The Carretera Austral: road trip in Chile

The Carretera Austral: road trip in southern Chile
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Dear Ximena,

We have returned home uneventfully after a great trip on the road for 4 weeks driving around southern Chile and crossing over briefly into Argentina around Bariloche. All went well and as organised – the accommodation, flights, rental car hire, and transfers.

We thoroughly enjoyed it all and the Patagonian wild country more than met our expectations as the landscape was far more colourful than we expected. We found driving around not to be a problem. There is still a lot of work to be done on parts of the Carretera Austral and looking at the challenges it will be a few years yet before the ambitious plans are finished. Then I expect there will be lots more travellers so we are lucky to get in now before it becomes crowded.

Patagonia in autumn

We found that travelling in April has its challenges as you would know. A lot of places (restaurants, tourist shops and accommodation) had already closed for the winter season and in many places we were the only ones staying there. And of course ferry schedules are much reduced. But no problems really as you had planned our way for what is available and we got to see the lovely autumn colours which is why we chose to travel then.

The main downside of course is more rain in April but I think we struck a particularly wet patch. We missed out on excursions/activities in some places because of the rain and/or wind, and we needed to be well prepared for our jet boat ride.

Having said that, the weather was kind at critical times such as down at Villa O’Higgins for our boat ride to the glacier and for exploring Volcan Osorno and the crossing to Bariloche.

In Chacabuco Valley the nice weather allowed us to explore the valley all the way to the Argentina border with a puma spotted by Jane on the way home. And even in Caleta Tortel the rain paused to allow us to explore this fascinating village and its boardwalks.

Southern ice field, Chile

If we were to choose a highlight it would be the flight we took from Villa O’Higgins to see the edge of the Southern Ice Field and Mt Fitzroy from the Chile side as we had visited the Argentine side in 2014. This flight showed us how spectacular the country is in this remote part of the world with many forest areas in glorious colour.

The autumn colours continued into Argentina around Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes but unfortunately we had more rain and so we did not see them at their best.

As with our previous trip last year to Atacama, Bolivia and NW Argentina organised by you, we found the boutique accommodation to be a key highlight of the travel. In some places we wish we could have stayed longer to more enjoy them which is a good sign. Some places were stunning (like Hotel Awa and Charming) and some were extremely comfortable and/or with very friendly hosts (such as Espacio y Tiempo, Antares and Nomades). We were often the only people staying in places.

Humming bird, Argentina

And of course we did see some birds and wildlife but often only fleetingly like the huemul and pudu. The highlights were a very accommodating hummingbird at Charming Hotel in Bariloche just outside our door, some rheas at Chacabuco Valley, and woodpeckers at Terra Luna on General Carrera Lake.

Overall, a very memorable trip through some magnificent country. Thanks for organising it all.

John & Jane