The Carretera Austral is the name given to Chile's Route 7. The highway runs about 1,240 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins through rural Patagonia.
Carretera Austral provides road access to Chile's Aisén Region and southern part of Los Lagos Region. These areas are sparsely populated, thus despite its length, Carretera Austral provides access to only ca 100,000 people. South of the highway's start in Puerto Montt, Coyhaique is the largest city along it.
Construction was begun on the highway in 1976 under the presidency of Augusto Pinochet in order to connect a number of the remote communities. Before that, in 1950s and 1970s, there had been unsuccessful attempts to build access roads in the region. The highway opened to traffic in 1988, and by 1996 was completed to Puerto Yungay. The last 100 kilometers to Villa O'Higgins were opened in 2000. In 2003, a branch road to Caleta Tortel was finished.