The Carretera Austral - Southern road along Lago General Carrera


Lago-General-Carrera, Carretera Austral, Chile by Hugh SinclairLago General Carrera is South America's second-largest lake © Hugh Sinclair

On a sunny day the views of the lake are breathtaking, as the coastal road winds around headlands and through sections of forest.

From the Cruce El Maitén, a 115km gravel road connects the Carretera Austral to Chile Chico and Argentina, passing through the villages of Puerto Guadal and Mallin Grande. On a sunny day the views of the lake are breathtaking, as the coastal road winds around headlands and through sections of forest until the Patagonian steppe emerges closer to the border. Without stopping it is possible to reach the Argentine border in under 3 hours.

Puerto Guadal appears at first sight to be little more than a sleepy village, population approximately 600, en route to elsewhere, but it is a hub for adventure activities, and Terra Luna Lodge is an excellent base from which to explore the region. Mallin Grande, some 28km from Puerto Guadal, is extremely small (despite its name). The central plaza is home to a number of chickens and turkeys. The church and medical post are the only buildings of note. A small footbridge unites the main village with the back of the gardens of three houses perched on the other side of a creek.

After Coyhaique and Puerto Aysén, Chile Chico is probably the next largest town in the region. It has a pleasant micro climate, receiving less rain than elsewhere, and is slightly warmer. However, besides pottering around the pleasant town, doing a little shopping and withdrawing money from the ATM (shops and ATMs are rare in this region), filling up with petrol and grabbing a bite to eat, there is relatively little in town to entertain visitors for long.

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