Road Trip Carretera Austral: The North

An adventure along the northern half of the legendary Carretera Austral. Explore the little visited trails of the Queulat and Pumalin Parks and ferry through stunning fjords, hot springs and glaciers. All lodgings will be organised for you, you'll simply need to enjoy the scenery as you drive south towards Coyhaique.

9 Days

$2,715

Road Trip Carretera Austral: The North - 9 - $2,715

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • A true wilderness challenge: journey through a mostly unpaved road connecting the most remote areas of Chile 
  • Many of the hiking routes are well-kept secrets, so you'll be trekking little visited trails of untouched splendour
  • Climb through verdant rainforest to reach the snowcapped Michinmahuinda Volcano and up to the crater of the smoking Chaitén Volcano
  • Experience it all – open valleys, glacial river, high peaks, abundant marine and birdlife, and the Pumalin and Queulat National Parks
  • Stay in overnight accommodation run by families, nestled in the natural surroundings, providing panoramic views, and offering hikes or kayaking excursions 

Start from Puerto Montt and end at Balmaceda Airport

Landmarks visited on Road Trip Carretera Austral: The North

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Puerto Montt – Hornopirén

Upon arrival at the airport, you will pick up your hire car and begin your journey towards the austral lands, driving on the beautiful scenic Carretera Austral to Hornopirén taking just one short car ferry.

Accommodation: Hotel Oelckers, Hornopirén


Day 2: Hornopirén – Caleta Gonzalo

Take the car ferry from Hornopirén to Leptepu then continue on to Caleta Gonzalo. Then a drive of a further 14 kms will take you to the trail head of the Cascadas Escondidas waterfall hike. Enjoy walking for around two hours, and also look forward to a 30 minute trail among the wonderful Alerce trees are on your return.

Accommodation: Lodging in Caleta Gonzalo


Day 3: Hike to the Michinmahuinda Volcano

The hike can be completed at a good pace in 6 hours, but to accommodate for soaking up time in the forests, with the birds and for taking breaks, a time of 8 hours is suggested.

Walk through thick, dense rainforest, amidst huge Nalca (wild rhubarb) which tend to block the path - long sleeves and trousers are advised for this part of the hike.

After a few hours, you will emerge into a clearing and from here the forest will be more open, with less shrub layer and a slight change in vegetation.

During the last part of the hike notice the surroundings become incredibly stunning, as you pass a river torrent and the Michimahuida comes into full view. The path continues up to a high plateau, from where, just underneath the Michimahuida Glacier you will discover a small lagoon and an amazing view of the smoking Chaitén and valley below.

Your return journey will follow the same course – be wowed by the staggering beauty of the snowcapped Michimahuida Volcano and hike over it's frozen magma surrounded by panoramic views of the valley below. 

As you climb the 700 metre ascent you will pass through thick temperature rainforest which transforms into bamboo forest with less undergrowth. The final ascent feels almost like the surface of the moon, with the addition of vegetation, and the views are magnificent. 

Length of hike: 7-8 hours, 24 km

Accommodation: Lodging in Caleta Gonzalo


Day 4: Hike to the Chaitén Volcano

In May 2008, Chaitén Volcano erupted after 9000 dormant years, causing tremendous damage to Chaitén and Pumalín. The park was closed for two years, during which time extensive restoration work was completed. The new trail starts 34 km south of Caleta Gonzalo, by which you can climb up to the crater. You will walk up for around 1.5 hours, with a 45 minute descent.

After the hike, continue south on the Carretera Austral passing through the town of Chaitén and the El Amarillo section of the Pumalin Park. 25 minutes south of this is the Yelcho Lake – where your accommodation for the next two nights is located.

Length of hike: 3 hours, 5 km

Accommodation: Yelcho Lodge


Day 5: Hike the Ventisquero Amarillo trail

From the Ventisquero Campground, walk a flat and open 10 km stretch toward the base of the Michinmahuida Glacier. Leaving early in the morning is recommended. 

Cross the river at its widest point, taking care and remembering that the more braided sections tend to be shallower and that the river may rise during the day as the snow melts. Then, continue up the valley on the west side of the river until you reach the glaciers.

If you like, at this stage you could continue a further 5 kms to the El Amarillo municipal hot springs. 

Returning to your lodge in the afternoon, you could seek out some more impressive vistas with a short hike to a viewpoint, or enjoy the lake with one of the lodge's 'sit-on-top' kayaks.

Length of hike: 6 hours, 20 km

Accommodation: Yelcho Lodge


Day 6: Lago Yelcho – Posada Queulat

Drive from Lago Yelcho to Posada Queulat, stopping off on route to wander around the historic village of Puyuhuapi. You could also plan a day hike in the Los Pumas section of the National Park.

Accommodation: Posada Queulat


Day 7: Explore the Ventisquero Colgante section of the park

Spend a full day exploring the Ventisquero Colgante section of the park, admiring the varied views. The starting point of the hike is a short 10 km drive from Posada Queulat; it's recommended you go earlier in the day to hike without the crowds. After trekking a while, you'll arrive at a viewing platform looking out to a hanging glacier and lake below. There are also shorter hikes to other viewing platforms, as well as a 30 minute boat trip on the lake, taking you through the waterfalls.

Accommodation: Posada Queulat


Day 8: Puerto Cisnes

As you make your way to Coyhaique, stop at Puerto Cisnes.

Spending the evening in the regional capital, choose from one of the many traditional restaurants and celebrate your final night on the Carretera Austral with a delicious meal.

Accommodation: Patagonia House, Coyhaique


Day 9: Onward travel

Drive to Balmaceda Airport in the morning and return your hire car, ready for a flight north to either Puerto Montt or Santiago.

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

  • Accommodation: 8 nights in lodgings along the route
  • Car hire for 9 days
  • Excursions as indicated in itinerary (hikes)
  • Ferry from Hornopiren to Leptepo

Excludes

  • Meals
  • International and domestic/in country flights
  • 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?