Bariloche to El Chalten – the 23h bus ride on Ruta 40 in Patagonia

San Carlos de Bariloche, capital of the Rio Negro province, is the entry point of the upper north side of Argentinian Patagonia. In order to travel more south, more specifically to trekking capital El Chalten, there are only a few options available to bypass the monstrous 1700km.

Possible options

  1. Take a flight to El Calafate. This town is more south, so you will actually need to travel back north, for around 3 hours. Budget-wise, this is the most expensive option (approx 200-300 EUR/USD)
  2. Cut the journey in pieces, traveling via Puerto Madryn and the coastal area. By doing this, you will be able to cut the bus ride in a 10h journey (El Chalten) and a 20h journey (via Rio Gallegos). On the way, you can visit the Valdes Peninsula, famous for its wildlife and whale watching. This will set you back between 150-200 EUR/USD, and you will need more time (3-4 days)
  3. Go straight south via Ruta 40, a 23h bus journey directly reaching El Chalten (120 EUR/USD). We’ve chosen this one.

Which bus company to choose?

There are only 2 companies which will do this trip. Chalten Travel usually starts operating around 15 November, splitting the trip in 2 days of 12h rides. You will need to book accommodation in Perito Moreno. Total cost reaches 150-200 EUR/USD.
The other option is Taqsa Marga, doing the 23h in one ride. Operating times are dependent on the weather, but in 2016, this was November 6, making the journey on every even day. Tickets can be bought at the Taqsa office in the Bariloche bus terminal (opening times 9-13h and 19-21h) and were 2020 ARS (Nov. 2016). Don’t expect a lot of luxury. The Taqsa Marga bus’ condition is bearable, yet not as modern as buses in Peru or Chile. The entire bus is semi cama, which means a seat reclining to 140 degrees. If you’re lucky.
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Getting ready to board

 Getting on the road

Ruta 40 was long known for its bad conditions of the road, yet in recent years the entire way is almost completely paved. Start time is 12:30 in Bariloche, after which the bus passes some extremely beautiful scenery until reaching the small city of El Bolson, approx. 2 hours later. When the weather is nice (i.e. blue skies), it’s truly amazing to sit back, relax and enjoy the landscape passing by.
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Especially the first hours are amazing

Another 2 hours passing by snow-capped mountains and green hillsides will get you to Esquel, where it is possible to buy some drinks or snacks in the bus terminal.
Ruta 40’s view is amazing, with really long stretches of no man’s land. It feels like you’re the only there…
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Endless road

Food and “entertainment”

You better had bought those snacks in Esquel, because afternoon tea is what could be called “light”: one apple juice, a cookie and a small ham sandwich.
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Some snacks

23 hours is long, very long. If you want some change and don’t want to keep watching outside or working on your blog (if you have one), maybe it’s time to get to some reading. Time to reread a nicely written classic of Nassim Taleb: The Black Swan. Maybe this 23h bus ride will also be a Black Swan in our South America journey…
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Bring yourself a book or some music

At this time, the views have shifted to the Pampas: small hills and mountains in a more desert like setting, occasionally some sheep or horses on the horizon.
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Pampas

Time for dinner: a cold empanada (with corn), a cold hamburger and a piece of bread. Better bring some good snacks!
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Tasty dinner 🙂 it’s cold…

After dinner, it’s movie time, with surprisingly an English spoken movie: Everest. Yay! It’s not really worthy to keep checking outside (the last few hours have been similar), so enjoy that movie.
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movie time! Still 12 hours to go

The long stretches of no man’s land continue, gazing at the sunset (around 9PM), until night comes and you’ll hopefully can get some sleep.
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Sunset is worth to stay up

We estimate around 90% of the road to be paved. Occasionally during the night, we felt some bumpy parts, going on more grind roads. But, the bus drivers actually slowed down quite nicely.

After a night’s sleep, few hours left!

After some sleep (good or bad), breakfast is thrown in your lap: some crackers and 2 cookies. There’s also tea or coffee. The landscape changed once more, back into mountain area. Occasionally, you’ll see some sheep, guanacos or even some emoe.
The last 2 hours of the journey are very pleasant for picture taking. The last stretch towards El Chalten follows a big lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. This is why we have been putting efforts for such a long bus ride, finally reaching the hikers capital of El Chalten. Fitz Roy, here we come!
Last fun fact about our 23h bus journey: we arrived on the morning after the US presidential elections. Funny feeling not knowing what was going on in the world…

Did you take a long distance bus in South America? How was your experience? Share your story with us!

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23h… we did it!

Disclaimer Argentina:

Argentina’s economy experiences some tough times, annual inflation easily reaches 25% to 40%. Prices and costs mentioned in our posts clearly state the date. Therefore, take into account future price increases while reading our information. 

7 reacties

  1. Thanks for the detailed info. You mentioned in 2016, Taqsa Marga opened on November 6, which is a Sunday. Did you take the bus on Sunday from Bariloche to El Chalten? I’m planning a trip in November this year, just want to check if Taqsa bus runs on Sunday (an even day).

    1. Hi Tony,

      Sorry for the late reply, seems like some comments are stopped by spam filter (will check that),

      Yes, in 2016, they started servicing as from Nov. 6. We actually took the bus on November 8th, a Tuesday. This was the second journey they did for the 2016-2017 season.
      These dates are not fixed, because Taqsa Marga will decide operating the route depending on the route and weather conditions. A more severe winter may postpone the starting time. My advice: get in touch a little upfront (month, few weeks) with Taqsa Marga and ask them. These kind of situations are possible in Patagonia, we had similar in El Calafate and Puerto Natales, where buses would operate just for a couple days per week.
      If you still have any question, just ask !

      1. Thank you, Mr. Fries, for the advice. I’ll check with Taqsa Marga when arriving at Bariloche. Plan B would be taking the coastal line via Rio Gallegos.

        When in Chalten, were you able to take a bus to Calafate, stopping by the airport? Thanks.

        1. Glad to help out 😉
          Jep, that’s your best option for Taqsa Marga. The opening hours are in our post. Price wise, it’s always tricky in Argentina, but you can expect a price increase compared to what we paid in Nov 2016.
          Via Rio Gallegos is an option, and you can even book this one online. This route will take longer in time, though is always”open”. Bear in mind that this one will go to El Calafate, so if you want to go to El Chalten, that means a go and return from el calafate.

          The journey el chalten-el calafate is around 3 hours. I don’t remember the bus passing by the airport. I think you will need a separate bus line / taxi to get there.

  2. Hi, thanks for your advice! Did you book your bus in advance? I’m trying to book for November but both companies say there’s no travel throughout, don’t know whether you had a similar experience?!
    Cheers!

    1. Hi Lowri,
      Thanks for your questions ! Glad you like our post 🙂
      Yeah, when we were researching about this journey, we did not find a lot of information online. So, as said, there are only a few companies doing this route, with Taqsa Marga being the most convenient, since it’s 1 stretch.
      It’s not possible to book the bus upfront, you will need to go to the office in Bariloche, and buy it there. So the moment we arrived from Chile, we directly checked to buy our ticket (for bus ride 3 days later).
      The tricky part about November is that they don’t know exactly upfront when they start servicing the route. If they say they don’t do November, thats wrong. But it could be 6 November, or maybe only 15 or even later. It depends how severe the winter was, how good the road conditions are. When we booked, this was only the 2nd journey they did for that season.
      My best advice: around 1 month upfront, contact them via telephone. Then again 2 weeks upfront. At least you will have an indication.
      Enjoy Patagonia, it’s awesome. And this 23h bus ride is just part of the journey, very fun to experience.
      Cheers
      Koen

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