Road Trip Carretera Austral: Lago Circuit

A route deep in this remote region, featuring the show stopping highlights of the Southern highway – staggering glaciers, seemingly endless glacial lakes, and secluded hikes. Drive around Lago General Carerra on mainly gravel roads, make ferry crossings and take a boat trip to the shining caves known as the Marble Cathedral. A route deep in this remote region, featuring the show stopping highlights of the Southern highway – staggering glaciers, seemingly endless glacial lakes, and secluded hikes. Drive around Lago General Carerra on mainly gravel roads, make ferry crossings and take a boat trip to the shining caves known as the Marble Cathedral.

9 Days

$2,975

Road Trip Carretera Austral: Lago Circuit - 9 - $2,975

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • Follow an enchanting suggested route through Chile, with use of a car allowing freedom to stop and soak up the highlights as you wish
  • See the General Carrera Lake, the Andes and the Northern Ice Field appear before you as you wind through mountain roads 
  • Meet with the marine life kayaking around the surreal Marble Caves, and cruise the pro glacial waters of Laguna San Rafael, reaching the highly active San Rafael Glacier
  • Explore one of the newest and least visited national parks in Chile, the Patagonia National Park, offering outstanding treks with empty trails
  • Car rental and overnight stops are taken care of - experience the charm of several local lodgings along the route

Start from Balmaceda Airport and end at Balmaceda Airport

Landmarks visited on Road Trip Carretera Austral: Lago Circuit

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Balmaceda Airport – Cerro Castillo

You will pick up your hire car on arrival into Balmaceda airport - there are daily flights to Balmaceda from Santiago.

Begin the 1 hour drive south towards the Ibanez Valley, to the small village of Cerro Castillo. See the Castillo Mountain Range and travel the road deep into the Andes, crossing beautiful passes.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: La Casona de Mary Sandoval, Cerro Castillo


Day 2: Hike to Laguna Castillo

Admire a host the region's natural features - forests, towering peaks, valleys and hanging glaciers - while hiking one of the off-the-beaten-track routes within Cerro Castillo. You're likely to hear little other than the birds around you and the occasional stream of a waterfall in the distance. You'll reach the turquoise blue lake which is set in front of a huge glacier, in a startling display.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: La Casona de Mary Sandoval, Cerro Castillo


Day 3: Cerro Castillo – Puerto Río Tranquilo

Set off further south to Puerto Río Tranquilo, a 3 hour drive. Note the possibility of road works which you will need to check before the journey.

Spend the day paddling around the Marble Caves by kayak; indeed only accessible by kayak or boat, this is an incredible way to experience these surreal colourful caves. See different rock formations and caverns and encounter the marine life through turquoise clear waters.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: El Puesto, Puerto Rio Tranquilo


Day 4: Exploradores Valley and San Rafael Glacier

A whole day of exploring the Exploradores Valley with a boat trip through the pro glacial Laguna San Rafael. You'll reach the closest glacier to the equator in the world, the San Rafael Glacier. The glacier is also famed as one of the main glaciers that descends from the Northern Ice Field and the most actively calving one in the area.

Amidst a contrasting backdrop of the rainforest, watch the ice bergs fall from the front face and float away into the surrounding waters. Your expert guide will help you appreciate the importance of the glacier as a focus for scientific investigation and share the fascination surrounding the environment and it's history. They will also share about the local flora and fauna - the area is indeed known as a privileged spot for bird watching and frequently visited by pudu deer, sea lions, dolphins and elephant seals.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: El Puesto, Puerto Rio Tranquilo


Day 5: Puerto Rio Tranquilo – Patagonia Park

Head south on another 3 hour journey, down to Patagonia Park.

If you fancy it, on the way you can book onto an optional rafting excursion on the Baker River. There is also a recommended hike on route, which will take you to the confluence of the Rio Neff with the Rio Baker. This is a low difficulty 3 hour (3 km) walk which rewards you with a beach perfect for relaxing or a swim.

Upon arrival at Patagonia Park, you can complete one of the several half day hikes from the park. These can be completed by yourself, or you can book an expert guide. For a 2 hour walk, head out to the La Vega Trail which winds through the valley and passes the greenhouse and the historic Valle Chacabuco cemetery.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Chacabuco Lodge, Patagonia Park


Day 6: Lagunas Altas Trail hike

After breakfast get ready for a full day on the Lagunas Altas Trail, where you'll cover 23 km and ascend 1268 metres, in about 6-8 hours. The walk can be completed self-guided or an expert guide can be booked.

Starting at the West Winds Campground, just a short walk from the Lodge, climb up the hill close to Tamanguito Peak. You'll cross several small streams of fresh water, where you can refill water bottles. Toward the top of the uphill section, you'll enter the southern beech forest, making your way uphill through the young trees.

The uphill hike is certainly the most challenging portion of the route - the trail gains approximately 850 m over the first 7 km. You'll find yourself at the top of the large plateau once you leave the forest. The first alpine lake is nearby - an excellent spot for lunch, a snack, or a swim, with views toward the border with Argentina.

The next section of the trail meanders slowly downhill, with views down to the main park headquarter. The trail then winds around numerous alpine lakes and through beautiful sections of southern beech forest before arriving at a spectacular mirador, where you can see the expanse of the Chacabuco Valley below. From there, you'll hike around one more lagoon before beginning to make your way back downhill, from the plateau.

You can end at either "Camino La Pepa", a slightly shorter hike but requiring someone to leave a vehicle. The alternative option is to return on the road between the park headquarters and Camping Westwinds.

Refuel after this challenging hike at the Park's restaurant, which sources the majority of food from the on-site greenhouses and local livestock. Then cosy up in the Lodge's relaxing lounge, enjoying fine regional wine by the fire as you look out onto Mount Tamanguito.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Chacabuco Lodge, Patagonia Park


Day 7: Morning hike in Patagonia Park then drive to Chile Chico

Spend your morning on a shorter hike in the park. If you haven't trekked the La Vega Trail yet you could take the opportunity to complete that. Or, you could set off on the Lago Chico Loop, a half-day hike which is 12 km and intermediate difficulty. If you'd prefer a shorter walk on this trail you can also hike to a scenic overlook along the way.

In the afternoon, drive onwards to Chile Chico (4 hrs).

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hosteria de le Patagonia, Chile Chico


Day 8: Chile Chico – Coyhaique

Take a ferry across the Lago General Carrera to Puerto Ibanez (2.5 hrs).

Depending on the ferry schedule to cross to Puerto Ibanez, visitors might want to drive toward the Jeinimeni reserve or hire a navigation on the lake (excursion will depend on weather conditions). Drive north to Coyahaique and spend the night either in Cerro Castillo or in a hotel just outside of Balmaceda.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Patagonia House


Day 9: Coyhaique – Balmaceda – Santiago

Leave Coyhaique and travel to Balmaceda airport (50 mins).

Return your hire care and fly north to Santiago - please note these flights are not included in the trip price.

Meals: Breakfast

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Prices are per person based on a group of 2 people.

Departures can be set up for a minimum of 2 people. Please get in touch for details.

Includes

  • Meals: 9 breakfasts
  • Accommodation: 8 nights in hotels along the route
  • Car hire for 9 days
  • Excursions as indicated in itinerary (hikes, kayaking)
  • Exploradores Valley boat trip
  • Ferry from Lago General Carrera to Puerto Ibanez

Excludes

  • International and domestic/in country flights
  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • Any extra/optional excursions
  • Personal Equipment (request our recommended kit list for more details)
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses
  • Travel insurance
  • Gratuities/Tips

Questions about this Trip?