When Darwin visited the Patagonia on one of his many trips, he fell in love with this land geologically and biologically unique. At that time this vast region was only inhabited by nomads and was kept virtually unexplored until the last century; even now, it is still one of the loneliest areas on Earth. To perceive the real essence of our PATAGONIA one needs to feel its vastness and the best way to do so is traveling by land. On this itinerary we will drive along the Patagonian steppe, visiting among others the famous "Cueva de las Manos" (Cave of the Hands), with pictographs dated 7000 BC), Mount San Lorenzo, Mount Fitz Roy and ending in El Calafate, lodging in beautiful Patagonic ranches and reaching the hidden corners of our country nested in magnificent National Parks. 2250 KM in Patagonia!
WHY "ESTANCIAS & ANDES"?
The "Legendary Route 40 to the South" is the ideal trip for those passengers who are looking for:
- The least seen views in Patagonia;
- Discovering the essence of Patagonia sharing the life of the local inhabitants in big and remote estancias, most of them inaccessible unless in private vehicles.
- Getting the best of the 3 worlds:
- The Atlantic coast, considered by many as the "Galapagos of the Atlantic", due its incredible and rich wildlife.
- The Legendary Patagonian Steppe, crossing this land, unique and very special providing a sense of pioneering
- The Patagonian Andes, with the estancias, beautiful lakes and wild fauna.
DAY 01:COMODORO RIVADAVIA - PUERTO DESEADO
Arrival in Comodoro Rivadavia. Meet and greet at the airport and transfer to Puerto Deseado. Located in the Province of Chubut, Comodoro Rivadavia is a modern booming city, named after Commodore Martin Rivadavia, who traveled the Patagonian shores between 1890 and 1892 (commissioned by the Argentine government) to create a harbor in central Patagonia. The city´s boom started in 1907, when while a desperate search for drinking water was under way important oil fields were found in the area of the San Jorge Gulf.
The surrounding mounts have forced a whimsical shape in the urban geography. Today, Comodoro Rivadavia is a typical Patagonian city, with flat roofs, tall buildings, fisheries, textile factories and the ever present Patagonian wind; it is the gateway to one of the most important oil producing centers in Argentina.
We leave Comodoro Rivadavia, were the sights will be of small beaches of white sand and elevated peninsulas of up to 100m, from the deep blue sea. Time and weather permitting we will stop to enjoy a short hike in the area. The first part of the drive goes parallel to the old tracks of the train that linked the estancias in the Andes and the port in Puerto Deseado and which operated till 1978.
From Caleta Olivia, (about 80 km South of Comodoro Rivadavia) the landscape changes dramatically to the harsh Patagonian steppe. Arrival in Puerto Deseado, a fishing port with a deep estuary which was first explored by Magellan and Thomas Cavendish in 1520 and 1586 respectively.
Total: 280 km - 3 hours drive on paved road. Meals: D.
Day 2 PUERTO DESEADO.
Today we will enjoy a full day navigation. Boarding a zodiac boat we will explore the Deseado Estuary. This is one of the richest biological areas in Patagonia which treasures five species of cormorants; a wildlife Reserve where seals and dolphins are close to the coast, seabirds like Imperial Cormorants, Magellan Penguin, Magellan oystercatcher and the rare Gray Cormorant. It is also possible to visit Los Pajaros Island, a place where the Yellow Crested Penguin mate and nest every summer.
The navigation includes a 3 hour walk to sight the impressive fauna.
Meals: B- box-L- D
DAY 03: PUERTO DESEADO - LOS TOLDOS Crossing the legendary Patagonian steppe.
The paved road that connects Puerto Deseado with Perito Moreno traverses the most important oil producing area in Patagonia. The oil was discovered on Dec 13th 1907 in Comodoro Rivadavia on the Sedimentary basin of San Jorge Golf. The main producing areas are closed to Caleta Olivia, Pico Truncado, Las Heras in the province of Santa Cruz; Comodoro Rivadavia, Pampa del Castillo, km 20 and others in Chubut.
Lunch in an authentic local bar "El Pluma", close to the Deseado river valley.
Afternoon resume our trip crossing the legendary steppe, a memorable experience.
We will visit the lake Buenos Aires, second largest in Latin America after Titicaca, and the tiny village of Los Antiguos, also known as the capital of the fine fruits (blueberries) in Argentina. We continue then to the south until we reach Estancia Los Toldos. Accommodation and dinner.
Total: 600 km. Meals: B - L- D.
LAGO BUENOS AIRES. It is the second largest lake in South America after the Lake Titicaca; it is shared with Chile, where it is called Carreras. This huge lake is 1850 km2, 880km2 of which belong to Argentina. Its waters flow mostly into the Pacific Ocean through the Baker River and a small amount into the Fenix Chico which in turns flows into the Rio Deseado and then into the Atlantic. The lake is 590 m deep and very rich in trout and salmon.
DAY 04: THE CAVE OF THE PAINTED HANDS - LA ORIENTAL
Transfer through the seemingly endless Patagonian plains and eroded badlands to the spectacular valley of the Pinturas (paintings) River, frequented by lesser rheas, guanacos, armadillos, pumas, eagles and impressive condors. The drive will have a climatic end when we reach several caves with countless painted hands (in various colors) of incredible aesthetic value and still puzzling archaeologists who have not been able to explain their meaning. Pinturas means "paintings" in Spanish and the river and valley are so called precisely because of the abundance and magnificence of the cave paintings which we will visit, in particular the series of caves known as "Painted Hands", one of the most impressive expressions of rupestrian art dating from more than 9000.
We resume our trip to Bajo Caracoles and onto Perito Moreno National Park to reach Estancia La Oriental. Accommodation. In the very heart of the Perito Moreno National Park and only 1 km from Lake Belgrano, we find this simple estancia run by family Lada. The estancia is a true privileged- 16 hectares large property dedicated to sheep breeding and it is one of the wildest corners in Patagonia. The house is the typical Patagonian construction made of woods and tin keeping its original charm. This special place encompasses the Andean Patagonia, amazing lakes, and great mountains, unique fauna and colourful landscapes.
Driving Southwest through the Patagonian Steppe, we will find scarce rainfall and strong winds that dictate the vegetable forms to be limited to severe bushes and grasses which despite their apparent monotony hide such interesting surprises as the Calafate (a bush with sweet purple tiny fruits which, legend has it, if eaten will make the visitor return to Patagonia). These berries were used by the Indians to obtain pigments to paint their bodies and are visible even today in numerous ancient cave paintings such as the Painted Hands. Other plant life include: the neneo and quilebay, whose flowers are eaten by many different animals: the colapiche, which reputedly has medicinal value and the coiron, the most common variety of grass, a favourite food of the guanacos.
Total km drive: 260 (230 of gravel road and 30 of pavement).
Approx. time: 9 hours Meals: B - box- L & D.
DAY 05: PERITO MORENO NATIONAL PARK.
Full day dedicated to exploring this amazing National Park.
In the middle of this wonderful area we find the lake basin of the National Park formed by Belgrano, Nansen, Volcán, Azara, Escondido and Burmeister lakes. All of these provide the best environment to sight the tame guanaco and if lucky enough we might be able to spot the shy huemul. For those who would like to go further, we can attempt the summit of Cerro Leona which will reward us of the aerial view of this magnificent park, a symphony of colors.
The Perito Moreno National Park, so contrasting with its snow-capped peaks, glaciers, forests and lakes vis-à-vis the drier windswept steppe just left behind. This park is one of the most beautiful areas of the Patagonia. However, due to its location away from the traditional tourist circuits, it is one of the best kept secrets of the country. We will trek in an unforgettable site: a fascinating peninsula in the unbelievably milky turquoise-colored Belgrano Lake. This heavily forested peninsula abounds in small lakes and ponds which congregate black-necked swans, the immaculately white coscoroba swan (both of these graceful species are exclusive to southern South America), flocks of very reddish flamingos, various types of ducks (the colorful Southern widgeon outstanding with its shiny green head) and several species of grebes. The woods host Chilean flickers (from the woodpecker family) with their very particular calls and on every hill you will find a curious neighing guanaco acting as sentry for its herds. Watchful eagles and condors circling high above will be your only other companions in this area.
Meals: B -L-D.
DAY 06: PERITO MORENO - ESTANCIA EL CONDOR.
Full day southbound drive along the legendary Patagonian steppe to Lago San Martin, along the way we will stop as many times as desired to spot the fauna of the area: lesser rheas, hares, the Mara (Patagonian hare), foxes and piches (kind of a smaller armadillos) and guanacos (family of the South American camelids). The drive along the steppe will be only interrupted by the lonely Lake Cardiel.
Lunch at LA SIBERIA, located between the route 40 and Lake Cardiel.
Arrival to Lake San Martin, one of the best kept secrets in Patagonia and maybe one of the most spectacular in the area. We will overnighta at Estancia El Condor which stands on the imposing Andes Range, on the shores of the turquoise waters of Lake San Martin.
LAGO SAN MARTIN. The Argentine explorer Perito Moreno found Lake San Martin most fascinating. He wrote: "Civilization still ignores the existence of this lake; we must give it a name that will sponsor its progress… We shall call it San Martin, because its waters bathe the solid base of the Andes which is the only pedestal worthy of bearing the great warrior's heroic image".
Total km drive: 440Km (390 gravel; 50 paved)
Approx. time: 8 hours
Meals: B - L & D.
DAY 07: ESTANCIA EL CONDOR.
Full day activities at the estancia. There are many possibilities which will be arranged locally with the guide according to one's interests and abilities. The comfortable estancia EL CONDOR is located by Lake San Martin. It offers 2 double rooms + 1 triple and 1 quadruple rooms all of them with private facilities. The estancia has about 1300 hectares of native forest of lenga, coihue and ñires. Wildlife observation includes such species as: condors, eagles, torrent ducks, woodpeckers and fire crowns among the most notable ones.
Along its 35 km of Lake Coast, we find peninsulas, deep cliffs, and small beaches.
At the Estancia there are several options to enjoy, it is possible to hike through woods of native species (Nothofagus subantartica), go horseback riding or Trekking to great natural viewpoints of San Martin Lake, the Peninsula Avellaneda and the ranch headquarters.
Distance: 30 Km. (gravel road)
Meals: B - box- L & D.
DAY 08: LAGO SAN MARTIN - El CHALTEN
Drive back to Route 40 and then turn again towards the W to reach El Chalten. Arrival by noon.
Total km drive: 205 km (170 km gravel & 32 km paved)
Approx. time: 5 hours Meals: B.
2012-2013 estimated rate per person sharing a double room: U$S 2185. Single supplement U$S 277
Rates are based on a minimum of 2 people travelling together.
Children's rate: Not available.
Estimated domestic airfare (subject to change without prior notice) U$S 389 (2 coupons)
The rates are based on V class which is the lowest class available and is subject to penalties for cancellations and changes.
2012-2013 DEPARTURES - NOV 26 - DEC 17 - JAN 21 & FEB 18
Private departures upon request.
The rates include:
- Accommodation in superior tourist class (combination of 4 and superior 3 star hotels) all with private facilities and breakfast. Estancias have been chosen for their service and location;
- Round trip transfers between airport and hotels in every destination;
- Services to be shared with a small group (maximum 8-9 participants per vehicle);
- Assistance of expert naturalist guides. Fully bilingual in English and Italian;
- Meals as stated on the itinerary (without beverages);
- Entrance fees to parks and reserves;
The Rates do not include:
* Airline / bus tickets, airport departure taxes;
* Tips for luggage handling and optional gratuities for guides and crew;
* Extras and personal expenses;
HOTELS / ESTANCIAS: Hosterías and estancias for this program have been chosen for their customized service and local colour. Owners themselves are the host in these properties.
HOTEL LOS ACANTILADOS www.pdeseado.com.ar/acantour
PERITO MORENO - ESTANCIA LOS TOLDOS - www.estanciasdesantacruz.com/LosToldos
L. BELGRANO - ESTANCIA LA ORIENTAL - www.estanciasdesantacruz.com/laoriental
LAGO SAN MARTIN - ESTANCIA EL CONDOR - www.cielospatagonicos.com/estancias_elcondor
THE GUIDES & VEHICLE.
" DAY HIKES: Are from easy to slightly demanding from one to six hours
" GUIDES: Spanish - English and Italian
" VEHICLE. Minibus Mercedes Benz Sprinter- 2003. Eight reclining and comfortable seats.
* Participants must be prepared for long drives.
* Participants are to travel with health insurance
* Meals are based on meat and fresh vegetables. Vegetarians or any other special diet must be informed at least 15 days prior to departure
Pre & Post Extension Package
Day 0 - arrive Buenos Aires and transfer to Moreno Hotel
Day 1 - breakfast, transfer to airport to fly to Comodoro Rivadavia to start tour above
Day 8 - Overnight at Senderos Hosteria
Day 9 - breakfast, optional hike, bus ticket to El Chalten (6pm or 1pm in season). Transfer to Hotel Shehuen for overnight.
Day 10 - breakfast, full day mini-trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier, lunch included.
Day 11 - breakfast, transfer to airport, fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to Moreno Hotel. Evening dinner and tango show.
Day 12 - breakfast, then transfer to airport.
Land cost for tour, including extension package above = US$2980 per person double.
Estimated cost for flights within Argentina = US$384 per person.