General Carrera Lake, known as “Chelenko” by the Tehuelches, is the star of this scenic drive between Chile Chico and Puerto Guadal. It’s a dizzying journey filled with steep cliffs and tight 90° turns, but you’ll be amply rewarded for your bravery with unbelievable panoramic views of the lake around every corner. Ready to explore?
This photographer’s adventure begins along the southern shore of the lake, in Chile Chico. Head west along the main street past the entrance to the Cerro Las Banderas Scenic Overlook, where the road becomes Route X-265. In the first few kilometers you’ll note how the foothills of the mountains rise up over the steppe, producing dramatic opening shots, especially in those points where you catch glimpses of the lake. (Did you remembered to clear the memory card in your camera?)
Route Bahía Jara
In kilometer five, you’ll spot an intersection and a small shrine at the side of the road, with hundreds of plastic bottles of water lined up all around. This shrine honors the Difunta Correa, a popular patron saint of the roads in Chile and Argentina who, according to legend, died of thirst wandering the pampas of Argentina, but, miraculously, was able to save the life of her baby by protecting it with her own body. The Difunta Correa is an icon in Patagonia, with many devotees, as you will note when you see the collection of plastic bottles in front, left to quench this heroine’s thirst. The intersection presents the choice to take a 12 kilometer detour to the Bahia Jara Sector, where there are beautiful white-sand beaches, camping, and cherry groves, along with several local farms that sell fresh produce.
Quebrada del Diablo
Una profunda quebrada o falla donde atraviesa un río en el fondo, es posible ver desde el puente el corte de la roca y el lago General Carrera.
Paso Las LLaves
The road becomes more complicated during this part of the drive, passing through an area called the Paso de las Llaves (Keyhole Pass.) The road is narrow and follows along the cliffs through hairpin curves. It can be a challenge for those who suffer from vertigo, but the scenery along the way is unsurpassable. Just go slow, take your time and, if you’re a cyclist, take extra precaution with the wind.
This adventure portion of the route continues for approximately 32 kilometers, when you will arrive in Mallín Grande, a small and quiet village where you can stop for a brief walk around, visit the local shops, and buy a snack before continuing on towards Puerto Guadal. Mallín Grande is the starting point for the trail that leads to Cerro Tronador, an excellent horse trek that offers spectacular panoramic shots of Chelenko and the surrounding valleys. We recommend doing this trip in autumn when the native forest takes on intense shades of red and yellow.
Los Maquis waterfall
Los Maquis waterfall
Puerto Guadal is the perfect place for a refreshing dip in the lake with all of the amenities you’ll need: a supermarket, gas station, restaurants and a selection of accommodations that meet the needs of all travelers and all budgets. The range includes options for tent-camping, luxury lodges, and everything in-between, making it hard to go wrong: no matter where you decide to relax in this sector, Chelenko will offer you tremendous panoramas of its beautiful colors and turbulent waters.
For a totally unique lodging experience, turn left on the road to Laguna La Manga, 1.5 kilometers before arriving in Puerto Guadal. Here, you’ll find the eco hostel " Un Destino no Turístico", which offers camping and hostel-style lodging in a completely sustainable manner that includes renewable energies, organic crops, alternative cooking methods and a variety of courses and workshops on principles of environmental sustainability and permaculture: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.destino-noturistico.com.
And if you’re not quite ready to quit for the day, you can continue along Route X-265 for another nine km to the Carretera Austral. If you take a right and drive 6.5 km, you’ll find yourself at one of the treasures of this sector, Mallin Colorado Ecolodge (www.mallingcolorado.cl), located on your right, up on the hill. This collection of luxury cabanas with panoramic views of the lake and a comfortable clubhouse, is a great spot to rest for the night or use as a base for a few days. Paula Christensen offers a range of services including delicious organic meals, featuring local flavors and ingredients, owner custom tours of the sector, fishing, horseback riding, trekking, and much more.