The Argentinian Patagonia has stood out as one of our favorite places in this wide and wonderful world. It’s hard to communicate the vastness of the space here where the horizon seems endless. Perhaps it’s the miles and miles of scrubland that make the imagery of Cerro Fitzroy and the Perito Moreno Glacier so shockingly beautiful to the eye. Perhaps it was the geographic commonality to our home state of Washington…where vast desert turns green at the Cascade mountain range and lakes and alpine forests flourish.
The wildlife here stunned us…charming penguins and dolphins, graceful rheas and cuarnacos, tough condors, stock still flamingos, rhythmic red headed woodpeckers and on and on. Even animals common to us, such as horses, look more romantic being ridden by a gaucho in this wind swept land.
The chaos of Buenos Aires is so far away…the people here seem more rugged, low key and creative in the way that small town enterprise (or lack thereof) forces you to be. We have never in our trip heard more American accents…we are surrounded by baby boomers wearing North Face and Patagonia on REI tours. On a particularly windy and rainy day in El Chalten, we hunker down in the warmth of our hostel and I watch gray hairs with packs bigger than mine headed out to tackle a 12km trek…they are a tough generation!
By the time we leave El Chalten and El Calafate, we’ve trekked to Fitzroy and Torres, witnessed glaciers calving, and watched icebergs float by. We’ve been close to the end of the continent and are grateful we ended up spending two weeks here. And I know we’ll be back.
With the high numbers of young backpackers and older gringos, Europeans and Japanese that flock to this area, there are plenty of lodging options at all levels. In El Chalten, we stayed at a hostel with private bathrooms, El Alamo. Quirky as always with pillowcases smaller than the pillows and doors that don’t quite close, for the price of $50/nt and friendly hosts, it did us fine. In El Calafate, we stayed at Las Avutardas Hosteria. Roughly $70/nt for a small apartment. While the lodging wasn’t anything special, the owner was very helpful and took us to Perito Moreno for the same price as a big bus tour…it was nice to set our own schedule.
We rewarded the kids with a trip to the Waffleria after a long hike…we had savory, they had sweet and we all raved about our meal. The most popular La Tapera had wonderfully friendly service and a warm atmosphere but the food was so so. We discovered La Vinerea on our last evening in El Chalten, with a wide selection of beers and wines and good eats. We experienced little good food in El Calafate but found the Chopen Cerverceria, which was a block from our lodging, to be better than the TA reviews gave it credit for.
This is a no brainer. Stay four nights in El Chalten…this gives you two days of hiking and one rest day. Weather is unpredictable so it also allows time to see the beautiful Fitzroy on a clear day. The Laguna Tres hike is the tougher of the two, so do it first, rest a day, then do the Laguna Torres. Stunning. Stay three nights in El Calafate. Hire a private car to take you to Perito Moreno and spend hours meandering the wood walkways listening do and watching the glacier move. We found the boat ride to Perito Moreno a dud…it was expensive, packed and all about photo ops with a professional photographer on board…not our thing. Spend an afternoon at the Glacierarium and visit the ice bar. We didn’t and the kids keep reminding me of that daily.