Route 40, pure adventure
Route 40 runs alongside the Andes from la Puna until reaching the Glaciers of the South. It is mythical for many reasons. For the solitary stretches it crosses. For the peaks of the Andes that guard the route like centennials.
And also because its plan corresponds with the ancient travel routes of the first inhabitants of South America. These wise ancestors were knowledgeable about all of the different microclimates where a traveler could find fresh water supplies, the resource which enabled the development of the cities and towns of today.
National Route 40¬†can practically be considered¬†Argentina‚Äôs backbone, running along¬†5,000 kilometers (3,100 mi), crossing 18 important rivers, 20 National Parks and Natural Reserves and connecting 11 provinces: Santa Cruz, Chubut, R√≠o Negro, Neuqu√©n, Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja, Catamarca, Tucum√°n, Salta and Jujuy.
Similar to Route 60 in the United States, but many kilometers longer and reaching higher altitudes (almost 5,000 meters -16,400 ft- above sea level in Abra del Acay, Salta), Route 40 has become the new star of tourism in Argentina.
From South to North
¬†Route 40 is an astonishing road, a rolling myth, the place of places that represents a milestone. For those who dare take it, there will always be a ‚Äúbefore and after‚ÄĚ their trip on Route 40.
Since its creation in¬†1935¬†and while¬†kilometer 0 (zero)¬†was located in¬†Mendoza¬†city, on the¬†intersection of San Mart√≠n Avenue and Garibaldi Street, the route was divided into North and South. But as from¬†2004, the Highway Department (Direcci√≥n Nacional de Vialidad) moved this point to¬†Cabo V√≠rgenes.
From the current kilometer 0, located 124 km (77 mi) from¬†R√≠o Gallegos¬†-the most southern point of the continent- up to¬†Puna in Jujuy, the route is approximately 5,200 km (3,200 mi) long and goes across a variety of climates, geographies and cultures.
It borders the¬†Andes range¬†for the most part, from latitude 52¬ļ to parallel 22¬ļ 45‚Äô, and goes through three different regions: Patagonia, Cuyo and Northwest.
The area of the¬†Patagonian region¬†that Route 40 crosses (Santa¬†Cruz, Chubut, R√≠o Negro and Neuqu√©n) shows a geography of plateaus and mountains and arid cold climate. This area is characterized mainly by a landscape full of lakes, mountains and forests. Some outstanding points are: Cabo V√≠rgenes, R√≠o Turbio coal bed and¬†Perito Moreno Glacier¬†in¬†Los Glaciares National Park, Cueva de las Manos in¬†Perito Moreno National Park¬†and¬†Los Alerces National Park,¬†El Bols√≥n,¬†San Carlos de Bariloche¬†and¬†San Mart√≠n de los Andes.
In¬†Cuyo¬†region (Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja), the geography varies¬†between plains and mountains and the climate is mainly arid. Here, the rivers come down the mountains to provide water for the vineyards, whose products are¬† internationally well-known . The most outstanding points touched by Route 40 along this area are:¬†Caverna Las Brujas,¬†Las Le√Īas, Agua del Toro dam, Laguna Diamante, the famous Penitentes,¬†San Rafael, the imposing Aconcagua, Talampaya National Park, Valle de la Luna and Chilecito.
On the other hand, in the¬†Northwest¬†(Catamarca, Tucum√°n,¬†Salta and Jujuy), the geography presents plateaus and mountains; the climate varies between high altitude arid climate and subtropical. Landscapes¬†are breathtaking, showing mountains in thousands of colors and green valleys, full of vineyards. But in the northwest the beauty of nature equals the cultural richness, since Inca and Kolla traditions are kept intact, alive and everlasting in each town and every inhabitant of these high lands. Some of the interesting points the route joins are: Santa Mar√≠a, the Quilmes Ruins,¬†Cafayate, Angastaco, Molinos,¬†Los Cardones National Park, Nevado de¬†Cachi, Abra El Acay and San Antonio de los Cobres.
Route 40 and its surroundings bear an endless number of attractive places. Some are displayed as treasures in a showroom. Others are kept a secret. You only need time to discover them.¬†
For those who want to join in a trip along this mythical route, here are¬†some tips:
It is convenient to travel around Cuyo and the Northwest in the winter¬†season¬†since summer rains tend to flood and badly damage the route. In Patagonia, instead, the best time is from October to April, since winter snow and ice make the trip harder.
In terms of¬†clothing, for dry mountain winds or snow storms it is advisable to have a spare change of light clothes and warm clothes as well as sunscreen lotion and related accessories (sunglasses, lip balm, gloves).
Although the trip can be made by car, it is convenient to¬†increase the standard tire air pressure¬†(28 pounds) to 32 pounds.
Water is vital in this kind of trips. You really need to have plenty just in case.
Tourist short film by¬†Imagen Producciones.
The entire journey, leg by leg:
- The Conditions of the Road and Recommendations
- Route 40: From Bariloche to El Bols√≥n
- Route 40: From El Bols√≥n to Esquel
- Route 40: From Esquel to Gobernador Costa
- Route 40: From Gobernador Costa to Alto R√≠o Senguer
- Route 40: From Alto R√≠o Senguer to R√≠o Mayo
- Route 40: From R√≠o Mayo to Perito Moreno
- Route 40: From Perito Moreno to Gobernador Gregores
- Route 40: To Ca√Īad√≥n del R√≠o Pinturas and Cueva de las Manos
- Route 40: To Los Antiguos and Lago Buenos Aires
- Route 40: From Gobernadores Gregores to El Calafate