Discover the thrill of gravel riding in South America and experience the boundless natural beauty and vast landscapes of the Great Divide in Patagonia, Chile and Los Andes.
The Great Divide, also known as the Continental Divide of the Americas, is a majestic and predominantly mountainous range that, in its totality, stretches from the Bering Strait between the USA and Russian, to the Strait of Magellan on the southernmost tip of Chile.
It follows the line of high peaks along the Rocky Mountains and the Andes and encompasses a variety of landscapes and terrains that offer endless possibilities for gravel adventures, but none more so than those lying between Chile and Argentina.
Gravel cycling in Chile, Los Andes and Patagonia
The opportunities for gravel cycling in Chile, Los Andes and Patagonia are limitless. Starting in Chile, these boundless and unparalleled landscapes captivate visitors year after year. The country may only be 350 km wide (at its widest point, east to west), but what it lacks in breadth it makes up for in natural wonders, from the dry deserts in the north, to dense forests in the south, crystalline rivers and lakes and the towering Los Andes mountain range.
Gravel cycling in Los Andes
Los Andes form a natural border between Chile and Argentina and are the longest mountain range in the world, with an average height of around 4,000 metres. The gravel roads that criss-cross over these peaks boast challenging ascents that will test not only your physical endurance, but your mental stamina, too.
By way of example, the road to Portillo, a popular Chilean ski resorts, is a mountain stage that takes you up into the heart of the Andes. The renowned Portillo road is part of the main highway connecting Santiago (Chile) and Mendoza (Argentina), so not strictly gravel, but an arduous ascent nonetheless. This 85 km climb features the gruelling “Los Caracoles” (the snails) section, with 29 hairpin turns and gradients of up to 14%, considered by many to be one of the world’s toughest cycling climbs.
Gravel cycling in Patagonia
Gravel cycling in Patagonia is next level, with endless tracks and trails that guide you through its vast wilderness and untouched landscapes. From windswept plains to the jagged peaks of the Torres del Paine National Park, every pedal stroke reveals more of this region’s raw, natural beauty. Expect a mix of challenging climbs, awe-inspiring views and a humbling sense of nature’s grandeur, with spectacles such as the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Fitz Roy massif, and the stunning landscapes of Tierra del Fuego.
Road conditions along the Great Divide
As might be expected in such a wild landscape, road conditions along the Great Divide through Chile, Los Andes and Patagonia vary between paved highways, well-maintained gravel roads and more rugged and remote paths. After all, the beauty of gravel is in being able to tackle pretty much any terrain, and riding on with confidence as the sound of your tyres on smooth tarmac is suddenly transformed into a crunchy symphony of dusty gravel.
It’s important to have previous experience riding on all types of roads, paths and surfaces, and come prepared with a sturdy gravel or mountain bike and the appropriate gear to tackle the sometimes-challenging terrain. Handlebar and top-bar storage for snacks, spare inner tubes, tools, extra layers, gloves, and any other essentials you want to bring along will help keep your body free and flexible to manoeuvre over and through these wild landscapes.
Weather conditions and the best time to ride
The weather along the Great Divide in Chile, Los Andes and Patagonia can be unpredictable, so it’s important to plan your gravel cycling adventure accordingly. Ideally, the best time to ride is during South America’s summer months, from November to March. The weather is generally milder and the days are longer, which is perfect for big rides and lots of exploration.
But even during the summer, weather patterns can change within a few hours, and you may be faced with strong winds, rain, or even snow at higher altitudes. It’s crucial to be prepared with the appropriate layers, waterproof gear, and sturdy tyres to navigate the ever-changing conditions.
The Eat Sleep Cycle Great Divide Gravel Cycling Tour
Our new Eat Sleep Cycle gravel cycling tour of the Great Divide will explore this rugged edge of the world and cross the Chile-Argentina border twice, giving riders a chance to experience two of the countries flanking the longest mountain range in the world.
If you’re inspired to ride the Great Divide, or any of our other tours, contact our travel experts for more information.