Argentina driving tours: legendary roads; and the incredible pearl of Chilean Patagonia
Even though both countries have plenty of roads to discover and drive through, there are particularly two routes that are the icons: in Argentina, the National Route 40, and in Chile, the Carretera Austral. The Ruta 40 stretches for over 5000 km (including some detours), from La Quiaca, at the border with Bolivia, to Cabo Vírgenes, in the province of Santa Cruz. It lies parallel to the Andean Cordillera in almost the whole way. It passes by several National Parks, in different latitudes, including icons of Patagonia such as Los Glaciares National Park or the Lakes District. Most of the circuit is paved, even though there still are some parts of rubble. On the other hand, the Carretera Austral, on the west side of the Andes, transits a part of the Chilean Patagonia. This zone has incredible landscapes, such as those at Queulat National Park or the Marble Cathedrals. It has sections with rubble, ideal for “expeditions into the wild”.
Let’s have a look at Ruta 40, Carretera Austral, and other legendary roads:
Ruta 40: from Patagonia to the North
This is probably the most iconic road in Argentina. It lies mostly right next to the Andes, passing by 21 National Parks and an incredible variety of natural sceneries.
It’s 5194 km long, it starts in Cabo Virgenes (Santa Cruz province, in the Atlantic front, with beautiful penguin rookery) and it finishes in La Quiaca (Jujuy province). For more information about Ruta 40, please click on our Ruta 40 Road Trip tour.
Ruta 7: from Buenos Aires to Mendoza and Chile
This route crosses Argentina from east to west, at the latitude of Buenos Aires (central area).
It starts in Buenos Aires and after 1220 km ends in Mendoza, crossing parts of the provinces of Santa Fe, Cordoba, and San Luis. Most of its itinerary is flat, except the last part, which is incredible.
This last part is known as the “high mountain circuit”, and is one of the most picturesque border crossings to Chile. The main highlight here is the Aconcagua Mount (the highest mount on the American continent).
Ruta 9: Córdoba & Northwest of Argentina
Like many other ones, this route starts in Buenos Aires, but it leads to the Northwest of Argentina.
It’s 1967 km and passes by highlights such as Rosario, Cordoba, Tucuman, the Calchaquies Valleys, Salta, and the Humahuaca’s Gorge. An amazing trip, and many people combine it with Ruta 40 (in the northern part).
Ruta 3: Atlantic Patagonia and End of the World!
This route runs parallel to the 40, but on the Atlantic side of Patagonia. It’s more than 3000 km long, and the fastest way to reach the very South of Argentina.
The most iconic destinations along Ruta 3 are Puerto Madryn and Ushuaia (among other incredible places, where the ocean wildlife, the steppe, and the endless sky are the protagonists).
It starts in Buenos Aires, and it finishes in Lapataia Bay, being the main way to cross Tierra del Fuego until the end of the world! In our Patagonia Road Trip, we include a part of this road.
Rutas 12 & 14: Litoral of Argentina and Iguazu Falls
These routes run across the litoral of Argentina. Route 12 is 1560 KM long, lies on the side of the Parana River, and reaches Puerto Iguazu (Iguazu Falls). On the way, it crosses the provinces of Entre Ríos, Corrientes, and Misiones.
Route 14 is 1127 km and runs next to the Uruguay River (natural border with Uruguay). It passes by great spring-water destinations.
To reach these routes from Buenos Aires, you will cross two spectacular hanging bridges! Other highlights of the litoral are the Ibera Wetlands and the Jesuitic Ruins.
Carretera Austral (Chile) and other roads
This is probably the most iconic road in Chilean Patagonia. It’s about 1250 km long, starting in Puerto Montt and finishing in Villa O’Higgins.
It counts with superb sceneries and runs between the mountains and the pacific ocean. Some parts need to be joined by ferry, which adds some spice to the trip. Some of the highlights are Pumalin National Park, the Marble Cathedrals, Queulat, Caleta Tortel, Caleta Gonzalo, Futaleufu, Jeinimeni, Cerro Castillo, and Villa O’Higgins.
Furthermore, one of the best ideas to do both Chile and Argentina road trips is to combine the Carretera Austral with the Ruta 40.
After doing this remarkable mention of the Chilean Carretera Austral, let’s mention some other roads in Argentina:
Ruta del Desierto (from Buenos Aires to Bariloche), the road to Iruya, the road from Trelew to Esquel, the road of the “Altas Cumbres” in Córdoba, the detours to the west along Ruta 40, etc..
Is it safe to road trip in Argentina?
Many drivers in Argentina ignore the rules or don’t pay too much attention to them.
However, the Argentina road trips still being one of the most spectacular ways to visit the country.
In matters of theft, as in many other parts of the world, it’s more likely to happen in the big cities than in the villages or rural areas.
Can you drive from Argentina to Chile?
Yes, and there are spectacular border crossings to drive through. You can get inspired by reading our article “best border crossings between Argentina and Chile”.
Just make sure to have the right permit when your rent your car. Furthermore, something very important to know is that many rental companies require to drop the car off in the same country you have hired it (which is generally not a problem).
Does Argentina require an international driver’s license?
If you come as a tourist, your driving license from home and your passport are usually enough.
Make sure to double-check this information with the Argentine consulate in your country, since there might be exceptions.
In addition, you will probably need a credit card (to rent a car). There are also some other documents you need to have in your car, which are in most of the cases provided by the rental company (insurance, etc.).
What are the roads like in Argentina?
Most of the principal roads are in decent conditions to circulate, except for some areas where you’ll find potholes, gravel, or other impediments.
As the distances are big, many routes have only one lane in each direction. There are also roads (some of them in remote areas) that are completely gravel.