In South America, Argentina’s Ruta 40 is what Big Sur is to California – an incredible scenic route that most of the natives avoid using because there’s so many tourists. Perhaps both of these wanderlust routes are overrun with visitors for the same reason: they offer unbelievably gorgeous views. But there is one important difference in Argentina… the road is a gazillion times longer. With an elevation gain of up to 1,500 meters, Ruta 40 cuts length-wise through the entire western edge of the country. So it’s kind of a catch-all to say you’re doing Ruta 40, unless you want to embark on a real cycling marathon. If you only have 24 hour hours to test-ride this route, it’s better to pick the part that appeals to you most. Check out 16 different cycling trips offered within Ruta 40 here, or continue reading this article.
This stunning Patagonian adventure takes you through Los Alerces National Park, past the deep turquoise waters of Lago Puelo, and into the mountain town of El Bolsón. Here you can hike up into the Andes (but that’s another journey altogether). En route you’ll see dramatic valley vistas, beaches, waterfalls, and maybe even some wild animals.
Route: Take Ruta 259 and Ruta 71 (both asphalt) from Esquel to Las Alerces National Park. This park has gravel roads to ride carefully. Exit the park and take Ruta 71 and Ruta 40 from Cholila to Epuyén. Then take Ruta 40 and Ruta 16 from Epuyén through El Hoyo, Lago Puelo, and on into El Bolsón.
Length: About 200 kilometers
Quebrada de Las Conchas in Salta’s Calchaquíe Valleys is a geological wonder to cycle through. Filled with striking layered rock formations, the Gorge of the Shells, as it would be called in English, attracts visitors all year round. The area offers many bike tours, so if you go solo, rest assured that cyclists are a common sight with amenities readily available. The area is filled with unusual geological attractions with luring names like Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), Anfiteatro (Amphitheater), and Tres Cruces (Three Crosses).
Level: Easy, if you take a tour
Length: Most tours average 25 kilometers and last around five hours
The Siete Lagos or Seven Lakes route is a popular one. As its name suggests, the trip does in fact take you past seven beautiful lakes spanning the Chile-Argentina border. Most people leave from the town of Villa La Angostura – North of Bariloche – and cycle to San Martín de los Andes in Neuquén. You can do it the other way around, but it’s much harder. It’s a four day journey, so bring your sleeping bag. More information and trip planning here.
Length: 112 kilometers, pretty much all asphalt
For a trip slightly closer to the City of Buenos Aires (well, an all-day bus ride), the Southern town of Sierra de la Ventana offers lovely routes in a beautiful area with a natural reserve. Easily accessible via bus, Sierra de la Ventana’s Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park contains the Cerro Ventana, or Mount Window. The area takes its name from the mount, on the peak of which is a window-shaped rock formation. Sierra de la Ventana is also a popular mountain biking spot.
Level: What you make it
Length: What you make it
Ushuaia, famous for its crashing glaciers and extreme “end of the world” conditions, makes for a challenging yet rewarding cycling expedition. If you don’t already have the BikeMap app, it’s worth downloading, because it gives fantastic routes for down south. For example, a nice ride to Paso Garibaldi near Lago Argentino is about a five hour trip. Or there’s an intense 4,000-kilometer journey from Ushuaia to the wine Valley of Mendoza. Unless you ‘re extremely organized, or a serious cyclist (preferably both), your best bet is probably going to be the lake trip.
Level: Easy or Super Intense
Length: 55 kilometers or 4,089 kilometers, respectively