Patagonia Road Trips

When thinking about a Patagonian road trip, there are only two roads you need know about: the Carretera Austral, and the Ruta 40.

Road Trip Suggestions

Route of the Volcanoes (Temuco/Pucon to Bariloche)

Drive through the Chilean and Argentinian lake district passing smoking volcanoes and glistening lakes. Hiking opportunities include summiting the still active Villarica Volcano, hiking amongst monkey puzzle trees and under waterfalls. Other highlights include natural thermal pools surrounded by virgin forests, a border crossing by car ferry, the stunning Route of the 7 Lakes and the wealth of indigenous culture in the area. The majority of this 7-day road trip is on paved roads, with relatively short driving distances and plenty of possible stops on route for provisions.

As an extension to this trip, you might decide to travel from Bariloche back into Chile crossing 3 lakes to access the mystical island of Chiloe with its wealth of bird life, history, and vibrant fishing culture.

Sally - Villarica

Route of the 7 Lakes & Argentine Lakes (Bariloche Round Trip)

With just 5 days you can explore the wondrous Route of the 7 lakes with each lake surrounded by virgin forest and mountainous backdrop. Take in the conical Lanin volcano, the highest in the area. You will then have the opportunity when you return to Bariloche to hike, kayak, horse ride or cycle in the stunning area surrounding this lakeside resort or simply sit back and relax in a lakeside lodge.

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Across the Andes to Aysen (Bariloche to Balmaceda)

This is a route in two parts: the first through the Patagonian Steppe and Andean foothills and the second through the remote and verdant landscapes of Aysen in Chile.

Part 1: Bariloche to Futaleufu: (2 to 5 days) The road to Trevelin in the foothills of the Andes is approx. 310km on a paved road, initially on the infamous Ruta 40 to Esquel. Here you could take a couple of days to explore the Patagonian Steppe, and immerse yourself in the cultural heritage of the Welsh community in Patagonia. From Trevelin, it's approx. 50 km on a wild and remote road across the border into Chile to get to Futaleufu.

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Part 2: Futaleufu to Balmaceda: (4 to 6 days) Futaleufu is world-renowned its white water kayaking and rafting. Less adrenalin-fuelled visitors can still enjoy the beautiful and dramatic rivers without riding the rapids. From here it's a 2 day drive (approx. 8 hours in total) to the beautiful Queulat national park, with its huge waterfalls. A homely lodge could be your base here for a couple of nights as you explore the national park. The final leg of the journey takes you approx. 5 hours south, again through wild and pristine landscapes, to Coyhaique at the heart of the Aysen region.

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Carretera Austral and Aysen (Balmaceda Round Trip)

Dramatic, verdant and wild. This region of Chile has big scenery with glaciers breaking through valleys, thick forests reaching the waterline, fjords, and wild weather. See the Northern Patagonian Ice field, the San Rafael Glacier, the Marble Caves, and the enormous General Carrera Lake. Driving is not for the faint hearted as distances are big, roads are unpaved and bumpy and it often takes many hours from village to village. With a few added days, you could explore the beautiful mountains of Cerro Castillo either on foot or by horseback.

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Carretera Austral and Glacier Crossing (Balmaceda to El Chalten)

This is a 6-12 day journey that is not yet 100% set up for tourists. It's been popular among a small number of more adventurous bikers and backpackers for the last decade or so as it involves a very unique and little-known border crossing from the southern tip of the famous Carretera Austral into Argentina, via the vast and stunning Glacier'O'Higgins. In the last 2 years, some additional services have been set up for tourists, but the crossing is still subject to extreme weather conditions, and a night of supported camping is required for the crossing. Also, the drop-off charge for car rental is expensive.

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From Coyhaique (or Balmaceda airport) you can drive south on the Carretera Austral visiting several fascinating spots on the way for 1 or 2 nights: the Exploadores glacier, the marble caves, Caleta Tortel (built entirely on stilts), all the while exploring landscapes that are barely touched by man and feel more appropriate for dinosaurs.

The drive to Villa o Higgins is 571km, and the crossing into El Chalten (Argentina) takes 48 hours. El Chalten is a mecca for hikers and climbers and a couple of days would be recommended here.

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Ruta 40 and the Patagonian Steppe (Bariloche to Calafate)

A classic self-drive route down the infamous Ruta 40, weaving in and out between the Patagonian Steppe and the foothills of the Andes exploring lesser known national parks and pre-historic caves along the way.

This can be done either as a self-drive or with a guide. 

Viva - Infamous Route 40 - 1

Sally says

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