Patagonia – beauty has a price

Patagonia is a desired destination often found in the journals of most mountaineers, ornithologists, nature-lovers, adrenaline junkies and so on. It takes up a huge part of South America and is within the borders of Argentina and Chile.

You just don’t know where to begin, should you look at the glaciers, should you start climbing beautiful mountains or contemplate the view towards the valleys and lakes? Should you wander around the lakes and lagoons to look for all kinds of rare birds? Should you visit the places, where you can see dinosaur bones and other archaeological finds, whose age and origin are still being examined? Should you take a walk among penguins, walruses, and seals, or go canoeing in the midst of icebergs, or ride horses near the mountain lakes or do thousands of other things… The array of activities here is huge and it is very difficult to calculate how much money or time a person needs to cover it all.

Patagonia, Argentina

As always, we are very keen and energetic, ready for a challenge when we arrive at the airport in El Calafate after a 3-hour flight from Buenos Aires. We think that we’ve done our homework. We know what there is to visit in the region, we know how much time we have. The plan is simple – we settle in, we book a visit for the next day to the Perito Moreno Glacier and after that, we take the bus to Puerto Natales in Chile, where we’re going to make the famous W-trek. From there we come back to Argentina this time to El Chaltén and we are going to hike to the mountain lakes near the village, we even might go to the biggest glacier in Argentina – Viedma. After, we come back for a day in El Calafate and fly north to the Argentinian capital of wine, Mendoza.

El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina

The reality turned out to be a little different. There are a lot of people looking for edgy experiences and they arrive from everywhere with all kinds of transport. Don’t imagine the waiting lines at the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu, or The London Eye. It’s just that the tourist village El Calafate can offer the needed lodging and the food, but the tourist agencies don’t have the capacity to organize trips for everyone. After all, everything here is a reserve and you can’t do anything independently. No matter what you ask for, the answer is always the same – there are places available only after several days or the next week. The buses to Chile had available seats only three days later. We went from a tourist agency to a tourist agency for almost the whole day and visited several times the offices at the bus station so we could organize a sequence of activities according to our booked hostels and flights. In the end, we won’t see the Chilean part of Patagonia (nor hike the W trek) and we’ll lose the money we booked a night with. We’re staying 5 days in total at El Calafate, combined with visiting the local attractions, and then when we come back from El Chaltén we are hiking to the Perito Moreno Glacier. When in El Chaltén we’ll have the time to visit the Viedma Glacier.

We tried about a dozen different combinations in order to get to Chile, but it turned out to be an impossible feat. Even hiring a car was off-limits, because the vehicle is free in a week.

El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina
It is 21:00 and we still haven’t found a car but at least is nothing close to dark outside…

What is the conclusion? If you are coming here in the tourist season, you’d better book in advance (it looks like it’s more expensive) or give yourself more time, so you can juggle different options.

Or you can go in winter when you might be even able to witness the Southern Lights in Patagonia!

It is of importance that we should believe that whatever we managed to organize would be worth all efforts.

Let’s travel to South America! Here’s our 2-month South America backpacking itinerary.

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