This fantastic road trip is one of the best road trips of South America, definitely awesome. You will begin in Comodoro Rivadavia an industrial town on the Atlantic Ocean. From there all the way towards the end of the world, where glaciers cool the planet, water flows in all directions and the wind shapes trees, houses and your dreams.
Our set itinerary is meant to give you a deep cultural immersion in a linear itinerary so you don’t drive twice thru the same town, road or even airport. Of course, picking up and dropping off a vehicle in different places has its value but at ASD we are true believers that overall the quality of the experience is the most important.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Comodoro Rivadavia Airport / El Calafate Airport|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.|
|PRICING||Prices shown for a double room per person. If you are a group or need something different please consult.|
Welcome to Patagonia! If your idea of a Road Trip is long drives, scenic views and the solitude of Patagonia, this is definitely the best Patagonia itinerary for you. Many adventurers come this way but they don’t have the local tips to make a few detours and enhance their trip. You have! Comodoro Rivadavia is the largest city of Chubut, and also a very important commercial port for the south of Patagonia, especially for oil exports.
The city, colonized early in the 20th century by South African boers that were contemporary to the first findings of oil. One of the attractions of the city is the National Museum of Petroleum and the ambience of the city is a mix of industrial town, fancy economical booming city and patagonian frontier town. The airport and infrastructure of Comodoro, as the locals call it, will serve us as the perfect location to begin this journey, although we will recommend to stay 12 km south of the city, at Rada Tilly, a beach town that serves as a weekend and summer retreat.
Upon arrival at the airport we will collect our car and head to Rada Tilly to find our accommodation. Besides the oil industry and more recent wind farm industry, there are interesting places to see and things to do in town. Rada Tilly features one of the longest Seabee seawalls in the world, comparable to that at Blackpool South Shore (UK), so walking on the seaside is a must. South of the city, only 8km is Punta del Marques Reserve where a big colony of sea lions awaits the visitors. From the several viewpoints, we can admire and reflect on the quietness and the wind of this huge and inhospitable southern region to us.
Finally, the moment we have been waiting, let’s hit the road! Our favourite patagonia road trip will begin with getting out of Comodoro Rivadavia area, that might take us a while, although it’s easier getting out than getting in. It might be a good idea to load up some snacks for the days to come, since we will be in the heart of Southern Patagonia, where sheep outnumber humans. We have 150km ahead of us on a paved road, driving towards sunset, towards the west. As we leave the atlantic Patagonia we will pass some oil refineries and wells until we find ourselves in a sort of moon landscape with high snowy peaks at the back, we are in the Patagonian Steppe, the largest of the land biomes of Patagonia, semi deserted, much older than the Andes range, where there was once a tropical green landscape, we will find today a petrified forest.
Since 1970, the Sarmiento Petrified Forest has been guarded by a Provincial Reserve of 24 hectares that is located only 28km away from the town of the same name. Visited by Charles Darwin himself, this former forest, looks now like a dramatic dessert, but as you walk through the trails you find tree trunks, branches, leaves that date 65 million years.
The town of Sarmiento will serve as our first inner Patagonia stop, with museums, big lake and an agricultural background, slowly being overtaken by the oil business, this town, founded by Afrikaan immigrants that escaped the Boers War.
Back on the road, we have 310 km ahead of us, all paved until reaching the border-town with Chile, Los Antiguos, the National Cherry Capital. For this amazing road trip in Patagonia we will get off provincial road 26 and take the mythical National Road number 40 that goes parallel to the Andes Mountain Range from the Strait of Magellan on the southernmost tip of Argentina to the northern border with Bolivia.
We will drive across the Patagonian Steppe with high chances of seeing Guanacos, a native camelide of South America, the southernmost relative to the Llama and Alpaca. With grey faces, small straight ears, they age from a light brown to a dark cinnamon color and have a shading white underneath. Wild animals that jump fences, they travel with the seasons to and from the Andes looking for green grass and are the main native food source of Pumas, the native mountain cats.
During the first two weeks of January, Los Antiguos gets full of visitors, since the Annual Cherry Festival takes place, with music, food stands and parades, but any other time of the year it’s just a small pretty agricultural town that looks like a green oasis in the middle of the Patagonian brown Steppe.
Located on the south shore of the Lago Buenos Aires, the second largest lake of South America, this town serves as a gate to the Chile Carretera Austral (only 8km away from the border) and also to the recently opened Patagonia National Park which border begins just outside of the town. Definitely, a town that as small as it is, becomes a true oasis to any traveler.
As stated, Los Antiguos location allows the visitor that spends the night to visit many famous and not so famous landmarks. The Marble Cathedral, a full day tour from here to visit the unique rock formations on the lake, horseback riding excursions, or visiting a local farm are the main attractions that Los Antiguos hosts. The Portal Ascención, the information center to the Patagonia National Park, just 15km outside of town, a former sheep station that offers several trails ranging from 3km to 25km trails is a great place to catch up on your Patagonia trekking. Stunning views of the Plateau and the Lake are guaranteed.
Today we enter the Patagonia National Park into what is called the Scenic Route, also formerly known as Road 41 that connects Los Antiguos and Lago Posadas, another southern patagonia town. This might be among the best road trips inside a National Park, in South America. To reach Lago Posadas you shall drive 160km on an unpaved yet well kept road that will go right to the international border, alongside Jeinimeni River before reaching Mount Zeballos and then going down towards Posadas, a deep turquoise colour glacier fed lake.
Upon arrival to Lago Posadas more options of trails await us, two lakes for the price of one, Lake Posadas and Lake Irigoyen and a small farming town with less than 500 inhabitants will be home to our lodging.
From Lago Posadas we will drive back to the National Route number 40 and keep going on a gravel road towards the UNESCO SITE Cueva de las Manos, a cave that lies on a cliff overlooking the Pinturas River Canyon and features rock paintings done by hunter-gatherers that date back 9000 years.
This unique archeological site, next to trails also offers extra hiking and fantastic picture opportunities alongside the River Pinturas. Leaving early from Lago Posadas will help us avoid being hiking at noon, since there are 120km that separate one location from the other. Overnight at this location is also possible, just let us know if you wish to do so.
Once all the pictures from the paintings have been taken and you are ready to hit the road, let’s get it on, since we still have 200 km to drive (most of them on paved National Road 40) before we reach our accommodation for the night. On the way, you will go by Bajo Caracoles, a gas station and a couple of houses around, mandatory stop to get a picture with the gas pump and of course, load up your tank… you never know in Patagonia when the next time to fill up gas will be.
With the arrival of sunset we shall be already inside the Estancia (Ranch) that will host us for the next couple of nights, at one of the less visited national parks in Argentina, so you can feel really fortunate to have made it this far, nothing like a good glass of Argentinian Malbec to toast to this accomplishment.
Comprising 115,000 hectares of Patagonian steppe, sub-Antarctic forest, glacial lakes and fjords, and high Andean pastures, the Perito Moreno National Park is so far from airports and bus stations that the only way to get here is on private or rented cars or simply hitchhiking. In 2019 for the first time this park had more than 1 thousand visitors in the whole summer. If you were looking for the real Patagonia, the off the beaten path Patagonia, visiting this park, will be one of the highlights of your trip. As Lonely Planet guide states, “Wild and windblown,Parque Nacional Perito Moreno is an adventurer’s dream”.
Many trails and roads that connect different areas of the Park allow us to see both the Step, the Transition and Andes Forest. This Park should not be confused with it’s southern partner, the Los Glaciares National Park, that has a Glacier named Perito Moreno and it’s actually the second most visited park in the country.
After a sightseeing day at the park with some hiking, lots of wind, spotting wildlife, we came back to our ranch to rest and get ready for the next day.
One of the world’s best climbing spots and for that a town that serves as a base for those both professional and also amateur climbers that aim at the Fitz Roy Massif with its many peaks that are among the most difficult climbing spots in the Planet. Also it is home to some of the most impressive trails to hike in Patagonia so it’s a mandatory visit. Only 180 km away from our ranch is El Chalten, this mountain village that nowadays with the arrival of pavement has grown in size to a couple thousand (10 years ago was a couple hundred).
Almost all trails begin in town, so upon arrival if the weather permits and you have energy a short trail is recommended. Our favourite of the short trails is definitely the trail to the lookout points of Los Águilas and Los Cóndores.
El Chaltén is located inside the National Park Los Glaciares, surrounded by granite walls and with trails that connect the town with the different mountains that surround the town. If you wish to take a climbing lesson, this is the perfect place to do so and if you already climb, renting gear is not hard at all.
Today is a great day to try to get to one of the longest hikes, specially Laguna de los Tres, the landmark at El Chalten, although not the only trails available, there are many more options, like Laguna Torre or Pliegue Tumbado or if not interested in hiking, the possibility to drive west towards El Desierto Lake is also a magnificent opportunity to see the Fitz Roy mountain from the side and see more mountains and wildlife away from the crowds.
There are 215 km that separate us from El Calafate, this originally cattle and sheep raising town that since the pavement of Road 40 and the creation of its airport has taken an economic boom and became one of Argentina’s most visited destinations. Famous for being on the southern side of the Los Glaciares National Park and giving access to everyone to get really close to one of the world’s most impressive Glaciers, Perito Moreno Glaciar.
Before you get to the Glacier you need to get to El Calafate and the drive from El Chalten will struck you with a gigantic very intense glacier sedimentary blue lake, Lake Argentino. This Lake, fed by the Glacier priorly mentioned will feed the Santa Cruz River towards the Atlantic Ocean which is about 300km away.
El Calafte is a vibrant town with a nice boulevard that concentrates most of all commercial activities, with great gastronomic variety, nice local dishes and even a handicrafts market. In town there are two museums and for the birdwatchers there is a Bird Sanctuary that definitely deserves a visit.
Visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most unforgettable experiences of this trip and it’s worth doing so with time, at your own pace, enjoying each of the three trails that the park allows you to do. Getting there and getting back is already about three hours, so it’s almost a full day activity, even if you arrive back into town and decide to go to a sunset spot, not much more than that shall be possible, but definitely worth it.
Today we have time in the morning to start collecting all of those memories, rewriting our notes and checking the odometer, you have driven about 2000km, around the same distance between Boston and Miami. We will return our vehicle and get ready for our noon flight back to Buenos Aires, or if we chose to, we will stay an extra few days and take the Extension Loop to Torres del Paine, Chile.