Patagonia two - Los Glaciares

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Where is Los Glaciares national park 

Los Glaciares National Park is in an area known as the Austral Andes in Argentina (I like to think of it as the Argentinian side of Patagonia). The countries of Argentina and Chile are roughly divided by a line along the highest points of the Andes Mountain Range in South America. I heard a rumour while on my trip that the border is laced with landmines - so hiking between the two countries is ill advised. The two most popular attractions within this national park are Monte Fitz Roy and Glaciar Perito Moreno.

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How to get there:

The easiest way to get to Los Glaciares National Park is via a 3h15 direct daily flight from Buenos Aires to the town of El Calafate, Argentina. When I visited the park I had transportation organized by Venture Patagonia - but public transportation is available within the area and hitchhiking is not only very safe in Patagonia but also a very common practise as popular destinations are not always very near to one another. For example, the town of El Calafate (which is the nearest town to the Glaciar Perito Moreno) is 213km ( a 3h15 drive) from El Chaltén (where Monte Fitz Roy is located). But the town of El Calafate is still a 90 minute drive (96km) from Glaciar Perito Moreno (there are many tours you can book to the glacier). If you are renting a car, note that the petrol station in El Chaltén is cash only (Argentinian pesos) and oftentimes the ATMs are out of cash (especially on Sundays) so before leaving El Calafate strongly consider stocking up on cash. If you found all of that at least a little confusing... welcome to Patagonia! 

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climate:

The average annual maximum temperature in El Chaltén, Argentina is 12° Celsius (54° Fahrenheit) and the average annual minimum temperature is 2° Celsius (36° Fahrenheit). Since it is not right on the ocean the temperatures fluctuate a little bit more than other parts of Patagonia. The hottest month of the year is January and the coldest month is typically July. The weather can be unpredictable in the region, for example when we were there in mid-April we had absolutely beautiful weather and I was hiking the trail in shorts but two days after we left the campgrounds were under several feet of snow and the following week it rained for over a week straight and nobody saw Fitz Roy.  

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what to pack:

My packing list below is based on the itinerary provided, two nights of backpacking as well as several days in El Calafate and El Chaltén doing more casual tourist activities. None of the items listed below are sponsored - just items that I use, trust and love.

clothes:

-Hiking boots - I purchased these boots the night before the trip and had to issues with them. 
-Waterproof jacket - I brought both a Patagonia GoreTex jacket from a few years ago as well as my red North Face Venture jacket
-Lightweight wind jacket - I haven't gone anywhere without my little yellow Patagonia Houdini Jacket in over a year
-Down or synthetic jacket - I brought two colours of the L3 from the North Face Summit Series
-Hiking pants - I am a fan of lululemon studio pants
-Wool hiking socks - at least 3 pairs
-Leggings/thermal leggings - I packed Glyder Apparel's High Waisted Pure Leggings and High Power Leggings for this trip
-Long sleeve thermal shirt
-Underwear/sports bras
-Touque
-Gloves

gear:

-Refillable water bottles - I brought a 21oz HydroFlask for day hikes, a 48oz Nalgene for backpacking and a little 16oz Nalgene for coffee (since Nalgene are built with surgical grade plastic it is safe to put boiling water in them... this one is also the perfect size for a backpacking hot water bottle)
-Backpacking backpack - I brought my 50L North Face Women's Banchee and had more than enough room on all of our trips.
-Daypack - I brought my 24L Osprey Women's Sirrus bag (and it comes with a rain cover built in)
-Raincover for backpacks
-Headlamp - I use the Petzl Actik Core headlamp, I like that it is rechargeable, lightweight and incredibly bright
-Tent - I brought my North Face Triarch 2 - don't forget to make sure you have a rain fly and a footprint!
-Sleeping bag - I brought my North Face Women's Blue Kazoo with a
-Sleeping mat - I use a Nemo Astro Lite Sleeping Pad
-Camping pillow - This is something I swear by, camping pillowes are a game changer, my go-to is the Nemo Fillo

misc:

-Argentinian pesos. This more than any other trip I have been on was cash reliant.
-Toiletries
-Camera - I use the Sony a6000
-International power converter (Chile and Argentina use different outlet types)
-Casual walking shoes
-Sunglasses
-Camping towel

Additional items that I don't personally use but could be useful:

-Rain pants
-Neck warmer (buff)
-Trekking poles
-Fleece jacket

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seven day Itinerary: 

day one: Fly into El Calafate via Buenos Aires and drive to El Chaltén.

day two: Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit day one - hike to Poincenot campground. We left after lunch and had plenty of time not only to make it to the campground but also to scout out Laguna de Los Tres for sunset (the clouds can roll in quickly and unexpectedly and I wanted to ensure I was able to see Fit Roy).

day three: Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit day two - sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres (this is a 2km hike with 350 of elevation - the trail is well maintained and very popular.... but it is steep), pack up camp hike to Agostini campground.

day four: Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit day three - sunrise at Cerro Torre, hike back to El Chaltén in time for dinner in town. One of the nice things about this hike is that it both begins and ends in about the same place (2 blocks away) and within a 5-minute hike of the centre of town. 

day five: Drive to El Calafate - full day cruise on Lago Argentina to view Spegazzini, Upsala, and Perito Moreno Glaciers - this was one of the highlights of my trip. It was a long day (8h on the ship) but we were able to get very close to three glaciers and countless icebergs. 

day six: Los Glaciares National Park - walk along the board walks to view Perito Moreno Glacier. This is a very impressive series of stairs, ramps and even an elevator which allows many vantage points of this extremely impressive glacier.

day seven: Fly home from El Calafate via Buenos Aires

Notes:

For the Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit you do not need to reserve campsites as everything is first come first serve and at the time of writing this there was no fee (including park entrance) for this area. Please be respectful so that it is kept this way. When we were there we found two men camping right along the shoreline of Laguna de Los Tres which is extremely illegal. Practise LNT principles. 

The entrance fee to Los Glaciares National Park to see Perito Moreno Glacier is a daily fee equivalent to $100USD per person per day.

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what to eat and drink:

El Chaltén

Maffiá Trattoria - This Italian restaurant was one of the highlights of our trip. With fresh, in-house made, pasta and a extensive wine list this restaurant should be on your list (note:it is cash only).

Panaderia Y Cafeteria "Lo De Haydee" - This cafe has the strongest wifi in the entire town of El Chaltén! It also has amazing desserts and the best empanadas in all of El Chaltén (we did our research!). But be forewarned that the coffee leaves a lot to be desired. 

Bourbon Smokehouse - try the crepes and you will not be disappointed but skip out on the Caesar salad as they don't actually have caesar dressing. The boys tried the burgers and found them to be excellent - I even stole a few fries!

Don Guerra - Some of the best nachos and fajitas I have had in a while but the burger was a little overcooked. They have relatively strong wifi and amazing happy hour specials! Also - as weird as it sounds - try the blue cheese soup!

El Calafate

Parrilla Don Pichon - I feel blasphemous as an Albertan saying this... but this was possibly the best steak I have ever had. Carrie and I split a steak, some lamb ribs and veggies and could not come close to finishing it all. If you like a steak that is properly cooked (read: not well done) you will not regret this stopover. 

Bakery and confectionery Don Luis - bar none the fastest internet connection in my entire time in South America. We sat on the "restaurant" side of the cafe and ordered lunch, the chicken quiche is amazing, the spinach would be good if you really like spinach and the coffee was surprisingly good (Patagonia seems to have notoriously bad coffee). Before leaving we stocked up on snacks - make sure you try at least a few Alfajores while in Argentina!

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where to stay:

El Chaltén

luxury:The Hotel Destino Sur is what you're looking for in terms of the closes to luxury accommodations in El Chaltén. 

standard: The nights we spent in El Chalten we booked into the Vientos Del Sur Aparts - they don't have a website but accept bookings on a variety of sites. They are apartment-style accommodations right in-between  the entrance and exit of the Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit backpacking trip. It was comfortable, safe and clean... and had great wifi. 

budget: GO camping! The Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre Circuit has a variety of campsites and you don't need reservations and they are free! Pack up your gear and get outside!

El Calafate

luxury: The Hotel Alto Calafate is a luxury hotel that overlooks Lake Argentina from the rolling hills just minutes outside of El Calafate. 

standard: Our friends at The Glamping Hub have this amazing secluded dome right along Lake Argentina (the largest lake in Argentina and home to Glaciar Perito Moreno) 

budget: Stay right in El Calafate inside of a luxurious log cabin - each the eight cabins has a five person capacity and all of the amenities to make yourself at home.

budget: During peak season Los Glaciares National Park has a campground right within the park gates. It is not open year around and I am not certain of the booking policy BUT staying there (or at the hotel at the toe of Glaciar Perito Moreno) may be the only ways to get the glacier in good light as the park closes overnight. 

 Photo by Michael Matti

Photo by Michael Matti


venture patagonia:

I spent my three weeks in Patagonia with the amazing team at Venture Patagonia and can not recommend them high enough. Venture Patagonia is a team made up of energetic, passionate and professional individuals with a deep knowledge of the major Patagonian destinations. With their extensive network of friends and local partners, they specialize in connecting people all over Patagonia to give you an authentic taste of local culture. The best part? Venture Patagonia customize each program to match YOUR budget and appetite for adventure. Their aim is to help you live your best adventure! Venture Patagonia is based in the United States, with an office in Puerto Natales, Chile. Their Chilean office is located in Puerto Natales, but operate on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides of Patagonia, allowing guests to experience both Torres del Paine National Park & Los Glaciares National Park.