Carretera Austral is the legendary name given to the official Ruta (Route) 7 in Chile. The road runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. It exists entirely in the Patagonia section of Chile.
The construction of the road started in 1976 and was one of the biggest infrastructure projects at the time in Chile. Unlike Argentina, on the other side of the Andes Mountain range, constructing a road south into Chile was not easy. Argentina had the flat plains to run the road along when the mountain terrain became to difficult. This is seen in the famous Ruta 40 in Argentina, which mostly runs along the easier, flat lands away from the Andes. Chile didn’t have this luxury meaning the stunning terrain is full of steep mountains, fjords, forests, canals and glaciers. Apparently, 10,000 army personal were involved in the roads construction, and when finished the road was completely dirt. Today work is underway to pave the entire length, a task that will take some time. Until then, enjoy the road before it becomes ‘too accessible’.
Note: You can only go as far as Villa O’Higgins on the Carretera Austral. Even from there it is not possible to cross into Argentina with a vehicle. I crossed at Paso Rodolfo Roballos, one of the last vehicle crossings on the Austral. (Close to Cochrane)
Starts at Pueto Montt, Chile.
Type of Road
As of 2017, it is in the process of being paved. Currently a mix of loose gravel and paved.
When is the best time to Ride?
November to March. Even during these months it will be chilly (especially at night)
What other Epic Rides are close by?
The road to the Exploradores Glacier (Ruta X-728).
GPS Tracking Map
GPS Elevation Profile
The landscape here are some of the best in the world. Be prepared for lush forests, glacier topped jagged mountain ranges. the bluest of blue rivers. All this in one of the least population density places in the world. Enjoy the isolation.
Little towns and friendly people
There are heaps of little towns to explore, also the road is famous for hitch-hiking, biking (both on cycles and motos).
Why is it an ‘Epic Ride’
The Carretera Austral is ‘the’ Best Ride in South America. This is definition of Adventure Riding. It ticks all the boxes and more.