Tuesday 18 June 2024

Journey To The End Of The Earth – Patagonia

Oddly enough, this journey started at the baggage carousel in Guilin airport where I got to chatting with Norm, a retired American who was hauling some serious camera gear.

He informed me that he had sold his business last year and set out on an epic bucket-list journey to photograph the most spectacular destinations on the planet. His current target was China and he had lined up numerous locations starting with Yangshuo.

Always on the lookout for new adventure ideas, I asked Norm which destination his favourite was to date, and without hesitation he said ‘Patagonia.’ He had recently completed a long trek through this remote region of Argentina and was blown away by the landscapes.

The seed was planted.

Plans for Christmas in Canada were shelved, and I fired up the internet and began researching and booking 15 days in Argentina.

Buenos Aires

Many large cities serve only one purpose – that is to provide an international airport connection to the more interesting parts of a country. Buenos Aires is not one of those cities. One can easily chew up a week soaking in its charms and exploring.

Palermo is without question the best neighbourhood to stay. Many of the city’s best restaurants, cafes and small independent shops are located here. The craft beer craze has hit Buenos Aires and there are many excellent pubs scattered throughout Palermo. There is also a large weekend market with hundreds of vendors selling crafts, jewellery, leather goods and other artisanal products.


Ed’s Hotel Recommendation: Be Jardin Escondido by Coppola

Francis Ford Coppola came to Buenos Aires for the making of his film “Tetro” and he fell in love with the city. Now his home in Buenos Aires is open to guests, offering bed & breakfast services. Reviews

Ed’s Hotel Recommendation: Magnolia Hotel Boutique

Magnolia Hotel Boutique was built in 1892 and recently remodeled. If you Reviews

Ed’s Restaurant Recommendation: Don Julio

When in Argentina, eat beef. And we followed this axiom so closely that by the end of this trip we would not want to see another steak. We tried many highly-rated steak restaurants and Don Julio stood out from the pack. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a massive grill where chefs frantically flip dozens of succulent cuts of meat. Reviews

Rojo Tango

There are endless options to watch Tango in Buenos Aires; we decided on a professional show and were not disappointed.

Sunday Antique Fair San Telmo

The antique shops in this district are open all week but on Sundays, hundreds of antique vendors take to the streets. Reviews

Teatro Colon

USD100 million was recently spent to renovate this grand old theatre. Imagine what it would cost to construct it from the ground up! The tour left us wishing we would have been in town long enough to attend an opera. Reviews

Tortoni Café

Established in 1858 by a French immigrant, this café was frequented by painters, writers, journalists and musicians. The walls are covered with paintings and photographs that were accepted in lieu of payments for tabs from patrons. Drop by for a coffee and cake. Reviews

Get Your Hair Cut

Numerous vintage barber shops have sprung up in Palermo in recent years. 20 bucks will get you looking your best in 15 minutes.

Day Trip to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Reminiscent of Macau before Vegas arrived, but without an equivalent Fernando’s, sleepy Colonia is well-worth the 60-minute ferry ride from Buenos Aires. You can easily visit the small museums, shops and have lunch during a day trip, or spend a night and feel the history of this colonial town. Reviews

El Calafate

The small town of El Calafate, a 3-hour flight from Buenos Aires, is the entry point into Patagonia.

Ed’s Hotel Recommendation: Mirador Del Lago

This comfortable, quiet hotel is in an excellent location less than 15 minutes-walk from the town centre. The staff is extremely friendly and the inclusive breakfast was superb. Reviews

Estancia Cristina

Our stay at this remote lodge, accessible only by boat, was without question, the highlight of our trip to Argentina. The journey starts with a 3-hour boat trip across Lake Argentino that passes huge icebergs that have calved from the glaciers that converge on the lake.

There are a number of excellent excursions from the Estancia, with the best being the 14km hike through some of the most scenic and rugged terrain in the world. The walk starts with a 4-wheel drive ride to a high point, from which you follow a gentle downwards path back to the Estancia (suitable for anyone with moderate fitness). Reviews
The Valley of Fossils

Perito Moreno Glacier

The power of ice on display here is awe-inspiring. Viewing platforms allow you to get within a hundred metres or so of the glacier so that you can watch as huge chunks of ice calve and crash into the water.

We recommend hiring a car and driver to make the 75-minute drive from El Calafate to the glacier. We’d also suggest not bothering with the boat tours that get you no closer to the glacier than if you observe from the many free to access decks.

El Chalten

The 3-hour drive from El Calafate to El Chalten passes through some of the most remote and desolate terrain in all of Argentina. In fact, this is where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came to hide when they were on the run from the law.

“La Leona” Roadhouse & Country Lodge

Mid-point between El Calafate and El Chalten, this historic property is where Butch and Sundance hid from the law; it is also where many expeditions into the wild regions and mountains of Patagonia got their start. It drips with history and is well worth interrupting your journey for a coffee and a snack.

Ed’s Hotel Recommendation: Hosteria El Pilar

El Chalten is a dusty, wind-swept very small town that exists solely as the starting point for treks to Mount Fitz Roy. Unless mediocre restaurants and hotels are your thing, you will not be missing out on much if you stay at Hosteria El Pilar which is located a 30-minute drive from El Chalten (and right at the entrance to the Fitz Roy trail). Reviews 
Mount Fitz Roy
For the most part the trek to this magical mountain is not difficult, however if you have spent the past 12 months primarily drinking beer, watching TV, and making up excuses not to go to the gym, the last leg will leave you desperately gasping for air and regretting ever stepping foot in Patagonia. And we can’t have that as your final memory of Argentina. The alternative is to take a leisurely walk to a good spot on the track before the horrific uphill ascent, take some wonderful photos of the mountain, then return to Hosteria El Pilar, and enjoy a bottle of excellent Argentinian red, some empanadas and finish with a large piece of cake. Always end a journey on a positive note!