Bodegas, Glaciers, Lakes and Breathtaking Landscapes
Antofagasta de la Sierra is a remote region in northwestern Argentina that offers some of the best overlanding on the planet. The 4×4 trails are rough, but you will be rewarded by amazing landscapes including flamingo filled lakes, pumice fields (including the spectacular Camp de Piedra Pomez), remote volcanos and salt flats.
Rafting trips on the Futaleufú River in Chile are perhaps one of the top 5 commercial river rafting trips in the world. The Futaleufú or “Futa” is big and blue, with numerous class IV and V rapids. The most famous section is called “bridge to bridge”. Bio Bio Expeditions offers amazing but expensive 8 day trips on the Futa which involve a wide range of activities including of course rafting using their lodge and safari style tent accommodations as a base. But there are cheaper ways to raft the Futa, including one day trips down selected sections of the river. Whoever you go with, make sure that they are a reputable operation since the rapids are huge and “swimming” down a class IV or V rapid on the Futa would be exciting and, potentially, dangerous.
Buenos Aires is perhaps the nicest and one of the most affordable cities in Latin America for westerners due to the weak Argentinian Peso. Known as the “Paris of South America” Buenos Aires is a fascinating city full of wonderful cafes and restaurants. It also provides numerous cultural opportunities including museums, Tango shows and lessons.
While we were in Argentina, we visited several wine regions including Cafayate, Mendoza and Valle de Uco. While we liked the relative sophistication of the Mendoza wineries, we loved the more off the beaten path feel of Cafayate. Cafayate is a newer region, but nevertheless includes several wineries that make great Malbecs, Torrontes and other wines. Good day trips around Cafayate include Quebrade de Cafayate (go in the late afternoon), a beautiful canyon with landscapes that reminded us of some of the national parks in Utah.
The Ruta de los Siete Lagos is a route from past beautiful mountain scenery in the Argentinian Lakes District. The scenery is beautiful but after over a year in third world countries, we appreciated the more upscale towns like San Martin de Los Andes and Villa la Angostura. We weren’t as impressed by Bariloche.
Glacier Perito Moreno is a beautiful glacier close to the town of El Calafate, a cute town which like El Chaltén offers plenty of accommodation options and restaurants. We’d recommend getting to the entrance of the park as soon as it opens to avoid the crowds. The morning is also the best time of day to take pictures of the glacier. At the end of the day, however, as our overlanding friends pointed out, Perito Merino is just one of numerous amazing glaciers in Chile. As a result, it’s not worth the detour if you are visiting others.
El Chaltén is home to several long hikes in the Fitz Roy Range. El Chaltén itself is a nice town with plenty of accommodation options and restaurants. There are 3 longer hikes, all of which are worth doing, including the hikes to Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre. We’d recommend giving yourself a few extra day in El Chaltén in case the weather is cloudy and getting an early start for all of the hikes to avoid the crowds.
The San Rafael Glacier and the Marble Caves can both be explored via boat tours from Puerto Rio Tranquillo. Boat tours to the Marble Caves (go in the morning) are cheap. Boat tours to the San Rafael Glacier (which we didn’t have time to do) are more expensive. Make sure to go on a tour to the Marble Caves in the am when the light is best (if you are a photographer, you may even want to consider arranging a private tour to get a picture of the caves at sunrise when the light enters the caves).
The Carretera Austral is a 1,240km route from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, Chile in rural Patagonia. It isn’t as adventurous as it used to be (much of it is paved or being paved). But it’s still an amazing overland route through one of the most beautiful regions of all of South America.
Leah getting ready to ride one of Ernesto’s cattle horses in Northern Argentina. I really wanted a pair of Ernesto’s lamb skin chaps but decided that it wasn’t justified given my poor riding skills.
An amazing four wheel drive route in Parque Pumalín
Argentina and Chile are home to a diverse number of ethnic groups including the native Argentines. We particularly enjoyed spending time in hauso/gaucho and Mapuche communities of Patagonia. A hauso (Chile)/gaucho (Argeninta) is a term used to refer to the migratory horsemen of Argentina and Chile who today have settled in small farming communities throughout Patagonia and still live alot like they did 100 years ago, relying on their beautiful horses for herding and transportation. While the Mapuche, who are native Amerindians, generally live in small fishing communities on the coast or the edge of fjoprds and lakes in the same region.