Argentina – Patagonia

Part two of Argentina was absolutely stunning and a highlight of the trip, and to be honest, Patagonia wasn’t even a must see location for me. When I thought of Argentina, I thought Buenos Aires, Mendoza, steak, wine, but not necessarily the southern-most point in the world that I have been to to date. I am glad that it was on the top of my friend’s list; however, because now I don’t think you can really come to Argentina and get the full experience if you don’t go.

Argentina is a huge country and Patagonia is a significant portion of it, so even deciding where do go within that expanse took some work, but we landed on two nights in El Calafate, the airport town and jumping off point for glacier viewing, and two nights in El Chalten, a famed town that is a hiking capital and home to the Fitz Roy Range. Think Patagonia logo. Really. [If you just want the photos, scroll to the bottom!]

fullsizeoutput_5ae5El Calafate

El Calafate is the bigger of the two towns with some tourist shops and all the outdoorsy stores, in case you forgot or lost and critical gear. The both towns really just serve the purpose to house and feed you between treks into the wild. From El Calafate we ventured to Perito Moreno Glacier, which was recommended to me by multiple people. We really only had the shortest time here as one’s visit is not to stay in town, but to get out!

fullsizeoutput_5ad5Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno is one of the only growing glaciers in the world and is an arm of the third largest ice cap in the world. Antarctica, Greenland and then Patagonia. It is also one of the the most active, since it comes down a huge valley and ends at a peninsula. It’s the pressure between the valley walls and the peninsula that keeps things interesting, and holds two different levels of water on each side of the glacier when the ice is touching the peninsula.

It’s an hour and a half drive into the national park and a 20 minute boat ride to the point of departure onto the Glacier. I had read in all the guide books about the thunderous crashes of ice into the water as they fall from the glacier walls, and how impressive it is. I wondered just how often this was actually happening and if we stood a chance of seeing this in action, and low and behold we did! And it WAS impressive! You hear the cracks, and just in the time it takes you to locate the sound an turn your head the ice is falling off in massive chunks creating ripples and waves flowing towards you.

The glacier walk itself was awesome. It was just about an hour, during which we got to hike around and look into caves and rivers formed by the melting ice. I loved all the layers of blue and just how massive it all is. At the end they treated us to a touch of whiskey poured over freshly procured glacier ice, and I went of a refill of pure glacier water. Side note: all the water in Patagonia is drinkable and it’s delicious. After the walk you picnic and bask in the glory of the glacier, and end the day with a visit to the main visitor site, where you can see both sides of the glacier and really take in the grandness of the glacier.

Tip – there is only one tour company that does the glacier walks. You can book there, but we did it ahead of time, since it was really our main reason for staying in El Calafate. Hielo y Aventura

fullsizeoutput_5ae0El Chalten

El Chalten is just just over three hours from El Calafate and much smaller. There is some ‘sprawl’ to the town, and just like El Calafate it’s mostly hotels and restaurants targeted at boarding and feeding hikers. We arrived in the middle of the day to empty streets, and closed establishments, and while were never really there at night time I have to imagine it’s a bit busier when people return from their day adventures. It was cloudy and raining the day we arrived, and we couldn’t see anything, so our fingers were crossed that we would actually get the perfect day the next day of which our hotel assured us.

fullsizeoutput_5adfPatagonia Eco Domes

Our stay was a 25 minute drive up a dirt road from town and so so cool. It’s a quaint set up of nine or so individual glamping tents (they are permanent dome structures, with bathrooms, but definitely still tents at the end of the day). There is no cell phone/internet, so there is plenty of time to relax, read, and just stare at the mountains, which everyone has a direct view of through a huge window at the front of their tent. It was so serene and quite (save for the loud flapping tents in the night) and it was just perfect for unplugging and not caring about the outside world.

fullsizeoutput_5ae8Laguna de Los Tres / The Fitz Roy

From the domes location it’s a nine kilometer hike to Laguna de Los Tres, which is THE place to view the Fitz Roy mountain range. It’s a gorgeous and relatively easy hike most of the way, shaded by a lush forest with glacier views all around. Not going to lie though, the last kilometer is HARD. People had told us this before, but experiencing it held all the impact. It feels like you are going straight vertical, climbing over rocks and wondering if it’s really all worth it in the end. It does; however, make the final destination all the more sweet. You can see the mountains getting closer and closer, and the final stretch is an exposed rocky incline, but when you get to the top of that last bit, you look down on a stunning lake, with the mountains as the backdrop. The water is a beautiful blue and with our perfect day (the hotel was right!) it was quite a sight to behold and totally worth every step.

We picnic’d, took lots of photos and rested while being in awe of the whole thing. The hike back was not nearly as joyful, we were ready to be done, but beers awaited us back in town. Instead of hiking return, we took the main trail further south into town, had a couple of drinks, then got a cab back to our hotel.

All in all this was a spectacular experience. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a mountain person, but I am so happy that we included this adventure. It was worth every hour of travel and ounce of sweat, and I feel that my Argentine experience would have been lacking without having seen this.

Tips

  • If you have a way of doing more than just the trail from town out and back, I’d recommend that. I much preferred the hike from the domes to the lake rather than the hike from town.
  • There are several other hikes to do from town, so in town would be a good place to stay if you were going to be there longer.
  • See if your hotel does a bag lunch. We did the all inclusive package at the domes, which was so worth it. Very plentiful breakfast and dinner on site with a substantial bag lunch for each night of stay. So much easier than trying to shop for all that yourself as there aren’t a ton of markets.
  • Go early! As with most hiking the later your start the more people there are. Our hike up wasn’t too crowded, even though there were many people at the lake, but on our way down throngs of people were doing their uphill climb, and I was so grateful we didn’t have to deal with that. Our hotel originally suggested leaving at 9/9:30, very Argentina, but I think we left around 8/8:30.
  • We flew round trip into El Calafate, really the only option. From El Calafate, there are three bus companies who all run the same route to El Chalten, except all their times vary slightly. Your hotel will be able to direct you and it was easy to book there.

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Argentina – Buenos Aires

For the 20 or so flights that I was on in 2017, none of them took me over country borders, making it almost two years since I had taken an international vacation. The last trip was to Japan to visit my sister while she was living there and right before I started my new job, so about the middle of last year I began itching to book my next long getaway.

I always lean towards Europe when initially considering a big vacation; it’s just so familiar and easy, with still more things to see. But ever being in the mindset to try new things, I started considering other locations. Argentina and Buenos Aires had been on my list a long time (I decided it needed to be its own trip when booking my trip to Brazil), so when I mentioned it to one of my best friends who I have traveled a lot with, and she said it was on the top of here list and she would go with me, it was on!

Over many glasses of Malbec we did some research and planning and landed on Buenos Aires and Patagonia. The trip was really amazing with each location different and special in its own way that I’ll give a post to each!

So. Buenos Aires…

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I had heard mixed reviews – tourists didn’t love it, but my friends who had lived there raved about it. I ended up being somewhere in the middle. It’s big, it’s dirty, and the sidewalks will trip you, but the people are lovely, the architecture and vibe very European and the lifestyle pretty laid back. It was fun being in a city that does the late dinners, is closed Sundays and has a distinctive culture.

We had 4 days in the city before going down to Patagonia, and another two on the tail end of the trip, which ended up being a bit too much time, but it worked out to make our vacation a real vacation. We didn’t have to cram too much into any one day and were able to relax quite a bit. It was so hot (86F) and humid (65%) that we ended up touring in the mornings, stopping for beers with lunch, then returning for a poolside siesta before venturing back out in the evening.

Our first stay was in a cool modern hotel in Palermo, which is vibrant part of town with lots of nightlife and young people. We did some day touring from here and did a cooking class too (awesome experience deserving of its own post), which was great. Definitely had more of a residential vibe during the day, which I quite enjoyed.

The last two nights, we sprung for a 5 start palatial environment named none other than the Alvear Palace. We sat in the lap of luxury, and got to enjoy a second part of town. Even though they didn’t have pool like the first hotel, they did have a rooftop deck for lounging around and getting my summer color in the middle of February.

I loved walking the streets, seeing the different neighborhoods and tasting all the food. We ended up eating early (7:30/8:00pm) because it felt much more normal to us and left us not feeling gross in the morning. In reality this allowed us to enjoy happy hour specials and get into most places before the crowds, so really winning all around.

Below are some of my favorites and must see’s as well as some thoughts on the more traditional stops. The one thing I really wish we had done was go on a tour of some kind. We had fully intended it, but when it came down to days/timing we somehow missed them all.

Also, I know it sounds crazy but this would be a very doable long weekend. Both directions were red-eyes, meaning you could leave the US at 5:45 on a Wednesday night, only take two week days off, and be back to work by 10am on Monday morning, if you get the short layovers. By the time we got to Sunday, we felt like we had seen and done so much, it would be totally worth it!

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BRAZIL

I am one lucky girl. I am blessed to have amazing friends who will go to the ends of the earth with me… A couple of girlfriends and I conceived the idea for this trip over a year ago – at the time seeming like it was infinitely far away, and we didn’t know if it would actually happen, or that it would end up being as amazing as it was. I’m chalking it up as one hell of a birthday celebration as we left two days after I turned 30 – what a way to ring in the beginning of a new year and decade of life.

We enjoyed a great combination of relaxation, sightseeing, going out and having chill nights. We had some wonderful food and obviously amazing caipirinhas. I’ve made my first attempt at recreating this classic Brazilian drink at home, and am excited to share with you soon the best caipi out there. I couldn’t have asked for better company or a better experience, which was truly one of the best trips I’ve taken.

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COLOMBIA

Ever eager to see the world, try new foods and embark on adventures, I leapt at the invitation to join some friends in Colombia for a week and a half. We’ve had this trip planned since October, and it was amazing to finally be there. There were five of us and we filled our days with scuba diving, laying on the beach, eating ridiculous amounts of whole fried fish with coconut rice and plantains, visiting the mountains and touring Cartagena – ‘The Walled City’ which is a charming colonial town and biggest tourist destination in Colombia. We spent the majority of our time; however, based out of El Rodadero, a very popular beach destination for Colombian tourists. I loved all the fish (albeit after the first week I was craving steak, chicken and a good old fashioned sandwich), the warm, clear water that you can jump into and laze around in without any reservations, and the fact that we all just wanted to relax, sleep and read. We got a cooking lesson from our friend’s aunt, so I am hoping to recreate coconut rice sometime soon for you all, but until then, hopefully the below photos will give you a little taste of what what is was really like.

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