Whether by car or bike, it’s hard to dispute that the Carreterra Austral is one of South America's most rugged — and scenic — highway routes. Winding through the wilderness of Patagonia, the road is often remote and rough but grants access to some of the most naturally beautiful parts of Chile. Also known as Route 7 or Southern Highway, it runs north to south from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins for more than 1,200 kilometers.
Construction on the carretera began in 1976 under dictator Augusto Pinochet. It is not always one continuous road - in part it is connected only by ferry. Much of the paths are gravel, though more and more are being paved with time. It is particularly popular with cyclists in the summer months (December through February.)
Despite the length of the route, this area is sparsely populated by around only 100,000 people in rural communities — meaning you'll have much of the natural beauty to yourself.
The Carretera Austral begins just south of the Lakes District of Chile. A 4WD vehicle is recommended for driving.