This post is part 17 of 18 in the series Carretera Austral Travel

The southernmost point of the iconic Carretera Austral is in the town of Villa O’Higgins which makes this remote town an important milestone on your road trip adventure in the Patagonia region of southern Chile.

end of carretera austral

It’s not easy to reach the southernmost point on Chile’s Carreterra Austral, but it’s worth it.

If you’re driving south on the Carretera Austral (like we were), the remote Patagonian town of Villa O’Higgins will hold special charms (and the end of the adventure) because the southernmost point of the Carretera Austral is located here.

welcome villa ohiggins

The carved wood sign reads: Welcome to Villa O’Higgins the end of the Carretera Austral.

Settlers arrived in 1914, but Villa O’Higgins wasn’t officially incorporated until 1966. The town is located at the mouth of the Rio Mayer River and Lago O’Higgins which was formed by the O’Higgins Glacier. At 2,743 feet (836 meters) deep, Lago O’Higgins is the deepest lake in the Americas. Chilean independence leader Bernardo O’Higgins gives the province, the town, the lake, and the glacier their names.

villa ohiggins view

Villa O’Higgins is a small and remote town that surprised us with its tidy and orderly infrastructure.

Honestly, with such a remote location we were expecting to find a tiny town with the bare minimum of services. However, Villa O’Higgins is quite developed. Almost all of the streets are paved (and the dirt roads were in the process of paving when we were there). And dozens of other travelers were in town hanging out and enjoying local hikes to explore forested hills and admire snowy peaks and glaciers within the nearby Southern Patagonian Icefield (they don’t call this place “Patagonia’s Glaciers Capital” for nothing).

view over villa ohiggins

Hikes above town include views over the sprawling natural beauty that surrounds it.

Today, about 600 people live in Villa O’Higgins and more than 100 children attend the big new school in town and enjoy the many parks and playground areas. You’ll also notice lots of Chilean flags on light poles, on buildings, and on mountain peaks around Villa O’Higgins. That’s because this town is very close to the border with Argentina and, therefore, has a strong military (and patriotic) presence.

rio mayer villa ohiggins

The town of Villa O’Higgins is located at the mouth of the Rio Mayer.

Getting to Villa O’Higgins

Though this town marks the terminus of Chile’s most famous road, you’ll have to take a boat to get there.

We began our journey to Villa O’Higgins in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, 213 miles (343 km) to the north, driving south on the Carretera Austral. The gravel road was pretty torn up out of Rio Tranquilo but the quality of the road improved–with just patches of washboarding, a few potholes, and plenty of curves–as we got further away from Puerto Rio Tranquilo and its pretty constant stream of travelers.

caleta yungay ferry villa ohiggins

Our truck on the passenger and vehicle ferry that crosses Mitchell Fjord.

Seven hours later we reached Puerto Yungay where we waited for the 4 pm vehicle and passenger ferry (free) to get across the Mitchell Fjord so we could resume the Carretera Austral (still unpaved) on the other side. The ferry makes multiple trips in each direction daily with an increased number of trips during the busy South American summer months. A ferry reservation is not required, but the ferry isn’t huge and it can get busy during the summer. You can check the ferry schedule here.

waterfall carretera austral

A waterfall along the Carretera Austral in the final miles to Villa O’Higgins.

The ferry transfer takes about 35 minutes and once we were on the other side of the fjord, we drove another 60 miles (96 km) on gravel to the town itself.

drive villa ohiggins

This winding stretch of dirt road is part of the final miles of the Carretera Austral before its southernmost terminus near the town of Villa O’Higgins.

What to do in Villa O’Higgins

Of course, you’ll want to visit the official spot that marks the southernmost point of the Carretera Austral which is located about 6 miles (10km) south of town at the pier in Puerto Bahamondes.

villa o'higgins chile

Tidy and traditional buildings in Villa O’Higgins.

Visit the Museo Father Antonio Ronchi to see artifacts from the life of this Italian priest who is memorialized around southern Chile where he is considered a hero for bringing a communication network to the region.

mosco glacier park

Scenes along a trail in Parque Glaciar Mosco.

Parque Glaciar Mosco (entry is free) is a national protected area that abuts Villa O’Higgins and offers a handful of trails above town. One afternoon we hiked the 2.4 mile (3.8km) in-and-out round trip Mirador del Valle trail for a peek at glaciers and an overview of town. There were a few steep sections, but the trail was mostly clear and easy through shaded forest. Allow 1.5 hours round trip. For panoramic views of Villa O’Higgins (and more), hike up the La Bandera trail to the top of Cerro Santiago.

Longer hikes are available from Villa O’Higgins as well and a full-day boat trip takes travelers to see the imposing O’Higgins Glacier and the Chico Glacier.

bridge villa ohiggins carretera austral

One of many bridges on the Carretera Austral.

Where to eat in Villa O’Higgins

There are a couple of simple restaurants in Villa O’Higgins and a few small shops selling basic supplies for self-catering travelers like ourselves.

Where to sleep in Villa O’Higgins

El Mosco Hostal Villa O'Higgins Chile

Hostal El Mosco delivers friendly service and spotless facilities in Villa O’Higgins.

There are quite a few hostels and camping areas to choose from in town. We stayed at Hosteria El Mosco which offers camping, cabins (65,000 CLP / US$70 for a 4-person cabin with living room and kitchen), a shared dorm room, and private rooms with and without private bathrooms. We paid 42,000 CLP (US$46) for a private room with a shared bathroom and breakfast featuring homemade muffins. There’s also a kitchen for guests to use, laundry service (6,000 CLP / US$7 for a 13 lb./6 kilo load), Wi-Fi (which was pretty poor but management was considering adding Starlink when we were there), a large parking area, a hot tub, a climbing wall, and a Finnish sauna. Hosteria El Mosco in Villa O’Higgins is extremely clean and run by very helpful staff and we recommend it highly.

copec villa o'higgins

Everything is more expensive along the Carretera Austral and even more so in remoter locations like Villa O’Higgins where unleaded gasoline was $7.11 per gallon and diesel was $6.65 per gallon. Thankfully, we’d filled our tanks in Puerto Rio Tranquilo, 213 miles (343 km) to the north, for the bargain price of $6.16 per gallon for diesel.

Here’s more about travel in Chile

Here’s more about Carretera Austral Travel

Here’s more about Patagonia Travel

 


Series Navigation:<< How to Have a Carretera Austral Road Trip Adventure in ChileThe Ventisquero Hanging Glacier Hike – Queulat National Park, Chile >>

Share via