To the north of the American continent, Canada boasts one of the longest routes in the world. Its national route – whose name is Trans-Canada Highway – is 7,821 km long and it crosses the country from east to west. On the other side of the world lies Highway 1, a 14,500 km-long ring road that – only with a few exceptions – traces around the entire coastline of Australia and becomes a really enticing adventure for those who dream of traveling the world at their own pace, with their hands on the wheel.
Road to Chaltén, view of the Fitz Roy massif
f you have felt stimulated by learning about these routes, well then, buckle up, because you are about to learn about not only one of the longest, but also one of the most stunning routes in the world. We are talking about Route 40, a real gem in the South American continent that will let you know Argentina by driving cross-country, an appealing challenge for many adventurers around the world, and almost a utopia when it comes to travelling.
We shouldn’t pay tribute to the outstanding length of this road by providing all the information at the same time. The emblematic route stretches from La Quiaca at the northernmost end of the country to Faro del Cabo Vírgenes (Cape Virgins Lighthouse) in Santa Cruz. This time we are going to describe a specific section of the road that most appeals to travelers and that, throughout the years, has become a favorite among the lovers of the self-drive tours. Our itinerary starts in Bariloche and finishes in Calafate.
What kind of car do we need to travel Route 40?
With a strong desire to appreciate each of the over 1,800 km of the trip, it is now time for you to choose the most suitable vehicle for such adventure. We strongly suggest you get some advice on the road conditions along with safety issues and the access to the tourist attractions throughout the tour. Even when it is possible to use a standard vehicle, the best suited type for such a trip is a high car, a SUV-type 4×4 vehicle, which will ensure comfort and an adaptation to the different kinds of roads you traverse. The good news is there are options for every single taste and budget.
In most parts of your adventure you will find yourselves at a considerable distance from the services your car may require, such as roadside assistance, fuel, and so on. For such reason, some local support is likely to guarantee a successful journey.
Arriving at Lago Cardiel – Video: Germán C Sánchez
Southbound Route – From Bariloche to El Chalten. Where should we stay?
No matter which direction you may choose for this road, you are bound to take pleasure in all of its sceneries. However, we do recommend that you travel from north to south, starting your journey from Bariloche city and completing it once arrived in El Calafate. That way, like in the most memorable movies, you will enjoy the trip with each new landscape and be prepared for an end beyond all expectations that will permeate each of your senses.
The animals along the journey will make you feel somewhere else…you never know what is awaiting you round that bend or at the end of that never-ending straight stretch of the road: a lake, a magical village, a colorful mountain or snow in the distance will be the “vitamin” to keep you moving forward..By the end of the trip, the song most played along the way will become the soundtrack of an unforgettable adventure.
This route features a wide selection in terms of accommodation, with a broad range of prices, locations and types of services and/or experiences to choose from. For the itinerary we are proposing we have selected some of the accommodations we see as destinations per se; lodges with the history, personality and mystic necessary for a sublime experience in Patagonia.
A_ Estancia Peuma Hue: Located on the banks of the Gutierrez Lake (210 hectares!) and within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, this eco-lodge offers an all-inclusive service as well as the B&B modality, for the more independent souls. Surrounded by a breathtaking natural setting you will be able to choose one of these activities while staying here: trekking, kayaking, stand-up paddle, horseback rides, yoga, among others. www.peuma-hue.com
Kayak on the Lago Gutierrez
B_ Huemules, Mountain reserve: its dome lodges in the middle of Patagonia are beyond doubt the greatest attraction in this place. They feature Queen-size box frame beds with duvet eiderdowns, all details that speak of Huemules’s comfort and elegance. www.huemules.com
Domes in the Patagonian forest
C_ La Serena Estancia: Framed by the vast Lake Buenos Aires, this place lies in one of Patagonia’s marvels: with the plateau as scenery, the volcanic stones, the turquoise blue lake, La Serena becomes one of the most desired lodges while traveling round Patagonia. www.estancia-la-serena.business.site
Aerial view Estancia la Serena
D_ Estancia Lagos del Furioso: This estancia lies in between two lakes, Lake Pueyrredon and Lake Posadas, each of a different color, attaining a unique contrast in this enchanted scenery. Not to mention Cerro San Lorenzo, which grants a wonderful tinge to it all… www.lagosdelfurioso.com
Lagos del Furioso Estancia
E_Aguas Arriba Lodge: This hotel lies by the Lago del Desierto, some 37 km away from El Chalten. The privacy, the charm of the place, with Fitz Roy Mount and Cerro Torre as witnesses, plus the Vespignani Glacier across the lake, they all close your stay with a final flourish. www.aguasarribalodge.com
View from the Aguas Arriba Lodge Hotel
F_ Eolo, Patagonia´s Spirit: The luxury of simplicity! This tag line is a concise description of this paradise-like hotel. Its establishment and history are closely linked to the criollo and European inhabitants in the area. With a land area of 4,000 hectares, this lodge is located in between Calafate and the Glaciers National Park. www.eolopatagonia.com
Aerial view of Eolo, Patagonia’s Spirit
Local knowledge for independent travelers
General recommendations for the road
● Always remember to use sun block and wear sun glasses.
● When it becomes too windy…slow down.
● Before choosing the right vehicle and the number of passengers in the car, make sure there is enough space for your baggage.
● Stay well-hydrated. Make sure there is enough water at all times.
● Every three hours…active rest for everyone.
● If you leave the hotel early in the morning, ask for breakfast to go.
● Carry sandwiches, cookies, or any other snack to take the edge off your hunger till your next stop.
● Wear comfortable clothes.
● “A guanaco!” For most of the journey these animals will keep you company, so drivers and co-drivers, watch out for them!
● Carry cash with you, as many places don’t take credit or debit cards.
● The map on the phone works without an Internet connection, but you need to open it when you have access to your mobile data or a WIFI connection.
● Create at least four playlists for your journey. You will need them.
● Fuel! There are two reasons for stopping at every gas station on the way: the first one, as a precaution, as it a better idea to have your tank filled each time you come across one station (there aren’t too many and they are sometimes out of fuel). The second reason: some of these stations will make you travel back in time; they look like something out of a movie (Bajo Caracoles or Tres Lagos). As you see them you will feel compelled to capture that moment…
Some jewels off the road
Puma sightings in the Patagonia National Park: Set up by Douglas Tompkins, The Rewilding Foundation seeks, through a sustainable initiative, to turn the sighting of pumas into an attraction within the Patagonia National Park, thus discouraging the belief that pumas are a plague for the livestock or the target of hunting, as well as benefiting the activity of regional economies. This type of “safari” is guided by biologists and must be organized in advanced.
Puma Concolor – Patagonia
Catedrales de Marmol (Marble Cathedrals), in Chile: On a full-day excursion that goes from Los Antiguos, through the Andes Mountains, travelers reach Chile and the southern banks of the General Carrera Lake. From that point they embark on an exclusive sailing tour to visit Catedrales de Mármol- breathtaking colorful rocky formations surrounded by a landscape entirely different from the ones you will find along Route 40.
Marble Cathedrals – Chile
Where should we eat?
Patagonia’s cuisine is exquisite and varied. This region’s diverse local culture and local ingredients combine to attain new and intense flavors.
For hours, while on the road, you are unlikely to find a wide range of eateries. Thus, for some stretches of the itinerary we strongly suggest you carry your own food. If you have no choice, you may always adjust your palate to whatever you find in gas stations, which sometimes may turn out to be a pleasant surprise (we highly recommend the one in Gobernador Gregores, where you will be offered mouth-watering empanadas, milanesas (beef or chicken schnitzel) and sandwiches for the rest of the journey).
In the different destinations there is a wider selection of places to eat, where the menus excel for their local flavors. We believe you shouldn’t miss:
● La Salamandra Pulperia (San Carlos de Bariloche): Some distance away from the city, but with a variety of dishes that delights both locals and tourists. Beef is one big favorite among visitors.
● PilPil, Sabores de la Patagonia (Esquel): Its wines and beers are the perfect match for the broad selection of dishes served here. Easy access and an exceptional service.
● El Rastro del Choike (Los Antiguos): Being in “the middle of nowhere” you will need the best options for the road. Here you can guarantee yourself generous portions and a varied menu.
● La Tapera (Chalten): After the diverse hikes or some demanding journey, eating well becomes essential. Within La Tapera’s magical environment fill yourself with new energy by eating the best dishes served.
● Kau Kaleshen (El Calafate): The perfect combination between healthy food and the different techniques used with the unique flavors of this Argentine region. We shouldn’t forget to highlight the coziness of the place.