We rented a van in Pucón for 16 days to discover the amazing Chilean Patagonia and its famous Carretera Austral. I’m sharing here all the good tips and what you need to know to do the same or better than us!
Best option: the van!
You will quickly learn 2 expressions of this region:
« All that runs here is the wind » and « Who hurry in Patagonia looses his time ». Both are really true: to enjoy this trip you need to have time (2 weeks is the minimum) and considering the roads, time and distance are really approximative.
We rented a Mini Van (N300max Chevrolet) which is the fastest and more convenient option in my opinion. Even if it’s officially forbidden, nobody will bother you if you do wild camping. We had electricity to charge our phones and camera, a kitchen all equipped with gaz and hot water with a 26l tank you can fill in the rivers or lakes as most of the water comes from glaciers. We even had a shower cabin, a very confortable bed made with 3 mats and curtains. No need any restaurant, camping or hostal. We spent a total of 41500clp per person per day for transportation + accommodation (check the budget).
How to go to Patagonia from Pucón:
You have 3 options:
- Take the ferry with Naviera Austral from Quellon (on Chiloe island) to Chaitén – only one per week and much more expensive than the other options (purple road).
- Take a first ferry to La Arena, and a second one from Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo, both with Barcazas (green road).
- Take the road going directly to Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo passing through Osorno and Cochamo (yellow road).
We’ve chosen the purple road to go there, but only because the ferry from Hornopiren was full (At least it gave us the chance to discover the “Great Chiloé”). We succeeded to book the Caleta Gonzalo Ferry one week in advance and went back by the yellow road.
Note: When the borders are opened you can rent this same van for more time and cross Argentinian border instead of doing the way back as we did (in Futaleufu, Chile Chico or Villa O’Higgins).
1st step: from Pucon to Chiloé
We drove directly from Pucon, bought food and supplies in Puerto Varas and took a ferry from Pargua (no need to book in advance, you have one every 20min). We first visited Ancud, famous for its fortifications and went to sleep on the wild Playa Guabun 🌜. The day after we visited Dalcahue (best smoked salmon in my life) and Castro where you have those nice houses Chiloé is famous for.
Then we headed south to Quellon where you have the end (or the beginning) of the famous Panamerica: the road connecting Latin America to Alaska! We waited there our ferry to Chaitén. There is only one per week on Sunday night, and instead of leaving at 1am we left at 4am and arrived at 8.45 in Chaiten!
2nd step: Going South!
We wanted to arrive to the end of that Carretera Austral, without a clear idea of how long time it will take so how much time we had to enjoy activities. Well, from Chaitén it took 4 days to arrive to Villa O’Higgins, taking our time and A LOT of pictures! We felt that the landscape and the weather were changing every 50km. You can start a day with rain and cold, and be in T-shirt during the afternoon! You will cross mountains, lakes, rainforests, jungles, deserts all in one day…
1st day: Chaiten to Lago Las Torres
We stopped on Palena river belvedere for coffee and breakfast, La Junta where everything was closed, Puyuhuapi to get lunch and Lago Las Torres to sleep 🌜.
We thought we would get much more south but the traffic was cut from 1pm to 5pm and a rock fell down the road so it opened again around 7pm! Then you have this crazy portion of road after Queulat Fjord we called « death road » with automatic traffic lights where you will wait 20min…
2nd day: Lago Las Torres to Cerro Castillo valley
After fill in the tank at Villa Maniguales, we kept the Ruta 7 road to Coyhaique with again a complicated road where you CANNOT go fast (we preferred to take road X50 on the way back but it was very beautiful)!
We had a lunch in Coyhaique, « capital of Patagonia » (of Aysen region at least) and kept going south passing through a fantastic valley around Ibáñez river.
A bit after Mirador Cuesta del Diablo you won’t find any correct road and you really need to be careful. We found a spot to sleep in the forest, 1h30 before Puerto Rio Tranquilo 🌜.
3rd day: Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Rio los Nadis
That day we discovered the huge General Carrera lake (shared with Argentina, it’s the 2nd biggest lake in Latin America), but also Puerto Bertrand and the wonderfull Baker River (the most powerful of Chile) with Mirador Confluence, Rio del Salto right after Coyhaique, and slept close to Rio Nadis 🌜.
Close to Mirador Confluence you have the entry of Parque Patagonia where you can see lamas and if you’re lucky: Pumas!!
4th day: Rio Nadis to Villa O’Higgins
In the morning we stopped at Cochrane for gazoline and went to Caleta Tortel to get lunch. This beautiful peatonal city is a MUST DO because of the 7km wooden paths. Right after we went to Puerto Yungay and get the free ferry to Villa O’Higgins. We went to the end of the Carretera Austral and found a spot to stay at night close to Lago Cisnes 🌜.
Step 3: Going back North
5th day: Villa O’Higgins to Lago Verde
We took the first ferry at 11am and went to Cochrane to enjoy the Belvedere. We almost get stuck with an other traffic interruption from 3pm to 5pm, but we managed to pass. We took the direction of Chile Chico, went to see Los Maquis Waterfall and stopped at Lago Verde Mirador for the night 🌜
6th day: Cuevas de las manos
We stopped at Chile Chico to get some supplies and went to the trek of Cuevas de las manos (7km). Here the landscape turned to a desert, dry and red mountains with a lot of wind. The road to get there is impressive, by its beauty and its danger (close to the cliff).
🌜We slept at Puerto Guadal that night.
Good tip: you also have a ferry crossing the lake from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibáñez (but we couldn’t get ticket on Barcazas).
7th day: Catedrales de Marmol
When you arrive at Puerto Rio Tranquilo Harbor you will have tour operators everywhere with the same price:
– 150000clp for the 90min tours which leads you to Marmol Sanctuary
– 30000clp for 3h tour with the sanctuary + the island Panichini
– 40000clp for the kayak tour (you will go to Puerto Marmol where you can rent directly there those same kayaks for 30000clp)
After this beautiful tour we went to sleep at Lago Bayo 🌜.
8th day: Exploradores trekking
We booked this tour at Puerto Rio Tranquilo and met them directly in the CONAF entrance, 52km from there. We started this trekking with a group of 7 people and walked the first 1h30 through a forest and ice field. After we learnt how to walk with ice grippers, we went to various funny spots, ice tunnels and caves to take pictures. We walked 7hours (12km) and slept at the Harbour of Bahia Exploradores 🌜
9th day: Glacier San Rafael
We also booked our tour in Puerto Rio Tranquilo and met them at the harbour. We were 19 people on this very confortable boat equipped with tables and kitchen. We passed almost all our time with the captain and arrived after 3 hours sailing on the rivers and fjord to Laguna San Rafael where we appreciated the beauty of this glaciar during 2h. We had a good breakfast and lunch on board, everything included, even the whisky with millenium ice! We found a river close to an Orange Bridge to sleep in the valley of Cerro Castillo 🌜
CONTACT AND PRICES
– Glaciar Exploradores: Huenteco agency for 80000clp with a group.
For a private tour contact our guide Thiara +56968246944
– Laguna San Rafael: Kawescar agency, 150000clp to 170000clp (tranfer included from Puerto Rio Tranquilo)
10th day: Coyhaique and Puerto Aysen
We stopped at this capital of Patagonia and had lunch to the best burger restaurant and brewery Casa Tropina. Sadly the Dolbek tavern was closed but you can meet there the famous Belgium guy who appears on the bottle! We quickly passed to beautiful waterfalls before heading to Puerto Aysen. Nothing really to see there, I would advise you not to loose your time and fuel… We went back to sleep at Lago Verde 🌜
11th day: Termas del ventisquero
The plan was to go to the ventisquero colgante glaciar but when we arrived around noon it was all cloudy and the CONAF girl told us it would be better to come back tomorrow and she gave us this great tips: enjoy hot water of Termas del Ventisquero. The entrance is 20000clp and you have 2 slots possible: 10h-13h or 14h-17h. It’s kind of small with only 3 baths and 1 swimming pool but the view on the fjord really worth it, and we even had the chance to see Toninas: Chilean dolphins! We slept close to the entrance of Ventisquero Colgante 🌜
12th day: Ventisquero Colgante, Futaleufú & back to Chaitén
Part of the Queulat Parc, this glacier on top of a mountain has that particularity to have magnificent waterfalls! We went to the Mirador, 7km go and back through what looks like a rain forest (2-3h walking). You also have a nice view from the lake (only 1km walking total) where you can take a boat for 10000clp (don’t know if it worth it, we decided not to go).
At 3pm after the lunch we decided to go until Futaleufú. Back to a shitty road… 77km in 2 hours! It was beautiful with nice blue river, but not as much as Puerto Bertrand. But again maybe it’s because we didn’t have time to really enjoy the countryside.
We went back to Chaiten to sleep there 🌜
You need to book and download your ticket via asptickets.cl BEFORE arriving as there is no signal.
Entrance fee: 8000clp per person
13th day: Ferry’s day
From Chaiten to the harbour the road was very bad but the landscape very beautiful! We needed to be there 2h before the boat departure (don’t know why as we started to enter in the ferry 10min before take off). You will have a first quick ferry from Caleta Gonzalo to Pillan (45min) drive 9km to Leptepu to get the second ferry to Hornopiren (3h30) for a total 5 hours trip!
We drove almost 3h to Cochamo that day and slept close to a river 🌜.
Step 4: Region de los lagos
We spent the last day of our trip enjoying the beautiful volcanos and beaches you have all around this lake region. We had lunch at Puerto Octay, went to a lava river close to Lican Ray and slept on its Playa Chica 🌜