At a Glance
Culture shock: 4 / 10. Patagonia spans the southern areas of Argentina and Chile, both of which have a very European feel. Spanish is the main language and they are both well-developed.
Road conditions: The best regions to ride still have a reasonable amount of unpaved / gravel routes, though inner Ruta 40 is largely paved in the south now. Main Ruta 3 on the Atlantic side is tarmac; traffic is light and relatively well-behaved. Off the main roads will normally be gravel. Watch out for long gaps between fuel stations and fuel shortages due to strikes – always fill up when you can.
Experience level: Intermediate – get some European motorbike touring under your belt first, and be prepared to get some advanced on-road riding skills and practice on dirt/gravel before you go.
Why you should go:
Patagonia was made for adventure riding. It’s one of the most beautiful and remote areas on earth and is home to the most southern point in the world reachable by road: Ushuaia. It’s a seemingly endless wilderness, with the granite massifs of Torres del Paine, colossal ice fields, vast flat steppe and shimmering turquoise glacial lakes; and remains pristine and sparsely populated. On some roads, hours will pass before you see another vehicle. But there’s enough infrastructure for you to stay in lakeside pine cabins, enjoy the famous Patagonian roast lamb, tender Argentine steaks and sip some of the best red wine in the world.
What’s it like to ride there?
Tarmac/asphalt roads are generally in good condition and once outside towns, traffic is sparse. A large percentage of the roads are gravel / loose surface, but generally, they’re not too extreme and can be tackled with basic experience of riding unpaved surfaces.
Be prepared for unusual hazards – people, animals (in particular ‘rhea’, a large ostrich-like bird; ‘vicuna’, a small and quick version of an alpaca; and ‘guanaco’, a large and quick version of a llama), and watch out for the weather: Patagonia is notorious for gusty, strong crosswinds, so extreme that you can scrub off your chicken lines by riding in a straight line!
You also need to factor into your riding day border crossings. To get the best route in Patagonia, you could be crossing between Chile and Argentina about 6 or 7 times – but don’t worry, they get a lot of bikes down there and can process you efficiently.
When to go:
As it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, the warmest and most settled months are December, January and February, but even then, there’s always the potential for snowfall rolling down from the Chilean Andes, rain on Carretera Austral (that’s why there are cloud forests and waterfalls!), strong winds gusting across the arid plains, and biting cold at night. Patagonia requires you to be well prepared and you’ll need riding gear that can cope. We always recommend a layering system of waterproof and breathable outers and insulating base layers so you can tailor to the conditions quickly and easily.
Where to stay:
There are plenty of opportunities to wild camp and municipal campsites abound, with good facilities. Alternatively, there is a great choice of hotels and lodges of all standards. Peak season is November to March, so accommodation will be more expensive and the popular tourist spots can be heavily booked.
- The Carretera Austral – one of the best adventure riding roads in the world and built by Pinochet in the seventies.
- Torres Del Paine, a World Biosphere Reserve and recognised as one of the most magnificent National Parks in the world.
- Reach Bahia Lapataia in Tierra del Fuego National Park: supposedly the most southern place on the planet reachable by road. The insider tip is to go to Estancia Harberton, maybe a fraction further south (albeit on their private road!)
- Ride Ruta 40: one of the world’s longest roads, at over 3,100 miles, starting at the Bolivian border and south close to Rio Gallegos
- Visit the colossal Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, a World Heritage Site and one of the few ice masses that is not receding.
- Stop on the Peninsula Valdez, to see penguins, sea lions and whales.
Getting your bike there:
You can air freight to Buenos Aires with Motor freight at around £1695, or sea freight it for around £800 (but can take 6 weeks +). Then you need to get it back. Alternatively, you can rent bikes locally: a BMW R1200GS will set you back around US$220 per day; a Honda CB500X is less at around US$130 a day.
What docs you’ll need:
- Passport – must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry. No visas are needed.
- UK Driving Licence and International Driving Permit – Take your UK licence plus an International Driving Permit, which you can get from the RAC, AA or the Post Office.
- V5C Vehicle Registration Document –you’ll need the original to get your bike through customs/borders between Chile & Argentina
- Insurance – for your own bike, you’ll need to buy local insurance in Buenos Aires. No UK insurer will offer insurance in South America.
Other need to know:
Take US dollars – they can be readily and easily exchanged for Chilean and Argentinian Pesos en-route.
Learn a little Spanish – it will make your trip easier and much more enjoyable, especially if you plan to go off the beaten track.
Study your routes – even latest edition maps/sat-navs can omit the newer Patagonian roads and can show dirt roads as main tarmac routes.
We are passionate about travel by motorcycle and whether you decide to travel with us for two weeks or five months, our aim is to give you a great touring experience, supported by years of relevant expertise. Book Patagonia with us today!