Chile: Carretera Austral

A guide to one of the world's most scenic road trips

by Warren Houlbrooke and  Hugh Sinclair

Publication Date:  18th Dec 2015


Chile: Carretera Austral Travel Guide – Travel advice and expert holiday tips featuring Ruta 7 and Coyhaique highlights, natural history and wildlife. This guide also covers suggested itineraries and tour operators, driving and hiking, Caleta Tortel, Villa O’Higgins, Puerto Montt, national parks like Queulat, Hornopirén and Laguna San Rafael.

About this book

This is the first guidebook focussed entirely on the magnificent and historic road uniting northern and southern Patagonia. The few hardy travellers that embark on this journey struggle to find even basic information about the region. The book provides visitors to the often-visited Bariloche and Chilean Lake District with a spectacular alternative means to reach the southern extremes of Patagonia.The road passes through world-class national parks. It stretches from the high Andes to the remote Pacific coast, fed by five great rivers, countless fjords and the largest ice fields outside of Antarctica and Greenland. Trekking options abound, including to and from neighbouring Argentina through pristine wilderness. The region is home to a sub-tropical rainforest, secluded villages without vehicles, picturesque lakes, dramatic and often active volcanoes, and sufficient activities to satisfy even the most adventurous visitors. In addition to practical advice, the book explores the mythical history of a region cut-off from the outside world, and the social and economic impact of the relatively recent connectivity to both mainland Chile and Argentina. Travelling in one of the last unknown regions of South America is challenging, and this book facilitates such travel for those wishing to escape the “gringo trail”.

About the Author

Hugh Sinclair has lived and worked in Latin America since the late 1990s. After graduating from Durham he worked as an investment banker in Canada, Holland and the UK. In 2001 he moved into the development sector, specializing in microfinance. His first book, Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, was a ground-breaking exposé of the inner-workings of the sector, and his blog is one of the best-read in the sector. He has lived in various countries but five years ago decided to settle down in Patagonia. He has extensively explored the region on both sides of the border. He lives near the northern Carretera Austral, and first stumbled across the road in 2011, and has visited it repeatedly since. When not travelling in Chile and Argentina Hugh works as an economist, and speaks fluent Spanish.

Warren Houlbrooke was raised on a remote sheep farm in New Zealand, where he developed a “fix anything” attitude. He has travelled extensively in Latin America, in particular in all of Patagonia (both the Argentine and Chilean sides). He is a tour-guide for Compass Motorbike Tours, and has worked with Bariloche Moto Tours, who also offer trips along the Carretera Austral. He is a highly proficient motorcyclist, scuba-diver, skier, equestrian, cyclist and sailor, has an Argentine wife and speaks Spanish.

Additional Information

Table of Contents




Chapter 1 Background Information
Geography, Climate, Natural history and conservation, History of the Carretera Austral – an overview, Government and politics, Economy, People and culture, Language

Chapter 2 Practical Information
When to visit, Highlights, Suggested itineraries, Tour operators, Tourist information, Red tape, Embassies, Getting there and away, Health, Safety and hassles, What to take, Money and budgeting, Getting around, Accommodation, Eating and drinking, Public holidays, Shopping, Activities along the Carretera Austral, Communications, Cultural etiquette


Chapter 3 Puerto Montt
History, Getting there and around, Tour operators, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Entertainment and nightlife, Shopping, Other practicalities, What to see and do

Chapter 4 Puerto Montt to Villa Santa Lucia
Towards Hornopiren, Hornopiren, Parque Nacional Hornopiren, Towards Chaiten, Chaiten, Parque Pumalin, El Amarillo to Villa Santa Lucia


Chapter 5 Futaleufu to La Junta
Futaleufu, Palena – a detour, Puerto Ramirez, La Junta and around, Raul Marin Balmaceda – a detour, Lago Verde – a detour

Chapter 6 La Junta to Puyuhuapi and Cisnes
Puyuhuapi, Puerto Cisnes – a detour, Villa Amengual and a detour to Paso Rio Frias-Apeleg

Chapter 7 Puerto Aysen and Chacabuco
Manihuales and around, Puerto Aysen/Puerto Chacabuco, Reserva Nacional Rio Simpson

Chapter 8 Coyhaique
History, Getting there, Tour operators, Where to stay, Where to eat and drink, Entertainment and nightlife, Shopping, Other practicalities, Sightseeing and excursions

Chapter 9 South of Coyhaique: to Cruce El Maiten via Lago General Carrera
Lakes south of Coyhaique, Balmaceda – exiting the Carretera Austra, Puerto Ibanez – a detour, Cerro Castillo, Bahia Murta and Puerto Sanchez – a detour, Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Cruce El Maiten, Chile Chico – a detour


Chapter 10 The Deep South: Cruce El Maiten to Caleta Tortel
Puerto Bertrand, Parque Patagonia, Cochrane, Caleta Tortel – a detour

Chapter 11 Exiting/Entering the Carretera Austral: Villa O’Higgins and beyond
Villa O’Higgins and around, Crossing into Argentina

Appendix 1 Language

Appendix 2 Further Information


Index of advertisers