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08-pont de glace

Our Patagonia Travel Guide

To the point Aline gives you all the keys to prepare a trip to Patagonia! A trip to reconnect with nature and outdoor enthusiasts!
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Our Patagonia Travel Guide

Patagonia is a region that includes lakes, fjords, glaciers and the southern section of the Andes Cordillera. It’s a great place to disconnect and reconnect with nature. A favourite for all outdoor enthusiasts! After a period of confinement in the city, a little tour in nature will be the perfect remedy!

Buenos Aires

My trip to Patagonia began in Buenos Aires, Argentina, although it is also possible to start in Santiago, Chile.

Patagonia is located on the territory of both countries and it was the logistics of my itinerary that led me to choose Buenos Aires as my entry point.

01-buenos aires

This South American metropolis has left its mark on me as much for its European architecture as for its distinct culture.

Indeed, I felt like I was in Europe and I wasn’t very out of place. Argentinian steaks are as good as you’d think!

02-buenos aires

A place not to be missed in Buenos Aires is the cemetery of
La Recoleta
Cemetery, one of the most beautiful mausoleum cemeteries in the world. The tombs of several famous personalities, mostly people who have left their mark on Argentina, can be found there.

03-la recoleta

Finally, there were neighborhoods a little more emblematic as
La Boca
.

This neighbourhood stands out for its colourful buildings and its pedestrian street El Camineto. This area has become purely touristic in recent years.

Today, unfortunately, there are souvenir shops and tourist attractions.

04-la boca

** Be careful when visiting
La Boca
because there are many pickpockets in the area. Tourists are often targeted by armed robberies outside business hours.

El Calafate

We then took a flight to
El Calafate
to see the famous Perito Moreno glacier.

Part of an important ice field in Patagonia, it is probably the most important tourist attraction in Argentina. This glacier is one of the few that is not retreating; it maintains its balance by advancing ~700 metres per year to compensate for its lost mass.

05-panorama de perito moreno

It is usually possible to watch the calving of the glacier; a recurring phenomenon where huge blocks and walls of ice collapse into the Lake Argentino.

06-effondrement d-un mur de glace
07-mur de glace neuve

As the glacier advances to reach the other side of the shore, it divides the lake in two like a dam and then submits to water pressures that seek to dismantle it.

The collapse of the glacier front is a spectacular event that occurs approximately every 3 to 8 years.

08-pont de glace
09-rupture du pont

We were lucky enough to witness the beginning of this show, when the glacier was beginning to give way under pressure.

Although we waited all day for the finale of this nature scene, it was only the next day that it completely collapsed. Normally, it is possible to kayak to get close to the glacier, but these massive breaks made it impossible during our passage.

I still remember the distinct sound of the ice walls breaking away and hitting the lake water.

10-lac argentino

El Chalten

We then took a little trip to El Chalten in order to see Mount Fitz Roy. To do so, we undertook a hike to one of the viewpoints of the Lagunas de los Tres.

11-vers le mont fitz roy

The difference in altitude of this hike was such that the change of terrain was very fast. We travelled about 20 kilometres in highly variable temperatures!

12-levé du soleil-2
13-randonnée

We were hoping to get to the viewpoint in time for lunch, but due to a heavy mix of wind and precipitation, we hurriedly started our descent after taking our pictures. Half an hour later, the sun had returned, but we no longer had the energy to go back up.

14-lagunas de los tres

We met several climbers preparing to climb the mountain! It is also possible to do glacier walks in this area.

As I was just back from New Zealand, where I spent a lot of time walking on glaciers in the region of Franz Josef, an Argentinian tour guide advised me that the ice in the region would not be as beautiful as the one on my previous trip. So I decided to pass.

However, my friends went there and confirmed the information. Here are two pictures they took on the Viedma glacier:

15-viedma glacier
16-viedma glacier

Puerto Natales

We returned to El Calafate (3h ~150km), then we continued towards Puerto Natales, in Chile (6h ~360km). It was a lot of driving, but I really wanted to go to the Los Glacieres national park and the Torres del Paine national park, which is in Chile. Fortunately, several very comfortable buses serve the territory.

We then rested at Puerto Natales, before starting a few days of camping at Torres del Paine. For those who wish to concenterr only on this national park, it is possible to get there by plane from Santiago.

Different buses regularly leave from Puerto Natales to the park entrance or to the ferry to get to the camp of Paine Grande. The trip takes around 2 hours.

Torres del Paine

The most famous trek in the surroundings is called the “W”, because all the paths of the park of Torres del Paine join to make a “W”.

The entire trek requires a minimum of five days and four nights to complete the ~80kms. Shelters and campgrounds are well positioned to make life easier for walkers.

17-randonnée dans torres del paine

However, it is possible to divide the hike and complete only certain parts of it (short version in 3 days). That’s what we did, because I was not at all happy with the idea of having to drag a tent and provisions for several days! We chose two specific campsites as bases for our hikes.

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We started with the most known and difficult trek; a round trip of ~20kms to the lake at the base of the towers of Las Torres.

19-base of the three towers

This is probably the hardest hike I’ve ever taken! I’m not a very fit person, but my desire to have new experiences and be amazed leads me to persevere and push the limits of my body.

The last kilometer was on a 400m difference in altitude and it took me everything to get over it!

20-massif paine grande
21-paine grande

We later crossed the lake Pehoe to arrive in the Vallée Française, where we went on several hikes, each one as impressive as the other.

The majority of the trails in the valley ended on a glacier.

22-vallée française-2

During our walk through the park, we walked a total of about 60km, spread over three days where we camped directly on site.

Never before have I been so disconnected from my routine in order to experience such a complete immersion with nature. It was an unforgettable experience!

25-prêts à partir avec le soleil

Once back at Puerto Natales, it is possible to take a flight to Santiago to finish your trip, or even to go to Easter Island (article to come)!

At the time of my visit to Patagonia, I had not yet planned my trip to Antarctica. That’s why we decided to go to Ushuaia, to do more hiking in Tierra del Fuego. The distance of 850km between Puerto Natales and Ushuaia took around 12 hours to cover by bus.

26-tierra del fuego

It is through this trip to Ushuaia that I developed the desire to go even further and prepare a
trip to Antarctica
!

27-ushuaia passport stamp-2

For more details on Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, please refer to My Antarctic Report!

Logistics

Flights

For those who would like to make this trip to Patagonia without passing through Ushuaia, I advise you to take a multi-destination plane ticket by arriving at Buenos Aires and departing from Santiago. You will need 60,000 Aeroplan miles to make this trip in economy class.

Internal flights from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, Ushuaia, Puerto Natales and Santiago can be paid for in points, but only by transferring Amex membership points to airline partners. Aerolinas Argentina and LATAM are part of SkyTeam.

It’s when I plan trips like these that I realize how valuable Amex Membership Rewards points are. I like to diversify my holdings and points are no exception. Although you shouldn’t earn miles and points without a goal, I think it’s important to always keep a bit of it aside.

When a travel opportunity arises, you can always transfer these points and use them with almost any airline!

The campsite

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Here is the list of campsites and the agency to contact to make reservations:

Locations Type Agency
Las Torres Refuge and Camping Fantastico Sur
Chileno Refuge and Camping Fantastico Sur
Seron Camping Fantastico Sur
El Frances Camping Fantastico Sur
Cuernos Refuge Fantastico Sur
Dickson Refuge Vertice Patagonia
Los Perros Camping Vertice Patagonia
Grey Refuge Vertice Patagonia
Paine Grande Refuge Vertice Patagonia
Paso Camping CONAF
Italiano Camping CONAF
Torres Camping CONAF

Finally, here is a map of the park with the location of campsites and shelters to help you plan your itinerary.

carte des campements

The circuits

In summary, it is possible to make several tours in Torres del Paine.

The W-shaped circuit

The “W” circuit

  • The most popular
  • Short version in 3 days or long version in 5 days
  • Can be done in both directions
  • Includes the highlights of the park: Torres del Paine, the French Valley and the Gray Glacier.
  • Campsites very well located to be able to do the treks with a simple day backpack.
  • Requires little hiking experience
  • Access to electricity, hot showers and places to buy food or essential items
  • Suggested route: Chileno or Central Camp → Italiano or Frances Camp → Paine Grande hut → Grey hut →

The O-circuit

The “O” circuit

  • Requires 6 to 10 days
  • Less traffic on the trails
  • More in-depth experience of the park without necessarily seeing more highlights
  • Obligation to bring everything you need with you throughout the circuit
  • Obligation to make the circuit counter-clockwise
  • Multi-day hiking experience recommended
  • Suggested route: Paine Grande hut → Frances hut → Torres hut → Serón hut → Dickson hut → Los Perros hut → Grey hut →

The circuit in Q

The “Q” circuit

  • Requires 7 to 11 days
  • Is an extension to the “O” circuit and the “W” circuit.
  • Full Torres del Paine Park Experience
  • Obligation to bring everything you need with you throughout the circuit
  • Obligation to make the circuit counter-clockwise
  • Multi-day hiking experience recommended
  • Suggested route: Paine Grande hut → Italiano hut → Torres hut → Serón hut → Dickson hut → Los Perros hut → Paso hut → Grey hut →
23-encore de la randonnée
Important notes
  • Canadians do not require a visa for Argentina and Chile
  • There are checkpoints where you’ll need to show proof of camp/hut reservations.
  • Basic camping equipment required
  • Walking sticks are recommended
  • A raincoat or poncho is a must!

Map Of Destinations

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

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