Tiny VILLA O’HIGGINS was built on a simple grid, with the Carretera Austral running along the western side all the way down to the Bahía Bahamondez on the enormous glacial Lago O’Higgins, 7km away.
Most of the earliest settlers – who came at the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was most easily accessible from Argentina – were British. The first Chilean settlers did not arrive until the 1920s, and the town wasn’t officially founded and given its present name until 1966. Until 1999, this cluster of wooden houses huddled against a sheer mountain face was reachable only by a small prop plane from Coyhaique or by boat from Argentina but is now on the verge of being connected to Argentina’s Ruta 40, which will make travel between the two countries considerably easier if you have your own vehicle. Cosmopolitan Villa O’Higgins is not, but it is a triumphant finishing point for cyclists “doing” the Carretera Austral, as well as a springboard for reaching some of the area’s more remote glaciers.