Patagonia Route 40 Self-Drive

Drive the Patagonian part of the infamous Route 40 at your own pace. Set off from the alpine lakeside town of Bariloche, experience the dramatic volcanic scenery of Welsh Patagonia and the world famous archaeology of the Cueva de las Manos, then end in the trekking mecca of El Chalten.

12 Days

$2,800

Patagonia Route 40 Self-Drive - 12 - $2,800

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • A varied experience of Patagonia which encompasses cultural, scenic and wildlife highlights
  • Cross the steppe and pass canyons, volcanic craters and rural villages as you drive deep into the Chubut region, accompanied by guanacos and many birds of prey
  • Walk through the lush green forests of the Los Alerces National Park, the waterfalls and hanging glaciers around Mount Tronodor, and the dramatic landscape of El Chalten 
  • Visit the prehistoric caves Cueva de las Manos, painted by the earliest South American settlers
  • With route maps provided, car hire and accommodation organised, you're free to take the road in freedom

Start from Bariloche and end at El Calafate

Landmarks visited on Patagonia Route 40 Self-Drive

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Bariloche

On arrival into Bariloche, pick up your hire car and drive to your hotel on the shores of the Nahuel Huapi Lake. To reach your hotel you will drive through the centre of the small city of Bariloche and then continue along the lake shore to the small hotel.

Bariloche is the gateway to an extraordinary diverse variety of landscapes; from the jagged peaks of the high mountains, to the open plains of the Patagonian steppe, the winding rivers filled with trout, and the different varieties of lush forest.

Length of drive: 45 mins, 35 km

Accommodation: Hotel Peninsula Petit


Day 2: Explore the highlights near Bariloche

A free day to explore the surroundings at your leisure. The Swoop suggestions are:

Option 1 – Route of the 7 Lakes

Leaving Bariloche, you will follow signs for Villa La Angostura. Just after Lago Faulkner, we recommend turning right onto Route 63 (towards the Hotel Rio Hermosa and Filo Huahum) to turn the drive into a circular route. 

If you have made good time, you may wish to continue onto San Martín de Los Andes for lunch and then return on the Route 40 or 63.

Option 2 – Mount Tronodor

Drive a short distance south on the Route 40, then at Villa Mascardi, turn right onto the local Route 82 which takes you along the shores of Lago Mascardi to Pampa Linda.

We recommend parking at Pampa Linda (there is a hotel and camp ground here) and then following the 7 km trail to the hanging glaciers and waterfalls. The path begins quite flat along a narrow road, no longer used by cars, for about half an hour, before crossing Castaño Overo River.

You'll continue hiking up through the Native Andean forest, full of coihues and lenga trees, ascending and descending for a couple of hours until you arrive at the impressive Cirque Glaicer, 'Castaño Ovvero' with spectacular waterfalls and hanging glaciers. Your return will follow the same route.

Length of drive: 14 km

Length of hike: 5–6 hrs

Accommodation: Hotel Peninsula Petit


Day 3: Reach Los Alerces National Park

Drive south from Bariloche across the steppe of Patagonia, into the Los Alerces National Park. There are many trails to explore or you can take a boat trip to view the glaciers which cascade down from the Andes. 

In the early evening, drive to the rural town of Esquel in Welsh Patagonia. See the tea houses, windmills and chapels, alongside the variety of local restaurants and street side cafes.

Length of drive: 5 hrs, 300 km

Accommodation: Hotel Las Bayas


Day 4: Get to know Welsh Patagonia

Spend the day exploring the local area, with it's fascinating geology and intriguing Welsh history. Head west to the meandering Chubut river, seeing the magnificent geological features of the Piedra Parada and Vulture Canyon. Alternatively, you could travel in the footsteps of the early Welsh pioneers of the valley and head to the small, charming village of Trevelin in the south.

Accommodation: Hotel Las Bayas


Day 5: Journey to the shores of Lago Buenos Aires

Today involves a long stretch of driving, passing small rural villages, mining towns and isolated estancias. There are stretches of the road where the horizon is seemingly endless. You will see plenty of guanacos, birds of prey, and sheep.

Los Antiguos is a charming small town of 5,000 situated on the shores of the Lago Buenos Aires (known as Lago General Carrera in Chile). It has beautiful trees, irrigation channels running through the centre, and a plentiful fruit production – particularly cherries, being the country's national cherry capital. 

Length of drive: 6 hrs, 600 km

Accommodation: Hosteria Antigua Patagonia, Los Antiguos


Day 6: Visit the Cueva de las Manos

Today you will drive south to the Cueva de las Manos, the 'Cave of the Hands' nestled in the awe-inspiring Río de las Pinturas canyon. Estancia Cueva de las Manos is the starting point of a hike to the caves which will take you around the canyon, generous in scenic views and wildlife encounters. The trek down to the canyon takes one hour, followed by a river crossing and then a climb to the other side. You can also drive to the caves, a one hour journey along unpaved road.

Length of drive: 2.5 hrs, 170 km

Accommodation: Hosteria Antigua Patagonia, Los Antiguos


Day 7: Drive the stunning Route 41

The rural Route 41 running south along the spine of the Andes has an ever-changing landscape, which you'll witness as you climb up the pass and then drop down to the lush shores of Lago Posadas. You'll be surprised by the scenery, with extensive salt flats, abandoned estancias, lush plains, barren high passes, and mountainsides of all colours – blues, purples, yellows, and oranges.

Lago Posadas is a small sleepy town and the charming Hosteria Rio Tarde doubles up as a charming local space for theatre, poetry events and live music in the winter.

Accommodation: Hosteria Rio Tarde, Lago Posadas


Day 8: Continue south to Estancia La Angostura

The Estancia La Angostura is a traditional working estancia in a wonderful location for bird watching and getting a feel for the history and day to day reality of living in such a remote region.

Length of drive: 4 hrs, 260 km

Accommodation: Estancia La Angostura, near Gobernador Gregores


Day 9: A glacial drive to El Chalten

You will drive south through the contiuing wilds of the Patagonian steppe before heading into the Andes, where you will start to see the first glimpse of the Mount Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. The drive will take you alongside the Viedma Lake, where icebergs carved off of the Viedma Glacier can sometimes be seen.

El Chalten is a charming little hiking village with plenty of local restaurants, bars and even a few micro breweries.

Length of drive: 4.5 hrs, 300 km

Accommodation: Hosteria Senderos, El Chalten


Day 10: Rest or hike in El Chalten

A full day to explore the area independently. El Chalten is also a lovely little mountain village to just soak up and enjoy. Our suggested hikes are:

Full day hike to Laguna de los Tres for views of Mount Fitz Roy – You can either start this hike in El Chalten and do a round trip, up to Laguna de Los Tres and back along the same path. Alternatively, for a more interesting hike, you can take a shared transfer (at an additional cost) to the trailhead at El Pilar, 17km north of El Chalten, to do a linear walk that goes via Laguna de Los Tres and ends in El Chalten. If you'd like to do this, please ask your hotel to organise this for you on the previous day.

Length of hike: 9 hrs, 22 km

Full day hike to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado – Starting and finishing in El Chalten, explore the 'De Las Vueltas' valley with stunning views of Mount Fitzroy and the Electrico Valley. Then, drive north on the gravel road leading up the valley from El Chalten to Lago del Desierto and enjoy some spectacular scenery.

Length of hike: 7-8 hrs, 22 km

Half day hike to Laguna Capri – Starting and finishing in El Chalten, the first part of the hike is quite steep but worth it for the wonderful views of Mount Fitz Roy and the De La Vueltas river.

Length of hike: 4 hrs, 8 km

Short hike up to the Condor and Aguila viewpoints – Starting and finishing in El Chalten, this involves another steep ascent to the viewpoints but again offers fantastic views of Mount Fitz Roy, El Chalten and the De Las Vueltas valley.

Length of hike: 1 hr, 5.5 km

Accommodation: Hosteria Senderos, El Chalten


Day 11: El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier

Drive from El Chalten to El Calafate, with sensational views of the Viedma Lake, La Leona and Santa Cruz rivers. On arrival into El Calafate, check into your hotel and then continue west to the southern part of the Los Glaciares National Park. You will spend the afternoon on the extensive walkways that extend on the land in front of the glacier.

Length of drive: 3 hrs, 200 km to El Calafate, then a further 1 hr 15 mins, 80 km to Perito Moreno Glacier

Accommodation: Hotel Madre Tierra, El Calafate


Day 12: End of journey

Departure day – return your hire car at El Calafate airport and take your onward or return flight. It is also possible to return your hire car in town if that suits you better.

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Price of USD $2,805 per person is based on a group of 2 people sharing accommodation. Discounts are available for larger groups.

Additional Notes

If you would prefer to do this trip with your own driver/guide rather than as a self-guided itinerary, please just let us know.

Includes

  • Accommodation: 10 nights in hotels and refugios
  • Car hire
  • Driving maps

Excludes

  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • Any extra/optional excursions
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal Equipment (request our recommended kit list for more details)
  • Gratuities/Tips
  • International and domestic/in country flights
  • Entrance fee for Cueva de las Manos (approx. USD $10)
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses

Questions about this Trip?