For decades, the frontier outpost of Villa O’Higgins was accessible only by air taxi from Coyhaique  or by water from Argentina. It depended on Argentine supplies, and highway construction materials entered via Argentine roads and ferries on Lago O’Higgins (Lago San Martín to Argentines). Now, though, the Puerto Yungay  ferry drops passengers and vehicles at Río Bravo, a boat ramp 100 kilometers to the northwest, for the Carretera Austral’s last leg.
When the new road finally opened, said ex-policeman Arturo Gómez, curious tourists overran the town. “We were at full capacity, and most of the people here have scarce resources and couldn’t arrange things so soon.” People camped, slept in spare rooms, and rented a handful of cabañas. “We didn’t evolve step-by-step,” said then-mayor Alfredo Runín. “We went from horseback to jet.”
Villa O’Higgins (population 463) is booming with new construction, and the town has big plans. The idea, added Runín, “is to promote the ice, because that’s what we’ve got the most of.” Thanks to work on the new Sendero de Chile, and the motor launch that helps link the town with remote parts of the lake and the Argentina trekking capital of El Chaltén , the backcountry is increasingly accessible to hikers.
A new road has also been built to Río Mayer, on the Argentine border to the northeast, for a probable future border crossing. Still, Villa O’Higgins’s services are about 15 years behind El Chaltén ’s (not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing).
From the airstrip directly opposite the main drag, Transportes Aéreos Don Carlos flies to Coyhaique  (US$100, one hour) Monday and Thursday.
Buses to Cochrane  (US$19, 6.5 hours) remain infrequent and subject to change, with preference for local residents. Presently the only carrier is Los Ñadis, which leaves from Hospedaje Cordillera (Lago Salto 302) at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Friday, but a new thrice-weekly service to Caleta Tortel  may be in the works.