Drive for TWO WEEKS following the the Andes, cruising through small towns, national parks and Patagonian ranches, all onboard your Bike. A once in a lifetime road trip.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||San Martin de los Andes Airport/ El Calafate Airport.|
|DEPARTURE TIME||Please arrive at least 2 hours before the flight.|
|PRICING||This rates are based on a minimum amount of 4 bikers. Prices shown for two double rooms/PER PERSON. If you are a larger/smaller group or need something different please send us your enquiry. MOTORCYCLES DO NOT HAVE THE WIDE AVAILABILITY OF DATES, SO PLEASE CHECK AVAILABILITY WITH OUR TEAM BEFORE BOOKING FLIGHTS.|
This Patagonia road trip itinerary begins at the city of San Martin de los Andes, or just San Martín, like the locals like to call it. This 40 thousand inhabitants big town, is perfectly located for those planning to start a road trip around patagonia or just looking for a destination to spend a few days in a mountain landscape destination as many argentinians do and that is why you shall find summer residences, hotels with swimming pools or even apartments for rent with fully equipped kitchens.
Much of our competition would begin their itineraries in San Carlos de Bariloche, northern gateway to Patagonia and largest city in the area, but to us that is a strategic mistake and as we encourage our travelers to spend more time in small towns, mountain villages and rural areas, San Martin seems like the best recommended airport for the beginning of your Journey.
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 any 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.
You will drive alongside the Andes for two weeks from Northern Lakes and Mountains region towards the flat, rough glacier valleys of South Patagonia. A true expedition.
Upon arrival to San Martin you will be collecting your rented motorcycle, having a technical briefing with our motorcycle expert, getting geared up and acquainted with your route and needs that might come up during the next two weeks. Extra gear such as water containers, electrical adaptors for chargers or even extra layers are usually purchased here by our clients.
San Martín de los Andes has a cozy downtown with many small shops already displaying much of the souvenirs and cuisine you shall find for the next few days, patagonian Lamb, trout, wild boar and with regards to handicrafts, those made of sheep, wool and local woods. Some local artisans also specialize in pottery and work with semi-precious stones.
Besides touring around town, a visit to Lanin National Park to see as close as possible, the perfectly cone shaped Volcano that separates Chile from Argentina might be among the best things to do out of town. There are a few trails to be done at the park if you wish to stretch your legs, but also fantastic viewpoints and picnic areas that can be accessed by bike. You can visit the northern side of the Mountain from Huechulafquen Lake, at 80km away from town or the south face, at the Tromen border pass, about 100km away. Also, around San Martin you can explore Lolog Lake, only 12km from town with stunning views of the Andes, go take a hike at Chapelco Ski Resort area or even get on a rented kayak or book a boat tour on the Lacar Lake, right on the shore of town.
It is a good idea to get well familiarized with your motorcycle, tomorrow we hit the road!
Today we will embark on one of the best road trips in the world, the Seven Lakes Route. Running the length of Argentina (for about 5000 km) in South America is the famous Ruta 40 (national road number 40), one of the longest and most famous roads in the world. Ruta 40 starts in the very south of Argentina, passing right through Argentine Patagonia, crossing the wine region of Mendoza before continuing on north to the border with Bolivia. This day trip is a 108-kilometre section of Ruta 40 in the west of the country, referred to as the Route of the Seven Lakes for obvious geographical reasons. Touted as one of the most scenic drives in Argentina, this winding paved lake-and-mountain road between the pretty lakeside towns of Villa La Angostura and San Martín de los Andes is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, where trails, lake shores, and picnic areas will tempt you to stop in every one of the lake sides.
Among the hikes on the way, Nvinco Waterfall trail may be among the most attractive but also most popular on the road. It’s a 2 hour (both ways) easy trail, with the opportunity to get deeper into the cold jungle known as the Valdivian Temperate Forest, with native bamboo, colorful flowers and huge epiphyte hanging plants.
Once Correntoso Lake has left our eastern side of the road and we start to see Nahuel Huapi Lake to our right, we have arrived at our next destination, Villa La Angostura. Although you probably haven’t noticed, you have earned some altitude during the drive. Villa La Angostura downtown is at 790 m (2,590 ft), not significant to the body in terms of altitude but you will feel the strong sun and also the cooler nights.
We will have arrived at an upscale mountain village on the south shore of the Nahuel Huapi Lake, Villa La Angostura is a cozy town with multiple opportunities for short hikes, like Inacayal Waterfall, Camino viejo from Correntoso to Lake Espejo, or longer trails (12km each way) like the one connecting to the Arrayanes National Park (trip that can also be done on a boat tour).
Small, yet fanzy restaurants, local hidden breweries, chocolate shops at a town that goes to sleep early and mostly is occupied by residents of big summer houses or nice boutique hotels. With a population of 20.000 inhabitants during the summer this can be double due to visitors.
From here we will drive 200 km to reach another mountain villa, El Bolsón, known for the hippies that arrived during the 70’s to found a dream like far away place and became internationally known for its artisan fair, it’s berries agriculture (exports blueberries, strawberries and raspberrys) and also became the cradle for small breweries in Argentina.
The drive to el Bolson has magnificent views and as you drive next to lakes and mountain cliffs you can only imagine how this connection was 20 years ago before pavement arrived, 50 years ago before there were any real roads or more… 100 years ago when the first settlers arrived to open land and settle.
Today we head south, southern that most international tourist go on vehicle, we go towards the less populated region of Patagonia and have the opportunity to see the second oldest tree in the planet, the Alerce, mountains that have never been claimed, named or climbed, and valleys that are still intact as nature has left them after the retreat o f the glaciers.
The mythical road 40 will be our direction but we will detour on to road 71 as we head towards Trevelin, a small town founded by the welsh in the beginning of the XX century and that decided on a direct vote to be either Chilean or Argentinian.
On the way we will pass by Cholila town, National Capital of Asado (Barbecue) due to the famous cattle raised in the nearby valleys that have been awarded several times with prizes at the annual national cattle competitions. Among the first cattle ranches in this region, was the one owned by Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid, whose home replica serves at a museum, next to the road before arriving to Cholila.
If you are into history of native inhabitants, before taking road 71, instead of taking that detour, continue on road number 40 south and you will arrive at the most important interpretative museum regarding native Tehuelche etnia at Leleque Museum, one of the best rated activities in Trip Advisor for the region.
If you decided to continue on road 71, after Cholila, 14km or gravel await you before entering the fifth national park on our itinerary, UNESCO World Heritage, Los Alerces National Park. From here will drive for 70km before arriving at our lodging and on the way there are several trails with different difficulties and also the opportunity to rent a kayak or a stand up paddle and cruise the beautiful lakes surrounded by snow capped mountains. A fantastic self driving day to reach places that no tours reach and go at your own pace.
Trevelin has a museum, an old Mill, winery and even a tulip plantation. Staying overnight at Trevelin and trying a traditional welsh dish with Patagonian ingredients is a great way to connect with the history of the first, courageous settlers.
From Trevelin we will get off pavement and take an alternative route thru Lakes, Rivers, Fishing Lodges and small mountain villages like Corcovado or Rio Pico. Along the way, solitude, snow capped mountains, lakes, snake shaped rivers and a whole lot of Patagonia. Self Drviving Patagonia at its essence.
We have started to understand the essence of Patagonia, going from Comfy Northern with relatively modern infraestructura Patagonia to this, rough, far away lonely and spectacular Patagonia. Now it is the turn of going back to pavement for 300 km before reaching a Patagonian Estancia, right off a short detour from National Route Number 40.
At the ranch we have the unique opportunity to get our hands dirty and prepare a traditional Patagonian barbecue Lamb, make family recipe “Chimichurri” and Empanadas. If cooking is not your thing, going for a sunset walk to stretch your legs or just lay back and catch up on some reading or sipping a good glass or Argentinian Wine are all good options.
We are back on RN40 and we will drive for a couple of hours before detouring again towards the Andes to reach the small agricultural town of Los Antiguos where the Lake Buenos Aires (2nd largest of Argentina) will await us at the footsteps of the Mountains.
Known as Chelenco (stormy waters) in the native language, this large body of water can be cruised on strong boats to visit the Marble Castles or Cathedrals on the chilean side of the lake or for the very courageous can be also kayaked.
Before reaching Los Antiguos the Patagonia National Park (created in recent 2014) will welcome us with newly opened trails, lookout points and fantastic wildlife spotting opportunities.
We can have a later start today to recover from the week of traveling that we have accomplished yesterday. We will go on an unpaved road connecting the towns of Los Antiguos and Lago Posadas along contrasting landscapes of steppe, sub antartic forest, alpine grasslands and the Andes mountain range on the side. Travelling south from Los Antiguos the road first follows the course of the Jeinimeni river then climbs to the Monte Zeballos area where the peaks of Colorado, Colmillo, and Lapiz stand out. The edge of the plateau accompanies the road and Cerro San Lorenzo (The highest of the area) is visible on clear days. Different bird species, including condors, black-necked swans and upland geese can be spotted along the 170 km of this scenic road.
On the way, several photo opportunities and look outs await us and if the wind is blowing (pretty much the exception is when there is no wind) Andean Condors will lead the way from the blue sky.
Upon arrival to Lago Posadas we will go by Lake Pueyrredón, next to Lake Posadas and then arrive to the town Lago Posadas, where just a handful of houses make up for a typical rural town of Patagonia, where sheep outnumber people and where your arrival might become the news of the day.
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 drive 200km south to reach Gobernador Gregores town, another rural town in the middle of the Patagonian Steppe. By now, you should be proud of yourself, you definitely have earned the road tripping badge of Patagonia.
Chalten is 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. About 350 km away from our accommodation 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 to a lookout point 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 go on a self drive tour 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. About 2 hours drive you will have reached the international border with Chile.
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 roadtrip 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 you can go upon arrival to El Calafate after a good coffee break.
Today we have time in the morning to start collecting all of those memories, rewriting our notes and checking the odometer and pat ourselves in the back, we have accomplished one of the best self driving tours in the world. We will return our motorcylce 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.