Argentina – overlanding Patagonia along Ruta 40

Our first weeks overlanding in Argentina brought us vast landscapes, long roads and magical marine wildlife. Now, we cross along the RN26 to the west side of Argentina to the Ruta 40 and the mountains, the part of Patagonia where the famous glacier Perito Moreno lies as well as hiking paradise El Chaltén. Here are some of our impressions with the Patagonian mountains on Argentinian side along Ruta 40.

Oh, and while we’re at it: Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

What did we like along the Ruta 40?

  • Finally some mountains! The east coast was beautiful but let’s face it, 1500km straight road through the bare pampas gets a bit boring after a while. Along the Ruta 40 there’s a diverse and wonderful mountainscape to gaze at.
  • Re-discover our trekking shoes, tucked away deep down in one of our travel boxes. You’re wondering, “do they match?” Silly question, of course they do! As do our winter coats and our warm socks. Dimitri doesn’t care too much about that but it just puts a smile on my face every time we wear them 🙂
  • Moving our muscles from Brussels.  For the past few months we’ve done a lot of driving, drinking and eating. Exploring hiking trails and doing real outdoor activities felt good! The extra pounds are still there but that’s what New Year resolutions are all about, right? 😉

What didn’t we like?

  • The wind! It blows even harder than on the east coast. The further we go down South, the more rain too… It might sound cosy if you can stay at home in your pajamas drinking a hot coco and watching a movie. BUT, when you’re setting up your tent or trying to cook – there’s really no fun in walking around like a penguin with all the warm clothes you could find or chasing down the carrots you sliced because of the strong winds.
  • If you know me, you know physical strength is not my best asset, so that got me a bit worried for the trekkings. Turns out I’m more of a wonder woman I give myself credit for and the first hike went without issues. Until Dimitri wanted to do some squats. As I support my husband as much as I can, I went along with it. Result: my right knee decided to go on a strike, so big climbs are off the schedule for a while. Apologies for the language, but that just poohpooh when you’re in a hikers’ paradise. Plan B? Ignoring the troopers (“Qué? No hablamos Español“) and just drive all the way up to the top to see the most magical mountain views  :mrgreen:

The highlights of the mountains in Argentinian Patagonia

  • Exploring 9000 year old cave art in what now remains la Cueva de las Manos. There are two ways to get there. Don’t hesitate and take the one where you drive for 45 minutes across an unpaved track, then put on your shoes and cross the canyon to the entrance of the Cuevas. It’s steep, but really worth it! The going can get tough and trekking poles will definitely help you on the steepest parts. Choose the late afternoon to do so and bring water. The Cueva de las Manos hosts authentic hand paintings popping out in the shade of the mountain. The entrance is 150 pesos per person. We forgot our wallet in the car and luckily the guard hadn’t go us back again to get it so we got in for free 😀
  • Encountering real mountains with snow in El Chaltèn. Seeing Mount Fritz Roy on a sunny day. Doing a hike, not following the trail but the river instead. Feeling tiny but blessed. Eating Belgian Waffles afterwards and letting our adventurous spirits grow!
  • Camping for days at the cosy campsite along the blue lake Lago Roca, including first encounter with mama skunk and her two cups.
  • Hearing the cracking of glacier ice at the impressive Perito Moreno. Entering the national park is expensive (330 pesos ~20€ pp) but worth it. You can spend a whole day listing, looking and guessing where the skyline meets the ice.


More detailed planning

Day 1: Rio Mayo

  • After trying to explain for 15 minutes we were looking for a place to shelter from the wind, an old man was happy to borrow us his huge shed for the night.

Day 2: Cueva de las manos

Day 3: Lago Cardiel

  • Wild camped at the most turquois lake we’ve ever seen. Shared a spot and travel stories with two motorcyclists, Tom and JB in a small fisher shelter.

Day 4 -5 : El Chaltén

  • Celebrating our 4 years together in the more fancy Confin Patagonico. Dimitri arranged for surprise chocolate and champagne at arrival 🙂 The owners Claudia and Jorge are really friendly & the bed is huge.
  • Hiked to see mount Frits Roy, Lago Capri and the glacier Piedras Blancas.
  • Best waffles in town – La Wafleria: we recommend the Wafle with baked green apples, cinnamon, vanilla icecream and Chantilly cream. The hot coco with rum is very strong  😛
  • Best restaurant – La Tapera: We recommend the pumpkin stuffed ravioli with a creamy onion sauce. The fresh trout is also good – but the ravioli are better!
  • Best place for a quick bite or take away – El Parador. We recommend the chicken & garlic sandwich.


Day 6: Along the way to Lago Del Desierto

  • Wild camped nearby a river with a misty mountainscape.

Day 7-9: El Calafate

  • Stayed 2 nights in Hostel Shilling to celebrate Christmas. Note: the hostel didn’t organize anything. Shops were closed and restaurants too expensive. Fortunately, a Dutch couple made a ton of pancakes and invited us to join them. Thank you Anna-Thalassa, Pieter and Pablo for the great wine evening 🙂
  • For tasty lamb empanadas on a terrace in the sun, go to Pietro’s Café.

Little Christmas miracle: on the 24th, my sister gave birth to sweet Luigi. Proud godmother and best Christmas gift ever!

Day 10-12: Lago Roca

  • Camped for 3 days at a free camping spot El Huala. Splendid lake nearby, no wind and lots of other travelers. We met with Michel and Roos, a Belgian retired couple who have been overlanding for the past 9 years. They taught us about the overlanding disease – every day is a day to celebrate an therefore to aperitive 😉 Cheers to that!
  • Discovering the cracks, going and growing of the glacier of Perito Moreno.

Whereto next?

Patagonia was a breath of fresh air, changing landscapes and new encounters with happy travelers. Now, we’re celebrating new year in Puerto Natales (Chile). Ready for the next part of our journey: crossing all our way up to Chili and Argentina. Carretera Austral, here we come!

Here are our pics, enjoy!

1 Comment

  1. Bart says: Reply

    What a great story. Have a good trip!

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