Recently at Reserve, we’ve been talking a lot about getting away from the craziness of the city a relaxing in the more tranquila parts of Zona Norte or in Mendoza. I’m about to talk about a place a little bit farther, and much more remote. So remote you can go days without seeing a sole. You got it- Patagonia. My adventure to Patagonia took place 2 years ago, in January of 2012. With four other friends we rented a car in Buenos Aires and drove all the way down to El Calafate and back in about 20 days. Just to clarify, this car was no van. So, 20 days in a cramped car was a bit extreme, but in the end it was the best possible way to travel through the south. We had to deal with unfortunate car problems, but we weren’t constrained by bus times and other people’s schedules. We were able to go wherever we wanted and stop whenever we wanted- to take photos, stretch our legs, or take a dip in any of the enticing lakes we came across along the way.
After a flat tire and many wrong turns, we finally made it out of the Province of Buenos Aires and drove through the night to our first stop: San Martin de Los Andes. This town was amazing. I actually preferred it to Bariloche, the more famous city in Argentina’s Lake District. San Martin de Los Andes is much smaller, lazier and reminded me of some town in Colorado, surrounded by mountains and pine trees.
After San Martin de Los Andes we made our way through the stunning 7 lakes drive to Bariloche, then on to Esquel, El Bolson. The stretch between El Bolson and El Chalten was completely deserted, gravel road, and the only signs of life were the occasional hare or group of wild horses.
Key travel tip here: if you travel in the high season (January-February) make sure to book a hostel in advance. I remember reading this in Lonely Planet, about 6 hours outside of El Chalten, on New Years Eve, and any hopes of having phone service to make a reservation was out of the question. We ended up finding a place to stay:
(here!) but it took a long time, and made our New Years quite an unforgettable one. The first day we did the Cerro Torre hike and the second day we hiked up to Mt. Fitz Roy. El Chalten is stunning.
After El Chalten we left our car and booked bus tickets to Puerto Natales in Chile, and made our way over to Torres del Paine. We arrived just days after the devastating fire that burned a lot of the park, and unfortunately not much was open. We were able to do a great hike and though it was tough, the view at the end made me forget all about the pain!
From Torres del Paine we came back to the Argentine side and made our way to El Calafate to visit the majestic Perrito Moreno Glacier. The sounds of the glacier breaking and colors of the blue ice were unbelievable!
After El Calafate, our voyage led us back up north along the coast, crossing Peninsula Valdez with all its penguins and sea lions. This is a great place to see whales, however we were a bit too early in the year for them.
So! If you find yourself spending too much time in Buenos Aires, take a break! There are more amazing parts of this country to explore. And Patagonia is a great place to start.