Argentina’s legendary Ruta 40 (Route 40) inspires and captures the imagination, similar to the USA’s Route 66. It’s one of the longest highways in the world, running over 3,200 miles long along the Andes mountain range from the northern border with Bolivia all the way down to Tierra del Fuego, passing through 11 of Argentina’s 24 provinces. It winds through majestic forests, multi-hued mountains, colorful lakes, imposing glaciers and some of Argentina’s most impressive national parks. It also reaches the highest point of a national road anywhere in the world at Abra de Acay, in the northern province of Salta, at roughly 16,000 feet. A road trip on Ruta 40 is for adventure lovers and a four-wheel drive is recommended if planning to explore some of the route’s most remote segments. We’ve rounded up a few of Ruta 40’s more easily accessible highlights in different regions of Argentina.
Some of Ruta 40’s top highlights are in Argentina’s north. Begin your road trip in the city of Salta, known as “Salta the Beautiful” and rich in colonial heritage, heading up into the magical landscapes and multi-hued mountains of the Argentine altiplano with its rich indigenous culture. Stop in Purmamarca to see one of Argentina’s biggest attractions, the Cerro de los Siete Colores (the Hill of the Seven Colors), with its different bands of greens, grays, pinks, reds and yellows. Explore the surrounding Quebrada de Humahuaca gorge and the towns of Maimará, Tilcara, and Humahuaca with their local markets and traditions. Head further north to visit Salinas Grandes, the Great Salt Flats spanning 82 square miles at an altitude of over 11,000 feet.
The scenery along this stretch may not be the most dramatic, but it is beautiful nonetheless and is a must for wine lovers as it links all the wine producing regions of Argentina’s largest wine producing province of Mendoza. Visit some of the region’s different wineries to sample the local varietals paired with regional culinary specialties. Mendoza’s natural beauty with its wild terrain, snow-capped peaks, wild rivers and canyons also makes it a popular playground for outdoor adventure lovers. Those looking for an adrenaline fix can visit the Atuel Canyon, a popular location for its wide range of adventure sports, including river rafting, tubing, hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking.
The Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Road of the Seven Lakes) is perhaps one of the most beautiful stretches of Ruta 40 and one of the most scenic drives in Argentina, linking the Patagonian resort towns of San Martín de los Andes to Villa La Angostura. This segment winds through multi-colored lakes that range from metallic blues, sunlit emeralds and translucent sapphires, among some of the most spectacular in Patagonia. Take the time to explore the different towns, lakes and rivers along the way, each with its own biodiversity, surrounded by majestic forests and snow-capped peaks. It is recommended to do this drive in the southern hemisphere summer months as some segments can be blanketed in snow during the winter.
Additional information on travel to Argentina is available at: argentina.travel