Patagonia is a geographical region located in the southernmost part of South America, comprising areas of southern Argentina and Chile. Geographically, the Andes divide Patagonia into sectors East and West: the Patagonia Argentina to the east, and the Chilean Patagonia to the west. While there is no consensus on the exact limits or criteria to define them as the most recognized boundaries, 75.5% of the land belongs to Argentina, and the remaining 24.5% to Chile. The region comprises the southern section of the Andes mountains as well as the deserts, steppes and grasslands east of this southern portion of the Andes.
Patagonia is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life. However, getting there is more difficult than it would seem. Inconvenient flight times (11pm, 5am, 7am) for a 3 hour flight to one of the southern most cities in the world seemed odd. Arriving at 2am from Buenos Aires was exhausting, but at least we made it.
Flying into Calafate is one of the only ways to access Los Glaciers National Park, which consists of the famous Perito Moreno Glacier and Mt. Fitz Roy. Due to it’s magnificent natural beauty, it was declared a “World Heritage” by UNESCO in 1981.
Walking around, enjoying the landscape and nature, I was instantly entranced by Patagonia. We explored the quaint town of El Calafate, which reminded us of Jindabyne, Australia. Michael and I lived in Jindabyne back in 2010 where we worked at Perisher Ski Resort for a season. Jindabyne is a small ski town just a short drive up the mountain to the resort, but with the lake and beautiful, quiet countryside, we felt like we were back there. It was peaceful.
Lago Argentino can’t be overlooked either. A quiet walk around the Laguna Nimez Reserve, a bird and nature preserve, is complete with wild Flamingos! I had no idea that Flamingos were in Patagonia, but low and behold, here they are, standing on one leg and flying around (I may sound ignorant here, but I had no idea Flamingos could even fly. Damn you, San Diego Zoo, for sheltering me.). Their wing span is beautiful though — Hot pink, light pink, and black. Gorgeous.
Perito Moreno Glacier.
This glacier is one of the most famous in the world. Most notably due to its massive size. A day trip to Perito Moreno, Glaicer National Park, is not to be missed. I’ve never seen a glacier before, but it’s been on my bucket list for a long time. The Park is about an hour and a half bus ride from Calafate. Wild horses, cattle and sheep, ranches everywhere, stunning crystal blue lakes from glacial runoff – So picturesque. And the first glimpse of the glacier is like the first time you see “The Matterhorn” at Disneyland on your drive from San Diego to LA (San Diegans know what I mean when I reference this!). Excitement stirs through me!
A little history: Perito Moreno Glacier is larger than all of Buenos Aires. That fact alone is enough to make your head spin. The peaks extend approximately 60-80 meters above the water and 100 meters below. It’s also one of the most popular glaciers because of it’s easy accessibility — One hour car ride (1.5-2 hr by bus), from Calafate, $215 ARG pesos ($25 USD) to enter the National Park of Glaciers. We booked a tour through Hielo & Aventura once we arrived in Calafate, but I suggest booking in advance to ensure your spot. Unfortunately, the “Big Ice” tour was booked for the week and we were only in town for a few days so we “settled” for the “Mini Trekking” option. I say “settled” because it was still absolutely incredible. The day started with a few hours admiring the glacier from multiple lookout points. Every few minutes chunks of ice would fall off the glacier – You hear a loud crack then watch it fall into the water some 70+ meters above, ending with a giant splash that would send large waves throughout Lago Argentino; big enough that they could probably be surfed! We could have easily sat and watched the glacier all day, constantly changing and moving — truly mesmerizing. We would later pass giant pieces of ice floating in the water on the boat portion of our tour. I felt like Titanic (in a non-morbid way).
The boat dropped us at the camp where we hiked to the glacier, a 15-20 minute walk through the forest and we arrived at the base of the glacier, ready for crampons! My first time using them and I felt like Bambi, or a baby giraffe. Either way, you get the picture. But then the fun really started — We hiked up the glacier, maneuvering around caverns and waterfalls, streams and holes. Every peak we reached, the view kept getting better. Truly an amazing experience.
Our ice trekking was about 1.5 hours (Big Ice is 3 hours on ice so we’ll want to do that next time, but was booked this time unfortunately), and afterward WHISKEY! Complete with glacial ice. FUN FACT: This is the only time we’ll be drinking Whiskey where the ice is older than the alcohol. Even though I’m not a Whiskey fan AT ALL (and Michael always makes me taste his Whiskey drinks and enjoys the disgusted face I make 😛 YUCK!), I embraced the culture and the moment (YOLO), and enjoyed a glass on this beautiful landscape.
I’ve never seen a glacier or iceberg before but it’s been on my bucket list for a long time. The Perito Moreno Glacier moves two meters a day (at max), and this is one of the only glaciers that keeps its size, more or less. Meaning, it produces as much ice as it loses each year – This is a good sign! So if you want to see a glacier, come to Patagonia and check out Perito Moreno, I PROMISE, you won’t be disappointed.
A couple days in Calafate is enough to take day trips to Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paines, then a few days to hike in Chalten to see Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, then you should get down to Terra del Fuego and Ushuaia, a part of the country we missed, and definitely regret.
– Terra del Fuego
– Big Ice Tour on Perito Moreno
– Trekked Perito Moreno Glacier
– Quiet town – A nice change from the big cities
– Safe – First time we felt completely safe walking around
– Difficult to get to – Unfortunately, the flights from Buenos Aires to Calafate aren’t the most convenient. We ended up taking the 11pm flight, arriving in Patagonia at 2am. And it was surprisingly packed! To be honest, it was actually nice to arrive, sleep, and wake up there. The other flights were at 5am and 7am. Which we would have had to wake up at 2am anyways to make it to the airport in time. Not ideal either way. So my advice is to do the 11pm flight if you’re coming from Buenos Aires.
– Glacier ice is older than the Whiskey
– Drinking water straight from the glacier is the best tasting water EVER! Nothing like fresh glacial water to keep me hydrated.
Next stop: A 3 hour bus ride to El Chalten to do some real Patagonia trekking! (Note: This is a beautiful drive, so I suggest getting to the bus station 30-45 minutes before your bus departs to ensure you get the upper deck front row seats. You won’t regret it! Wild llamas, horses, and on a clear day, views of Fitz Roy from miles away.