The mythical Route 40 through Patagonia doesn’t merely broaden the mind. It makes the mind and then possesses it. Somewhere between Argentina’s immensity and eternity lies its Patagonia steppe strewn with relics of the once vast Pangea. To its west, like a granitic tsunami, the rising Andes promises to upend this ancient history and rewrite its own. Parallel to this unfolding drama, Route 40 traverses across great plains, boundless horizons under enormous skies and mountain–whipped clouds. Above all, places like the Cave of the Hands are an extraordinary testament to this richly storied land.
Harsh and unforgiving, Patagonia has shaped the courage, skill and nobility of its nomadic and colourful folk, the legendary gaucho. While Route 40 may seem unremarkable in places, its vast arid grassland also shrouds much older stories. A sense of discovery endures from the Cave of the Hands created by hunter-gatherers to petrified forests and fossilised sauropods. From the weird Patagonian mara and hairy armadillo to the fabulous flamingo and elusive huemul, wildlife also abounds.
There are several self-guided trails from Los Antiguos, not far from Patagonia’s Route 40 from El Portal La Ascensión. These include Chelenko lakeside walks and an overnight ascent to the edge of the nearby plateau. Up here, Meseta del Lago Buenos Aires is an island in the sky teeming with endemic wildlife and rich biodiversity. Spot guanacos, foxes, skunks and, with luck, you might also see puma. Of course, rheas and tinamous might cross your path too. Likewise, look out for hummingbirds, wrens, rush tyrants or even the emblematic Hooded grebe.
For self-drivers, there are also three scenic routes near Los Antiguos. Firstly, Provincial Route 41 heads south to Lake Posadas. It begins from Chelenko over Meseta del Lago Buenos Aires, then passes through shifting landscapes and onto Mount Zeballos. Secondly, Provincial Route 43 links Perito Moreno with Los Antiguos, following along Chelenko’s lake edge. It offers stunning views of its azure waters framed by the snow-capped Andes, then continues into Chile to Marble Cave. Lastly, Provincial Route 97 takes you from Patagonia’s Route 40 to ancient rock art sites nearby. Here Cueva de las Manos contains numerous stencilled hands and depictions of animals, like the omnipresent guanacos.
Meanwhile, nearby, Portal Cañadón Pinturas connects you with the wild heartland of the Patagonian steppe. First, explore 16kms of trails through deep canyons with towering cliffs painted in earthy minerals. Then let the wild discover you with rock climbing, star gazing, photography and wildlife watching. Afterwards, for a stark contrast, discover the glaciated nooks and crannies of the Andean foothills. Here separated by a narrow isthmus and contrasting colours, Lake Posadas’ turquoise green and Lake Pueyrredón’s lapis blue also mesmerise. All the while, gouged by colossal glaciers, Mount San Lorenzo looms over this wind sculptured landscape.
Unlike crowded Perito Moreno Glacier 550kms further south, Perito Moreno National Park is rarely visited. An icon of Patagonia, it’s also pristine with rich wild nature, remote with scare humanity, and rugged with untamed wilderness. It has Patagonian steppe, sub-Antarctic forest, glacial lakes and fjords, as well as high Andean grasslands. Here you can walk back 10,000 years in time through wind-flagged forests surrounded by native wildlife rarely seen elsewhere. Continue southward along Patagonia’s Route 40 and discover the allure synonymous with beauty at the end of the Earth.
“In calling up images of the past, I find the plains of Patagonia most frequently cross before my eyes. Yet these plains are pronounced by all most wretched and useless. They are only characterised by negative possessions. Without habitations, without water, without trees, without mountains, they support merely a few dwarf plants. Why then, and the case is not peculiar to myself, do these arid wastes take so firm possession of the memory? Why have not the still more level, greener and fertile Pampas, which are serviceable to mankind, produced an equal impression? I can scarcely analyse these feelings.” – Charles Darwin.
So, for self-drivers who want to be possessed by the spell of Patagonia, why not explore Patagonia’s Route 40? Talk to our travel specialists today about a tailor-made itinerary.
Highlights of Patagonia’s Route 40:
– Cave of the Hands and Portal Cañadón Pinturas walks.
– Portal La Ascension walks and Meseta Lago Buenos Aires.
– Scenic self-drive routes.
– Lakes Posadas and Pueyrredón.
– Perito Moreno National Park and Monte San Lorenzo.