Teds Travels – Carretera Austral
O’Higgins, Cochrane, Baker, Simpson… What am I talking about? Just some of the many English names you will find in Southern Chile. The Carretera Austral starts in the town of Puerto Montt and ends in Villa O’Higgins, where its blocked by the Southern Icefield, from here one has to cross into Argentina and continue along Ruta 40 to Calafate and beyond.
Seeing Chile was named 2018 World’s top travel destination by Lonely Planet, I thought I would tell you about this amazing area. For this adventure, we recommend a self-drive in this area from 10 to 20 days.
One-third of Chile lies south of Puerto Montt, the recently extended road has opened up places where in the past you could only visit by ship. Starting in Port Montt, suggest to your clients a visit to the Pumalin National Park (is a must the views are stunning!), it stretches from the heart of the Andes to the fjords of Chilean Pacific coast. Then they can start travelling south, where your clients will make about 3 ferry crossings before they start their long overland drive from Caleta Gonzalo all the way (about 1240 km) to Villa O’Higgins.
Lots of National Parks and reserves along the way where they can spot the local fauna: pudus, pumas, viscachas, condors, black woodpeckers, foxes and miniature deer. And they can expect spectacular virgin landscapes with mountains, fjords, islands, isolated communities and picturesque ports.
If they would rather have a shorter drive, they can fly into the town of Balmaceda (only 575 km to Villa O’Higgins), and visit Coyhaique and the thermal springs at Puyuhuapi. To see the Marble Caves they will have to drive to the tiny town of Puerto Rio Tranquillo, and ask for a boat ride into the “Marble caves” on Lago General Carrera, the second largest lake in South America!
The fly-drive is not for the faint-hearted, as a lot of the ”highway” is unpaved but the reward is the amazing, unique and striking scenery and they can drive all the way to Punta Arenas via Calafate in Argentina, or pick a car here and drive it up north instead. Your clients will drive across dramatic unspoilt landscape where they can do trekking, biking, kayaking, white-water rafting or fly fishing all over the area. They can even visit amazing glaciers like Glacier O’Higgins at the foot of the South Patagonia Icefield, with its two-mile wide wall face and a height of 260 ft.!
There are lots of great fishing lodges to stay at, and many working Estancias too. Call us, we have great comprehensive pre-departure notes to carefully plan your clients itinerary to enhance their amazing self-drive adventure onto the Chilean wild Patagonia!
Ted Dziadkiewicz is Director and Founder of Contours Travel, Australia’s longest running tour operator to Latin America. He has been more than 100 times to Latin America over the past 40 years and visited over 20 countries. If you want to know more visit www.contourstravel.com.au