Serpentine section of the Carretera Austral below the Mirador Cerro Castillo, Patagonia. The Carretera Austral is the name given to Chile's Route 7, a mostly gravel highway that runs south for about 1,240 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins. It provides road access to Chile's sparsely populated Aysén Region serving a population of ~ 100,000 people (1 person/sq km). The highway was begun in 1976 by Augusto Pinochet to strengthen the Chilean presence in these isolated territories from threats to annexation from Argentina, and to ensure the land connection to the rest of the country. It was opened in 1988, with the final branch completed to Tortel in 2003. One of the world's great adventure roads with pristine landscapes and some of the freshest air on earth!