El Calafate

After hiking the “W” in Torres del Paine, our next stop in Southern Patagonia was El Calafate. The primary draw of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier. The glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (which is the 2nd largest contiguous extrapolar ice field in the world), and is in Los Glaciares National Park.
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We took a day trip to the glacier from Calafate, which was roughly a 1.5 hour bus ride away. We spent much of the day just watching the glacier. Watching ice may not sound like the most riveting thing to do, but it became a bit of a hobby for Erin and I while in Patagonia.

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You can occasionally catch the glacier calving, which is when chunks of ice fall from the end of the glacier.

The park featured miles of raised walkways with viewpoints, so that you could view the massive glacier from varying angles.
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We also celebrated Thanksgiving whilst in Calafate, and did so with some delicious Patagonian Lamb.

Ushuaia – the End of the World

We finally arrived in Ushuaia from Puerto Madryn after 4 buses, 1 ferry, 2 border crossings and 36 long hours. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and is on the island at the very tip of South America – Tierra del Fuego. Although we probably would have gone there anyway, the main reason for our visit was because our cruise to Antarctica left from Ushuaia.

We got into town a few days before our cruise to check out the area. The first day we hiked up into the mountains above the city to check out a glacier and the view from above the city.

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The next day we did a 4 x 4 off road jeep tour. The tour started off pretty tame with some visits to some beautiful lakes. Then we did the “off road” part to get to a little cabin in the woods.

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At the cabin, the drivers cooked us a typical Argentine asado with a lot of wine and meat and gave us choripan (sausage sandwiches) while we waited for the steak. Luckily we took a regular road back to town – I was in a serious meat coma!

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Behind the city are the last of the Andes Mountains and in front, the Beagle Canal. Besides being a tourist destination, Ushuaia is a busy port city with a lot of barges and cruise ships going in and out all the time. It was a nice little city to spend a few days in but I think we spent a lot of that time talking about and getting ready for our cruise to Antarctica!

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Puerto Madryn and the Valdes Peninsula

After Bariloche, we went to Puerto Madryn, which is the main stopping point for any activities on the Valdes Peninsula.

One of the big things to do on the Valdes Peninsula is to take a day trip driving around the peninsula to check out some of the local wildlife and then going out on a boat to see the Southern Right whales.

Erin had already visited the area when she studied abroad in Argentina in 2007, so she hung back at the hostel while I went on the tour of the peninsula.

I saw a variety of wildlife on the tour, from Magellanic Penguins to Elephant Seals to Rheas to Armadillos to Whales and a few other animals.

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The main attraction was certainly the Southern Right whales. They got their name from early whalers who considered them the ‘right’ whale to hunt, probably due to their docile nature. Another interesting thing about these whales is all of the marks you see. This is from the seagulls who hang around in the water waiting for the whale to come up for air to then start eating away at it. Apparently this is causing an increase in the mortality rate of the Southern Right whale, and the whales are slowly modifying their behavior when coming up for air. Cursed gulls (shakes fist in the air)!

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The day tour of the Valdes Peninsula was our primary reason for visiting Puerto Madryn, so we didn’t do much else save for walking along the coast.

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We just got back from Antarctica (!!!!) but have a bit of a backlog of posts to do before we get those pictures up, so we’ll try to catch up quickly!

We were in Bariloche for a few days at the end of October.  Although I liked the actual town of San Martín better, Bariloche had more hikes and parks to visit and a great bus system that could get you just about anywhere without a car.  The drive from San Martín to Bariloche was great! The bus drove through an area known as the 7 Lakes (you can guess why) and the views were incredible.

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We hadn’t had any weather problems on our trip so far but our luck ran out in Bariloche. We had both been excited about lots of hiking and going on a bike ride through the Llao Llao National Park, but the rain, snow and high winds had other plans for us. The first full day there we headed out to try to rent some bikes but as soon as we got to the shop, there was a downpour. So we headed up to a nearby lookout that was supposed to have some great views, but the rain and cloud cover just made for a wet hike.

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As soon as we got back into town though, the weather turned around. We checked out the views from the lake that Bariloche sits on and then went to the downtown area. Bariloche is famous for chocolate and has at least a dozen chocolate shops downtown – almost all of which give you free samples for going in. When we had arrived in town the night before, we visited pretty much every shop and we picked our favorite to go back to for some cake.

On the lake Bariloche Street Bariloche Cake!

The next day we woke up to snow, so we headed out to a little village about an hour from town called Colonia Suiza. The village was a bust with virtually nothing to keep us busy until the next bus came 4 hours later, but we found a nice lake and Brandon made some dog friends.

Colonia Suiza Lake Dog Friends

We decided that for our last full day, we were going to go for a longer hike, rain or shine. We bundled up and set off and got to the lookout point just as a storm was rolling in (you can see it off to the left in the pictures). We hiked the rest of the day with alternating snow, hail and sun but we were happy that we finally got a good view!



View from Hotel Cerro Llao Llao Bariloche-PANO

We rewarded ourselves for sticking out the weather with a trip to a local brewery for dinner.


Before catching the bus on our final day, the weather finally cooperated, so we stretched our legs with a walk around the lake before boarding a bus across the country to Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast.

Last day in Bariloche

San Martín de los Andes

When we started looking for buses to get from Pucon, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina, we quickly came to the conclusion that there was no direct way to do it and we would have a several hour layover any way we went.  Since we don’t really like hanging around bus stations for 4 to 5 hours with all our stuff, we decided to break up the trip and spend a few days in one of the spots we’d have to change buses anyway.  We settled on San Martín.

San Martín de los Andes is an adorable little town.  Even though we’ve now seen several towns modeled like a European alpine village, this one was my favorite.  We only stayed here for two nights but I would go back in a heartbeat.  The scenery was beautiful and there were several hikes that we did right from town – always a plus if you don’t have to drive or bus to be able to hike.  Here are a few pictures from our visit.

Overlooking the town

Lake overlook

Brandon!Erin at LakeBeachMain StreetSan Martin Plaza