Little delayed in writing this post- photos and trip details are from our trip to Southern Patagonia in Argentina that we visited in towards the end of November 2015. More images are attached with individual trail posts dated in November- December 2015.
Airport we landed to was Buenos Aires. We flew by LAN Airlines from San Francisco.
Day in Buenos Aires: After a brief nap, we headed to Cafe Tortoni– highly recommended by a friend, which to our surprise had a line outside the door. Our patience was well worth as we entered the cafe – all the delicacies, ambiance and atmosphere was just perfect to cheer us up. Hot chocolate with churros was to die for, coffee and dulce de leche pastry helped satisfy our caffeine and sugar cravings.
We then headed to historic San Telmo neighbourhood. City of Buenos Aires is pretty much walkable. After visiting The Nuestra Señora de Belén Church, Museum of Modern Art and window shopping for a couple of hours we were ready to eat dinner. We noticed number of shops and restaurants were closed for some reason. It was 6pm, it is then we realized that Argentinians don’t eat dinner until after 9:30 and shops and restaurants were closed to reopen later at night. Coffee shops and bars were open in the evening. We found an outdoor cafe, ordered sandwiches and a bottle of delicious Malbec. This was perfect end of our day in Buenos Aires. We went back to our hotel to get ready for our active hiking trips around Southern Patagonia.
Day two was spent flying to El Calafate and transfering (driving) to El Chalten. We chose Walk Patagonia to help us plan all our outdoor excursions. Zoe is from UK, who speaks more then five languages and spends winter months in El Chalten. She coordinates almost all trips personally. Both her and our argentinian trekking guide Pablo were extremely knowlegable for the region and passionate about what they did. I highly recommend you contact Zoe at Walk Patagonia if you plan to hike in El Chalten area.
El Chalten is a small village located within the Los Glaciares Nationl Park and is a gateway to all the trails leading to the peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy. We reached to Chalten in the afternoon. After checking in we walked to Walk Patagonia’s office to meet up with our guides for next few days. They also helped us with city maps and pointing out good restaurants and cafes (wi-fi spots) in town. Most trailheads starts from the town and within walking distance. El Chalten was very windy, after dinner we went back to hotel to start packing our backpacks for next few days.
Day Three: Trek to Laguna De los Tres and camp at Poincenot (~8 miles)
The hike started from El Pilar, which is about 25 minutes drive from the town. After a constant and somewhat steep ascent over Rio Blanco Valley, we reached a viewpoint called Glacier Piedras Blancas, from where we stopped to soak in views of hanging glaciers. After another two hours of gentle climbing we reached to a steep rocky hill, once we climbed that ridge, we could witness entire different world on the other side..We could see majestic Mount Fitz Roy on the other side of the Laguna De los Tres. Weather was gorgeous, we spent plenty of time at the lagoon, had lunch and admired this gem of Argentine Patagonia!
We climbed the hill down and reached Poincenot campground, which was our home for that night and from where views of Mount Fitz Roy were just as amazing. Our guides had arranged delicious snacks followed by just perfect diner at our campsite.
Day Four: Trek to Laguna Torre from Poincenot Campground and back to El Chalten
Waking up at the campsite to see amazing glow of sunrise over Mt Fitz Roy was the best part of the day! Photos I have attached do not do justice to this scene. I highly recommend staying here just to witness beauty of sunrise.
After breakfast, we left for our hike to Laguna Torre. We passed beautiful lagoons Madre and Hija along the way. Trail then dropped down to Torre Valley before reaching to beautiful Laguna Torre, it’s glacier and famous Mt Torre which is one of the hardest mountains in the world to climb. Floating icebergs adds to the beauty of Laguna Torre from which river Fitz Roys starts. After having nice lunch at this beautiful spot, we headed back to El Chalten. Hike back to Chalten was beautiful along the Fits Roy river valley and wildflowers that bloomed in there added nice colors to the landscape.
Day Five: Trek to Loma del Pliegue Tumbado (~11 miles)
Best part about this hike is that- it is not your `classic’ trek, which means it is less used.
It is not walk in the park kind of hike but every second of your effort is worth because it leads you to this breathtaking 360 degrees panoramic viewpoint from where you can see all three- Fitz Roy, Cerro torre and Laguna Torre.
Trail starts from just outside the town, near ranger’s office. After fairly steep ascent during a first 2.5 miles, we entered a forest. Trail within the forest was absolutely serene with soft sounds birds and wind. Upon leaving the forest the trail headed up to the hill. This part of the trail was exposed and extremely windy. We were warned about Patagonian winds and we thought El Chalten was windy, till we reached to the top of this trail head. Wind there was something else!
Views from this point were just stunning. I highly recommend this hike if you have extra day to spend in El Chalten.
Day Six: La Leona Petrified Forest:
We were so glad we decided to add this to our busy itinerary, walking into this palaeontologic site was like walking into moon. Not exaggerating, this giant depression in the ground in the middle of nowhere consists of soil that has been modified by wind and water erosion, looks just like a scene from a different planet. The area consists of numerous tree trunks and fossils of prehistoric animals that underwent geological transformation over past 100 million years.
This history goes this way as explained by our guide. An intense volcanic activity at the end of mid-Jurassic period formed the Andean mountain. This activity buried then hot and humid Patagonia and its forests under a thick layer of ashes to start turning it into what it is today. Petrified trees present in La Leona were dragged here both by rivers and glaciers. Protected from climate by the hillsides, number of pieces of petrified wood and fossils have been preserved on the ground.
Day Seven: Glacier Trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier
Glacier trekking starts at the port of Bajo de Las Sombras, which can be acessed through beautiful 20 minutes boat ride. After being fitted with crampons, we started trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier. Seeing and feeling glacier this close was quite an experience. Shapes os ice, sounds of breaking glaciers, deep blue color and fresh clod breeze- all became part of excursion. This remained a favorite day of our Argentine Patagonian Trip for our children.
Day Eight: Last day in El Calafate: Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve
We spend last day back in El Calafate enjoying the town and visiting Laguna Nimez Nature Reserve before packing for our flights back home. Laguna Nimez Reserve has nice walking trail around the park and offers nice bird watching opportunities. We saw local geese, ducks, hawks, coots and flamingos. This was a fun evening to end our Argentina trip!