20 Jul Patagonia – The end of the world, glaciers, and penguins
I wanted to go to Patagonia for as long as I can remember, to be at the bottom of the world, in the mountains, surrounded by lakes, glaciers, and nature. I was so happy to be able to see it during my world tour, and I literally loved every single thing about it. It was relaxing, serene, beautiful, and so worth the travel.
Patagonia is a region that spans across both Chile and Argentina. I elected to see the Argentine side because as an American, I had to pay my reciprocity fee of $140 in advance to enter Argentina, so I decided to spend my full Patagonian experience in Argentina.. I started this leg of my trip flying from Santiago, staying one night in Buenos Aires, then flying to El Calafate on Aerolinas Argentina the next afternoon. There are bus services to Patagonia between both Buenos Aires and Santiago, however I was not interested in spending 20 hours on a bus. I found reasonable one-way flights at about $150 each all on Aerolineas Argentina.
Side note: During my trip in Argentina, President Barack Obama visited and the reciprocity fee was lifted from American tourists.
Landing in El Calafate was definitely the most beautiful arrival I had ever seen. Just outside the glacier park, the icy blue waters and peaks greet you. The views from the airport are awe-inspiring and I couldn’t wait to get to town and check into my hostel.
This mountain town didn’t disappoint. I felt like I was in Colorado, at home. The cool, crisp, dry air with Pine and Aspen trees – it felt like any mountain town in Colorado. One morning I laid in bed with the window open and I could hear the wind rustling in the leaves and it smelled and sounded like an autumn I was familiar with.
America del Sur Hostel is more of a mountain lodge than a hostel, it overlooks the lake and the forest, it’s quiet and cozy. The smell of the clean fresh air was a very welcomed break from the pollution of the bigger cities.
Glacier park and Perito Moreno
El Calafate is as close to El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares as you can stay, so naturally I had another 5am wakeup call to board the bus to the park. I was floored. My heart was full looking at the Perito Moreno glacier. I remember standing on the dock taking the photo below and thinking I did this – this is my best achievement, I am standing in Patagonia. I took, and highly recommend taking, the boat tour out to the glacier wall. Walls of blue ice sound like thunder or gun shots and they break away and splash into the frigid waters below.
The arch that made this glacier famous had ruptured just three days before my arrival so my view wasn’t as expected, but still overall absolutely breathtaking.
The next day I walked the small town, rested, and hung out with my three Vietnamese roommates. I have to say, this was my first time in a hostel where I was the only non-Asian in a non-Asian country. After day one we were friends and laughing about how I got put in a room with them. I had an amazing home cooked meal from them that last night and without wifi we sat in our room joking, talking about travels, dancing, and of course discussing Asian stereotypes. That was one of the best hostel experiences of my trip.
Three calm days in El Calafate quickly passed and I went back to the airport to fly another 90 minutes south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
Affectionately known as the end of the world or tierra del fuego, this is the last stop before Antarctica. In fact, this is where all Antarctic cruises depart from.
Arrival in Ushuaia was again, the best landing of my entire life.
I rented an apartment in Ushuaia which ended up being one of the best accommodations of my trip. I had a gorgeous view and was just a few minutes to the main street, the harbor, and the grocery store. I was surprised that I went from wearing a swimsuit in Chile a few days before to wearing my winter ski jacket as the snow just started to fall. All I wanted to do was see penguins in Ushuaia. I knew this was as close to them as I was probably ever going to get in nature so I signed up for the penguin tour through the Beagle Channel. We left the harbor for the four hour tour and we saw sea lions, penguins, and a humpback whale. The waters were calm and I was alive and happy in Patagonia. Everything about it was so relaxing and quiet. I wondered how people could live so far away from the rest of the world, but after being there, I understood how amazing it was.
As I packed up to head back to the cities, I took in the last few views, zipped up my jacket, and went to the airport. 3.5 hours later I was back in Buenos Aires waiting for my cousin to meet me for 10 days of bonding and sightseeing.