Special to Wolfman Luggage
Argentina is huge and you need at least few months to to explore its full diversity. But don’t let that dissuade you. If all you’ve got is a couple of weeks, there are plenty of multi-day trips where you’ll find yourself happily in the middle of nowhere, or at least happily far-far away from the tourist types. This series will focus on not-be-missed roads and the special places they will take you.
Ruta Provincial 52: Province of Mendoza
Welcome to wine country! This region is internationally known for Malbec production and many luxurious wineries offering a taste of the high-falutin lifestyle. While it’s a pleasure to sample the regions varietals, the real luxury is found in the remote villages that dot the area and the fantastic roads that get you there.
Escape Mendoza City quickly and head north to Ruta Provincial 52. Most people take this road to reach the famed Gran Hotel de Villavicencio, which was built around the areas thermal baths. If you’ve ordered mineral water in Argentina, odds are you’ve ended up with a bottle of Villavicencio. The hotel has been closed for more than a decade, and isn’t in our opinion worth stopping. Instead, what you’re really here for is the road — past the hotel, Ruta 52 starts to get interesting as you go up, up, and up around switchbacks and sweeping views to reach the Rutas Sanmartiniano.
The Rutas Sanmartiniano were forged by General San Martin and his Army of the Andes, who set off to battle Chile in the 1820’s. Later Charles Darwin followed this same route and made discoveries of a petrified forest which is now marked along the way.
This gravel road has tons of look-outs, and when you reach the summit you’re likely to catch glimpses of wild Llamas and maybe a Zorro (fox) or two. The change in biodiversity is equally as cool as the road. You leave green forests for high altitude plains, then enter an area of rock formations and lunar landscapes. Gradually you will begin to descend into the village of Uspallata.
A word to the wise – bring lots of snacks and water and make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel. There are no petrol stops or places to eat until Uspallata. This road is single lane, but accommodates a 2-way traffic flow, so you will need pull over to allow others to pass, so mind those corners.
Uspallata is a nice place to stop for lunch, but you do start to rub shoulders again with the tourist set here. The local parilla’s are hot spots for bikers and there is a lot of camping and cabins here. It’s also a jumping off point for white water rafting. Rather than staying we suggest pushing forward and heading to the village of Portrerillos.
Follow Ruta 7 along the river and through spectacular ravines until you reach this sleepy village. There is good camping here and if you’d like to spend the night in a bed we suggest reaching out to Eduardo and his partner Sonya for a few nights at their beautiful cabin with a stunning view of Los Andes. There is a little bodega near by for groceries, wine and beer so you can cook your own frontier style meal. Or Sonya is more than happy for a little extra cost, to prepare you a delicious Argentine meal.
Mendoza to Upsallata – Approx 95km, no services
Gravel road begins as you enter Aconcagua National Park
Small fee for entry, approx $2
Upsallata to Portorellios – Approx 50km
Petrol, food stops and accommodations
Camping and cabins