Other than Santiago, Puerto Montt is the main gateway for air, land, and sea connections to Chilean Patagonia and across the Andes to Argentina. Only in summer can overland travelers begin the Carretera Austral by heading southeast from here, as Naviera Austral’s Hornopirén-Caleta Gonzalo ferry link operates in January and February only. Otherwise, it’s necessary to take the ferry from Puerto Montt to Chaitén, or the occasional sailing from Castro or Quellón.
LAN (O’Higgins 167, Local 1-B, tel. 065/2253315) flies several times daily to Santiago, usually nonstop but sometimes via Valdivia, Temuco, or Concepción, or a combination of those. It also flies at least twice daily to Balmaceda/Coyhaique and three or four times daily to Punta Arenas, occasionally stopping in Balmaceda/Coyhaique. Occasionally it flies from Santiago to Puerto Montt and on to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
Sky Airline (Benavente 495, Local 4, tel. 065/2437555) flies frequently to Santiago, less frequently to Balmaceda/Coyhaique, and to Punta Arenas and occasionally Puerto Natales.
No carrier has lasted long on the air-taxi route to Chaitén, a major starting point for overland trips on the Carretera Austral. Aerocord (tel. 065/2262300) and Cielomaraustral (tel. 065/2264010, firstname.lastname@example.org) fly to nearby Santa Bárbara (US$85). These leave from Aeródromo La Paloma, on the hill immediately behind the downtown area.
Still undergoing a major renovation that will include a four-star hotel, Puerto Montt’s Terminal de Buses (Av. Portales 1001, tel. 065/2283000) is about one kilometer southwest of the Plaza de Armas. Services are frequent to rural, regional, and most long-distance destinations, as well as to Bariloche, Argentina. Buses to the Chilean Patagonia destinations of Coyhaique and Punta Arenas, which pass through Argentina, are less frequent but reliable.
From the bus terminal, Buses ETM (tel. 065/2256253, US$4) connects to inbound and outbound flights at Aeropuerto El Tepual (tel. 065/2252019), which is 16 kilometers west via the Panamericana and a paved lateral.
Cruz del Sur (Av. Salvador Allende and Av. Presidente Ibáñez, tel. 065/483127) and its affiliated companies have opened a new terminal on higher ground near the Panamericana but continue to use the downtown terminal as well.
From a dedicated platform, several companies go to Puerto Varas (US$1.50, 30 minutes), including Expreso Puerto Varas and Thaebus. Thaebus also passes through Varas en route to Frutillar and Puerto Octay.
Buses Fierro (tel. 065/2252909) goes to Lenca (US$2.50), the southerly access point to Parque Nacional Alerce Andino, at noon and 4:30pm daily. Buses JB (tel. 065/2290850) goes to Correntoso (US$2.50), the northern access point to Alerce Andino, five times daily between 7:40am and 8:30pm, except Sunday when it goes at 9:10am and 8:30pm.
Daily at 7am, 8am, 1pm, and 3:30pm, Kémelbus (tel. 065/2256450) goes to Hornopirén, also known as Río Negro (US$7.50, four hours). One bus daily continues to Chaitén (US$18, 12 hours) via the Ruta Bimodal, which involves ferry crossing from Hornopirén to Leptepu and Fiordo Largo to Caleta Gonzalo. Still, more visitors use the ferry from Puerto Montt or from Castro or Quellón, on the Chiloé archipelago, to reach Chaitén.
Numerous carriers serve the capital city of Santiago (US$40-75, 12-13 hours) and intermediates including Temuco (US$14, 5.5 hours). Chiloé destinations include Ancud (US$7, two hours) and Castro (US$11, three hours).
Buses Trans Austral (tel. 065/2709840) goes to Futaleufú (US$45, 11 hours) via Argentina Monday and Saturday at 7am, and to Coyhaique (US$57, 21 hours) Sunday at 11am via Argentina. It also goes to Bariloche (US$25), El Bolsón (US$41), Esquel (US$60), Comodoro Rivadavia (US$79), Caleta Olivia, Trelew (US$111), and Puerto Madryn (US$111) Monday at 11am. Feryval (tel. 065/2721312) and Lago Espolón (tel. 065/2721215) also serve Futaleufú.
Several companies operate between Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas (US$85, 28 hours) via Argentina, including Pullman Bus (tel. 065/2254399), Queilen Bus (tel. 065/2253468), and Turibús (tel. 065/2252872), all of which normally begin in Castro (Chiloé) and pick up passengers here and in Osorno. These are through-buses, not permitted to drop passengers in Argentina. Queilen also goes to Coyhaique (US$57, 22 hours) Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon.
Five companies cross the Andes to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (US$23-27, six hours), via Osorno and the Cardenal Samoré pass: Andesmar (tel. 065/2312123), Buses Norte Internacional (tel. 065/2233319), Cruz del Sur (tel. 065/2252872), Tas Choapa (tel. 065/2254828), and Vía Bariloche (tel. 065/2233633). Igi Llaima (tel. 065/2259320) goes to the Argentine cities of San Martín de los Andes (US$35) and Neuquén (US$45).
Andina del Sud (Antonio Varas 216, Oficina 907, tel. 065/2228600) sells tickets for the bus-boat relay to Bariloche (US$230) via Puerto Varas, Ensenada, Petrohué, and Peulla. These leave Puerto Montt in the morning, arriving early evening in Bariloche. Summer departures are daily. During the rest of the year, departures are Monday-Friday only and require an overnight stay in Peulla.
For car rentals, try Econorent (Antonio Varas 126, tel. 065/2481261) or Europcar (Antonio Varas 162, tel. 065/2286277). Note that taking a vehicle into Argentina requires notarial permission.
From Puerto Montt there are passenger and passenger/vehicle ferries or bus-ferry combinations to Chiloé and Chaitén in Region X, Puerto Chacabuco (the port of Coyhaique) in Region XI (Aisén), and Puerto Natales in Region XII (Magallanes). Since these routes follow the sheltered inland sea, seasickness is usually a minor problem except on the open-ocean crossing of the Golfo de Penas (literally, Gulf of Sorrows), en route to Puerto Natales. In the new passenger terminal, the two main companies are Naviera Austral (Av. Angelmó 1673, tel. 065/2270430) and Navimag (Av. Angelmó 1735, tel. 065/2432360). Vehicles, however, still board at the Terminal de Transbordadores (Av. Angelmó 2187), about 500 meters west.
Naviera Austral runs routes between Puerto Montt and Chaitén (8-12 hours) on the cramped, aging rustbucket Pincoya (US$19) and the newer, sleeker Don Baldo (US$30 pp reclining seats, US$59-66 for a bunk) five times weekly. Vehicle rates are US$165 for passenger vehicles and small trucks; bicycles cost US$11 and motorcycles US$38. For passengers, the Pincoya is cheaper, but it has no bunks.
The replacement of the Evangelistas by the smaller Edén has increased passenger pressure on Navimag’s Puerto Montt-Puerto Natales route, so reservations are imperative in the summer peak. If in Santiago, visit the Navimag office there. Still, it’s worth trying for a last-minute berth or cabin. Fares depend on the season and the level of accommodations but start around US$350 per person with full board. Bicycles cost an additional US$53, motorcycles US$152, passenger cars US$528, and light trucks US$564; other vehicles pay a linear meter rate.
From September-May, Cruceros Marítimos Skorpios (Av. Angelmó 1660, tel. 065/2252996) operates luxury cruises to Laguna San Rafael that begin in Puerto Montt; rates on the 140-passenger Skorpios II start at US$1,400 per person and range up to US$3,300 per person.