That’s gonna be a quick one. Barbara and I had a few days in El Calafate, basically with the sole goal to get up close with Perito Moreno, a rare breed when it comes to glaciers. First of all, it’s really big. On average 74 meters high above the lake and about five kilometers wide. Secondly, unlike most glaciers, Perito Moreno is advancing.
We caught a bus in El Calafate which stopped at the entrance of the Los Glaciares National Park for us to pay the park fee and then went on to the visitor center. There are several trails to explore the area and get different views of the north and south face of the glacier. There is also the possibility to get up close with it by tourist boat. Considering that we have done that in Alaska, we skipped the boat and stuck to walking.
Even when you are not on sea level looking up the glacier’s massive facade, it’s an impressive show to watch and hear blocks of ice thousands of years old breaking off and crashing into the lake.
And as always in Argentina, some good food is never too far away. El Calafate has a range of good restaurants. As our last act in Argentina, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at La Zaina.
With that, our time in South America comes to an end. It was an amazing experience to explore this part of the world in such depth. But as always, there are still many places to be seen. I guess we will just have to come back a few more times.
From Buenos Aires we flew down south to El Calafate from where our pre-arranged transport took us straight to El Chalten, the trekking and mountaineering capital of Argentina and maybe all of South America. The town itself is nothing special but there are some nice restaurants and bars around which are great after a long day of hiking.
Our hotel was a nice, chalet-style house close to pretty much everything. On the day of arrival we walked around the few streets and got some supplies from the small supermarket for our first hike planned for the next day. We went for dinner in a rustic looking restaurant called La Tapera and tried the local speciality; lamb stew. It wasn’t the last time we would eat here.
Our first hike was from El Chalten to Lago Torre, a small glacier lake at the feet of Cerro Torre, with 3’128 masl one of the highest peaks in the region. Heights in general are not a problem when trekking in Patagonia, very different from Ecuador or Peru where you already start at way above 3’000 masl.
We started at 8 AM, just a few minutes after sunrise. It promised to be a wonderful sunny day. The actual trail starts only a few dozen meters outside of El Chalten. It’s quite a beautiful hike, through bush landscapes, forests and along the river. Not too far into the hike, we could take a first look at the peaks that were awaiting us at the lake but with another 10 km in front of us it was a bit too early to think of the end. Overall, it wasn’t a hard hike and even if it had been, it would have been worth it for the views.
Back in the hotel, we had a little apero like back home with red wine, cheese and some potato chips.
Maybe it was the wine that suddenly made me think it might be a good idea to try and observe the sunrise up at Mount Fitz Roy. My buddy at the reception confirmed my suspicion, in order to make it for the first sunrays I would have to leave at around 4 AM the next morning. Well, it sure was a good thing I still had that headlight in my bag.
There was no moon when I left the hotel and as soon as I made it out of the town, everything around me turned pitch-black. It was a great experience, all alone in the mountains for several hours. Turning off the flashlight left me in the dark until my eyes adjusted and the clear sky exposed a sea of stars. Until the second campsite, about 45 minutes before reaching the top, the only other soul I encountered was a skunk sharing the path with me for a minute or two. It was 7.15 AM when I sat down to wait for the sun come up. A few others made it up for the spectacle from the close-by campsite. And a spectacle it was, indeed!
Usually, the way back down is rather boring and tiring. Not this time. Hiking up in the dark meant that I haven’t seen my surroundings along the way. Walking down in the morning sun let me appreciate all of it.
In fact, it was such a great hike that Barbara and I did the 25 kilometers together once again the next day, half of it in the dark. We had only one flashlight, Barbara led the way and I followed for the most part. We made it up just in time for the sunrise. Although the mountain wasn’t cast in the same warm colors as the day before, it was still beautiful and something we will remember.
Back in the hotel, celebrations were in order for Barbara’s first and possibly only night ascend ever. Oh, and there was steak, too.
Happy with our experiences, we relaxed on our last day in El Chalten and headed to El Calafate the day after. Glacier time!
Nope, we didn’t dance Tango. My fault, I’m rubbish at dancing. But we did watch a Tango show, that must count for something.
I am not usually giving unsolicited travel advice but if you ever end up going to Argentina: bring a decent amount of Argentinean Pesos or US Dollars with you! There are functioning ATMs but the fees are high and credit cards are not accepted everywhere.
We spent eight nights in the city, more than enough time to explore it properly without a rush. Our hotel was located in the city center, an eight minute Uber ride away from the famous tourist district Palermo but very close to a ton of other restaurants, bars, shopping and sightseeing opportunities as well as the modern and relaxed Puerto Madero. And although the city is huge, many of the more interesting sites can be reached on foot depending on where you are located and for the rest there is always Uber which in Buenos Aires is readily available and very affordable.
Our first walk around was in Puerto Madero and Plaza de Mayo. The weather was beautiful during our stay and made exploring the city very easy and enjoyable.
Casa Rosada – Office of the president
Another part of the city worth losing some hours to walk around and explore is Recoleta, especially on Saturday when the whole “barrio” turns into a street market. In the midst of it, there was some loud music coming from a small backyard. Of course we stepped in, and we didn’t regret it. Argentinean barbecue, beer and Rock’n’Roll, a good day had just become awesome.
Located a little further from the city center, the poorer neighborhood called La Boca invites locals and tourists alike to watch Tango dancing and stroll through El Caminito, a handful of streets lined with small bars and colorful houses.
And of course, no visit to Buenos Aires would be complete without spending some time in Palermo, a district full with shops, bars and good restaurants. We walked around the Japanese Garden and neighboring parks before enjoying and aperitif in one of the many bars. A little later, we got a table at one of the city’s most revered steakhouses: Don Julio. The service was excellent (we were served a glass of complimentary champagne while waiting for our table) and the meat was delicious. So was the rest of the food, but who cares about the sides when you have a perfectly grilled, 350 gram Bife de Chorizo in front of you.
While still in the city, we also met up with Luciano, a friend we made back in Cartagena. We got together for afterwork drinks, well, after his work. He showed us a few bars around where we were staying.
On another day, we took a speed ferry from Puerto Madero and crossed over to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The sailing time is only an hour and fifteen minutes and if time permits, it’s a nice daytrip to do.
Always searching for a good steak, we found Santos Manjares, a small restaurant only about a ten minute walk away from our hotel. It only opens for lunch hours and it’s usually very busy. We were told to wait twenty minutes for a table. We did, and we surely didn’t regret it. The cuts were tender, well prepared and very affordable. Here is a picture of my main:
As I had some space left, I also had dessert. Here is a picture of that, too:
I had to order the second steak twice because the waitress thought I was joking. I wasn’t. It was delicious!
And last but not least, I said in the beginning that we went to see a Tango show. We did, and we had dinner there, too. “Underwhelming” probably describes our overall impression of it best. But when in Rome…, right?