Easy Riding: The Ultimate Motorcycle Tours

Chile and Argentina: Patagonia and the Southern Andes
  |  Gorp.com

What country on earth can top the geographic diversity of Chile? Almost 3,000 miles long and about 120 miles wide, Chile is bordered on the west by the South Pacific and on the east by the the Andes—the second highest mountain range in the world. The result: climates and habitats that extend from vast glaciers to the world's driest desert.

Given these conditions, you would expect motorcycling in Chile to be challenging, and the country does not disappoint. The roads have a habit of quickly changing from asphalt to gravel, dirt, or sand. The weather is notoriously unstable and elevation changes are brutal.
So what are you waiting for? Two South American tours represent the next frontier of motorcycling. Pancho Villa Motor Tours (800.233.0564) leads a month-long expedition from Santiago, Chile, to the tip of South America and back. Billed as an "expedition class" tour, this trip demands fitness and a familiarity with riding on rugged, unimproved roads. Riders cover 4,500 to 6,000 miles, about a third of them on unpaved surfaces. The return leg of the trip is made through the Patagonia region of Argentina and includes a visit to spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. The cost—$5,900 per solo rider—includes lodging, most meals, and round-trip ocean transport of your motorcycle.

If the PVMT tour is booked, contact Edelweiss Bike Travel (800.582.2263. www.edelweissbike.com). In January and February, Edelweiss offers a two-week, 2,000 mile loop tour of the Andes through Chile and Argentina for seasoned off-road riders. Start in Santiago and then head south through Chile's temperate Central Valley, set between the coastal mountain ranges and the Andes. This is a fertile landscape of country estates and wineries reminiscent of California's Napa Valley. The tour will visit a number of coastal villages where you can feast on fresh seafood or try outstanding reds from the nearby Maipo Valley vineyards. Leaving the lowlands, riders pass through dense forests before reaching the Andes, a world of volcanoes, alpine lakes, and jagged peaks. After crossing the Andes, you descends gravel roads into Argentina en route to the lake district of San Carlos de Bariloche, a region renowned for its trout fishing. From Bariloche head north through Argentina's arid Pampas, winding through steep mountain passes and red rock canyons with dusty gravel roads. The villages here were settled by the Swiss and German at the turn of the century and they display a distinctly European influence. Before crossing back over the Andes, riders will view 23,000-foot Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas, before the final descent through over 50 miles of switchbacks on the return to Santiago.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 21 Aug 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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