The Republic of Chile is often described as a country of contrasts. It houses the Atacama Desert, the Parinacota volcano, glaciers in Beagle Channel, and the Conguillio National Park. If you are planning a visit to this magnificent place, one of the best ways to enjoy it is by hiring a car and taking a drive through the country. Along the way, there are many scenic stops that you can take, allowing you partake in this country’s natural surroundings and history.
The following drives are amongst the most scenic in Chile:
This drive runs for about 190km and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. It crosses several climatic zones, from Bolivia’s border which is at 4,500m, all the way south through the Pan-American Highway, located at sea level.
Driving from south to north, the road traverses the lush green floors of Lluta Valley. Then several hairpin bends later, it takes you up through pillowy, sand-coated mountains. After several sharp twists, turns, and sharp curves, Route 11 finally ascends into volcanic peaks and world filled with unique wildlife. The road keeps climbing until it reaches the Parque Nacional Lauca.
This is essentially a scenic drive through Patagonia which can be had by bike or car. Even though most of the trip is over winding curves, unpredictable weather, and gravel, the rewards are worth it! Each kilometer is dotted with picturesque vistas. The highway is 200km extending from Puerto Mont to the Villa O’Higgins. Several rivers, lakes, waterfalls, fjords, glaciers, mountains, and forests will be encountered along the way. Along the way, visitors can participate in white water rafting on the Futaleufu River which is considered as one of the best among rafters. Many photography opportunities lie along the way such as the hanging glacier located in Queulat National Park or the oddly-shaped hill located in Cerro Castillo. Sailing is possible on lake General Carrera or fly-fish on Baker River. After partaking in all the activities, visitors can then drive to the end of the Carraterra Austral which finishes in the lush landscapes of the Villa O’Higgins.
Paso de Jama
This is a mountain pass located at 4,320m above sea level in the Andes Mountains between Argentina and Chile. On Chile’s side, the road will reach altitudes of up to 4,810m. The pass forms a direct link between Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama and Argentina’s Jujuy. The pass is in a remote location and therefore traverses many climatic and geographical areas. Daytime temperatures can pass 30 degrees Celsius whereas nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing. The area features breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains contrasted by semi-desert areas. The Paso de Jama also traverses the Los Flamencos National Reserve which is an area that spans 740 km and features two salt flats. Visitors can witness three flamingo species, lava flows, the almost extinct Andean fox, and other unique species of flora and fauna which are native to the area.