My girlfriend and I are considering cycling in the Lake District/Northern Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina in late December or January for 6 to 8 weeks. We are thinking of flying to Santiago and then taking a bus south to Temuco to start our journey. We want to do some sort of rough loop in the region. A few questions:
1) Does anyone have any suggested routes? Should we do this clockwise or counterclockwise?
2) Does anyone have experience camping in this region? If so, any tips?
3) What would be the best maps for cyclists?
4) Is there any fee for crossing the boarders by bike?
Any other advice would also be most welcomed.
1) The westerly winds close to the cordillera in Argentina if anything will tend more southerly in the summer so an anti clockwise route might save you a little wind pain but probably only a smidgeon.
2) Check out crazyguyonabike etc - this region sees thousands of tourers each summer (or you could just click through my guest's profiles - most have their blog url posted and many have toured through at least one side of the region you are proposing to visit).
3) The ACA maps are quite good - in theory they are available from ACA service stations but given the quantity of cyclists that tour this region in summer they may be hard to find: http://www.aca.org.ar/servicios/cartografia/mapas.htm
4) There are no fees specifically for bikes, assuming you are Canadian citizens you will have to pay reciprocity fees for Argentina (it must now be paid online before your entry) and Chile.
My advice is bus to Victoria and then ride to Curicautin and keep going South from there. It is a VERY beautiful section of the country. We rode to Panguipulli (and to Los Lagos) and then jumped on another bus to Frutillar where we cycled around Lago Llanquihue clockwise to Petrohue. Here is a bordercrossing consisting of 3 ferries and a bit of riding into Barriloche. The cost for this is about $100 per person, but it is very beautiful also. We have also cycled from Petrohue to Puerto Varas which is a newly paved road with a bike lane! Puerto Varas is a hip town (so you could choose which way you ride around the lake).
From Barriloche you could ride north thru San Martin, Junin, Alumine, do the loop to Moquehue border cross to Icalma, north to Lonquimay and back- you've got yourself a loop!
Camping is a favourite past-time of Chilean and Argentine people so there are plenty of camping options. You can rambo camp, but I felt the amenities of a camp ground are nice to have and you get to meet people.
Try to get hold of a COPEC map for the area. COPEC is a gas station chain. We were gifted one by a Chilean woman who was at the end of her holiday and it was the best. They have them for different regions and one is just the national parks. They also show camp grounds on the maps.
If you go to Argentina you need to pay the reciprocation fee before you go and that allows you into ARG. The Argentines don't care what you bring into their country, but when you go the other way, the Chileans are much more strict with food.
Cheers! Happy Pedalling!
Excellent advice Heather.
Would you be able to provide more details about your route south from Curicautin? How about if we kept going east on highway 181 past Lonquimay and into Argentina and did the loop clockwise. Do you think this would work as well? Just wondering about the rain.
Do you need to pay the reciprocation fee before going to Argentina if you are arriving by land and not by air? I believe in Chile they just collect it in Santiago if you arrive by air?
Do you recall how much the campgrounds cost? I'm just wondering how much to budget daily for cycling in this region.
Since being made payable online the Argentine reciprocity fee is required for all entries into Argentina including overland.
As a Chilean, (and as a cyclist who had his bike stolen once haha) I advise you to take at least some sort of U-lock with you (not those kevlar cable locks, I've seen people cutting them within one minute). Unfortunately, bike theft is more common than what we'd like. In the south of Chile it's not such a big problem, (unless you go to Chiloe island), but it might save you more than one headache.
If you're going to the Lake District (Región de Los Lagos) you have to go round the Llanquihue lake, it's full of beautiful landscapes and the little towns and especially the people, very warm.
Here's a site that could help you (1). It's from a guy that travelled Chile from north to south, including a bit from Argentina.
This other site might also be helpful (2). Although both are in spanish only.
I hope that helps you, and do not hesitate to contact me if you need anything else ;)