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Argentina - BA and road trip Lake District, El Calafate, El Chalten

We spent 2 weeks exploring Argentina in mid March. I’m just getting around to posting information that will hopefully help others plan their trip, as I found it a difficult trip to plan. There was not a lot of information about doing road trips in the areas we wanted to visit, which were Buenos Aires, the Lake District and El Calafate/El Chalten. I had no idea what to expect as far as rental car and road conditions in Patagonia. Furthermore, you cannot fly direct from Bariloche to El Calafate, making it cumbersome to travel within Patagonia. Our itinerary was:
Buenos Aires – 3 days
Lake District – 5 days
El Calafate/ El Chalten – 4 days
Back to BA for a day

Buenos Aires – We were not too impressed with the city. Petty crime is rampant and we were afraid to carry anything on us – money, cameras, purse etc. We were also warned not to take the subways and not to walk around at night. Being part of a city’s nightlife, strolling outside or sitting in sidewalk cafes is a big part of how we enjoy a city and we felt our experience was dampened by preying on tourists for opportunistc crime. Furthermore, the city is covered in graffiti and we found it to be much less attractive than cities in Europe and Asia.

The city is walkable, the Cemetery is interesting as is plaza del Mayo, and the Recoleta area. Given the choice again, we would not spend more than a day in BA. We like the out of doors and the other areas of Argentina are so much more beautiful.

Hotel: Esplendor Palermo Soho – a boutique hotel was well situated in a fairly safe neighborhood (there were security guards and police at every street corner in the area at night) and within walking distance of many sights such as the cemetery and museums.

Dining: we found a wonderful bistro just a few blocks away, Las Pizarros Bistro on Thames and Charcas. Reservations needed - food is excellent and entrees change daily. This is an understated local chef who creates amazing dishes; we went back again the next night.
Don Julio is recommended in every book – just fair; you can do better elsewhere.

Lake District – We flew into Bariloche but did not stay in the city center. We rented a car and drove north to the Peninsula area, which is much quieter and more scenic. The next day, we drove the Circuito Chico to Villa Los Angostura. Then we drove north through the 7 Lakes route past San Martin and to Junin de Los Andes. The lakes drive is wonderful but Junin de los Andes is only of interest if you are a fly fisherman.
From there we went to Parc Lanin, an interesting park if you are in the area, however the day we were there, it was extremely windy and we were not able to hike. We drove back to Bariloche via route 40, stopping at Villa Traful, a very quaint and stunningly beautiful town set on the edge of the lake.

Hotel: Peninsula Pettit Hotel i sits on the north end of the lake Bariloche right before the peninsula and has a beautiful view and wonderful breakfast.

Hosteria El Establo – a tranquil b&b on the edge of Villa los Angostura was lovely

Spring Creek Lodge – outside of Junin de los Andes is a great fishing lodge with wonderful dinners.

Villa Huinid – in Bariloche at the edge of the lake. Regular hotel, nice rooms with decent breakfast. We prefer the charm of b&b's

El Calafate – we flew back to BA and then down to El Calafate. The airport is a 30 min. cab ride to town. Rental car companies are not at the airport. Seriously, were they expecting some huge housing boom? Why is the airport in the middle of no where?
We spent one night in El Calafate before driving to El Chalten. Perrito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate is not to be missed. We could have spent the entire day watching the ice calve and fall into the lake. It is beautiful and captivating. Since we had a rental car, we got there early before the tour buses arrived. It is a completely different experience when it is quiet.

From there we drove to El Chalten. It would have been just as easy to take a bus to El Chalten as once you are there, you can pretty much get anywhere by walking or by bus. It is a very small town and all the adventure tours have buses. We did a boat ride out to see Glacier Viedma. We spent one day hiking up to Laguna Torre and Cerro Torre. If you are in shape, it is a hike not to be missed. The views at the top are unbelievably beautiful, but it’s a tough climb.

Hotels: Hosteria Roble Sur is on the outskirts of El Calafate. The b&b is very nice but you need a car to get out there.
We never made it to our B&B Hosteria El Pilar in El Chalten as it was 17 km down a gravel road, which our little rental car could not do. The photos looked nice and it sits at a trailhead. But it is not close to town or any restaurants so be forewarned that if you go there, you are in a remote area. We ended up staying on the main road at the Poincenot which was basic and fine but breakfast was somewhat cheaply done.

Dining: In El Calafate, La Tablita, a parilla serving grilled meats is listed in Fodors and is very, very good.

The Microbrewery in El Chalten serves comfort food in a pub atmosphere which we enjoyed. The locha, a local stew is quite good.

Driving – roads in the Lake District are in the process of getting paved, and so some sections are newly paved, others are dirt. The dirt roads are packed and smooth, though somewhat dusty. We did not have trouble driving on any of the roads in the rental cars. The cars, themselves left something to be desired. All were manual transmission and were basically metal boxes on wheels. Expect to pay for CDW as it is not possible to use your credit card insurance unless you want them to charge the full cost of a new car on your credit card as guarantee!!

Driving in El Calafate, El Chalten, Bariloche and the other small lake towns is easy.
For more detailed information, you can visit my blog at www. Talkingchin.blogspot.com. My photos are at www.lchin.smugmug.com

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