Road Trip Patagonia

Drive the Carratera Austral and then some

The view out your window

The view out your window     Photo: via Shutterstcok

The 770-mile road traversing Patagonia’s spine was only opened to traffic in 1988, is still being paved, and requires three different ferry rides to complete. It also accesses some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, from deep, glacier-packed fjords to thick Alaska-style rainforest to high alpine grasslands. Take a few weeks in January and February, the only months the ferry from Hornopiren to Calota Gonzales is open, to traverse the route. Fly to Puerto Montt, Chile and rent a car with “libre kilometers,” full insurance, and the papers to cross into Argentina. Drive south and stop for a few days in Pumalin National Park (created by The North Face co-founder Doug Tompkins) to hike and then head off on a spur to raft some of the world’s best whitewater on the Futalefu river with Bio Bio Expeditions. Next, warm up at the hotsprings spa at Puyuhuapi Lodge and check out Queulat National Park’s awe-inspiring hanging glacier. Next, head south to Puerto Tranquillo on the shores of massive Lake General Carerra where you’ll tour the famous marble sea caves by sea kayak. If you have a few more weeks, duck into Argentina from Chile Chico on the lake’s south shore to Argentina’s El Chaltén, the jumping-off point for Mount Fitz Roy, and then on to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. Then cross the border back to Chile to hike in Torres Del Paine. Finish in Punta Arenas, where the rental agency will hopefully let you drop the car.

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