Where to go trekking in the Argentinian Patagonia

Situated way down at the southern end of South America and shared by Argentina and Chile, the Patagonia is a region of unbelievable natural beauty that plays home to snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes and blue-iced glaciers. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world I’ve travelled to and while I was there a few years ago now, back when I unfortunately wasn’t blogging,  the memories come flooding back as I wrote this. Here are a few of the places I visited:

Ushuaia

My Patagonia adventure began in Ushuaia, officially the southern-most city in the world, and an industrial port city hemmed in on one side by the Andes. I managed to pick up a good deal on a flight from Bariloche though it is possible to make the LONG journey by bus along Route 40 when it is open between October and March.

My budget didn’t allow for explorations further south to Antarctica on one of the many ships leaving town though I did enjoy a fantastic morning’s sailing trip through the Beagle Channel. The beautiful scenery aside, it’s an area teeming with wildlife including hundreds of seals perched on Seal island, which you smelt before you saw!  Tours can easily be booked in town.

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Sailing through the Beagle Channel

I also spent a few days hiking in the beautiful Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is easy to get to on one of the many shuttle buses that cover the +-10 mile journey from town.   There are a number of walks available (including to the Black Lagoon, so coloured because of the peat, and round Lapataia Bay) while it is also possible to camp in the park.

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The view walking round Lapataia Bay

El Calafate

From Ushuaia I made my way to El Calafate; a journey that involved a transport ferry, three buses, four border crossing (we crossed into Chile and then back into Argentina) and some 19 hours!

I was not a huge fan of El Calafate, finding it overrun with tourists, but there’s a good reason for that, though, as everyone is in town to see the mind-blowing Perito Moreno glacier. Measuring 30km long, 5km wide and 60m high, it’s really too big to appreciate when you’re up close though you can fully ‘feel’ the noise of the cracking ice. Should your budget allow, you’re able to walk on the glacier  which no doubt would be an incredible experience though it can be done for far cheaper elsewhere as mentioned below.

This does the size absolutely no justice
This does the size absolutely no justice

El Chalten

While El Calafate disappointed as a town, El Chalten was the complete opposite. Located an easy three-hour bus ride away from El Calafate, it’s a small town that sits almost in a bowl surrounded by spectacular scenery with everyone I met being super friendly. I arrived mid-morning and after dropping my bag at the hostel promptly set off on a few short walks taking in the magnificent views in every direction.

Wearing crampons for the first time!
Wearing crampons for the first time!
Ice climbing for the first time
Ice climbing for the first time

The following morning I headed to the Torro glacier, at the base of Cerro Torre, to try some ice walking. The heavy cloud and rain in no way dampened the phenomenal experience though it did mean we unfortunately had no view whatsoever. It’s an easy three walk in, and not strenuous at all to walk on the glacier, while it also significantly cheaper trying ice walking here than on Perito Moreno.

While on the glacier tour, I met three American students doing a semester in BA and the following day we went trekking to the base of Fitz Roy, Argentina’s tallest peak. Thankfully the previous day’s clouds had given way to gorgeous sunshine and clear skies and it was a spectacular (and long 10 hour) day’s hiking that saw us also detour to Glacier Piedras Blancas; the last part being a fun scramble over over massive boulders.

The cover picture to this blog is Fitz Roy, 3405m with Poincenot to the left.

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I joined my new friends for for a treat dinner that night and after three courses, a number of glasses of Malbec and roughly 80kms of trekking over the three days, I slept so well! I was off the next morning but was staying in the Patagonia and it was time for some trekking in Chile.

Practical Note – Hiking here is free

In addition to being absolutely stunning, it’s completely free to hike in the area with no park fees payable. The town itself is more pricey than the rest of the country but cooking your own meals at the hostel will make it a very affordable few days.

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