$1 = 593 CLP (Chilean Peso) 1$=19.77 ARS (Argentine Peso) 80 km = 50 miles
As of today, Feb 14, 2018, no set date yet but it is definitely in the making. Actually, it has been in my head for years. The three areas I do not want to miss while there are: El Calafate, El Chalten and Torres del Pain NP (TdelPN). Ushuaia is optional as it can be reached by cruise ship. Here are my concerns:
1) Too expensive. Most tour is around $4,000 not including air. It is pricey but after seeing this price everywhere all the time, you simply got numb.
2) Too intense. I like GAdventurs-Patagonia itinerary but their three day hike with 8-9 hours per day might be too much for me. I also have concerns about their way of going from Punta Arena to Ushuaia: sitting in a local bus for twelve hours is no fun.
3) Too relaxed. Gate1Travel is my first choice in terms of tour company. But I think their itinerary is targeting too much on older people. It would be an otherwise nice trip if their 13 day tour had included El Chalten.
4) Too many unknowns – Most local tour companies concentrate on one area. To shop for tours for TdelPN and beyond, I have to check their reviews, coordinate with several companies and come up with own plan. Too much!
While shopping for the right tour, I am more and more leaning towards self-driving. It would be nice if I can get Eric on board. This is an ambitious plan. I am looking into all scenarios to see what if we do. Here are something to take into considerations:
- Car rental – This is the most sticky point. Car pick up/drop off has to be at the same location. Get permit and proof of liability insurance for border crossing from rental agency because the area is between Chile and Argentina. Some people say it takes 3-4 business days to obtain the permit. It seems to me most rental companies can have document ready by the time the car been picked up at the airport.
- Car type – SUV is not necessary.
- City fly into/out from – Use Santiago is less expensive than Buenos Aires.
- Credit card – Carry enough cash. No credit card neither for border crossing nor park admission. Many local shops do not accept credit card.
- Gas – No gas station inside TdelPN The nearest station is in Puerto Natales which is two hours away. Need full tank to go in. There maybe some hotels provide gas at a premium but not sure which hotel. Not sure how safe/doable it is to bring a container of own gas.
- Hotel – Other than inside the park, hotels elsewhere are reasonably priced. Many people stay in Puerto Natales to commute to the park.
- Road condition – Road outside park is fully asphalted highway. Inside park is hard packed gravel. Drive slow and keep distance from cars passing by because of throwing up stones. This link is helpful: Driving in Patagonia.
- Safety – Remote and safe to drive.
- Tour guide – I do not think we need guide for leisure hiking. See how others do Self Tour.
- Visa – Both Argentina and Chile waived fees (reciprocity fee) for US citizens since 2016. That is a minimum of $300 saving.
All photos will be replaced by own when trip is finished.
Itinerary – 13 day trip (Primitive) is shown below:
- Arriving Santiago in morning
- Tour city, most likely in La Moneda Palace area
- Stay for one night in Santiago
- Fly to Punta Arenas in the morning
- Pick up car
- Check into hotel
- Points of interests:
- Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint
- Monumento Hernando De Magallanes/Plaza Munoz Gamero
- Shipwreck of the Lord Lonsdale
- Port Famine
- Stay for one night in Punta Arenas
- Early morning drive to El Calafate (485km)
- Leaving early for Border crossing
- 1st night stay in El Calafate
- El Calafate
- National Park all day with boat ride (buy ticket in town)
- 2nd night stay in El Calafate
- El Calafate
- Upsala and Spegazzini Glacier 8 hours boat ride
- 3rd night stay in El Calafate
- Early morning drive to El Chalten (213 km)
- Relax or hike to Laguna Capri (easy / 3-4 hour return)
- 1st night stay in El Chalten
- Hike Mt. Fitzroy area
- Early morning hike to Laguna Torre. It is said that viewpoint will come up after 45 minutes hike. Turn around half way if needed. Laguna Torre
- 2nd night stay in El Chalten
- El Chalten
- Early morning hike to Mirador Las Condores for sunrise. See what others say: Mirador Los Condores (easy / 1 hour one way)
- 3rd night stay in El Chalten
- Drive to Torres del Paine (402 km)
- Leaving early for Border crossing
- 1st night stay in TDelPn
- Torres del Paine hiking
- Top day hike
- 2nd night stay in TDelPn
- Torres del Paine hiking.
- 2 days mix of hiking/driving
- 3rd night stay in TDelPn
- Drive to Puerto Natales (76 km)
- Monumento de la Mano
- See what others say: Not much else going on in this town, so take a nice scroll along the harbor and enjoy these statues and the beautiful view of the bay.
- Stay for one night in Puerto Natales
- Drive to Punta Arenas (228 km) return car, fly home.
Photo tips: How to photo Patagonia
To be continued…