - Leptepu - Mailén Ferry (navigation Fjord Leptepu)

14:30 to 14:30: Leptepu - Fjord Length: 10 km of gravel.

15:30 -16:00: Long Fjord - Caleta Gonzalo - Tehuelche ferry (crossing Reloncaví Sound)

The ferry from La Arena Puelche is without reserve, crosses the order of arrival and its value is approximately CLP$10,000.- per vehicle .- (U.S. $ 22 .-) and is paid on board (not included in the value).

The ferries from Hornopirén to Leptepu and from Long Fjord to Caleta Gonzalo are with reservation and pre-paid (including in the value).

Accommodation in cabins Caleta Gonzalo.

Duration: 9 hours.

Day 02: Caleta Gonzalo - Futaleufú (B)

In the morning visit of Pumalín Park and area surrounding the volcano.

Pumalín Park: In 1991, North American Douglas Tompkins, a long time visitor to Chile since 1961, bought the Reñihué Ranch with the idea to set aside 42,000 acres of evergreen temperate rain forest from possible exploitation. In the intervening years The Conservation Land Trust has added another 700,000 acres in nearly contiguous parcels to comprise the Pumalin Park. These properties are destined to become a Nature Sanctuary, a special designation of the Chilean State, granting it additional environmental and non developmental protection.

Trip to Futaleufú after lunch.

Lodging in Futaleufú.

Distance: 213 Km. gravel.

Duration: 4 hours trip.

Day 03: Futaleufú – La Junta (B)

Free morning in Futaleufu to take some of the excursions offered in town: hikes, horseback rides, floating, rafting, etc.

In the afternoon, drive back to the Carretera Austral and continuation to La Junta.

Lodging at La Junta.

Distance: 146 Km. gravel.

Duration: 3 hours trip.

Day 04: La Junta - Puerto Marín Balmaceda (B,D)

Optional: Half day excursion offered by the hotel: hikes, horse rides, navigation, cataraft.

Lunch and drive to Puerto Marin Balmaceda – before reaching the small village one must cross the Palena river on a ferry, ferry works until 7 p.m. After that it is not possible to get to the hotel.

Lodging in Puerto Marin Balmaceda.

Distance: 72 Km. gravel.

Duration: 2 hours trip.

Day 05: Puerto Marin Balmaceda –Queulat National Park (B,D)

Optional: Excursions offered by the hotel.

We suggest having lunch in Puerto Marin and afterwards departure south toward the Queulat National Park, stopping in the Puyuhuapi Village for a short village.

Afterwards drive 30 km south to the Queulat Fjord, and if weather is good we suggest to stop for a few minutes at the Ventisquero Colgante to admire the view – self guided trails can be done on day 8.

Dinner and lodging at the Posada Queulat Lodge.

Distance: 146 Km. gravel.

Duration: 2 hours trip.

Day 06: Queulat National Park (B,L,D)

The Queulat National Park is a wild and pristine territory where the temperate rainforest is topped with the glaciers and ice fields of the Austral Andes and complemented with the rich bio diversity of the fjords and channels of the Austral Pacific. Before being a park this land was never inhabited by anyone or any road or path ever crossed it, it is the only national park in Chile with unexplored territory that can be reached by car. It is the forest mentioned by Nobel price Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, in his memoirs.

Two half day excursions:

- Hike into the coastal temperate rain forest.

- Navigation on the fjord or sea kayak.

Lodging at the Posada Queulat Lodge.

Day 07: Queulat National Park– Coyhaique (B,L)

In the morning we suggest to do some of the self-guided trail in the Queulat National Park:

- Hike on the trail Sendero Morrena (beautiful view of the Hanging Glacier) – 3 hours

- Hike on the trail Sendero Laguna Ventisquero (possible navigation on the Ventisquero Lagoon) – 1 hour

- Hike on the trail Sendero Bosque Encantado – 3 hours

Back to the lodge for lunch. Drive south to Coyhaique

Lodging in Coyhaique.

Distance: 202 km. gravel.

Duration: 3:30 hours trip.

Day 08: Coyhaique – Balmaceda (B)

Coyhaique “koikaikek”, which probably means in Tehuelche “camp near the water”, is the main city and the capital of the Aisén region and has a population of a little bit more than 43.000 people. The city was founded October 12th, 1929 in a beautiful valley at the junction of two rivers: the Coyhaique and the Simpson, at the foot hill of the Divisadero Range. At the beginning Coyhaique provided the basic services for the first settlers and the Sociedad Industrial de Aisén, SIA, which had its administration buildings since 1906 by the Coyhaique river. The town hall was created in 1948 and in 1974 the town becomes capital of the region. The town is situated to the east of the high summit of the Andes and more specifically in the intermediate zone between the mountains and the pampas (Patagonian steppe).Towards the west, high mountain tops rise covered with glaciers and beautiful Coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi) and Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) forests grow on their steep slopes. Towards the east the landscape becomes much softer with lower hills covered with Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica) forests disappearing definitively toward the pampas. You don't need to go far in Coyhaique to surround yourself in wilderness. The Coyhaique National Reserve is just less than 3km (2 miles) from town and has an area of approximately 8.700 acres. It is a great place for a walks through native forest or a hike to the spectacular lookout point with views of the city of Coyhaique, the MacKay Mountain and the Divisadero Range.

Departure toward Balmaceda for the drop off of the car and to board the flight to Santiago, Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas.

Distance: 55 km. gravel and pavement.

Duration: 45 minutes trip.


• 7 nights lodging.
• Meals and excursions as indicated (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)
• 8 days car rental with CDW insurance – pick up in Puerto Montt, drop off in Balmaceda or minivan whith guide, according to election.
Does not include:
• Meals and excursions not indicated in program.
• Wine with meals.
• Insurance deductible fees and all expenses related to car rental.
• Park entrances, guide and travel insurance.
• Personal expenses and tips.
• Personal expenditures and tips.
• Flights and boarding taxes.
2) The ferry schedule between Puerto Montt and Chaitén is not known until October-November. During high season it is also possible to cross from Chiloé to Chaitén. Ferries sometimes have delays or do not run on schedule without previous notice.In which case all additional expenses are on passengers.
3) This program can be modified depending on the passengers’ interests and to acomodate activities in other areas.

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