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South Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

10 nights - 11 days / max. 10 people

We start our tour from Punta Arenas, Chile. Travelling in a large circle through Argentina and Chile we cover the very south end of Patagonia, a land of vast and rough scenery. Among the main attractions on this trip besides the breathtaking landscape itself are places like, Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales, El Calafate and Tierra del Fuego with the most southern city in the world Ushuaia.


 

Summary

Tour character: Adventure motorbike riding on asphalt/gravel roads with support vehicle.
Duration: 11 days including arrival and departure day, 9 days on the road.
Tour Start/End: Punta Arenas.
Route: 2.300 km (760 km on gravel road, 1.540 km on asphalt).
Acommodation: Hotels and Estancias
Group size: max. 8 riders
Highlights: The Magellan Strait, Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, Beagle Channel, Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine National Park.
Map: southpat

 

Summary

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Day 1: Punta Arenas.
Today most participants will fly in to Punta Arenas, a picturesque city where our company has its southern base of operations. After arriving, everyone will be shuttled to the newly opened hotel Diego de Almagro, conveniently located on the coastal avenue and steps from the Plaza de Armas. The city was founded in 1848 and became the commercial center of southern Patagonia, due to its strategic location on the Strait of Magellan. The inter-oceanic shipping traffic, the gold rush influence, and more recently agribusiness, all give Punta Arenas a unique identity and characteristic, which was also strongly influenced by the arrival of European immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today Punta Arenas is the most populous and cosmopolitan city of Chilean Patagonia, and in it you can find all the amenities of large cities. After checking into the hotel, you will be assigned your rental motorcycle, and may begin packing it for the trip. This evening we will have our welcome dinner, enjoying a typical Patagonian dish such as lamb, or delicious Magellan fish, or other seafood from the area.

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Day 2 Punta Arenas-Vicuña, 184 miles (1 paved / 183 dirt)

Today we rise early and enjoy a delicious breakfast before boarding the ferry to the town of Porvenir, in Tierra del Fuego. Located on the east coast of the Strait of Magellan, Porvenir emerged from a police station installed in 1883 during the gold rush, and was established in 1894 as a service center for the new cattle ranches. Crossing of the Strait will take approximately two hours, and you will have a good chance of spotting the playful dolphins from the observation deck of the ferry. We depart Porvenir going south, traveling through the endless and desolate steppe, suitable mainly for sheep. This area was the first of many belonging to the Operating Society of Tierra del Fuego, a company set up to develop ranching on almost 3,000,000 hectares in the area. A little further along, we visit a colony of king penguins, the only one in the continent. Continuing south along the rugged coastline, you will want to stop a bit in order see the beautiful and breathtaking ocean views from the top of the Fuegian cliffs. Further south cross the bridge over the Rio Grande, a global destination for sport fishing, and then arrive at our accommodations for the night, a cozy lodge located in a fishing area known as Vicuña. This lodge is formed by a group of rustic log cabins decorated with the taste and style of Patagonia, and is run by its owners, who will feed us a wonderful dinner with pleasant conversation in Spanish or English. Enjoy the hospitality typical of the south, and then relax with the warmth of a cozy wood fire in your cabin.

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Day 3 Vicuña-Ushuaia, 281 miles (182.5 paved / 84.5 dirt)

After a country breakfast in the dining room of the lodge, we will head to the Bella Vista border crossing, the most southern vehicular crossing in the world. After the Chilean control, we ride across the Rio Rasmussen which, depending on the water level can be quite an adventure. Continue east and again the landscape is the steppe and the Patagonian Plateau with its endless flatlands, and low rounded shapes. Just after this road ends we turn onto the famous Route 3, with the final destination being the city of Ushuaia. After a few kilometers of transition zone between the steppe and the mountains, we stop at Tolhuin, a picturesque tourist village, where we enjoy a well deserved lunch at a local restaurant. Next we traverse a series of mountain ranges that are the final part of the Cordillera de los Andes, whose height does not exceed 1,500 meters. Garibaldi Pass offers a wonderful view of Lago Escondido, where we will be obliged to stop for photos. Continuing along winding roads through the valleys, peaks and forests of beech and evergreen, we arrive at Ushuaia, dramatically situated between the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel.

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Day 4 Ushuaia, 30.6 miles (4.6 paved / 26 dirt)

Ushuaia's origins date back to 1869 when an Anglican Mission was established in the Bay of Ushuaia, in order to evangelize the Yamana Indians who inhabited the channel south of Tierra del Fuego. In 1902, the notorious prison which would boost the development of Ushuaia began operating. The modern day economy in Ushuaia is based in industry, shipping, and tourism, with an impressive infrastructure dedicated to the business of tourism. Spend the day exploring this beautiful city, and enjoying the amazing views it offers of the Beagle Channel, and the Cordillera Darwin, which are especially lovely on a clear day. The only activity scheduled today is to visit the Lapataia National Park, located at the end of the famous Route 3. Here there is an optional ride on the Tren del Fin del Mundo, a tourist version of the railway used by prisoners in the early 20th century. Return for a delicious barbecue lunch at a typical Argentinian Cordillera, and then have the day free to walk around, go shopping or take any of the local tours available. Available are: a city tour; a visit to the prison museum; sailing on a catamaran; and scenic Beagle Channel helicopter flights.

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Day 5 Ushuaia – Cerro Sombrero, 267 miles (182.5 paved / 84.5 dirt)

Today we ride back across the mountain ranges and the Garibaldi Pass. Returning to the main road, we continue north to cross the most famous bridge over the Rio Grande. Within minutes we are in the city of the same name, where we pause for lunch. A little further north is Maria Behety, also founded in 1897 by Jose Menendez, who was nicknamed "The King of Patagonia". It has a warehouse capable of holding 7,000 sheep, with forty shearing stations, which would supposedly make it the largest shearing shed in the world. We then travel 60km to the Bahia San Sebastian and the border crossing of the same name. We then cross a surprisingly interesting landscape of canyons, plateaus, and low hills near what is known as China Creek, which runs through a green valley populated with sheep. Our next stop will be in Cerro Sombrero, a town founded in 1958 as a residential area with services for the National Oil Company.

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Day 6 Cerro Sombrero – Calafate, 292 miles (271 paved / 21 dirt)

Today will be the longest leg of the trip, with nearly 500km of riding in addition to a ferry crossing and a border crossing. After departure from Cerro Sombrero, we ride to Bahia Azul, then cross the Strait of Magellan in about 30 minutes. Next we will continue towards the border at Monte Aymond, to re-enter Argentina. 60km later, in the city of Rio Gallegos, we will enjoy lunch and a short break. We still have over 300 kilometers Patagonian steppe to cross, where the wind is usually a tireless companion. The most crowded place we will see through here is a service station in a place called Esperanza (Hope). When we are still about 100km from Calafate, we will have an impressive view from a high point of the Santa Cruz River Valley, and from there begin a descent down a winding, beautifully paved road, perfect for motorcyclists. In the city of El Calafate, we will stay in a hotel located near the center of town. El Calafate is indisputably a city of tourism; however it began as a supply point for the cattle ranches that inhabited Patagonia when most economic activity was associated with livestock. Located on the shores of Lago Argentino, Calafate was officially founded in 1927, although its further development as a city was due mostly to the establishment of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, in 1943.

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Day 7 Glacier Perito Moreno, 115 miles (46 paved / 69 dirt)

Today we only cover 80km of paved road to see the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981. Located on the southern arm of Lago Argentino, the glacier has a 5km long face and its walls on the water reach a height of 70 meters. This huge mass, together with the calving of ice blocks of different sizes and the noise they produce, makes the glacier one of the most impressive natural spectacles that can be witnessed. One of the characteristics that made this particular glacier famous is the process of rupture. Due to the constant movement of the masses of ice from the mountain to the lake, there is a sort of reservoir created where water is trapped by the ice meeting the coast. This eventually creates a difference in water level on either side of the natural dam of about 20 meters. Between these two areas of the lake a great pressure is created on the ice dam from the differing water levels, culminating with a dramatic rupture, which occurs about every four years. An optional catamaran tour of about an hour is available that takes you up close to the ice pack. After returning to the hotel on a different route, walk or ride into town and enjoy lunch at one of the diverse choices of restaurants, and then have the afternoon free to rest, stroll or enjoy the range of tourist attractions available.


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Day 8 El Calafate - Torres del Paine

We will leave El Calafate and ride south on a long unpaved stretch of the famous Route 40. We re-enter Chile at the Cerro Castillo border crossing, and then continue in the direction of the Torres del Paine National Park. A few kilometers later, we take a scenic detour. We ride this winding gravel road bordering Lago Sarmiento, while enjoying breathtaking views of the Paine Massif. At the end of the road we go through a lush forest on the shores of Laguna Verde and find our destination for the day on a classic Patagonian estancia. This area once belonged to the aforementioned Operating Society of Tierra del Fuego. Recently, the owners began a project to construct an inn, while maintaining the original livestock business. The ranch still runs huge herds of cattle and sheep. Enjoy a delicious dinner grilled in the heat of the fire, and enjoy a good night's sleep in the cozy rooms. In the morning after breakfast, we have time to take a short ride through the rangelands before heading to the Torres del Paine National Park.

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Day 9 Torres del Paine - Puerto Natales, 139 miles (22 paved / 117 dirt)

Today we visit more of the famous and dramatic national park called Torres del Paine. The park was created on May 13, 1959. In 1977, Guido Monzino, a famous Italian climber, donated 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to the Government of Chile, and established the park's boundaries. UNESCO declared it a Biosphere Reserve on April 28, 1978. With its 242,000+ hectares of forests, mountains, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls and lakes, along with its flora and fauna, this park never ceases to amaze visitors. The Paine Massif is the main visual attraction throughout the park, for its unique color shades and granitic composition. The surrounding heights of The Horns, Paine Grande and Las Torres, highlight the Massif. Continue the tour along the back roads of the park, pausing for many photo opportunities, and visit the Salto Grande waterfall. We stop at Lake Pehoe sector, where we have an incredible view of the lake with the horns in the background, while enjoying lunch in the restaurant and grill at Pehoe (pronounced "Payway"). We continue our journey to Lake Grey where we can view the Grey Glacier in the distance. We leave the park by a recently opened road which borders the immense Lago Toro, and travel not far away to the city of Puerto Natales.

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Day 10, Puerto Natales - Punta Arenas, 148 miles (113 paved / 35 dirt)

Today we visit the city of Puerto Natales, which is located on the shores of Seno Ultima Esperanza, and is named after explorer Juan Ladrillero who in 1557 tried to find the northern entrance to the Strait of Magellan without success. In 1830 the area was explored by the famous expedition of the frigate HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitz Roy. On May 31, 1911 the city of Puerto Natales was officially founded. Many settlers began arriving, rapidly increasing the number of inhabitants of the small towns. These days the main activity in the area is cattle ranching, fishing, and tourism, the latter being the most important activity, as the city is considered the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. After lunch we return to the city of Punta Arenas on Route 9, a distance of about 250 kilometers. After the return of the motorcycles to the warehouse, and a rest at the hotel, we meet at a nearby restaurant to have our farewell dinner.

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Day 11 Santiago

We will transport you to the Punta Arenas airport in time to catch your flight to Santiago.

 

Motorbike Tours
 

"Perhaps more than any other single object of industrial design, the motorcycle can be considered a metaphor for the 20th century. It was the first form of personal mechanized transport to emerge from the beginning of the industrial age; its subsequent evolution follows the main currents of modernity.The motorcycle is an immortal cultural icon that changes with the times. More than speed, it embodies the abstract themes of rebellion, progress, freedom, sex, and danger."
Text from "the art of the motorcycle" exhibition,
SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM
JUNE 26-SEPTEMBER 20, 1998"