ExperiencePlus! Blog

Seek Out South America’s Astronomical Advantage

Cycling in Patagonia

If winter weather makes you grumpy because you can’t ride your bike as often as you would like (if at all), you are in fine astronomical luck! It’s always summer somewhere, right?!

While we fight the winter’s freezing embrace, our beautiful neighbors in South America relish their long summer days. And now that international travel has returned to both Chile and Argentina, this winter offers a chance to experience these countries before the rush of seasonal tourism returns. More on that below.

Your first opportunity this winter is on our Bicycling Patagonia’s Lake District Plus! the Island of Chiloe, which departs February 19, 2022. Patagonia is a vast region that spans much of the southern halves of both countries. You may be most familiar with Patagonia’s iconic Torres del Paine, but that infamous region is more than 1,000 kilometers to the south.

crab on chiloe island

The Patagonia we pedal is a land of verdant forests, jagged peaks, extinct volcanoes, and expansive glacial lakes. Beginning in the lakesideArgentine mountain town of San Carlos de Bariloche, we arc northwest to Paso Cardenal Antonio Samoré where we cross the Andes (one of the lowest Andean passes in the range) and we enter Chile before heading southwest to Puerto Varas and then further on to the Island of Chiloé.

Nature-loving, adventurous, and well-conditioned cyclists choose to explore this region of Patagonia for its many hidden treasures, from Argentine barbeque and Chilean seafood to thermal spas, sprawling national parks and the unexpected Indigenous legacy of Chiloé. Our Argentinian and Chilean guides infuse each day with local knowledge, exceptional service, and a distinct passion for their country’s Patagonia.

Well-conditioned? Yes. This tour is a Level 3.5 and includes many hills with one mountainous day (when we cross the Andes)! Fortunately, our free tour training programs, created by Joel Friel, can help prepare you for the tour. But imagine this: we have a new fleet of bicycles ready and waiting to transport you far and wide. The fleet debuted in 2020 on two tours before COVID shut us down for the remainder of the season.

Lupine in Patagonia's Lakes DistrictFor those seeking even more adventure and perhaps one of the most off-the-beaten path tours we offer, then set your eyes on Bicycling Northern Argentina Plus! the Ruins of Quilmes, we featured this tour last month, but it bears repeating: this is a bicycle tour like no other – especially the hallowed Cuesta de Lipan.

If you have a love affair with drinking Chilean wine, pedaling alongside vineyards, and immersing yourself in coastal landscapes – be sure to check out Bicycling Chile’s Wine Country Plus! the Pacific Coast. This Level 2 tour departs in both early Chilean fall (March) and spring (September).

Need to know travel considerations

While Chile and Argentina have opened for international tourism, each country has specific requirements for entry and mobility during your stay. How you go about planning your travel depends on whether you are visiting just one country or crossing from one into the other via a land border, such as we do on the Patagonia Lake District tour.

U.S. citizens who plan to travel exclusively in Chile will need to follow these requirements and make preparations for obtaining a mobility pass at least three weeks before you depart. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be required to take a COVID test and must isolate in a hotel room until your test results come back negative – a process that can take up to 12 hours or so. We are working closely with our Chilean tour manager to learn more about what this means and how to best prepare our travelers.

If you plan to travel exclusively in Argentina, you will need to abide by these requirements, which are not as encompassing. In both countries, you must show proof of negative PCR Covid test results to enter.

Views along the way on the ExperiencePlus! Patagonia's Lakes District cycling tripIf you join us on the Patagonia tour, you will enter via Argentina and depart via Chile. The land border is scheduled to open between the two countries in the coming weeks. Once this occurs we will be able to advise on how travelers can meet Chile’s entry and travel requirements. These details will be outlined on our country-specific COVID travel planning webpage.

Finally, we encourage anyone considering travel to South America to review this information on what to expect on our tours before you book your trip. This special part of the world hums to its own rhythms. Road infrastructure is vastly different than in Europe. Towns are fewer and farther between. Knowing what to expect, getting a head start on planning, and making sure you’re in decent riding shape are the keys to a successful adventure (no matter where you ride!).

Yes, it will take a bit more effort to travel to South America in 2022 than it did before COVID, but that is true of every destination where we bicycle. But those who have the patience and interest in making their South American travel dreams come true in 2022 will likely discover a redeeming payoff: it will take time for tourism to return to its pre-COVID level.