The Carratera Austral in Chile (Ruta 7) has a reputation as one of the most stunning roads in the world. Having ridden most of it, I confirm this reputation is well deserved.
My ride through Ruta 7 was split into pieces, having traveled from Puerto Montt to Chaiten some months earlier, looping back to Argentina via Gran Chiloe, then re-entering Chile via the Esquel-Futaleufu border. After a short stop at La Junta I ended up in Coyaique. The La Junta to Coyaique route was spectacular in itself, but that’s a story for another day.
The Coyaique to Los Antiguos trip was going to be long. The total distance was around 400km, but Google and Garmin both listed the travel time at around 10 hours. The route was almost entirely relatively easy gravel. The biggest problems tended to be dust, slow moving cars, and narrow roads.
But the relatively small problems were completely dwarfed by the amazing, stunning, just WOW scenery that filled the entire ride. The mountains, lakes, roads, snow – just everything – made what could have been a long and boring ride an absolute pleasure.
The tar road from Coyaique wound through snowy mountains to a peak overlooking a valley split by s-bends.
The gravel started shortly after with wilderness all around. For the next 160km I was surrounded by an ever changing mix of mountains, snow, forests and lakes as the narrow road snaked though hills and valleys. There were few wide open spaces but even then, snow capped mountains were either visible, or just around the corner.
After an exhausting few hours a familiar, but distinct change in scenery occurred. The space between mountains widened. They were separated by the bluest blue lake I have ever seen. Puerto Tranquilo was close by, and had I known in advance to expect such a spectacular sight, I would have stayed here instead of booking accommodation at Los Antiguos.
I stopped to refuel and grab a snack by the water, but the day was long and I still had several hours of riding ahead of me. Not wanting to be on these roads in the dark, I didn’t stay too long.
I branched off Ruta 7 and headed towards the border at Chile Chico via Ruta 265. The road bordered an unnaturally blue lake, backed by mountains with their tops covered in snow. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. Sunset was fast approaching and I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the border on time so speed was essential. I passed several slower vehicles and ignoring the literal pain in my butt from sitting for so long, I kept going.
The road gradually climbed, then turned sharply right. And quite unexpectedly mine was the only vehicle in sight. I was riding down the side of a mountain with a perfect view of the most beautiful lake and snowy mountains I had ever seen. It was as if I was the only person in the world. I stood up and enjoyed my ride on the most beautiful road in the world.
I didn’t stop for pictures. My GoPro had long since died. Stopping would have given the slower vehicles an opportunity to ruin the experience. The only evidence I have of that view, at that point in time, lives in my memory. I marked the point on Google maps later that day. I was on Ruta 265, diagonally across from Puerto Cristal at approximately 46°36’15.5″S 72°20’09.2″W, a little before the switchbacks up the mountain.
I arrived at the border on time. That was my most beautiful ride ever.