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Facts and tips for touring Northern Patagonia Carretera Austral from Puerto Montt to Chaitén

In 1976 the construction of the Carretera Austral began, which after 1200 km reached Villa O'Higgins, gateway to Campo de Hielo Sur. In addition to allowing the connection of multiple towns and communities, it has become a major tourist destination with landscapes of virgin vegetation and wildlife, parks, lakes and hot springs.

The route along this road can be divided into 4 sections, the first being the one that goes from Puerto Montt to La Junta, about 320 km that correspond to the southern area of the Lakes Region.

Here we give you some facts and tips to live an unforgettable experience.


For updated schedules, check with suppliers.

You can make the trip by car or bus or even by plane. If you go by car there are several options with more or less transfers and driving hours:

a) BIMODAL ROUTE: Navigation and Vehicle

It is taken from Puerto Montt the Carretera Austral or Route 7, a route that combines sections by land and others by ferry, also known as Bimodal Route. It runs 47 km completely paved along the northern margin of the Reloncaví Estuary to Caleta La Arena. A small place of about 300 inhabitants with some restaurants and a beach, where you take the ferry to Caleta Puelche. 30-minute navigation

FERRY: Transport of the Estuary

Caleta La Arena to Caleta Puelche

Service 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

It is embarked on a first-come, first-served basis and paid at the same place

From Caleta Puelche continue by land for 54 km to reach Hornopirén ("Snow Oven"). On the way you will find the town of Contao with extensive beaches and the rustic Termas de Pichicolo in the middle of species typical of the native forest with outdoor pools and views of the Hornopirén volcano.

Hornopirén is the capital of the commune of Hualaihué and has about 3700 inhabitants (2017). It is a well-supplied locality. From the port located in the Reloncaví fjord, the ferry sails all year round to Leptepu, which takes about 3.30 hours navigating the interior of the fjords. Once in Leptepu continue by land for about 10 minutes until you reach Fiordo Largo where you take another boat that crosses in approximately 45 minutes to Caleta Gonzalo.

FERRY: Somarco

Hornopirén to Leptepu and Fiordo Largo to Caleta Gonzalo

They have periods with subsidized values. During the months of January, February and the first half of March there are daily crossings at 6:00 p.m. (Hornopirén – Caleta Gonzalo) and at 8:00 p.m. (Caleta Gonzalo – Hornopirén). *Always check schedules on website.

Tickets are purchased online in advance. Space is limited. Payments by Web Pay Tickets are collected at Somarco offices up to 2 hours before.

1 change is accepted up to 24 hours prior to departure.

You must be at the terminal 2 hours before departure.

From Caleta Gonzalo continue by land for 57 km to finally reach Chaitén, capital of the province of Palena.

b) FROM PUERTO MONTT: Navigation

If you prefer not to drive as much or leave it as an option for the return, you can take a ferry from Puerto Montt and sail to Chaitén passing through Ayacara on a trip of approximately 9 hours with several weekly departures.

c) FROM CHILOÉ: Navigation and Vehicle

Another option with fewer transfers is to leave from Puerto Montt to the island of Chiloé. There is a ferry crossing from Pargua, on the mainland, to Chacao, the gateway to the island, about 30 minutes. Once on the island you can reach the city of Castro 106 km from Chacao and take the ferry to Chaitén in a 6-hour navigation. Or continue to Quellón at the southern end of the island, 190 km from Chacao and sail for 6.30 hours to Chaitén.

FERRY: Naviera Austral

Make the crossings Puerto Montt to Chaitén, Castro to Chaitén and Quellón to Chaitén You can buy tickets online up to 10 hours before departure, or they can be purchased at the offices of the shipping company. Tickets cannot be purchased on board.

You must be 2 hours before departure at the terminal if you go by car.



There is the option to go by the Bimodal Route or from Chiloé by the bimodal route. Daily departures.


The companies Pewen and Aerocord make flights to Chaitén that take 35 minutes and arrive at the airfield located 20 km from the town.



Hornopirén: Capital of the commune of Hualaihué, it is considered the northern gateway to the Carretera Austral. A village surrounded by mountains, forests, hanging snowdrifts and hot springs. According to the last census (2017) it has 3629 inhabitants dedicated mainly to tourism, services and cultivation of marine species. The village has a gas pump, pharmacy, hotels, hostels, restaurants, travel agencies.

Hornopirén National Park: Virgin forests, forestsand volcanoes. From Hornopirén you can take a car to get there (11 kilometers) or you can do walking, but calculate about 3 hours. To walk its trails you must wear appropriate clothing since its proximity to the glaciers there is usually mud, rain and temperatures below 0 ° C (32 F) during the nights. Basic implementation with toilets (latrines), picnic site and a small shelter where to make fire. .

Llancahué Hot Springs: Located on an island with hotel, restaurant, 2 outdoor thermal pools and 8 private thermal tubs indoors. It crosses from Hornopirén in a 50-minute journey.

Termas de Pichicolo: Natural thermal baths recognized as healing or medicinal sources for their therapeutic properties and benefits for the skin and circulatory system (Ministry of Health 2022).

Lake Cabrera: On the slopes of the Yates and Hornopirén volcanoes, a magical corner of blue-green waters where you can camp. There is no installation. You can take a car from Hornopirén (which about 7 km but the rest you have to walk) or walk the 10 km in the middle of the native forest to the lake.


Chaitén: Town of 5071 inhabitants (2017) that was totally destroyed in May 2008 by the eruption of the Chaitén volcano and the overflow of the Blanco River. It is the gateway to the Aysén region. Over time it has been rebuilt and today has a hospital, gas pump, bank, hostels, restaurants. Fishing activity is its main livelihood and tourism thanks to its lakes, rivers, native forests, sea lions and national parks.

Pumalín Douglas Tompkins National Park: Created in February 2018, it presents a biodiversity of global importance. Its forests have a high level of endemism. Larch forests stand out (25% of the total remaining species of the country take refuge here) along with Luma, Canelo, Tepa, Coigües, among others. It is the habitat of various birds and mammals such as the Pudú, the Fox, the Cocololo Cat, the Puma and the Monito del Monte. It has bathrooms, picnic areas, camping areas, circuits and trails to enjoy.


Corcovado National Park: Created in 2005, it is an area for the preservation of temperate rainforests and endemic fauna such as huillín, güiña, chungungo and puma, among others. It features impenetrable forests that cover large areas. It is not easily accessible and has no infrastructure. The snowdrift Yelcho is well worth a visit.


Lake Yelcho: Located 46 km south of Chaitén, it is very popular for its fly fishing (season from November to early May). Emerald-green waters where a large number of birds are sighted. On its northern shore is Puerto Cárdenas, a place of 21 inhabitants that offer accommodation and agrotourism activities, horseback riding and hiking. Parque Nacional Corcovado: Creado el año 2005, es un área de preservación de bosques lluviosos templados y de fauna endémica como el huillín, la güiña, el chungungo y el puma, entre otros. Presenta bosques impenetrables que cubren grandes áreas. No es de fácil acceso y no cuenta con infraestructura. El ventisquero Yelcho bien merece una visita.

Futaleufú: Located 156 km from Chaitén and 10 km from the border with Argentina, it is a territory of Chilean horses, mate and gauchos. It has around 2600 inhabitants (2017) and a wide range of tourist activities. Its main attraction is the Futaleufú River ("big river"), one of the three best in the world for rafting and kayaking. In addition, it is practiced hiking, sport fishing, horseback riding, mountaineering and has cabins and hostels where you can stay. 10 km from the village is the Futaleufú National Reserve.

We are operators, if you need us to organize your trip, do not hesitate to contact us: info@jasspuertovaras + 569 6590 6458

Dare to discover remote places very little explored that will mark your life!

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