Covering a distance of more than 5100 km from South to North, the National Route 40 stands as a legend among all those who dare visiting the Andean Cordillera in Argentina.
It starts in Cabo Vírgenes (in the province of Santa Cruz -Southern Patagonia), and it finishes in La Quiaca (province of Jujuy, right at the border with Bolivia). It crosses 11 provinces and 21 National Parks, with an outstanding diversity of landscapes on the way. Naturally, as most travelers don’t have enough time to cover the 5100 km in one way, they divide it (generally) in the following segments:
Patagonia: From Bariloche (or Los Antiguos) to El Calafate
This part joins the Lakes District in Northern Patagonia –with its multiple lakes, rivers, forests and villages- with the impressive Glaciers of Southern Patagonia.
Even though it’s possible to start in Bariloche (approximately 1500 km away from Calafate), many people prefer to do it from Los Antiguos, since the distance to El Calafate is shorter (750 km), and subsequently the duration of the trip. From there you can also visit the “Cueva de las Manos” and the “Marble Cathedrals” (Chile).
Usually, and after visiting Los Antiguos, they cover the first 480 km in 2 days: first to Lago Posadas, and then from Lago Posadas to El Chaltén, through the extensive and remote steppe.
Then, a stopover of minimum 2-3 days in El Chaltén is required: the trekking capital of Argentina, offers some of the most spectacular views in whole Patagonia.
Finally, the last 270 km to El Calafate: gate to the Glaciers Perito Moreno, Upsala & Spegazzini, and connection hub for visiting Torres del Paine, Ushuaia, or flying back to Buenos Aires.
From Mendoza to San Juan
Definitively, this is a must for Wine lovers. Driving or visiting the vineyards in an excursion, tasting the remarkable Malbec wines –perfect companion of the Argentinean meat, is an experience that the foodies should live at least once in their life.
This is usually combined with a visit to the High Mountain circuit (route 7, where the colossal Cerro Aconcagua shows its peak behind the range), in a 3-4 days program.
From Mendoza, it’s also possible to reach the Moon Valley in San Juan (Ischigualasto), and Talampaya (La Rioja), land of canyons, incredible rock formations, and dinosaur footprints.
From La Rioja to Jujuy
This is where the colors of the mountains meet the colors of the culture: a mixture of both is the perfect complement to make your experience an unforgettable one.
A minimum stay of 7 days, will allow you to explore some hidden corners of its Gorges (Quebradas), Valleys, Yungas and the mythical Puna (Altiplano).
Actually, the “Dakar” competition includes on its circuit a good part of this region. Among the highlights of the region, you can find: Quebrada de las Flechas (Ruta 40), Cafayate, Cachi, Salta, San Antonio de los Cobres, Salinas Grandes, Purmamarca (Cerro de los 7 Colores), Iruya, Quebrada de las Conchas, Valles Calchaquies, and Quebrada de Humahuaca.
Here is where you find the highest part of the road: Abra del Acay, with almost 5000 meters over the sea level (one of the highest in the world).
Either on a tour or a self-drive crossing, it´s always suggested to ask for advice: the route can be tricky under difficult weather conditions, since is not fully paved.