Argentina’s Ruta 40 is one of the longest and most spectacular highways in the world. Running over 3000 miles along the Andes mountains, from the border of Bolivia to the tip of Patagonia this is the perfect road trip.
The Northern half of Ruta 40 covers a vast array of landscapes, from the dry high altitude deserts and mountains of the Andes near the Bolivian border to the lush vinyards of Mendoza, every corner of this journey presents a jaw droppingly beautiful vista. It is also home to some of the oldest cultures in Argentina and many pre Columbian ruins such as Quilmes and the Pucara di Tilcara can be explored.
But the countryside itself is without a doubt the main attraction. The Nature Parks of Talampaya and Ischigualasto offer some of the world’s most unusual geological and palaeontological treasures and the multi coloured hillsides around Purmamarca have got to be seen to be believed.
Starting just 100 miles south of the Bolivian border, Globe Trekker’s Zay Harding travels the northern half of Ruta 40 and takes some detours to visit some of the country’s most spectacular scenery.
Beginning in the northern province of Jujuy, high in the Andes Mountains, Zay travels to the town of Tilcara to visit the ruins of one of the oldest known settlements in the country. He then heads south to the bustling city of Salta before travelling through the spectacular Valles Chalchaquies to the Nature Parks of Talampaya and Ischigualsto.
For his final leg he heads West again into the highest section of the Andes to try his hand at land surfing in Leoncito before heading into Mendoza province to taste some of Argentina’s finest wines. He finishes his journey beneath awe inspiring, Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere
Where to Stay
Hotel de Turismo, Tilcara
Plain and simple. In the centre of town. Rooms are pretty basic but are also a reasonable price. Some rooms have balcony’s. Not a lot of charm but efficient. Friendly staff.
Hotel Solar de La Plaza, Salta
Charming, old fashioned and very central
Hotel La Merced Del Alto, Cachi
Situated on a hilltop outside the town, the hotel has been designed to look like an old monastery and it’s pretty hard to tell it’s actually new.
Nevada de Cachi, Cachi
No website. Right in the centre of town, this is a very pleasant, clean, simple and affordable accommodation.
Grace Hotel, Cafayate
If you want to stay in ultimate luxury this is the place for you. Situated in the middle of their private vineyards, the hotel is top notch, stylish and relaxing. The setting is beautiful, the food delicious and you are greeted at the door with a glass of their mouth-watering homemade Torrontes wine. One of the best hotel check in experiences you’ll ever have.
Torrontes is a crisp fruity shite wine that grows well in dry high altitudes. The hotel sits in the Wine Bodega corridor just off Ruta 40 and just outside the very pleasant town of Cafayate. This is one of Ruta 40’s most beautiful stretches. Day trips to the Valles Calchaquies and its spectacular Queraba de Las Flechas, Arrow Canyon, or the Ancient ruins of Quilems are within easy reach by car as are a number of other winery’s and parks.
Posada Del Sendero, Chilecito
As towns along Ruta 40 go Chilecito is not the most beautiful but it’s situated near some really stunning natural wonders and this hotel,just out of town and in a very pretty setting, is ideal for anyone passing through or needing a base in the area. Simple, clean and comfortable rooms with ensuite bath at a good price and very friendly and helpful staff and owner. A small pool and barbeque area for guests to use.
CASLEO Observatory, Leoncito
This is Argentina’s premier astronomical observatory but it also has accommodation. If you are in the area and are interested in touring the observatory, if there’s room, you can stay the night. Rooms are simple and clean and situated in one of the clearest light pollution free areas of the country you just can’t be the view of the night sky
Hostal Posada Don Lisandro, Barreal
Simple attractive, charming hostal in a pretty wooded area of the town. Rustic funky decor, young crowd. Very easy going. Mauro the owner knows everybody and everything in the area and the hostal can organise for any of the many outdoor activities in the area including Land Sailing. The place to chill in Barreal.
O’ Fournier, Mendoza
Just over an hour south of Mendoza city, this cutting edge winery is out of this world. Its sleek, eco friendly design uses gravity to crush the grapes and natural underground temperatures to age the wine. It may look like something you’d see in a James Bond movie but the stunning natural back drop of the Andes Mountains will always give you a more traditional beauty fix. The winery has a number of rustic, old world style farm house bungalows for guests to hire and offers one of the fanciest lunch menus in the country. The wine, Malbec among others, is top notch. Go and splurge, it’s worth it.
Legado Mitico, Buenos Aires
Very fine boutique hotel in Buenos Aires’s stylish and trendy Palermo Soho district. Rooms are themed, reflecting the different cultures and history of Argentina. Check out the Gaucho Room, or the Tango Singer. A visit here is a fun crash course in Argentinian culture. Great library too. They have a sister hotel in Salta.
Villa Huinid, Bariloche
Just out of town, the hotel has great views of the lake and large, modern rooms.
Buena Vida Social Club, El Bolson
Full of character, this B&B has lovely rooms, fantastic breakfast and great views. Run by Kitty and Horacio who are a mine of information on El Bolson. (See their interview in the show!)
Ruta 71, Trevelin
Fantastic food at the restaurant cooked up by Pablo and his team.
Hotel Poincenot, El Chalten
Albergue Patagonia, El Chalten
La Confluencia, El Bolson
A great base for trekking and meeting fellow travellers. Excellent food.
Pichi Rincon, Villa de la Angostura
Getting There: International Airports in Buenos Aires. Domestic airports in Salta, San Juan and Mendoza are the most practical.
Getting Around: The public transport services in this part of the country are good but sometimes patchy. Buses are the most comprehensive. Trains limited. Self drive car travel is the best way to get the most out of the region.
When to go: Most anytime except February when heavy rains can wash out roads and create considerable disruption. September – November exceptionally good.
What to wear: Dress tends to be casual but the days can be hot and the nights very cool so whenever you travel to this part of Argentina you will need a range of clothing.
Currency: Argentine Peso (Arg $) Argentine peso
Population: It is impossible to give an accurate figure of the population for this region. Rural areas especially in the mountains can be very sparse though the Northern part of the Andes is more populated than the southern and has a longer history of civilisation.
The major cities are quite substantial. Salta has just over half a million people. Mendoza nearly 900,000.
Don’t forget to pack:
1.Latest map, (ruta 40 is constantly changing as new bits of road are finished
2.Emergency petrol. There are long stretches with no gas stations.
3.Extra Water. It may be cool and comfortable but the sun is deceptively dehydrating and with long stretches of empty road with no place to buy water.
4.Sunscreen. High altitude sun burns much faster than at the beach.
- The Motorcycle Diaries, Che Guevara
- Bradt Guide Argentina
3.Footprint Guides – Argentina
4.Lonely Planet Guide Argentina
Libros de Viaje
“La Trochita – en blanco y negro”
– blog: www.librosdeviaje.com.ar
– to buy the book: www.tiendalibrosdeviaje.com.ar
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/librosdeviaje
Road: There are two main roads through Patagonia, Route 40 which runs parallel to the Andes and Route 3 which runs along the coast. Long distance buses go along both routes although journey times are long.
Public Transport: Public transport has a spotty record around Patagonia. While some regions are well-served, particularly in the summer months, others are completely bereft of bus and tram services, and if they do exist, they are often expensive due to the immense distances between places.
Car Rental: Although doable, renting cars can be a trying experience due to the exhausting Argentinian bureaucracy. Various payments and taxes are often required. Alternatively, many tourists purchase a car beforehand and often resell it afterwards, due to being a less exhausting and often more economical option.
Tel: 0294 4492604/ 4455336
T: 0117 369 0196
Old Market Studios
68 Old Market Street
Bristol BS2 0EJ UK
Av. San Martín 175
9300 El Chaltén, Santa Cruz
T: +54 2962 49-3371
If you wish to climb the Lanin Volcano, then please contact Andestrack Expeditions.
Cnel. Rohde 782 of 5
San Martin de los Andes
Neuquen – Patagonia
Trevelin Tea House LA MUTISIA
Av. San Martin 170 – Trevelin
Tel. (02945) 15548354 / 480165
- Fiesta Nacional del Tren a Vapor (National Steam Train Festival) at El Maiten (Feb)
- Fiesta Nacional del Asado (National BBQ Festival) in Cholila (Feb)
- Eisteddfod (Welsh Cultural Festival) in Trevelin (Oct/Nov)
- El Bolson International Jazz Festival (Dec)
- National Hops Festival in El Bolson (Feb)
- National Snow Festival in Bariloche (June)
- Fiesta Nacional de la Fruta Fina (National Festival of Fine Fruit) in El Hoyo (January)
- Fiesta Nacional de Folklore (National Folklore Festival) in Cosquin (January)
- Fiesta Nacional del Trekking (National Festival of Trekking) in El Chalten (February)
- Fiesta del Bosque y su Entorno (festival of the Forest and its Environment) in the Lago Pueblo region (February)
- Mendoza Wine Festival
Must See’s and Do’s
- Trekking from El Chalten
- Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands)
- Market in El Bolson (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays)
- La Trochita railway (at Esquel or El Maiten)
- Welsh tea in Trevelin
- Butch Cassidy’s hut
- climb Volcan Lanin
- paragliding in El Bolson
- penguins near Cabo Virgenes
- Talampya National Park
- Ischigualasto Park
- Seven Colours Hill, Purmamarca
- Carnival in Jujuy
- Queraba de las Flechas
- The mummies of the Lulliaco children, Museum of High Altitude Archeology, Salta
Food and Drink
Vegetarians beware. Argentina is a meat eaters paradise. Steaks on the barbecue is a constant and the portions are huge. Salad is the most common vegetable when eating out. Some of the northern towns have more traditional indigenous food like Tamales steamed in Corn leaves is well worth trying. Also llama steak is very tasty.
The wines are great, reasonably priced and of offer just about everywhere. Try and go for the local wines. You won’t be disappointed.
Beef. World famous Argentinian beef. Served everywhere but try eating at a parrilla (grill) restaurant. Asado, or barbecued meat such as steak and ribs are the national dish of Argentina. Due to the large Italian population in Argentina, a number of traditional dishes such as pasta and pizza are served with beef.
Empanadas. Small pastries with various fillings such as meat, cheese and corn. Commonly eaten as starters or at casual events like parties or dinners.
Lamb. Another Patagonian staple. Traditionally grilled whole and splayed on a cross.
Goat. In southern regions like Patagonia, goat is eaten more frequently than beef. Traditionally, the dish is prepared using a method called asado a la astaca, cooked over an open fire,
Trout. A Patagonian speciality. Served fresh or smoked.
Dulce de Leche. A sweet pastey spread literally translated as ‘candy of milk’, this is another national dish of Argentina, popular as a filling for deserts like cake and pancakes.
Wine. Nearby Mendoza means excellent Argentinian wines are widely available. Argentinian Malbecs are particularly well regarded. In Patagonia, regions such as Neuquen and Rio Negro are big wine-producing hubs. In addition, the area produces a significant proportion of grapes for Argentina’s sparkling wine trade.
Beer. In El Bolson it’s possible to find excellent local hand-crafted beers. (75% of Argentina’s hops are grown in the area). A good place to sample a selection is in the market, held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Aguardiente. Literally translated as ‘firewater’, this is a spirit made from sugar cane and is one of the most widely consumed in Argentina. A Hispanic staple, it has several variations across different countries.
Fernet Cola. Mix of an Argentinian spirit and coke.
Woolen articles. The Patagonian wool industry is huge and sweaters, ponchos and blankets can be bought cheaply.
Leather goods. In Patagonia, equestrian items and clothing made for gauchos are a good buy.