Possessed of an inexhaustible number of wonders to visit (it takes weeks to span the entirety of its 3200 mile length) Ruta 40 Argentina runs up the spine of western Argentina, from Santa Cruz to Jujuy, offering travelers a wealth of new experiences to cherish.
But where to begin? What stops on Ruta 40 Argentina must be visited without fail? Well, we’ve asked a pair of travel writers who know the road extremely well to present a list of 20 places on Ruta 40 Argentina that have won a special place in their hearts.
In part one, Sonia Renison and Juan Pablo Armenio share their chosen destinations between Cabo Vírgenes and Mendoza.
They know what they’re talking about: Sonia is a journalist with a degree in Social Communication and has a collection of 138 notebooks in which she has recorded everything she’s seen and heard on her annual trips up and down Ruta 40.
She drew on these experiences (and photographs by Alejandro Guyot) to produce a book, Ruta 40, which has sold over 15,000 copies.
In addition, she also shares her experiences in the 11 provinces traversed by the road with students in a course she gives at the Universidad Nacional de La Plata and at www.blogruta40.com.ar
Juan Pablo Armenio, meanwhile, is a bookseller, history teacher and curious traveler. For four months in 2015 he travelled Ruta 40 Argentina from south to north on a quest to find as many different landscapes as he could. On his way he also gathered a treasure trove of stories about Argentina and its people.
The owner of a bookshop in Gran Buenos Aires, he has published 40 excusas para recorrer la Ruta 40 (40 reasons to take Ruta 40), in which he recounts his experiences with a wonderful sense of humor. He has amassed a large community of followers with whom he interacts and offers advice through https://www.facebook.com/travesiaruta40
Ruta 40 Argentina: The first ten spots in our TOP 20
1. Cabo Vírgenes, Santa Cruz. “Located to the far south of continental Argentina, Cabo Virgenes feels like the end of the line. It boasts the second largest penguin population in South America and the most southerly on the continental Atlantic,” begins Juan to kick off our trip. Sonia adds: “The explorer Ferdinand Magellan stopped there in 1520. When you stand at the cliff’s edge you feel like a drone on the edge of the map… at the end of the world.”
2. The Perito Moreno Glacier. “The infinite expanse of Patagonia really makes itself felt in Los Glaciares National Park. It’s amazing when you’re driving towards it and you see the most famous wall of ice, Perito Moreno, from afar. It’s a glowing white strip that towers above the rest of the landscape,” says Sonia.
“Up close, the visual impact takes your breath away. The ancient mass of ice fills you to breaking point with emotion. You can see it, touch it, sail it, walk it and even taste it.”
3. El Chaltén, Santa Cruz. “Chaltén is inside Los Glaciares National Park. Its charm,” says Juan, “rests in the appeal of the picturesque town and the fact that it lies at the foot of paths that take you right up to the peaks of the Torre and Fitz Roy mountains, and the scenic views at Laguna de los Tres and Lake Capri. It’s also close by the Laguna del Desierto”.
4. Cueva de las manos, Santa Cruz. “Declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1999, the Cave of Hands can only be reached from Ruta 40 Argentina. Its walls bear handprints and cave paintings that date back between 1300 and 9300 years.”
5. Trevelin, Chubut. “Near Esquel, you have to turn off from RN 40 toward Trevelin, where you come across the Nant y Fall winery with its eco campsite. A ten-minute walk away you’ll find yourself in the middle of a tulip field, it’s a wonderful experience. October is the best month to visit,” says Sonia.
6. Lago Puelo, Chubut. “A lake of crystal blue waters and forests of Petras, Myrtles, streams and mountains. It’s a wonderful place to get in touch with nature,” says Juan.
7. La veranada. “It’s not a specific place in itself,” explains Sonia, “but rather an experience. All of RN 40 in Neuquén is beautiful but if you drive it in spring you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to see the ‘crianceros’, cowboys who spend days on the road driving their cattle to new pastures. A living migration.”
8. Ruta de los 7 lagos, Neuquén. “This is the sixty-six mile stretch that runs between the towns of San Martín de los Andes and Villa La Angostura, linking 7 seven lakes as it goes: the Lácar, Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Escondido, Correntoso and Espejo. It’s where you’ll take some of the most stunning photos of your trip.”
9. Cueva de las brujas, Bardas Blancas, Mendoza. “An underground cavern where ancient maritime rock formations have produced an enormous space studded with strange mineral shapes: stalactites, stalagmites, columns and mounds that date back to the Jurassic period,” says Juan.
10. Mendoza. “Apart from the wineries, the province has a lot of other attractions,” says Sonia. “Located in Pareditas, San Carlos, the Laguna del Diamante Natural Reserve is a special place. The gravel track at the entrance leads you into an infinite landscape, but the real reward comes at around 10,000 feet: the Maipo volcano, whose reflection in the lake forms a diamond. It’s the perfect place to find peace.”
Coming up: Part 2 of the 20 best stops on Ruta 40 Argentina.