South of Balmaceda the Carretera Austral defines the word remote: through the imposing mountains of Cerro Castillo, the gravel highway skirts the Ibañez river through a spectacular array of landscapes from rugged steppe, narrow gorges and the desolation caused by the eruption of the Hudson volcano in 1991 and opens out as it reaches the picturesque scenery bordering Lake General Carrera.
Tortel is a charming and unusual village established at the turn of the 20th century by cypress loggers and whose 'streets' are wooden walkways over steep hillsides and the calm waters of a Pacific fjord. The final ferry of the Carretera Austral, at Puerto Yungay, leads to the final 100km stretch of road and the remote settlement of Villa O’Higgins.
Here the road meets the impassable barrier of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (the largest in the world after Antarctica and Greenland) and a diversion along Argentina’s famous Ruta 40, or a lake and land crossing to El Chaltén, is necessary.
Our preferred accommodation
means that the hotel is one of our Dream Destinations.
Lodge/Hosteria - Lago General CarreraA stunning 6 hour drive south from Balmaceda, through the rugged terrain of northern Patagonia and you will reach this beautifully tranquil lodge. Just outside the village of Puerto Guadal and nestled on the shores of the crystal blue Lago General Carrera, the lodge is made up of a series of comfortable wooden cabins, overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains. Set slightly further back from the cabins is the restaurant, which serves a selection of local cuisine.
Inn/Posada - Caleta TortelA lovely, rustic, family-run guest house halfway up a hillside overlooking the Tortel bay. Stylishly furnished, it is linked to the rest of the village by its own wooden walkway and blends in with its environment. At the heart of the lodge is an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen all designed around the fireplace where guests can sit and relax.
Estancia/Ranch - Puerto Bertrand to CochraneThis Explora lodge is in a priviledged site on what was once a a large estancia right at the heart of the Chacabuco valley and centrepiece of the Patagonia National Park. First visited by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins in 1995, the estancia covers 200,000 acres of Patagonia steppe and was purchased in 2004 by Conservación Patagonica to protect the endangered native Huemul deer.
The lodge is part of a self-sustainable project, so its building materials were stones from local quarries, recycled wood and copper for the roofs. There is a welcoming main communal sitting area, a dining room and bar, all designed around an impressive open fire. The décor is warm and inviting with the key themes of conservation and ecology visible throughout. The outdoor hot-tubs at the spa are a wonderful place to relax at the end of the day and massages can be booked too.
Lodge/Hosteria - Lago General CarreraDeep in the heart of Chilean Patagonia on the Carretera Austral with views over Lago General Carrera. The nearest settlement (population 500) is Puerto Guadal, 20 minutes away. The nearest airport served by scheduled flights is at Balmaceda, 220km away (5 hours by road). The main lodge reception has a bar and cosy restaurant.
Lodge/Hosteria - Villa O'HigginsA stylish 12 bedroom hotel on the edge of Villa O'Higgins. The main building houses a large dining and sitting area with comfortable sofas and large windows, and an upstairs library. To the rear of the property are two hot tubs with beautiful views.