Transfer to Puerto Montt airport and fly to Balmaceda in the Aisén region. Collect your hire vehicle and set off on your exploration of the Carretera Austral and its link roads.
The 1,240km Austral Road (Carretera Austral) cuts a lonely swathe through some of Patagonia's most pristine territory. Much of the highway is unpaved, a bumpy gravel track winding its way through craggy mountains and temperate rainforests, fording streams and skirting lakes. Glimpses of remote farmsteads, wood-shingle churches and sheepskin-clad horsemen are a reminder of the traditional way of life which survives here.
This self-drive route begins at Balmaceda (Coyhaique) airport and follows the southern section of the Austral Road for some 450km towards Caleta Tortel. Based at rustic but cosy lodges, you can wander on mountain trails, explore native forests, sail on beautiful lakes and hike to glaciers. The scenery seems to change with every turn and the flexibility of being able to stop whenever you please to take in the views - and to take pictures - is part of the beauty of self-drive.
Today you’ll drive to Puerto Rio Tranquilo for 2 nights. Dry Pampa will gradually give way to green forests, mountains and glacial valleys as you cross the pass at the National Reserve of Cerro Castillo. The journey is approximately 195 kilometres, taking around 5 hours to drive, of which 3-4 hours will be on unpaved road.