Driving Chile’s Patagonia highway

Earlier in the week we posted a story on 18 of the world’s craziest roads, which featured amazing and downright scary highways from around the globe. Absent from that list is a 770-mile long stretch of pavement that runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, right through heart of Chile’s Patagonia district, that is known as the Carretera Austral.

This lonely and remote highway offers one of the best adventure roadtrips anywhere in the world, with miles of open road, much of still unpaved, surrounded by some of the most striking and dramatic scenery on the planet. Construction began on Carretera Austral, or CH-7 as it is known locally, back in 1976 under the direction of General Augusto Pinochet. The route was opened to traffic a dozen years later, and while primary construction was completed in 1996, new extensions continue to be added today.

The road cost over $300 million to build, and yet it provides access to just 100,000 people who live in and visit the area. Outsiders are drawn to the region by the legendary hiking and trekking that Patagonia has to offer, and the Andes Mountains make this as scenic of a drive as you’ll ever find. Of course, Patagonia is also legendary for its intense and unpredictable weather, which can make driving on the CH-7 all the more adventurous.

Travel writer Colin Barraclough, along with a good friend, recently made the journey to Chile, to drive a 330 mile section of the Carretera Austral, and he chronicled his experiences for the Boston Globe. You can read his impressions from the road in a story posted here. A word of warning however, after reading this article just may be booking a trip to South America.