Between Puerto Montt and Chaitén (107 miles), the road includes two ferries, a short one over the Reloncaví sound and a longer one, 5 hours, from Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo. The section between Chaitén and Coyhaique (169 miles), was open to vehicles in 1982, overcoming the belief that it was almost impossible to build an overland road in central Chilean Patagonia.
Day 1: Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas. The city of Puerto Montt was founded February 12th, 1853 by Vicente Pérez Rosales. The first settlement was Melipulli (Four Hills) by the Reloncaví sound, an area covered by a lush virgin forest. In 1852, November 12th, the first German settlers arrived to the area, starting a long colonization process, which will give birth to the town of Puerto Montt. There will be a significant population growth from 1912 on, when the rail road finally connects the town with the northern cities.
Puerto Varas is situated on the south west margin of Lake Llanquihue, 20 km from Puerto Montt. One can appreciate the evidence of German colonization in their typical constructions and beautiful gardens. The volcanoes Calbuco and Osorno stand out in the horizon. The insertion of different cultures in these desolate difficult territories where nature offers all its beauty but also big difficulties keeps being a strong challenge for man.
Day 2: Puerto Varas – Caleta Gonzalo. Departure from Puerto Montt toward the south following the southern highway. Ferry crossing on the Reloncaví sound (30 minutes crossings during all the day - reservation and prepayment are not accepted). Continuation to Hornopirén. Ferry from Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo. Odging in Pumalín Park. Includes: (B).
Day 3: Caleta Gonzalo - Futaleufu. In 1991, North American Douglas Tompkins, a long time visitor to Chile since 1961, bought the Reñihué Ranch with the idea to set aside 42,000 acres of evergreen temperate rain forest from possible exploitation. In the intervening years The Conservation Land Trust has added another 700,000 acres in nearly contiguous parcels to comprise the Pumalin Park. These properties are destined to become a Nature Sanctuary, a special designation of the Chilean State, granting it additional environmental and non developmental protection.
Morning excursions in the park, we recommend the self-guided Alerce Trail that takes you to a thousand years old Alerce Grove (bosque cathedral). In the afternoon drive south crossing Chaitén and bordering Lago Yelcho. A Villa Santa Lucía turn off eastward, bordering the Futaleufú river until reaching the village
Lodging in Futaleufú. Includes: (B).
Día 4: Futaleufú – La Junta. Futaleufú - a 1,153 inhabitants’ town located at the riverside of the homonymous river and just 10 kilometres away from the Argentinean border. From here the first settlers entered the region in the decade of 1920, starting the cattle raising industry in the area. In 1940, a fire razed with the forest. In 1960 contact grew with Chile thanks to commercial aviation and in 1982 the road connecting with the southern highway was opened.
As much in town as by the surrounding lakes (lakes Espolón and Lonconao), several hotels and fishing lodges have been build to receive the guests who come here due to the region international prestige among the of the fly casting lovers and the white water rafting and kayak fans. Once in Villa Santa Lucía drive south to La Junta bordering the beautiful Palena River – 240 km long – whose source is the western end of the Palena Lake and outflow in the Pacific Ocean is at Puerto Marín Balmaceda. Lodging in La Junta – meaning “The meeting” because of the confluence of the Risopatrón into the Palena. Includes: (B).
Day 5: La Junta - Queulat National Park. The Queulat National Park is a wild and pristine territory where the temperate rainforest is topped with the glaciers and ice fields of the Austral Andes and complemented with the rich bio diversity of the fjords and channels of the Austral Pacific. Before being a park this land was never inhabited by anyone or any road or path ever crossed it, it is the only national park in Chile with unexplored territory that can be reached by car. It is the forest mentioned by Nobel price Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, in his memoirs.
In the morning visit of the surrounding landscape, we highly recommend the Risopatrón lake, with excellent fishing from November on (boat trips and fishing license at the hotel). Later in the day departure toward the south, entering the Queulat National Park through its northern gate and continuing to the Puyuhuapi village, which was founded in 1935 by German immigrants from the Tchecoslovaque region of Sudenten. Continuation bordering the Ventisquero Sound. We recommend stopping for a visit of the Hanging Glacier on your way. Lodging by the Queulat Fjord in the very heart of the Queulat National Park surrounded by virgin rainforest
Dinner and lodging at Ecolodge Fiordo Queulat. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 6: Queulat National Park. Free day to visit the park. Dinner and lodging at the Eco-Lodge Fiordo Queulat in the heart of the national park. Includes: (B), (D).
Day 7: Queulat – Coyhaique. Coyhaique is situated to the east of the high summit of the Andes and more specifically in the intermediate zone between the mountains and the pampas (Patagonian steppe).Towards the west, high mountain tops rise covered with glaciers and beautiful Coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi) and Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) forests grow on their steep slopes. Towards the east the landscape becomes much softer with lower hills covered with Ñirre (Nothofagus antarctica) forests disappearing definitively toward the pampas.
Departure toward the south on the Carretera Austral crossing the beautiful Queulat pass and then descending toward the Cisnes river valley. This is another Patagonia giant whose source is at the border with Argentina and flows into the Pacific Ocean at Puerto Cisnes. It runs for 160 km. Later, going southward, you will cross the Lago Las Torres National Reserve and then reach the Mañihuales river basin. This river flows for 62 km from the border with Argentina to the Aysén River. At the outflow you must turn eastward and follow the Simpson River all the way to Coyhaique. The Simpson, of 150 km, is one of the highlighted spots for anglers all over the world. Lodging in Coyhaique. Includes: (B).
Day 8: Coyhaique – Balmaceda. Departure toward Balmaceda to drop off the car and to board the plane to Santiago, Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas. Or you might continue south on the Carretera Austral (CA2). Plane alternative from Puerto Montt - Chaiten. Includes: (B).
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South America Chile Local Culture Self Drive National Parks
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