Carretera Austral with native forests and volvanos in Chile

A true hiker’s paradise

8 days/7 nights hiking tour with optional extension

On the northern Carretera Austral (now also known as part of the Route of Parks of Patagonia), a true hiker’s paradise has been developing over the last few years. After crossing the fjord Comau from Hornopirén, you reach a tiny place called Caleta Gonzalo – the gateway to a huge natural treasure called Pumalin Douglas Tompkins National Park. Deceased founder of Esprit and North Face, Douglas Tomkins, has put some of South America’s most beautiful areas of pristine rainforest under protection over the last two decades. After hard work and the construction of high-quality infrastructure, he carefully opened it up to visitors.

Easy to moderate day hikes take you along well-developed hiking trails to thundering waterfalls, millennial alerce trees, little known glaciers and even to the crater of a volcano that erupted only a few years ago. In dense rainforests we hike through a fairy tale forest with giant ferns, rhubarb-resembling, native Nalca plants, and wildly overgrown tree trunks.

Program

DAY 01: PUERTO VARAS

Your journey starts at Puerto Montt Airport in Chile’s Lake District. Upon arrival, a transfer takes you to the nearby “City of Roses”, Puerto Varas, situated on the shores of Llanquihue Lake. The rest of the day is at leisure. There is time to walk along the beautiful coastal promenade and relax at one of the local cafés while enjoying the view of the area’s snow-covered volcanoes.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Varas

DAY 02: OSORNO VOLCANO (4-5 H EASY HIKE)

Marvel at the picturesque landscape of the Chilean Lake District on an impressive ride along the shores of Llanquihue Lake. The road leads up the slopes of the Osorno volcano through native Lenga forest, to the starting point of today’s hike. The “El Solitario” trail allows privileged views over volcanic landscapes. We also visit the rapids of Petrohué River, one of the wildest rivers in Chile. Loudly roaring, he rushes through its uneven bed. Take in unforgettable panoramas with Osorno Volcano in the background.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Varas

DAY 03: PUERTO VARAS – PUMALIN NATIONAL PARK (3H EASY HIKE)

Your journey south to the Carretera Austral begins in the early morning hours today. Three different ferries take you across the fjords that carve their way deep into the Andes Mountains, the longest of them being Comau Fjord, bordered by densely forested mountain chains. After arrival in Caleta Gonzalo in the afternoon, an easy  three-hour hike takes you through the lush rainforest of Pumalin National Park.

Accommodation: Cabin in Caleta Gonzalo

DAY 04: MILLENNIAL ALERCE TREES & ASCENT TO CHAITÉN VOLCANO (5 H MODERATE HIKE)

Today’s first warm-up hike in Pumalin National Park leads to 3000-year-old native Alerce trees – some of the oldest living beings in the world that can only be found in this region. Unfortunately, only few are left today, as they have been deforested radically since colonization, and are officially protected only rather recently.

We continue to Chaitén Volcano, whose unexpected eruption in 2008, after 9000 years of inactivity, caused enormous damage. Today, a hiking trail allows ascending to the volcano’s crater. The colorful landscape on top appears almost surreal, where a hill of lava and ashes has formed within the crater. The traces of the destruction are still evident, while at the same time pioneer plants are conquering back the soil, among them resilient Nalca plants and the native fuchsia bushes that are loved by hummingbirds. The day ends in the nearby town of Chaitén or on the shores of Yelcho Lake.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén or at Yelcho Lake.

DAY 05: DAY AT LEISURE

This day is at leisure. Some options to spend the day are full-day hikes to Michimahuida Volcano or the El Amarillo Glacier, or a kayak trip. In case the previous days left you with aching muscles, a visit to the rustic El Amarillo Hot Springs will release any tension. While sitting in the thermal outside pools, contemplate the surrounding mountains covered in lush vegetation.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén or at Yelcho Lake.

DAY 06: YELCHO GLACIER (6 H EASY HIKE)

Today a simple, yet little known hike takes you to Yelcho Glacier (Ventisquero), located near the lake of the same name in the huge Corcovado National Park. After walking through the region’s typical evergreen rainforest, you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the glacier.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Chaitén or at Yelcho Lake

DAY 07: PUMALIN – PUERTO VARAS

Return to Puerto Varas today. Once again, you have the option to enjoy splendid views from the ferry that takes you along the fjord’s tranquil waters back to Hornopirén. From here we continue all the way to Puerto Varas.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puerto Varas

DAY 08: PUERTO VARAS - PUERTO MONTT

Today a transfer takes you back to the airport of Puerto Montt. From here you have the option to continue your journey through Chile, or return home with a connecting flight via Santiago.

Optional extension to Balmaceda:

DAY 07: PUMALIN – PUYUHUAPI

Today, the journey south on the Carretera Austral through Patagonia. The rustic gravel road penetrates deep into untouched wilderness, along the turquoise-colored Frío River, glacier-covered mountain massifs, dreamy lakes and picturesque waterfalls.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puyuhuapi

DAY 08: QUEULAT NATIONAL PARK (3 h easy hike or demanding full day hike)

Today you have the option to explore nearby Queulat National Park. A three-hour hike leads to the viewpoint of the stunning hanging glacier “Ventisquero Colgante” and its waterfall. A more demanding alternative is the lesser known day hike to the beautiful lagoon of Los Pumas.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Puyuhuapi

DAY 09: PUYUHUAPI – COYHAIQUE

The journey continues south along the lush wild vegetation of the Carretera Austral. Huge Nalca plants and gigantic ferns adorn the roadside; dense forests, quiet fjords and snow-capped peaks form a fabulous primeval landscape. The road winds its way in narrow serpentines on one of the highest passes of the Carretera Austral, and drops abruptly as we reach the raging Rio Cisnes (the Swan River). Here, the impenetrable, evergreen rainforests thin out and make way for the rough southern Patagonian mountain landscape. Through the Simpson River’s wild romantic valley, we reach the capital of the region Aisén, Coyhaique.

Accommodation: 3*-Hotel in Coyhaique

DAY 10: BALMACEDA

Today, a transfer takes you back to the airport of Balmaceda. From here, you have the option to continue your journey through Chile, or return home with a connecting flight via Santiago.

Included:

  • 7 or 9 overnights with breakfast.
  • All Transfers mentioned in itinerary.
  • All excursions mentioned in itinerary with English-speaking guide.
  • All entrance fees.
  • Box lunch on days 02,04,05 and 06.
  • Ferry tickets.