Arid, meat, glaciers, party, Latin, tango, windy, wild and beautiful are some of the attributes of Argentina, a mixture of cultures from aborigines, Spaniards and Europeans that have significantly stirred the genetic mix from north to south. The aesthetic beauty of the country resides in it’s south, but Buenos Aires is it’s cultural capital and a city where party starts after 9pm, everyday, a must place to start your journey in Argentina.
There are numerous itineraries within Argentina one may follow – you can go to Uruguay’s Montevideo from Buenos Aires for a day trip using a ferry; or fly into Iquazu Falls with an overnight stay there, etc. Our goal was to spend most of our time in the south – Patagonia. Iguazu Falls can be done during a future trip to Brazil with more time permitting visit both the sides while relenting oneself for a day or two around that area.
THE ROUTES AND PLACES
We flew directly into Buenos Aires in late December and landed early morning with no jet-lag, for a 14 days vacation shared between Argentina and Chile; with emphasis on Patagonia but also wanted to expose ourselves to Latin America’s day-to-day culture, therefore spent 4 full days in the heart of Buenos Aires and 7 days in Patagonia with rest in Santiago Chile area.
The best season to be in this extreme part of the world is during South American summer, which is between November to Feburary. Off course winter in South America
has its own merit with ample amount of ski slopes in the Andes and Patagonia.
Stop 1 – Buenos Aires
4 full days and 5 nights is a lot for Buenos Aires we realized, and hoped we had put some more days in Patagonia region, but having said that, Buenos Aires is fun! Stay near Plaza de Mayo, the heart of culture and politics. Walk everywhere you go in and around Plaza de Mayo, take metro every evening to Palermo Hollywood (Bar district) or Palermo Soho (Food district) and dig some amazing Carne Asada at different Parrillas. There is a weekly artisan market and number of antique shops near Plaza de Mayo. Spend one half morning at La Boca and do not go here in the evening, its in a sketchy area (very close to favela of Buenos Aires as La Boca used to be an old port), but great place to get some locally sourced paintings. Devote some time to visit MALBA (Art Museum) and La Recoleta.
Stop 2 – El Calafate
Landed early morning into Patagonia’s neck among the golden pampas grass with turquoise glacier water flowing through arid light brown landscape, almost like a beautiful lady wearing a turquoise stone necklace. Rented a car to drive where possible and use a guided tour where driving wasn’t possible. Went up and down the Ruta 40 in and out of Chile and Argentina. There is an amazing glacier to visit in El Calafate – Perito Moreno. The town itself is very quaint yet touristy with backpackers all around, local brews and lamb/beef being grilled live; also a great place to find guides and outfitters. For glacier visit, if you want to do a boat tour, make sure to find the last boat trip in advance, although seats are unlimited even during peak season.
I also recommend to rent a car, its very easy to drive and you will happen to stop at every corner to take pictures.
Stop 3 – El Chalten
Within 4 hours we reached El Chalten, where we stayed inside The Glacier National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) with a direct view of Mount Fitz Roy from our room. Spent 3 full days inside the national park; if you stay inside the park then make sure your vehicle is prepared to drive on gravel road; you don’t need a 4×4 though! Things to do in El Chalten – hike Laguna Torre route, a full day event, where you will see all the important peaks (Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy, Poincenot, Torre Egger, etc.) and amazing glaciers on the way. Keep one day to visit Viedma glacier by road and the last day to relax in the town and go on small trails.
It is very important to keep an extra day in this part of Patagonia, because weather is extremely unpredictable, therefore keep 1 day as a buffer and do not make any reservations in advance, as you may end up swapping your tours based upon the weather.
From El Chalten we took on Ruta 40 south to Puerto Natales, Chile to visit Torres del Paines