Cycling in Patagonia – Where to go mountain biking

 

Mountain biking in Patagonia is an increasingly popular activity and it’s not hard to see why. Cycling can take you to places unaccessible by car, and enables you to cover larger distances than by foot. Plus, for those of you that aren’t horse-lovers, you can still cover a large distance in a reasonably short space of time and it means you’re still being active rather than just seeing the scenery from a bus.

There are three particularly great places for mountain biking: The Lake District, where you can cycle on gravel tracks and roads through green valleys and alongside fast-flowing rivers. In Torres del Paine where you’ll have views of glaciers, cycle past ‘guanacos’ or lamas and cross the wind-swept pampas. Tierra del Fuego, a rough and wild climate, where you’ll understand why Darwin saw it as an inhospitable place. Here you’ll cycle to stony beaches, see colonies of sea lions, islands and glaciers, making it a beautiful and challenging spot to go mountain biking.

I’ve chosen a selection of trips that are run by local experts who have put together itineraries suitable for both novices and experts. Be warned that during some trips you’ll cover up to 50km per day, cycling both uphill and downhill (as I did whilst on a trip in Cochamo!), so having a reasonable level of fitness is quite important here.

It’s important to bear in mind that each region varies in difficulty and provides a different challenge. For example, there are lots of paved roads in the Lake District, and hardly any in Tierra del Fuego, so you should expect a tough and bumpy ride if you decide to cycle there. Also, weather condiitons can affect your experience of mountain biking in Patagonia. Southern Patagonia (Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego) is known for its wind, which is strong during the summer, but all but disappears during the winter. Whereas the Lake District is usually sunny during the summer with no wind but frequent showers, giving it an almost tropical feeling. For more info about Patagonian weather, see our Climate posts.

To see some sample trips in each section, go to:

Lake District

Mountainbike around the Reloncavi Fjord

5 Days, starting and ending in the tropical town of Puerto Varas, from about £854 per person. Available from Oct-Apr.

Highlights include: Cycling in the Reloncavi estuary with views of Volcano Yates and Cochamo Valley, riding along the huge Rio Puelo and cycling through a national park, Alerce Andino.

 

Andes Crossing by bike

8 Days, starting and ending at Chapelco Airport near the town of San Martin de los Andes in Argentinian Patagonia, from about £1,195 per person. Available from Nov-April.

Highlights include: Cycling from San Martín de los Andes to Lanin Nacional Park, visiting the Hot Springs of Liquiñe & Neltume, the Huilo Huilo waterfalls, cycling through the Araucaria Forest / Andean Forest and Argentine & Chilean Volcanoes– Lanin, Choshuenco, Villarica.

 

Mountain Biking the Patagonian Lake District

14 Days, starting from Puerto Montt and ending at Temuco Airport near the town of Temuco, northern Chile, from about £1,921 per person. Available on 22nd Oct, 19th Nov, 21st Dec and 18th Feb 2011.

Highlights include: Mountain biking on gravel roads through the Chilean Lake District, visiting a fishing town and the rainforest-like valley of Cochamo, where nearby you’ll see the snow-capped Volcano Osorno. You’ll cross over to the Argentinian side visiting beautiful sea-side towns such as Bariloche where you’ll cycle around the huge Lago Nahuel Huapi, Villa Trufal and cycle to see one of the most active volcanoes in South America – Volcan Llaima.

 

Torres del Paine

Multiactivity in Patagonia

5 Days, starting and ending in Punta Arenas (close to the Seno Otway Penguin Reserve), from about £1,143 per person. Available from 1st Oct – 30th March.

Highlights include: Cycling the open pampas surrounding Torres del Paine National Park, you’ll see Laguna Sofia and local peaks. You’ll also kayak, horse ride, and trek to the base of the towers during this 5-day trip.

 

Tierra del Fuego (Multi-location)

The Carreterra Austral

10 Days, starting and ending in Buenos Aires, from about £1,287 per person. Available on 27th Nov 2011.

Highlights include: Cycling along the famous Carretera Austral road to Villa O’Higgins in Chile. You’ll continue along the blue Baker River passing by dozens of glaciers and taking several ferry boat connections navigating the fjords where you can have a breather. The last boat takes you to a remote and pristine area where you’ll cycle facing the impressive Mount Fitz Roy in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentinian Patagonia.


1000km Mountain Bike Adventure

17 Days, starting and ending in Buenos Aires, from about £1,766 per person. Available 27th Nov 2011.

Highlights include: Cycling along the Carretera Austral road, which stretches from northern Patagonia to southern Patagonia. You’ll see beautiful glaciers and rivers, Perito Moreno and Mount Fitz Roy in El Chalten before cycling all around Tierra del Fuego and taking a boat trip in the Beagle Channel to see sea lions.

For more info, drop us a line at charlotte@swooptravel.co.uk