Ruta 40, Argentina
Ruta 40, also known as RN40, is Argentina's longest national road, spanning 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) from the northern border with Bolivia to the southern tip of Patagonia. The route runs parallel to the Andes mountain range, offering stunning views of snow-capped peaks, expansive deserts, lush forests, and glacial lakes. This iconic road trip is a must-do for adventure seekers and nature lovers looking to explore the diverse landscapes of Argentina.
Starting in the north, the route begins in the dusty town of La Quiaca, near the Bolivian border, and winds its way through the rugged terrain of the Andes, passing through the colorful colonial city of Salta and the high-altitude desert of Jujuy. Along the way, travelers can stop to explore ancient ruins, such as the pre-Incan ruins of Quilmes, or soak in the natural hot springs of Termas de Reyes.
As the route continues south, it passes through the wine region of Cafayate, known for its excellent Torrontes wine, and the dramatic Quebrada de las Flechas, or Arrow Gorge, which features towering rock formations that resemble arrows. Further south, the route passes through the picturesque town of Bariloche, situated on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The southern portion of Ruta 40 takes travelers through the barren Patagonian landscape, with vast expanses of nothingness interrupted only by occasional signs of civilization, such as the Welsh settlement of Gaiman or the quaint town of El Chalten, known as the gateway to the stunning Mount Fitz Roy. At the southern tip of the route lies Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city and the gateway to Antarctica.
Travelers can choose to drive the entire route, which can take several weeks, or select sections of the road to explore in more depth. Many tour operators offer guided tours of the route, which can provide valuable insights into the history and culture of the region.
Driving Ruta 40 can be challenging, particularly in the more remote sections, where roads can be unpaved and weather conditions can be harsh. It's important to plan ahead, ensure that the vehicle is in good condition, and carry plenty of supplies, including water, food, and spare tires.
Despite the challenges, driving Ruta 40 is an unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of Argentina, its people, and its stunning natural beauty.