Immortalised by its role in Che Guevara’s ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ Argentina’s Ruta 40 encapsulates the spirit of the country and for that reason, it is often called La Mitica Ruta 40 or The Mythical Route 40.
National Route 40 can practically be considered Argentina’s backbone, running along 5,000 kilometers (3,100 mi), crossing 18 important rivers, 20 National Parks and Natural Reserves and connecting 11 provinces: Santa Cruz, Chubut, Río Negro, Neuquén, Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy. One of the world’s great driving adventures, running parallel to the Andes Mountains for nearly 5,000 km, this route is the stuff of legends.
1. Day 1: Bariloche to El Bolson
Start your journey from San Carlos de Bariloche – the gateway to Patagonia. Perched on the shores of the vast blue Nahuel Huapi Lake, the alpine town of San Carlos de Bariloche is surrounded by stunning forests, mountains, and lakes as far as the eye can see in the Argentinian Lake District and is one of the best places to visit in Argentina. Spare a day to explore the town, with plenty to do: cycling the Circuito Chico, taking a cable car for stunning views to sampling the famous chocolate at one of the artisan shops. Drive the ‘Route of the 7 Lakes’ which takes you from Bariloche to Villa Angostura and on to San Martin de los Andes, through forests, along rivers, and along the shores of some of the most beautiful lakes in Argentina.
2. Day 2: El Bolson to Esquel
You will travel for 193 km by National Route 40 and later by the provincial roads 15 and 71, which are paved by gravel. There are gas (petrol) stations in El Bolsón and Lago Puelo. This road is long and a little more difficult, but the advantage is that it crosses one of the most spectacular National Parks in all of Argentina – Los Alerces National Park. It borders the Rivadavia, Verde and Futalaufgunen Lakes. You can visit the small towns of Epuyén and Villa Futalaufquen.
3. Day 3: Esquel to Los Antiguos
Drive from the Andean town of Esquel and on to take the mythical Route 40, the longest in the country (4600 km.) On this route, you will experience the dramatic change in landscape and environment, from the woods and mountains of the Patagonian Andes to the windswept Patagonian bushy Steppe. You are most likely to have your first wildlife sighting on the way – Tiny ostriches called choiques (known as Darwin’s rhea) scatter as we drive past and if you look very carefully, you can spot armadillos scuttling across the road.
4. Day 4: Los Antiguos to Lago Posadas
Los Antiguos is the national capital of cherries where you can visit several cherry farms sheltered by Lombardy poplars. This amazing route, the highest in Santa Cruz province, is open only during summer and runs parallel to the Chilean border across the canyons of rivers Jeinimeni and Los Antiguos. The land around – which yesterday presented a medley of brown and grey – turns vivid orange. Enjoy the wilderness and geology of the Austral Andes. Along the route, you will come across rivers and streams, a desert steppe, sheep and, above all, loneliness and a rough landscape. Then you will find yourself at two different coloured lakes scarcely separated by a peninsula – Lakes Posadas and Pueyrredón.
5. Day 5: Lago Posadas – Perito Moreno National Park
One of the most famous tourist attraction in Argentina, visit the Cave of the Hands in the Pinturas River Canyon. (Northwest Santa Cruz Province). The Hands Cave has, as its name implies, a great number of painted hands in negative and positive, contoured in red, ochre, yellow, green white and black colours, many of them are overlapped. There are also guanaco silhouettes, human figures in motion, dots and concentric circles.
6. Day 6: Perito Moreno National Park
Plan an exciting, full day wildlife safari through the Park. Go deep into the wilderness. You can easily observe guanacos, choiques (Rhea Americana), red and grey foxes, Patagonian hares, flamingos, Magellan Geese, Condors. Pumas (Felis concolor) and Huemules (American deer) are very difficult to spot. Sightseeing vistas of the Cordillera de los Andes as well as of a complex lake system that includes Lake Belgrano, Azara, Burmeister, and Lake Nansen.
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