Q-What is the Carretera Austral? A-Patagonia.

February 2023- Chile

What is the Carretera Austral?   (Spanish = Southern Way) Chilean Highway 7

Of course you can find the answer on the internet.  But you can also take a look at this information and see a little bit of the Carretera Austral through our eyes.

This iconic roadway meanders through parts of Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia and some of the most beautiful scenery on the continent. The road is rough and bumpy in some places, washboard and loose gravel in others and then suddenly paved just outside of each small town.

The driving days are exhausting.  Daylight is LONG during this summer season (Southern Hemisphere, Latitude - The entire length is about 770 miles and the small towns are sparsely sprinkled along those miles.  But the amazing views, the eye candy, the stark mountains and snowy peaks and gorgeous colors fill your eyes for the entire drive.  THIS is Patagonia- a region, a national park, a generalized place on the map and legendary scenery.

Some sections of the Carretera Austral run parallel to glacial lakes.  These dirt roads have been carved out of the rock cliffs into a narrow roadbed.  Most of these parts are just one lane wide with a few wide spots to pull out and let another vehicle pass.  But this seldom happens, as there just is not much automobile traffic on highway 7.

The lack of automobile traffic poses a particular challenge for the vast number of hitchhikers along this highway.  Internationally know, Patagonia draws adventurers from all around the world.  We try to pick up people whenever possible.  Our passengers in this section included an Italian couple on their honeymoon, an Israeli soldier on leave from the service and three German friends cycling the iconic highway.   They had waited three days for a ride, because they had three bikes and one was broken.  They refused to split up, and most vehicles were simply too small to assist them.  So we crammed the three bikes and three guys in the back and took them to the next village with a bike repair shop.


Each of the small towns offered something intriguing.  Most had a good bakery, a small museum, an oddball artist gallery with special handicrafts, a hotel, hostel or hospedaje  and a few basic restaurants.  We enjoyed these breaks from the rough road, and stopped in each town to relax.  In one town we purchased a small, handmade doll. In another, we bought groceries.  Most food comes by boat and then is delivered in small trucks, so prices are high and fresh produce is rare.  These blueberries in a box were a special treat, as was the rare nectarine in the background.


In one town we visited the museum so we could show you a hairy armadillo.  These are commonly seen scurrying off the edge of roads throughout the southern parts of Chile and Argentina.  These armadillos are about the size of a cottontail rabbit.

While at the museum we met a musician who invited us to attend a Valentines Day (Dia de Amor in Spanish) musical event in the community center.  Of course, we try to avail ourselves of such opportunities.  It was a very enjoyable evening in a small town in the Patagonian region of Chile.

Wild camping or boondocking is the norm along this highway.  In the towns we often encountered other overlanders parked around the small plazas.  But out on the carretera we seldom saw another camper.   Campsites included sandy riversides, and flat overlooks.  The scenery never disappointed as we enjoyed dinner outdoors or a morning cup of coffee!

In addition to scrubby, tough shrubbery, we also spotted hearty flowers growing strong during this brief summer growing season.  Long hours of daylight mean that the plants grow fast, bloom fast and die fast in order to complete the cycle before winter strikes again.

We sampled fresh gooseberry ( in Spanish it is grosella ) and purchased jars of “mermalada grosella” along the roadside.  The fresh berries were tart and tangy, but with the addition of sugar it became a yummy jam.  The gooseberry jam was delicious with peanut butter for a morning PB&J breakfast.  It takes a lot of berries to make a bottle of jam, as you can see each spiky little berry is smaller than a jar of Carmex lip balm but very juicy!

Each day, throughout the long hours of daylight, we seemed to experience every type of weather.  During the sunny times the glacier waters were brilliant blue.  As the clouds rolled in and became entangled on the peaks of the Andes the waters would turn a hazy turquoise shade.  Sometimes the clouds would reflect on the water and was difficult to determine where the water ended and the clouds began, the sky was inverted on to the lakes!

We will make some more interesting stops along the Carretera Austral.  I hope you will sign up to follow the blog and share it with someone else that may enjoy the stories and photos.  We do not monetize our posts or website, meaning there are no ads and we never sell your name or try to peddle products to you.  We share the info to help others learn about travel and experience the places we have visited.  You are welcome to contact us, send questions or suggestions . You can also use the SEARCH bar to find specific topics or countries that may interest you.

Thanks for being with us for the ride.

4 thoughts on “Q-What is the Carretera Austral? A-Patagonia.

  1. Hey! Thanks for asking. We have not yet encountered any snakes or scorpions at all! That does seem strange, in 7 years. But we have had some scary spiders on our gear and even inside the camper! We have also dealt with carpenter ants, mud dauber type wasps and some strange bees that eat wood. In general the most dangerous thing we face is eating too much food, adopting too many dogs, huge potholes in the road and high fuel prices! Seriously there just is not much dangerous stuff in our lives. But we use wisdom and always trust our gut!

  2. I really enjoy reading your posts. So I was wondering if you encounter poisonous snakes or scorpions. What do you have to watch out for that might be dangerous?

  3. What an amazing route. What I will remember: good bakeries along the carretera! You are finding peanut butter. It’s not too cold to sit outside for a meal. And boondocking is bliss. 🙂

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