Patagonia or Bust

Iwaited for the moment Mother Nature would pull away the curtains of Patagonia, disguised as mountain ranges and glaciers. I waited for her to laugh at me and say, “only in your wildest dreams”. But she didn’t and it is even more incredible than they said. Even more so than the pictures would lead to believe. Patagonia reminded me that there is nothing more impressive than the world in which we live and that the real adventure begins, when you deviate away from the plan.

Day 1- Thursday. Santiago, Chile

I arrived in Santiago after almost missing the 3rd leg of my journey. I don’t want to get into details but I will say that I am very grateful for unlimited wine on international flights and for the kind pilot who re-opened the aircraft’s doors for me to get on.

I checked into the Double Tree by Hilton which is arguably the nicest Double Tree, ever. Minus the lack of hot water and when you decide to drink from the tap you will wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, be sick for hours and then fall asleep in front of the toilet. Off to a really great start here! Luckily, the bug passed within a few hours and didn’t interfere with any exploration. Just learn from my mistakes and don’t drink the tap water in Santiago!

The hotel was very close to the metro which I took to Bellavista. Here you can find a zoo located up the hill, unique street art, and plenty of places to eat and drink lining the main street. The sun doesn’t set until about 10:30pm in the summer and it is very easy to lose track of time!

Day 2- Friday. Valparaíso & Viña Del Mar.

In Valparaíso, you will be sure to see some of the coolest street art and mosaic tiled stairs leading to various hidden city corners. Explore, get a little lost and hopefully even stumble upon the home of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda. Viña Del Mar is a well known resort city where many locals vacation with their families. Pay close attention as their are often Sea Lions sunbathing on the rocky shore line.

I made the mistake of thinking it would be warm by the waterside, leaving me VERY unprepared. I was forced to change out of my bathing suit and into a sweatshirt purchased at a local store. Also, be careful as both of these cities are known for people who aim to steal from tourists. My friend had her purse snatched right off her shoulder. In an attempt to get it back, she chased him. Unfortunately, he got away with most of her belongings. Cross-body bags for women are a big target.

Valparaíso & Viña Del Mar are easily accessible from the center of Santiago through public transportation. The entire journey will take around 2.5 hours. The metro will take you to the bus station and the bus to Valparaíso has wifi and lots of movies to watch if you download their App! Once you’ve finished exploring Valparaíso, it’s easy to get a cheap Uber to Viña Del Mar. One day to explore both cities was plenty but fair warning, it is a lot of walking and you should get up early to make the most of it!

Keep in mind that the metro stops running at 11pm but Ubers & taxis are readily available in its place. It is best to Uber from Viña Del Mar back to Valparaíso’s bus station with enough time to catch the bus back to Santiago before 8pm to prevent any issues. Or you can buy a one way ticket from Santiago to Valparaíso and a returning ticket from Viña Del Mar to Santiago eliminating the need to go back to Valparaíso all together.

Day 3- Saturday. Still Santiago.

I walked around Santa Lucia Hill, the Saturday street markets and book fairs. Bought some cool souvenirs to bring back home. I had dinner at Don Carlos for my favorite meal yet. Chilean Sea Bass is my favorite, but it’s way better when you eat it in Chile.

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Day 4- Sunday. Casa Blanca.

On Sunday I took a private wine tour in Casa Blanca, hosted by the most interesting man in the world. Christian, our guide, took my hands at lunch and read my palms. Somewhere in between telling me how many children I will have and that I will soon fall in love, he said the following quote that I felt obligated to make note of: “The nature, the weather. It’s sacred. It’s up to you to choose to open yourself up to it all. Don’t wait on others. Be the change.” -Christian

wineWe went to two vineyards. The first stop was at Emiliana, an organic vineyard with beautiful grounds and friendly animals who are all essential to the vineyard’s functionality. After feeding the friendly Alpaca, we enjoyed their delicious wines in a tasting room facing the best view of the property. The second stop was at Casa de Bosque. This tour took us behind the scenes to see the process of the crush and then to a wine tasting accompanied by aroma comparisons. Both vineyards were beautiful and the tastings provided me with the perfect buzz to nap all the way back to Santiago.

Day 5- Monday. Punta Arenas, Chile.

I flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas for about $300 USD. I booked my ticket in advance through Sky Airlines. Punta Arenas is located on the Straight of Magellan and is the capital city of Chile’s most southern region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. This is the closest I’ve been to Antarctica!

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Once I arrived, I checked in to the Best Western where I would spend 2 nights before living with a local in her home for the remaining 3. Diana was an amazing host and the language barrier made communicating, although challenging, a lot of fun. 5 nights in Punta Arenas was 3 too many. I suggest only staying 2 nights and prioritizing Puerto Natales as it is much easier to access Torres Del Paine National Park from there.

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Day 6- Tuesday. Torres Del Paine National Park, from Punta Arenas, Chile.

The tours are easy to book in town and can often be done the day before, providing lots of flexibility. The tours include transportation and will pick you up right from your lodge. A guided tour is the most convenient way to see the park from Punta Arenas. The next legs of the journey included a pit stop in Puerto Natales (where it is more convenient to stay to explore the park), Torres Del Paine, Grey Glacier and the Mylodon Cave.

We lucked out with incredible weather and although the tour only included a short 5k trek and a very “on the bus, off the bus, and repeat” mentality, it was the most convenient way to see all of the beautiful viewing points in just one day. The tour left us wanting more, so when my friend Justin and I rented a car a few days later, we were sure to make our way back.

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Day 7- Wednesday. Tierra Del Fuego, from Punta Arenas, Chile.

img_2361I booked a guided tour of Tierra Del Fuego & the Penguin Observatory from Punta Arenas. The tour is an all day excursion and could easily be done on your own by renting a car. This would give you much more control over your time but it isn’t the easiest journey as two ferry rides are involved.

I fall asleep very easily in moving vehicles so this day provided me with plenty of time to nap in between viewing the penguins and chasing wild flamingos. Besides the naps, the major perk of this tour was our photographer. The park permits you to only get so close to the penguins since they aim to protect them in their natural habitat. The guide’s camera was able to capture photographs that our iPhones couldn’t and were shared with us via Facebook, the very next day.

Day 8- Thursday. Punta Arenas, Chile.

By this time, I realized that I spent more than enough time in Punta Arenas and I was starting to get the itch to leave and see something new. In hopes of it subsiding, I went on a hike to the Reservior de Magellana. This is very close to the city center and is a perfect way to remind you that there is beauty in every South American city. You just have to know where to look.

Day 9- Friday. Punta Arenas, Chile.

On my last day in Punta Arenas, in an attempt to get lost, I realized that I pretty much mastered navigating the city. I made friends with street dogs in the Cemetery of Punta Arenas and wandered around the memorials of those who have passed.

Day 10- Saturday. Puerto Natales, Chile.

This was the day my friend Justin and I were supposed to head to Argentina but apparently you need to submit your request to cross the boarder 7 days in advance. Due to this over site, we took the rental car to Puerto Natales for two nights until the permit was available. We booked a hostel on AirBnB at a local cafe with wifi the day of and had no issues.

I found Puerto Natales to be much more enjoyable than Punta Arenas and had I known, I would have went there sooner. The city is much more lively and is filled with backpackers making their way around Torres Del Paine.

There are tons of great hostels here and very cool places to drink & dine including, Base Camp for pizza and pints and Baquales, a brewery with great burgers. Keep in mind, if you order sour cream with your quesadilla here, they will give you a Pisco Sour. Be sure to check out Don Jorge for a traditional Chilean lamb dish. It was to die for!

Day 11- Sunday. Back to Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile.

Our 2nd trip to Torres Del Paine, we had our rental car and were able to do it on our own time. We did the horn hike with Katie and Danielle, two girls I knew from back home that were also conveniently in Patagonia! We just missed a storm from breaking and although the clouds blocked a lot of the scenery, they also gave the trek a very mysterious feel.

Day 12- Monday. El Calafate, Argentina.

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The day had come! The permit to cross into Argentina was finally ours. We did the 3 and a half hour drive straight to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. We stayed one night in El Calafate, a very cute and quaint town that you won’t want to miss.

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Day 13-Tuesday. Perito Moreno Glacier Trek, El Calafate, Argentina.

We took a ferry from Los Glaciares National Park to trek on the Perito Moreno Glacier. The tour provided cramp ons and a whiskey toast upon completion. This is a must do while in El Calafate! After the Glacier Trek we drove right to El Chalten. This would be our final city to explore before beginning to retrace out steps back to Santiago.

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Day 14- Wednesday. Mt. Fitz Roy Trek from El Chalten, Argentina.

The Mt. Fitz Roy Trek is an easy walk from the center of El Chalten. This trek is about 20 kilometers round trip and will take about 10 hours to complete. Unless you’re like me and you prefer to turn your treks into workouts and manage to complete it in only 8.

The last kilometer of the trek is the most difficult but will also provide the most incredible view in all of Patagonia. Hence why the clothing company made this mountain range their brand logo.

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Day 15. Thursday. Day of rest in El Chalten.

I spent the day exploring town and treating my body to a day at the spa.

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“A Field Guide to Getting Lost” by Rebecca Solnit was the perfect reading material for this adventure!

Day 16. Friday. Drive from El Chalten back to Puerto Natales, Chile.

We made our way across the Argentinian border and back into Chile to spend one last night in Puerto Natales. We stayed in Hostal Sheuen which can be booked through Booking.com or AirBnB and has an awesome common space were I cuddled up and made the video below:

Day 17. Saturday. Flight from Punta Arenas back to Santiago.

Once back in Santiago, we settled into an awesome AirBnB with a rooftop pool. We didn’t get in until dinner time so the pool had to wait for the next day. Santiago is much warmer in the summer than Patagonia. While the mornings and evenings are very cool, the sun and heat are very intense mid-day. Wearing SPF 30+ in both the south and the north of Chile is very important as the sun is very strong, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

Day 18. Sunday. Last day in Santiago before heading home.

Hung out by the rooftop pool and wandered around in sunny Santiago for the last time before the trip home. I even got in a run at the AirBnB’s gym which was much needed after all of the Argentinian sandwiches I’d eaten the week before.

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These thin and simple sandwiches were perfect for packing for hikes and are available in almost every cafe for under 50 cents each. Traditionally, they are made with ham & cheese and/or egg.

Day 19. Monday. Fly back home!

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Wifi is fairly easy to come by and navigating the roads in Patagonia is easy to do, as long as you pay attention. Signing is minimal and there are long stretches of road without any sign of civilization. It’s important that if you rent a car, you are filling up your gas tank, every chance you get!

For more information on my Patagonia Adventure, you can view a rough draft of my itinerary here. Just keep in mind, that the plan for Patagonia, was to ditch the plan.