Expedition: Chile's Carretera Austral

Expedition: Chile's Carretera Austral

The famed "Carretera Austral" is an intrepid bicyclist's paradise through a full third of Chilean Patagonia. Paved only part of the way, which makes for a nice introduction to gravel riding, this road was started in 1976 during the regime of General Augusto Pinochet. The Carretera Austral - also known as Route 7 - connects some of Chile's most remote communities located across a wild and mountainous, fjord-laden region whose snow-capped volcanoes, dense forests, stunning lakes, impressive rivers, and glaciated peaks are largely protected within national parks and preserves. This once-in-a-lifetime tour follows a partially-paved Route 7 from Puerto Montt to the southern shores of General Carrera Lake. We'll pedal a few long stretches of "ripio" (Spanish for gravel) near the tour's end. Whether you come for the scenic beauty, the remote wildness or the challenging cycling, you'll never forget this experience.

Tour Dates & Prices

Date
Price
Private Room Fee
Note
Jan 7-23, 2023
USD$7895
USD$900
Expedition Deposit is $1000 per person.

* We are happy to match solo travelers who would like to share a room with someone of the same gender. If no match exists, due to hotel pricing, we will charge 50% of the private room charge. This charge will be collected at the time of the final payment. If a roommate assignment is available it will be refunded at the conclusion of the tour.

** For information about what your tour status means please see our FAQ page.

Tour Style: Expedition Hold A Space Request Private Departure Download Itinerary Tour Map
  • Trip At-A-Glance
  • Tour Summary
  • Daily Itinerary
  • Travel Information
  • Map
  • Reviews
Trip At-A-Glance

Trip At-A-Glance

  • Length / 17 Days
  • Total Distance / 1030 km (640 miles), including 106 km (57 nautical miles) of boat travel
  • Avg. Distance / Average 93 km / 57 miles per riding day
  • Tour Level & Tour Style / 5.0 Expedition
  • Countries / Chile
  • Begin/End / Puerto Montt / Coyhaique
  • Price / From USD$7895
More Photos
Tour Summary

Tour Summary

  • Highlights
    8 National Parks/National reserves, Lagos Yelcho, Rosselot and Risopatron, Chacabuco, fjords, pristine Patagonian landscape

    Keep in Mind: We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.

    Expeditions require that you be prepared for anything and a sense of adventure will be your most valuable asset!
    - Due to gravel/poor road conditions there will likely be 2 or 3 instances where you will have to shuttle.
    - You will travel to remote areas with very basic accommodations.
    - Private Rooms may not be available every night.

    Learn more about what is included and what to expect on your Expedition tour here.

  • Includes
    17 days, 16 night's accommodation, 16 breakfasts, 13 lunches, 11 dinners. Lunches are packed lunches on the road and picnics. Full van support. Price includes all tips including tour leader gratuities. Ferries on Days 2, 3 and 16. Day 17 shuttle from Coyhaique to the Balmaceda airport. Options on days off to hike, kayak are included. Not Included is the excursion on day 8 to visit San Rafae glaciers on a full day trip from Puerto Chacabuco.

    Learn more about what is included and what to expect on your Expedition tour at the Expedition Tour Style page.
  • Arrive / Depart
    Puerto Montt Airport El Tepuel (PMC) / Balmaceda Airport (BBA)
  • Overall Tour Level
    5.0 difficulty level 5.0

    Long days and varied terrain with some days including more than 4000+ feet of climbing. The last 4 cycling days are entirely on gravel.

  • Daily Ride Summary

    Day

    Distance/Gain
    mi/ftkm/m

    Terrain

    Day Level

    Notes

    1
    Test ride
    2
    92km / 1233m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 4.5
    3
    57km / 937m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 4.0
    4
    53km / 368m
    Rolling hills
    difficulty level 2.0
    5
    92km / 1409m
    Very hilly
    difficulty level 5.0
    6
    28km / 377m
    Mostly flat
    difficulty level 1.0
    7
    131km / 1086m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 4.5
    Longer optional ride available
    8
    Rest day
    9
    77km / 1011m
    Very hilly
    difficulty level 4.5
    10
    100km / 1588m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 5.0
    11
    121km / 1662m
    Rolling hills
    difficulty level 5.0
    12
    Rest day
    13
    48km / 784m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 3.5
    14
    45km / 816m
    Hilly
    difficulty level 3.5
    15
    78km / 1661m
    Very hilly
    difficulty level 5.0
    16
    Transfer day
    17
    Last day

Terrain Legend

Gentle Gentle

Rolling hills Rolling hills

Hilly Hilly

Very hilly Very hilly

Mountainous Mountainous

Daily Itinerary
Download Itinerary

DAY 1: Meet in Puerto Varas

Highlights: Puerto Varas, Llanquihue Lake

We meet in Puerto Varas today, a small but bustling town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue in Chile. Just 35 minutes from the airport in Puerto Montt and with its craft market and lakeside views of Osorno Volcano, this is the perfect place to come stay a night before your trip starts. We'll meet in the afternoon to fit bikes and take a quick test ride along the lake.

DAY 2: Puerto Varas to Hornopirén

Highlights: Beginning of Carretera Austral, Alerce Andino National Park, Hornopiren National Park & Reloncaví estuary.

Today we shuttle from Puerto Varas to Chamiza to begin our ride. Once on the bikes, prepare to be marveled by the landscape as we approach the Alerce Andino NP, one of the many parks that we’ll pass through on our journey to Coyhaique. Follow the road until “Caleta la Arena,” at the shores of Reloncaví estuary, which we'll get across by ferry. From the far shore, we ride until Hornopiren, where we'll have our night's rest. 

  • Distance: 92km (57mi)
  • Gain: 1233m (4044ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 4.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 3: Hornopirén to Chaiten

Highlights: Douglas Tompkins Pumalin National Park, crossing Comau-Leptepu Fjord, Michimahuida volcano

This morning we'll span the length of the Fiordo Comau-Leptepu on a 4-hour ferry ride with views east to the mountains of Pumalin National Park and part of Vodudahue National Reserve. Once in Leptepu, we transfer over 10 km of gravel road to Fiordo Largo for our second ferry crossing (45-minutes later) to Caleta Gonzalo, where we finally begin pedaling our way to Chaiten within sight of the Michinmahuida Volcano. Today's ride 30 km gravel, 25 pavement.

  • Distance: 57km (36mi)
  • Gain: 937m (3073ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 4.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: Chaitén to Yelcho Lake

Highlights: Yelcho lake, Corcovado National Park

Today we pedal a beautiful glacier valley along the Carretera Austral until arriving at the shores of Lago Yelcho, renowned for world-class fly fishing. We'll rub elbows with anglers tonight at one of the area's many lodges.

  • Distance: 53km (33mi)
  • Gain: 368m (1207ft)
  • Terrain: Rolling hills
  • Day Level: difficulty level 2.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: Yelcho to La Junta

Highlights: Melimollu National Park, Lago Rosselot, National Reserve Palena River

Just outside Yelcho we'll pass the Yelcho hanging glacier. The rest of the day we're surrounded by stunning views as we pedal by Corcovado National Park and then into Melimollu National Park and Palena River. Our destination tonight is the small town of La Junta. All Paved

  • Distance: 92km (57mi)
  • Gain: 1409m (4622ft)
  • Terrain: Very hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 5.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
  • Lodging:

DAY 6: La Junta to Lago Risopatrón

Highlights: Risopatrón Lake

Our ride today is short and we end at the edge of Queulat National Park. This afternoon you can choose to take a hike or take it easy in our beautiful lodge nestled in the forest. Take a dip in the hot tub or swimming pool or warm up in the Sauna. Or curl up with a book as you rest your legs before tomorrow's big ride. All paved.

  • Distance: 28km (18mi)
  • Gain: 377m (1236ft)
  • Terrain: Mostly flat
  • Day Level: difficulty level 1.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
  • Lodging:

DAY 7: Lago Risopatrón to Puerto Chacabuco

Highlights: Queulat National Park

Due to sparse lodging, we start the day with a long shuttle before embarking on the longest ride of this tour. This day is a dynamic ride through Queulat National Park, with incredible views of the park's namesake hanging glacier. We'll pedal through a broad fluvial valley before veering off the Carretera Austral to follow the pristine Cisnes River until our destination for the next two nights in Puerto Chacabuco. If you want to do a full 100 miles this is your day!

  • Distance: 131km (81mi)
  • Gain: 1086m (3562ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 4.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 8: Explore Laguna San Rafael Glacier

Highlights: Laguna San Rafael Glacier

Puerto Chacabuco is the region's most important seaport with connection to Puerto Montt and gateway to the Laguna San Rafael Glacier, a major outlet glacier of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. You'll have the option to experience a full day's excursion of the glacier or relax on the hotel grounds for a quiet day of reading. Cost for this excursion is extra and we'll send details closer to the trip date.

DAY 9: Puerto Chacabuco to Coyhaique

Highlights: Río Simpson National Reserve, “Al Virgen” and "Velo de la novia” waterfalls

Our ride leads us to the major city of Coyhaique, the capital of Chile's Aysen district. Growing interest in the cattle industry helped populate Coyhaique from 1930s on. Today, Coyhaique is a bustling town and is surrounded by the Rio Simpson and Coyhaique National Reserve, as well as stunning water falls and rivers, known for its fly fishing.

  • Distance: 77km (48mi)
  • Gain: 1011m (3316ft)
  • Terrain: Very hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 4.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 10: Coyhaique to Villa Cerro Castillo

Highlights: Reserva Los Huemules

The landscape changes considerably today as we leave behind rolling hills dotted with cattle and enter a Ñirre lenga, or forest. At 50 feet in height, Ñirre (Genus Nothofagus) are deciduous trees common to the Pilmaquén pampa, between 2,300 and 2,600 feet in elevation.

  • Distance: 100km (62mi)
  • Gain: 1588m (5209ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 5.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: Villa Cerro Castillo to Puerto Río Tranquilo

Highlights: First views of Lago General Carrera

If you wanted a big day, today is your day. We leave the pavement behind and you can ride over a metric century today as we head south to General Carrera Lake, the biggest Lake in Chile and second biggest in South America. Our destination is Puerto Rio Tranquilo, founded in 1955 and colonized by ranching and farming families.

Pavement: 105 gravel, 14 paved

  • Distance: 121km (75mi)
  • Gain: 1662m (5451ft)
  • Terrain: Rolling hills
  • Day Level: difficulty level 5.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: Rest day in Puerto Río Tranquilo

Highlights: Catedrales de Marmól, Glacier Exploration

A much deserved rest day is in store today. If you want, we've arranged for a boat ride (and possibly a kayak trip if you prefer) to explore the beautiful marble caves just off the coast of Lago General Carrera. These caves are over 6000 years old and are formed by the water eroding the edge of the lake. Light plays off of the water and the walls as you drift through the stunning marble columns in the aptly named "cathedral" of the lake. A sight not to be missed and a great way to spend the day off the bike.

  • Meals: Breakfast

DAY 13: Puerto Río Tranquilo to Mallin Colorado Lodge

Highlights: General Carrera Lake

Your ride today follows the shores of General Carrera Lake (known in Argentina as Lago Buenos Aires) that actually has a border through it. In the indigenous language it is called Lago Chelenko. The glacial waters contribute to the beautiful color of the water, and although the surrounding mountains are often wet, the lake has a temperate and sunny microclimate that made it attractive to the European and criollo immigrants in the early 1900s. You'll have the afternoon to relax, hike, or horseback from the lodge.

Today's ride is all on gravel

  • Distance: 48km (30mi)
  • Gain: 784m (2572ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 3.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 14: Mallin Colorado Lodge to El Vallecito

Highlights: General Carrera Lake

We leave the Carretera Austral behind today and head east, contouring the southern shore of General Carrera on a gravel road that winds around headlands and through occasional forest. Every corner offers a new view of the 1,800-square kilometer lake whose deepest point is lower than sea level. We'll stay the night at a peaceful lakeside lodge. Today's ride is all gravel.

  • Distance: 45km (28mi)
  • Gain: 816m (2677ft)
  • Terrain: Hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 3.5
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Lodging:

DAY 15: El Vallecito to Chile Chico

Highlights: General Carrera Lake

Our final day of riding encapsulates the natural beauty and diversity of Chile's Aysen region. Enjoy sweeping views of snow-capped peaks surrounding General Carrera Lake for the first 50 kilometers of gravel riding. Then, the Patagonian Steppe emerges as Ruta 265 departs from the lake shore and leads us toward the small but important border town of Chile Chico. Today's ride is all on gravel.

  • Distance: 78km (49mi)
  • Gain: 1661m (5448ft)
  • Terrain: Very hilly
  • Day Level: difficulty level 5.0
  • Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 16: Chile Chico to Coyhaique

Highlights: Ferry Trip across General Carrera Lake

Just six miles west of the Argentine border, Chile Chico has the only car ferry across General Carrera Lake and we'll take it this morning to the small town of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. From here we'll soon rejoin the Carretera Austral as we head north back to Coyhaique. Enjoy the views from off the bike as we head back the way we came. Tonight we'll celebrate the end of an unforgettable journey.

DAY 17: Shuttle to Balmaceda

Highlights: Farewell to the 2023 Carretera Austral Expedition

After breakfast in Coyhaique, we'll shuttle to the Balmeceda airport where we'll finally say 'adios.' Whether you're connecting to Santiago for flights back home, exploring more of Patagonia, or venturing elsewhere in South America, may this Expedition rank as your top experience of 2023.

  • Meals: Breakfast
Travel Information

Travel Information

Day 1: Arrival Information

Meet in Puerto Varas

Meeting time 3 p.m. - on Day 1, meet your fellow cyclists and Tour Leaders at the Day 1 Hotel specified on the itinerary.

Note:

As you are planning, remember that the hotels listed in our itineraries are our primary hotels and are - in rare cases - subject to change. Before you make arrangements, check with us if your tour departure is guaranteed. If your tour departure is out further than 6 months, please also check with us as there might be slight changes to the itinerary.

The below information will help you plan your arrival. For more tips or other routes, you might like Rome2Rio.

We recommend flying into the Puerto Montt Airport (PMC).

  • Taxi to the Day 1 hotel (30 min/Chilean pesos 40,000 (around USD 50)

or

  • Private shuttle (30 min/Chilean pesos 30,000 (around USD 50) - contact us for arrangements.

Tips on flights:

Puerto Montt Airport (PMC) has connections to Santiago, Chile (SCL), Buenos Aires International Airport (EZE), and Buenos Aires Domestic Airport (AEP) see LATAM

  • Connecting in Santiago, Chile: LATAM offers several 1.5 hour direct flights from Santiago.
  • Connecting in Buenos Aires: LATAM offers several flights daily from both Buenos Aires Airports - you may have to connect through Santiago). It is a 4.5 to 5.5 hour flight. We would recommend connecting through Santiago rather than Buenos Aires.

For more travel planning tips, including our packing lists, visit our Travel Planning Pages.

Day 17: Departure Information

Shuttle to Balmaceda

On the final tour day, we shuttle you to the Balmaceda Airport (BBA). Your spot on the shuttle is already saved. 

Schedule your flight at 12 noon or later. The transfer takes about 1 hour and the shuttle arrives around 10 a.m.

The below information will help you plan your departure. For more tips or other routes, you might like Rome2Rio. The fare and timing information listed below is approximate.

Balmaceda (BBA) has connections to Santiago, Chile (SCL), see LATAM

  • Connecting in Santiago, Chile: LATAM offers some direct flights to Santiago.
  • Most international flights from South America leave in the late evening, so it is possible to connect with an international flight the day the tour ends.

Keep in Mind

We work hard to maintain consistency across all of our tours, but some trips have unique differences. Here are some things to keep in mind about this tour.

Expeditions require that you be prepared for anything and a sense of adventure will be your most valuable asset!
- Due to gravel/poor road conditions there will likely be 2 or 3 instances where you will have to shuttle.
- You will travel to remote areas with very basic accommodations.
- Private Rooms may not be available every night.

Learn more about what is included and what to expect on your Expedition tour here.

Pre-Trip Planning Checklist

To Do Today!

6 to 3 Months Prior to Tour Start Date

  • Check the online itinerary of your trip and review the arrival and departure information under the "Travel Information" tab to see meeting place and time, if a reservation on a complimentary ExperiencePlus! Shuttle (if applicable) is required, and other important information to help you plan your arrival and departure.
  • Reserve your flights after you know you have a confirmed tour departure. Please check with our office if you do not know if your trip is confirmed.
  • Book your pre and post-tour hotel nights.
  • Begin your chosen training program.
  • Final payment is due 90 days (120 days for Bike &Barge/Boat tours) prior to the tour start. Please refer to your Invoice and the Final Payment Reminder e-mail you have received for detailed instructions.

6 to 2 Weeks Prior to Tour Start Date

  • Start reading one of the books or watching one of the movies from our Reading and Movie Lists: https://www.experienceplus.com/blog/travel-planning/
  • Plan what you are going to pack and start packing! Refer to the Packing Lists on our website at https://www.experienceplus.com/blog/travel-planning/packing/.
  • We'll email you your access code to Digital Daysheets, Hotel Itinerary, Participant Roster, names and contact information of your Tour Leaders, emergency phone numbers, and other important departure information about 2 weeks prior to your tour start date. All this will be provided to you via a feature called Experiences via the RideWithGPS App (tracks available but not necessary for navigation on Classic, Expedition, Spotlight and Bike & Boat tours).

Day of Your Flight

Get as much sleep on the plane as you can. Pack your Getting To and Away information and one day of cycling gear in your carry-on. See you soon!

What to Expect on Tour

Expedition Tour Style

Learn more about what is included and what to expect on your Expedition tour at the Expedition page.

Map

Map

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