With aspiring mountains and aqua blue lakes at the base of spectacular glaciers , the deep south of Patagonia is a one-of-a-kind type place. There is something about this beautiful but inhospitable place that has drawn travelers since Magellan first rounded Cape Horn in 1520. In that time the Indians of the area were so tall the Europeans thought they were giants.
Almost 500 years later and although much has changed, other things remain the same. To those who have not visited these lands it remains mysterious. Climbing up to the glaciers one is overcome with the power of nature and the feeling that frontiers still remain in the world. And as one works their way down the peninsula toward Ushuaia there is an eerie feeling that you are in fact arriving to the edge of the world.
Transport in this part of the world is modern, but distances are long. There are many well-traveled tourist routes that have all the infrastructure built up to support the hoards of of travelers that flock to the region in the summer. You might scoff at “following the crowd”, but remember that much of Patagonia is a cold flat desert with little to see. And while this might interest a few of you who want to get off “the beaten track”, it is inevitable that you must cross these long desolate stretches at some point during your trip. So you might want to think twice before booking yourself into a guest house for two weeks in lets say, Rio Gallegos. Chances are you will have to pass through there anyways and a night will suffice.
On other words, in Patagonia get off “the beaten track”, but don’t plan on going too far for too long!
A suggested itinerary would be to fly to El Calafate, where you could spend a couple of days seeing the glacier and lake before heading by bus to El Chalten. In El Chalten spend a few days hiking and taking pictures. Many would head from there to Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile, via Puerto Natales. Whether you decide to do that trip or not, don’t miss out on Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world.
In Ushuaia spend a couple of days visiting the national park and checking out the port. It’s hard to describe the draw that this small port city has, but you will certainly feel it while there. A few choose to continue to Antartica, and during the summer that is a good option if you have the money, time, and are not prone to sea sickness.
Now when you leave Ushuaia we suggest you fly out to your next destination, whether it be Buenos Aires or somewhere else in Argentina. Flights are not cheap, but the alternative is to take a bus or an expensive cruise. Generally we would say the bus option is a good one, since buses in Argentina are very comfortable and the people you meet on them tend to be good traveling companions. But in this case the distances are so long that no matter how comfortable the bus is, it will become uncomfortable. And example of this would be the trip to Buenos Aires, which could last 2.5 days and almost all of this would be through the monotonous boring countryside of the Atlantic coast of Patagonia.
Another suggested itinerary would be to start your trip in Ushuaia and work your way north. Basically do the opposite of the trip above, going directly to Puerto Natales if you plan on visiting Torres Del Paine. After El Calafate and El Chalten fly to either Esquel or Bariloche (from the airport in El Calafate), remembering to try to reserve a seat on the left side of the plane so that you may admire the view of the mountains and lakes instead of flat scrub land. This flight is offered by both Aerolineas Argentinas and during high season, the airline of the Argentine Airforce, LADE.
LADE serves a lot of Patagonia that you would otherwise need to get to by bus. Some of their long distance flights tend to be more a series of hops than non-stop. To reserve flights with them you can try their website, but it’s not that reliable. Better to call them at (054) 0810-810-LADE (5233) or write them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. In BA you can visit their office at Perú 714 in San Telmo/Monserrat. You can see a basic schedule of their flights here: Flights in Patagonia