Gorgeous, rainy, lovely
A road trip across Chile’s Southern Highway or Carretera Austral, which runs through the entire country
Ten minutes into my drive down the dirt highway that transects Chile’s Parque Pumalin in northern Patagonia, I had to pull over. Not for any mechanical reason, just to stand and stare in awe. Dense forest had suddenly given way to a lake flanked by mountains.
Minutes later, I came to another screeching stop. This time, at a rocky stream overrun with gunnera plants, otherwise known as Chilean rhubarb or dinosaur food, for having leaves so enormous they could wrap my 5-foot-6 frame like a burrito.
But to walk among the gunnera in abundance, amid mountains untouched by human hands, felt like stepping into a time machine.
My 80-kilometre trip south through Pumalin should have clocked in at around an hour. It took me four. That meandering was spiked with so much joy.
But it was also the first time, in two and a half months of solo travel, that I have felt truly lonely. There’s nothing like shouting out, “This is so beautiful!” to an empty car to make you wish for company.
You don’t need a four-by-four to drive Chile’s epic Southern Highway, but your rental car may take a beating. Transit options for your trip at thestar.com/travel
Sunset from the coast between Hornopiren and Puerto Montt on the Carretera Austral in Chile.
Short on time? Base yourself in Puerto Varas and take day a day trip to the Petrohue River
Campground El Vulcan in Parque Pumalin. There are trails flat enough for those who aren’t hikers.