Arriving to the end of a 48,000 km road network that spans 18 countries and two continents, one feels a sense of completion, a sense of participation in a historical legacy.
The Pan-American Highway is a system of roads connecting the vast American continents from Alaska in the north to Chile in the south. The concept was proposed in 1923 as a way of uniting the Americas from one extreme to the other, and each country between United States and Chile endeavored to create a portion of the highway.
While the exact route of the prodigious Pan-American Highway chain is a topic of international debate, one agreed-upon finale of the road is in Quellón, at the bottom tip of Chiloé island (known as Isla Grande), off the coast of southern Chile.
Although you may never undertake the ultra-long-distance drive from Alaska to Quellón in a car, you could choose to arrive driving by renting a vehicle on the mainland or in one of Chiloé’s larger port towns (Castro or Ancud). Quellón is 1,100 km from Santiago, 92 km from Castro and 175 km from Ancud. To find the end of the Pan-American Highway, where a monument commemorates the landmark, take Juan Ladrilleros avenue past the Quellón city limits, and continue 2 km until the road reaches Punta de Lapa beach.
A fitting endpoint to a vast highway
Certainly the end of the Pan-American Highway is a principal destination, but there are other compelling reasons to visit Quellón.
A rainy seaside town, Quellón offers whale-watching, boat tours and amazing seafood on nearly every corner. Staving off the cool sea breeze, vendors here sell hand-made sweaters, socks and scarves created from authentic wool. To fully experience Chiloé’s lush forests and serene lakes, spend a day hiking in Tantauco Park, which is about a 2-hour drive from Quellón towards Lake Chaiguata. And to learn about the area’s ancient Huilliche Mapuche culture and language, don’t forget to visit the Inchin Cuivi Ant Museum, located in the center of town on the main street, Juan Ladrilleros.
Weather permitting, ferries cross the Chacao canal to Chiloé all day and night, and you can arrive to Castro or Ancud by bus or car, continuing on to Quellón for a day trip or a longer visit.
Where to Stay
Rest comfortably in one of Quellón’s hostels (indicated by “hospedaje” signs buildings along the central streets), or camp on the beach of Quellón Viejo (about 5 km south of town) during warmer months.