I ended up spending more than a week in and around Los Glaciares National Park, a Unesco world heritage, and a great place for hiking.
The first stop was El Calafate from where you can access the Perito Moreno glacier, and even hike on it. I was considering one of the hikes, and a lot of people said it was great, but it was ridiculously expensive and Patagonia is one of those places where you can easily break the budget even without tours. But I did go to see the glacier at least and got some really good views and even some good calvings.
The next stop was my longest stop in Patagonia, El Chaltén. The bus ride was only a few hours across almost completely flat terrain, which is kind of funny considering that both El Calafate and El Chaltén are mountainous. This is another quirk of Patagonia. Completely flat, semi-arid land, with the Andes mountain range popping up from nowhere in the west.
When entering the town the bus stopped by at the park information office and I expected a long rant about what you can’t do. It was the complete opposite, it was all about how you can enjoy the place the most, and only a short remark at the end about not burning the place down. The park is free to enter, the trails are free, well maintained and well marked, and even the camp-sites along the trails are free. There’s also a good amount of gear shops, rental places, and tour services for those who prefer a guide. Of course food is a bit pricier than in other places, but considering the remoteness and the amount of tourists in this place it still came at a surprisingly good price. This place is hiking tourism done right (Torres del Paine, please take note).
Most of the hikes are perfect distance for day hikes, and I was lucky with the weather most of the time. I ended up getting some great views of glaciers, granite towers, and the famous highest peak in the area, Mount Fitz Roy. I did also end up with a good sunburn. The Patagonian sun is harsh.
And of course there’s a waterfall as well.
The final hike in the area was what I thought would be really adventurous and off the beaten track. Hiking across the border to Chile. Turns out this is a pretty well organised thing and that there are even companies that provide services for carrying your backpack for you. I still wanted to do the hike though (but I did carry my own gear) and even if it’s a bit pricey with the transfers, especially the boat on the Chilean side, it’s way more convenient than taking buses the long way around, hundreds of kilometres extra. This crossing is hiking, bike, and horseback only.
And it was a pretty nice hike. Not as tough as some people made it seem but still a bit of a challenge, especially carrying all the gear. But a lot of people did it by bike and they had a way rougher time with the uneven surface and river crossings.
But there were some downs as well. Camping was freezing cold, probably about or just below 0°C. A few degrees lower than my gear was planned for. The other big issue at the end of the hike was shoes and feet. My old and faithful shoes are finally starting to give up. And because of that, not much hiking for a long time, and an estimated 110km of hiking in Patagonia over the last few weeks my feet are pretty sad. Hopefully I’ll find a good place to relax a bit now that I’m going for the famous southern road in Chile, the Carretera Austral.