Chile – Carretera Austral
So far, we’ve had a couple of beautiful highlights along the Argentinian East coast and Patagonia, but the roads in between haven’t exactly been… well, the most mind-blowing ever… All that was supposed to change on the Carretera Austral, a 1550 km road connecting most Chilean villages in between Puerto Montt in the South and Villa O’Higgins in the North, ordered for construction by Pinochet about 20 years ago.
It promised us snowcapped mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, fjords, National Parks with an abundant flora and really gentle people. Did it deliver? Oh boy, yes it did!
What did we like along the Carretera Austral?
- The sceneries: The Carretera is nothing less but one panoramic view after the other, an absolutely stunning mixture of (rain)forest, light blue waters as far as the eyes can see and big ass peaks only disrupted by one track whirling its way through the vast nature. Most of the Carretera is paved now which makes the driving real fun, allowing our Suzy to ‘clear the exhaust’ charging up the mountains full throttle. If you’re a nature lover like us, the Carretera Austral will be your little paradise in Chile.
- Adventure is definitely out there. You can do loads of different hikes, getting up close with glaciers, go kayaking, rafting, fishing, horse riding,… You definitely won’t get bored here!
- Meeting new people every day is common (and not an exception like on the Ruta 40).
What didn’t we like?
- Rain! Where in Argentina you have wind, in Chile you get the rain from the Andes. We felt a bit like we were back in Belgium ;). The first few days were nice and sunny – an exception we learned later on. Luckily most of the campings provide shelter to cook outside so we weren’t soaked all day.
- Dust! When it stops raining, roads are so dusty you can’t drive with your windows open. When it rains you obviously get mud. Really fun to drive in! Not so much to hike in :-).
The highlights of the Carretera Austral
- Visiting the Marble Caves, chapel and cathedral. They are a formation of caverns, columns and tunnels formed in marble in the middle of the General Carerra Lake, the 2rd biggest lake in South America. A lot of tourist visit the caves with a small motorboat. We warmly recommend to take the kayak instead. Go early in the morning, otherwise the wind will prevent you to go on the lake. With the kayak you can explore inside the caves. With a little luck the sun will turn the water in a silk bluegreen color and make the marble sparkle. A real intimate experience!
- Global Honeymoon TOP TIP: go camp at Bahia Mansa ‘4 km South of Puerto Rio Tranquillo). Camping is free and you can rent a kayak there a lot cheaper than in town!
- Take a hike in the enchanted forest ‘Bosque Encantado’ in the Queulat National Park. You walk through a mesmerizing forest: the dense trees are covered in moss and flowers, which gives it a magical touch. The hike is steep and muddy. There’s one river crossing with stones you have to jump on. If you’re a natural ninja, everything will go perfect. If you’re not – like me – there’s a chance you’ll slip, fall in, wet your pants, wet your jacket when wanting to get up, splash your camera and break your walking stick in two. Forget about drying up in the sun. One: there is no sun. Two: it rains. At the end of the hike you’re rewarded by the gorgeous view of a small crater with milky blue water. The crater is next to a mountain where you can see a stunning hanging glacier. If there are no clouds, that is. We only saw stones and fogs :-). But the pictures on the internet look promising!
- Experience the majestic landscape in Pumalín Park – 715,000 acre of rainforest, trails and campgrounds. It was the most clean and beautiful campground we’ve encountered in Chile. No electricity and no hot water but who needs that anyway, right? You can do different hikes there. We did the 22 km hike up to the Ventisquero Glacier. It took us half a day. The walk is easy and flat. Don’t worry about having not enough water to drink. You can fill up at the waterfalls and rivers – delish! You feel like an explorer and the only one around since the distance is extended. It was the first time we got so close to a glacier. There are several river crossings in this hike so be careful (fell in the glacier water not once but twice). Loved this trip!
- We stopped in Futaleufu to do some rafting. The Futaleufu river is known in the top 5 place to raft so no better place to try it! We did the bridge to bridge rafting – 1.5 hours in the water with (4h for the entire experience) and about 14 rapids with a different difficulty, including one class 5 rapid.
- Global Honeymoon TOP TIP: we chose Bochinche Expediciones via Tripadvisor and can absolutely recommend! We had an excellent time, Miguel gave us all the confidence we needed and brought a lot of humor on board. Oh, and they are 5k CLP cheaper than the others we checked!
Where to next?
Futaleufu was our last stop before heading to Bariloche aka ‘Switserland in Argentina’. You’ll discover if the beers and chocolate are any good in our next blog post.
Enjoy our pics!