In this article we show you five things to do in Carretera Austral, Chile’s Southern Highway, among lakes, mountains and dream landscapes.
🔎 Check here the quide to travel to Carretera Austral.
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Things to do in Carretera Austral: what you can’t miss
There are several things to do and see in the Southern Highway in Chile, these are the main ones:
1. Marble Caves
It is undoubtedly one of the main things to do in Carretera Austral. The starting point for the day trip is Puerto Rio Tranquilo, where there are many agencies that offer this excursion.
Marble Caves are strange mineral formations composed of calcium carbonate and located on the shore of General Carrera Lake.
The beauty of the place and the tourist attraction is given by the visit to the caverns that originated by the erosion of the water of the lake on the rock and where the different tonalities that acquire the rocky formations are observed together with the turquoise color of the water of the lake.
This place can only be reached by excursion, which can be done in motor boats or, if you have an adventurous spirit, by kayak.
2. Queulat National Park
Located about 25 km south of the town of Puyuhuapi, Queulat National Park is one of the places you have to see on the Southern Highway.
Ideal for hiking lovers, it has several routes to choose from, among which the following trails stand out:
- Enchanted forest: you go through a forest area and arrive at a lagoon.
- Hanging glacier: it is the most popular because it leads to the main attraction of the national park, a Patagonian glacier that is hanging in the heights and from which a waterfall falls.
- Laguna témpanos: easily accessible after crossing a green forest and get to see the icebergs of the lagoon.
🔎 Visit Queulat National Park
3. Caleta Tortel and Villa O’Higgins
At the southern end of the Carretera Austral, the towns of Caleta Tortel and Villa O’Higgins, which marks the end of the road and where you can take a picture with the sign, stand out.
Caleta Tortel stands out for its charm, as it has about seven kilometers of wooden walkways made of cypress that serve to connect the houses of the locals. Instead of having streets, they have walkways and stairs to avoid moving on the ground, which is muddy most of the year due to the incessant rains.
Villa O’Higgins is the southernmost town on the Carretera Austral and marks the beginning of the Southern Ice Fields. Here you can make navigations to visit the O’Higgins glacier and even cross into Argentina to El Chaltén.
🔎 Visit Caleta Tortel and Villa O’Higgins
4. Exploradores Glacier and San Rafael Lagoon
Although there are many glaciers to see on the Carretera Austral, two of the most visited are the Exploradores and San Rafael glaciers, due to their proximity to Puerto Rio Tranquilo and the Marble Caves.
– Visiting Exploradores Glacier
Exploradores glacier can be reached by car on an 80 km gravel road from Puerto Rio Tranquilo. The other option is to do it with an agency of the city, with vehicles prepared for these roads.
Once you arrive at the place, there is a trekking to the viewpoint with fabulous views of the glacier and the mountains of the Northern Ice Field.
Another activity that can be done is the trekking on the glacier. For this you must hire the tour with an authorized agency that includes the accompaniment of a specialized guide.
🔎 Visit the explorers glacier.
– Visiting the San Rafael lagoon and glacier.
There are two options to reach the San Rafael lagoon and contemplate the glacier: one is by bus plus boat from Puerto Rio Tranquilo, the other is sailing from Puerto Chacabuco. In both cases it must be done by hiring the services of an agency.
The navigation through the lagoon is done until you reach the face of the glacier, where the boat stops to contemplate the landscape and the imposing mass of ice.
🔎 Visiting the San Rafael lagoon and glacier.
5. Driving the Carretera Austral entirely
Just as Route 40 in Argentina or Route 66 in the United States are legendary, many travelers take several days to make the complete journey along the Southern Highway (Carretera Austral) by car, a 1200 km route that goes from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins.
The Carretera Austral has three sections that cannot be traveled by car due to the geographical features of the terrain. For this there are ferries that navigate these sections and where you can take the car on board.
Doing the Carretera Austral by car allows you to make stops at the main destinations, contemplate the landscapes offered by the Chilean Ice Field and experience the local culture in each of the towns of the region.
🔎 Driving the Carretera Austral entirely.