Many friends asked about our trip so I thought I would share the details of our trip here. We spent three weeks in South America from Dec 30, 2017 to mid January 2018.
Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, a 3.5 hours flight, and a 3 hours drive to El Chaltén.
Day 2 Cerro Torre Trek
Full day hike to Laguna Torres. This hike ends at Laguna Torres with Glaciar Torre and view of Cerro Torre which we didn’t see as it was shrouded in the low clouds.
Day 3 Monte Fitz Roy Trek
Let me share with you what we actually did and what I recommend you do instead.
Hired a car to take us to the starting point, El Pillar, 17Km north of El Chaltén. We started at 3am, hiked two hours to Point Poincenot to catch sunrise on Mt Fitz Roy. Instead of hiking up to Laguna de Los Tres at the base of Monte Fitz Roy, we took the easy flat trail to Lago Madre e Hijo then turned back. http://www.tanyeeming.com/the-best-day-hike-in-el-chalten/
In hindsight, I would do the following instead. Start from El Pillar to Campo Poincenot then go all the way to Laguna de Los Tres. On the way back, at Poincenot, take a different route and walk all the way downhill back to El Chalten town.
Tips at El Chaltén
1. The sun doesn’t set until around 9.30 or 10pm. You can still go out and explore El Chaltén after a full day hike. If the weather is good, make sure you go outdoor, walk to the river Rio Fitz Roy (entry to the town) and you get panoramic view of the mountain range with El Chaltén town in the foreground.
2. The best restaurant here is La Tapera. Their Locro, a Argentinian hearty stew and vegetable rice wok, a very wet fried rice with vegetable is surprisingly good.
3. Internet is very slow and no cellular signals.
4. We stayed at the top hotel Los Cerros which is so so and it is at the highest point in town. I would just be happy to stay in the cheaper places below and get a better view of Fitz Roy instead.
Transfer from El Chaltén to El Calafate and from there 30 mins drive to our next hotel Eolo Patagonia. Gorgeous little hotel in Estancia Alice with views of Lago Argentina on the north and Torres del Paine mountain range on the south.
Glaciar hiking at Perito Moreno, a full day excursion.
On the road. Travel by car from El Calafate on Ruta 40, stopped at La Esperanza, crossed the Argentina and Chilean border to arrive at our next hotel Tierra Patagonia. Beautiful five hour drive across Patagonian steppe. We arrived at Tierra in time for lunch and joined the afternoon excursion to Laguna Azul. Saw plenty of wildlife and waterfall on the drive to the lake. A stroll on the shore of Laguna Azul ending with a nice picnic while admiring the view.
Enjoy the day at the hotel. Woke up early to catch the sunrise on Torres del Paine mountain range, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, catch up with emails and reading, hang out with new friends, explore Lake Sarmiento right in front of the hotel and surrounding. A glorious day indeed.
Day 9 French Valley full day hike
A long day. A 45 minutes drive, then an hour or so on the boat and we finally got to Refugio Paine Grande to start the French Valley trail ( the middle leg of W).
Depart hotel for Punta Arenas airport, which is 4 hours drive away.
if I were to do this trip again, I would do either of these two things.
1. Spend one full day or stay one night in Punta Arenas. There are several amazing hotels here and visit the penguin colonies here at Isla Magdalena (half day tour).
2. If I have more time, I would tour Antarctica. There is a an 11-day Antarctic fly and sail cruise adventure from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Or fly to Ushuaia then go to Antarctic from there as more cruises leave from Ushuaia.
From Ushuaia which is in Argentina, fly back to Buenos Aires. This will make the international airfare much cheaper as you would fly in and out of Buenos Aires.