Carretera Austral is a road that spans more than 1200 kilometers and runs south through Southern Chilean Patagonia. It is an unpaved road that helps connect to other roads by ferry and passes through abundant moderate rainforests and skirts fjords.
This road is heavily surrounded hanging glaciers, lush green valleys, snow capped peaks, winding glacial rivers and open plains.
In other words, Carretera Austral is one of the best routes to explore self driving. It begins where Chile’s Lakes District ends and then leads its way into a land of snow-tipped mountains, swift flowing rivers and dense forests.
This road, to date, is Chile’s most challenging road trip. While some parts of it are properly paved, most of the highway is still full of gravel and dirt so you will probably be hitting a lot of potholes while you are on the road.
When talking about Carretera Austral, you can’t simply miss out on the fact that some of the most exciting and thrilling road trips can be made along this road. People generally say that there is nothing quite like the freedom of an open road gives you but in the words of most travelers, “There is nothing like the freedom of the Carretera Austral.”
As it follows the Southern Highway, you get to see the most breathtaking fjords and lakes, and then it climbs over the magnificent peaks, which in itself is a truly unforgettable experience.
As you pass by high-end and secluded fishing lodges, you will encounter the highest and toughest section of the Carretera Austral. This occurs around the mist-shrouded Parque Nacional Queulat, which is wedged between two rocky mountains. This area makes for a particularly rough and difficult drive as you meander your way through narrow and steep serpentine curves that are surrounded with rocks and huge potholes.
As soon as you reach the fishing community of Puerto Cisnes, you will heave a sigh of relief as you enter an area of beautifully paved road. From there on, it is nothing but a smooth sail all the way till the regional capital of Coyhaique.
You will experience a tiny bump though during your journey, where a partly paved gravel road joins Coyhaique with the shores of Lago General Carrera.
As difficult and rough as it sounds, Carretera Austral will undeniably provide you with a life-time, memorable road trip experience and will also help you explore your self-driving.