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Patagonia

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Shweta Reddy

Introduction

One of the most beautiful places on earth and hikers paradise. Patagonia is a large area covering parts of Argentina and Chile with stunning mountains, pristine lakes and numerous glaciers. This travel itinerary takes you to some of the best places in Patagonia. The trip starts in El Chalten via El Calafate and ends in El Calafate.

How to get to El Chalten: Fly to El Calafate from Buenos Aires. You can get transport to El Chalten from El Calafate airport. It takes approximately 3 hrs.

Here are some useful links for Los Glacieres National, El Chalten and El Calafate.

http://www.losglaciares.com/en/index.html

http://www.elchalten.com/indexen.php

Trip Map

Itinerary

Day 1

El Chalten

Laguna Capri

After an entire day of travel (its no easy feat to get from Home - Buesnos Aires - EL Calafate - El Chalten), begin your trip with an easy and beautiful trip to a blue lagoon surrounded by forest. The view of Fitz Roy massif framed by the blue lagoon is spectacular. It gives you the taste of whats to come for the rest of your trip. The trail head is right behind the Hostel Rancho.

Approx. time: 4 hrs round trip.

Difficulty: Easy

Hostel Rancho Grande

If you are travelling solo or don't mind staying in a hostel, I recommend Hostel Rancho Grande. Its located at the end of the town. It's a tiny hikers town so you are not missing out on anything. The trail head to Laguna Capri and Laguna de los Tres are right behind the hostel. The trail head for Laguna Torre isn't too far either. The bus to and from El Calafate picks and drops you right at the hostel.

Rancho Grande Hostel

El Chalten Hotels


Day 2

El Chalten

Laguna de los Tres

This hike will take you the closest you can get to Mt. Fitz Roy and its the most popular hike in the area. The trail head is right behind the Hotel Rancho and where the town ends. There is a bit of overlap between the trail to Laguna Capri and Laguna de los Tres. Be prepared for high winds closer to the top. It was so windy that I almost got knocked off the trail.

Approx. time: Full day, 8-10 hrs

Difficulty: Medium

Hostel Rancho Grande

Same as day 1.


Day 3

El Chalten

Laguna Torre

Like many hikes in this area this will also take you to a Laguna. Laguna Torre is at the foot of Cerro Torre. The trail will take you across a beautiful river and burnt forest. There is a scenic point somewhere in the middle of the hike from where you can see both, Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy.

bus icon El Calafate to El Chalten

Take the evening (6pm) bus from El Chalten to El Calafate, it's around 3 hrs journey. You can book a ticket through the hotel you are staying at.

America del Sur

If staying in hostels is your style, then America del Sur should be on the top of your list. It's not on the town's main street but is certainly walkable. You could stay there just for the gorgeous view of Lake Argentina from their backyard. Staff is very helpful and can book all your tours and travels.

America del Sur

Hotels in El Calafate


Day 4

El Calafate

Upsala Glacier Kayaking

Take a break from hiking and work those arms. If you are going to Patagonia in summer, this is an unique opportunity to kayak among icebergs and a chance to see Upsala glacier up close. Upsala lake (Upsala channel in Argentina Lake) is at the foot of Upsala Glacier which is the biggest glacier in the area. The hostel booked my tour with Viva Patagonia. The tour includes boat ride in Argentina Lake and later Kayaking for aprox. 2 hrs. They were a very professional tour group who provided us with wet suits, just in case you decide to take a dip in freezing waters.

America del Sur

Same as day 3.


Day 5

El Calafate

Glacier Perito Merino

The crown jewel of El Calafate, this is why everyones comes to El Calafate. There are many tours in a day to Perito Marino Glacier. I went with the tour group Hielo&Aventura, you can choose between Minitreking and Big Ice tours based on your budget. Either ways you will get to walk on the glacier with crampons and hear the thunderous ice breaking noises up close.

America del Sur

Same as day 3.


Day 6

Torres del Paine

bus icon TDP

There are not many convenient ways to get to Torres del Paine (TDP) from El Calafate but that should not keep you from going there.

If you are traveling in group and don't mind driving, you can rent a car and drive across the border. As a solo traveler this wasn't a real option for me as I didn't want to drive alone, in middle of nowhere across borders.

One of the smarter (even creative) thing I did was take a one day tour to TDP but stayed back at TDP after the tour and asked the tour company to pick me up from there 3 days later. I learnt that its not a unusual request, most tour companies are used to it and willing to do it. The bus dropped me off at Laguna Amarga in TDP and picked me up from there 3 days later. This is also the fastest way to get to TDP by bus and you also get a tour out of it. There are local transfer/taxi that took me from Laguna Amarga to the Refugio Torre Central where I was going to stay that night.

Another option is taking a morning bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales and taking the morning bus the following day from Puerto Natales to TDP. You lose a day doing this or you can think of it as gaining a day in Puerto Natales. You can find the bus timetable for the second leg here.

Refugio Torre Central

Torres del Paine has a good network of Refugios to stay after the long hikes. Fantasticosur is the official website for refugios, maps, routes and booking.

This Refugio is closer to the park entrance at Laguna Amarga and is a starting point to do the W circuit from East to West. Food is expensive at the Refugios but its reasonable considering you get real food in such a remote location.


Day 7

Torres del Paine

Mirador Base Las Torres

Torres del Paine is huge and has many stunning views and hikes. You can do the 10 day circuit, the popular W circuit or parts of its depending on the number of days you can spend here. It has Refugios at convenient locations after long hikes. You can find out more details at Fantasticasur. Keep in mind that time and frequency of all transport inside the national park change by season. You can find the latest schedules here.

On this trip I did parts of W circuit. Here is a very good map of the W circuit.

On my first morning in TDP, I hiked to Mirador Base Las Torres at the foot of towering Torres del Paine, the namesake of the national park.

Difficulty: Medium

Time: Approx. 7-8hrs round trip

Refugio Torre Central

Same as day 6.


Day 8

Torres del Paine

Cuernos

Easy hike to Refugio Cuernos along the beautiful Lago Nordenskjöld.

Difficulty: Easy

Time: Approx. 4 hrs

If you have the energy I suggest you make the trip to Mirador Britanico and back. It's around 5 hrs round trip.

Refugio Cuernos

You don't really have any option but to stay here or camp. Book your night here.


Day 9

Torres del Paine

Paine Grande

Short hike to Refugio Paine Grande. It you have time you can go some more distance towards Refugio Grey Glacier and come back in time to catch your boat.

Difficulty: Easy

Time: 2 hrs

boat icon Boat Ride

After the hike take the boat from Paine Grande to Pudeto. You can find the boat timetable here. Keep in mind that time and frequency of boats change by season.

At Pudeto, take a transfer back to Laguna Amarga to get picked up by the tour bus back to El Calafate

America del Sur

Same as day 3.


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