A twenty-five-day road trip beginning in Santiago, Chile and ending in Punta Arenas, Chile. Almost five thousand kilometres, countless hours of paved and unpaved roads, hundreds of millimetres of rain, strong Patagonian wind gusts, beaming sunshine, stunning sunsets, foggy skies and even a dusting of snow. We really did get it ALL!
The contrast in scenery as we crisscrossed through the Andes will never be forgotten. We sure had an adVANture and I hope these words and images share some of the highest memories and documents some of our unforgettable experiences.
SANTIAGO to PUCON / Picking up our van in Santiago, we hopped straight onto Ruta 5 and headed south west to the well-known beach town of Pichilemu. Here you will find streets lined with timber shacks, surfers itching to jump on some epic left handers, beautiful sunsets and eco-friendly food stores. I much preferred the little village near Punta Lobos. Here you will find trendy eats and the perfect spot to view the sunset. After two nights in the surfing capita of Chile, we followed the coast down south on Ruta 5 and then headed inland a little. After a bumpy final thirty kilometres, we arrived at the tranquil Parque Nacional Radal Siete Tazas. We spent two nights camping in front of a gorgeous stream and explored the extravagant waterfalls and ‘Seven Cups’. Following our days here, we had a few unfortunate mechanical mishaps (it wouldn’t be an adVANture without them) and spent a night in Temuco and a few nights in Copec carparks to get back on track. Not to mention the hour where we sat higher than fellow commuters in our van, whilst being towed along Ruta 5, a moment we will never forget. To fetch our new van, we busted down to Puerto Varas and spent an afternoon winding through the beautiful lakes and back up to the quaint village of Pucon. From here, we entered the Parque Nacional Huerquehue and completed the Los Lagos hike. Surrounded by enormous trees, crossing the greenest and bluest of lakes and viewing Volcano Villarrica whilst trekking made for an amazing ten kilometre day hike. Let’s just say the scenery overload had well and truly begun!
SAN MARTIN to BARILOCHE / After crossing the Andes into Argentina, we began our decent to San Martin de los Andes. Streets lines with German inspired coffee shops, it was the perfect spot to escape some rainy weather and hope for a sunny day to drive south to Bariloche. The sun was shining the following day and this day, without doubt, was one of our favourite driving days of the entire trip. Winding along lakes and lakes and lakes, back dropped by snow-capped mountains. If you are in Bariloche, please hire a car and do this drive! We stopped at least ten times on our drive to take in the scenery, some avocado toasties for lunch in front of a teal lake, absolute bliss! After driving through the town of Bariloche, we stopped at Matador Bahia Lopez, another amazing viewpoint. Coming from Australia, where the landscapes are so different, mountains and lakes make you feel like you’re a thousand miles away. Colonia Suzie is where we set up camp for a few days, however we didn’t have much luck with the rain here. It pretty much didn’t stop for three days straight so we were unable to do any hiking, just drinking red wine and lots of comfort food with some new friends. From Bariloche, we headed further south to cross the border back into Chile.
FUTALEUFU to CHILE CHICO / Back on the Chilean side of Patagonia for the next week or so and back to some very interesting patches of road, probably the bumpiest kilometres of the trip. Futaleufu is a town on the border and is home to some of the most blue waters that are perfect for rafting. We decided to move a little further south and spent the night in the sleepy town of Puyuhuapi. From here, we had a beautiful breakfast view in the Parque Nacional Quelat. Just us, the van and some peanut butter on toast, taking it all in, THE BEST! We definitely needed the food before tackling this section of the Carretera Austral, the craziest of roads, winding up and down mountains and severe rainfall. After surviving the extreme road conditions, we arrived in the large city of Coyhaique where we planned to do some hiking. Unfortunately, I fell ill and spent a day in hospital and then some rest time in a hotel. So our #vanlife was delayed by a few days. Once recovered, we headed further south to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. We were blessed with more blue lakes and phenomenal views. Then along another insane road to Chile Chico. Think roads wide enough for one a half cars, dirt and clay and sheer cliff face with no barrier rails, that was our drive to arrive in Chile Chico. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was breath-taking but possibly the unsafe road deterred me from appreciating the surroundings as much they deserved. Michael on the other hand couldn’t keep his eyes ON the road, which probably exacerbated my anxiety levels!
EL CHALTEN to PUNTA ARENAS / The final stretch of the journey, #vanlife was soon coming to an end. A long drive from the border town of Los Antiguos to El Chalten but what a destination to arrive in after a lengthy commute on Ruta 40. As you enter the town of El Chalten you are greeted with the stunning views of Mount Fitzroy. This place is a paradise for anyone whose soul is gladdened by dense woodland, mountain views, glaciers and crystal-clear alpine streams. It was so damn good that I dedicated a whole blog post to El Chalten and El Calafate, here. From El Calafate it was time for our final border crossing and final Argentinian exit stamp of the trip. We spent a night in Punta Arenas before returning our van to the depot. We then bussed back to Puerto Natales to commence the W-Trek, another spot that required its own post.
The time that we spent exploring this amazing stretch of land was truly memorable. I think if we were to do this again, we would definitely hire a 4WD due to the road conditions and stay in cheap accommodation, especially as we were late in the season and temperatures were chilly in the van. Other than that, Patagonia is a very special place. A destination where the environment is paramount and the conservation movement is large. Measures are being taken to care for the land as much as possible. If you’re in Chile or Argentina between the months of November-April, you’re in the optimal time period to explore this vast stretch of goodness. As they say, get wild, get to Patagonia!
Much love, Laura xx