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Patagonia or not.

Old Aug 12th, 2003, 06:53 PM
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Patagonia or not.

We will be in Santiago early October.Can one take a two/three day trip to Patagonia?We are not hikers just travelers.Any advice would be great.
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Old Aug 13th, 2003, 11:03 AM
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I think you should focus on one area in the Patagonia, such as, Torres del Paine, Region de los Lagos etc. Once you choose one there are many good travel agents in Chile who can work with you. You can fly
to the chosen area and do a short visit.
If you wish to do something on your own , why not flying to Puerto Montt and do the Lake Crossing to Bariloche this crossing is in itself a beautiful adventure. There are old posting on the subject in Fodors .Then you can have a bus back to Puerto Montt or continue into Argentina flying into Bs As, or probably you can fly from Bariloche to Chile although I am not sure.
The crossing can be done in one day and it costs only aprox.160 dollars.
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Old Aug 13th, 2003, 04:37 PM
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I would not recommend a visit to Patagonia for only two or three nights. It is simply too far to travel, even from Santiago, for such a short trip. I was in Torres Del Paine last December and it is a grueling trip from Punta Arenas to Torres Del Paine.

Instead, I suggest that you consider the Atacama Desert (San Pedro De Atacama). It is a mere one hour drive from the airport to Atacama and there are plenty of activities in the Atacama Desert and it is a lot more reasonable in San Pedro De Atacama than it is in a place like Torres Del Paine where they assault you on the prices of food/beverages/alcohol and there is not a thing you can do about it because you are hundreds of miles from civilization.

I stayed at the Hosteria Las Torres and I was totally disappointed with the place and it is supposed to be one of the best places there, short of Explora Atacama for $600+ per night. However, even at Hosteria Las Torres at about $200 per night, by the time you pay for all your meals and drinks, you will likely be at $350 per night and if you go on any of their excursions, then you could be close to $500 per night per couple sharing. May as well stay at an all-inclusive and very exclusive place like Explora Patagonia, at that point.

In the Atacama Desert, I stayed at the Hotel Tulor, and although the rooms were pretty basic, I loved the lodge. It had very nice common areas and a great restaurant that resembled an African game lodge's restaurant. The price was about $150 per night but the meals and drinks were very reasonable. For a 3 course dinner each night, my wife and I paid $7 each, so even with a bottle of wine, our dinner still came up to less than $30 per night total. The same meal would have been triple (or more) in Patagonia.

Three nights would be perfect for Atacama. However, don't be fooled by the word "desert." It was colder in the Atacama Desert than it was in Patagonia. San Pedro De Atacama is about 8,000' in altitude and the Tatio Geysers, one of the highlights of the area, is at about 13,000', which was the highest altitude that I have ever been. We had to leave the lodge at 4AM in order to make the 6:15AM sunrise, but it was worth the trip.

Good luck.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 04:56 PM
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Roccco, if you are still returning to this post please let me know about your clothing you and your wife had for this trip. Yes, I heard about winds in Patagonia. We are thinking about January/February 2005.

I enjoy your posts regarding South Africa and I hope to find your trip report on Patagonia.

I can't find it. Please help.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 06:02 PM
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Pat,

Surprisingly, other than when the winds kicked up, the weather was not that bad in Torres Del Paine. I would say that during the day the temperature was in the low 60's, and at night in the mid 40's.

I will try to locate my trip report for you and then cut and paste it here. I am pretty sure that I did a trip report on www.epinions.com as well as here.

Keep in mind that after one has been to Africa, nothing else ever measures up.

I don't know if you can expand the trip any, but if you do have time, the Atacama Desert is a really good experience, a lot more reasonably priced and easier to get to than Patagonia.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 06:11 PM
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Pat,

Do a search under "Rocco" (with one two "c"'s instead of three. That was my name before forced registration on Fodor's and by then someone else grabbed the coveted "Rocco" name!

You should see a bunch of posts pop up, including trip reports and pre-trip planning, likely with price quotes included.

Let me know if you cannot access, and then, if necessary, I will cut and paste for you.
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 05:06 AM
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Roccco, thank you so much for your prompt ansewr. I know you must be busy planning your trip to Tanzania and working 60 hours a week. I read all your posts under Rocco but I did not find your report. Why do you think here is not much activity on this forum and you get so many responses regarding your trip to Tanzania or all your trips to South Africa?
We love Africa (2 trips to Kenya, 11 to Seychelles and Mauritius and playing with an idea of South Africa)but there are so many amazing places around the world and we are trying to visit as many as possible. We are addicted to traveling. Taking about 10 trips per year. Fortunately we do not have to worry about working long weeks. For us working days are over but we are even busier now traveling and planning as many trips as we can handle.

We would travel for 17-18 days to Chile including travel from/to East Coast. Our main reason is to visit Patagonia but we know there are many other spots in Chile that we have to visit as well. I don't know much about Atacama Desert but I will try to do some research about it. Would love to read your report. Thanks
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 09:40 AM
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Pat,

I located my post. In retrospect, let me add that I think I would have had a better time if I wasn't so beat up from running my marathon one week before arriving, following the marathon immediately with physically taxing activities in the Atacama Desert.

Plus, it was very taxing the way that I did my trip. Los Angeles - Lima (1 hour stopover in a roped off terminal full of smokers)-Santiago. Upon an early morning arrival in Santiago, it was a near two hour road transfer to Vina Del Mar. The landscape and roads were very nice, but, even so, two hours of driving after a long flight is difficult.

Upon a 9AM arrival in Vina Del Mar, there were no available rooms to check into and we were told that we could leave our luggage and come back at noon. So after probably 17+ hours of travel (from the time we left home), we were then forced to walk the streets of Vina Del Mar for three hours, eventually finding a very nice, big shopping mall.

We were very disappointed with the Gala Hotel in Vina Del Mar, not understanding how they had the nerve to label themselves? a 4-star hotel. While it was clean and had a great view from the room, the TV was probably a 15" TV, not even in an armoire, just placed on top of the dresser. Also many tiles were broken in the bathroom and the room looked like it was in serious need of updating, but then again, so did most of Vina Del Mar, probably a great place 20 years ago, but in need of a major facelift.

We had two nights in Vina Del Mar, one before the marathon and one after the marathon.

We did find the Chilean prople to be very warm.

I enjoyed my marathon immensely running most of the way with a couple British women my age that I believe worked or went to school in Santiago.

After the marathon I did take advantage of the horse drawn carriages on the pier, and took a 45 minute ride seeing the City. That was the perfect follow up after running for 26.2 miles, eventually being dropped off in front of my hotel.

From Vina Del Mar, it was about a 2.5 hour flight to Calama, and a one hour road transfer to San Pedro De Atacama. We stayed four nights at the Tulor Hotel, and besides running my countryside/seaside marathon, this was my favorite part of the trip.

The Atacama Desert is at an elevation of over 8,000' (2,500 meters?), and there were many younger Europeans there, taking advantage of the beautiful landscape (although a desert, surrounded by towering mountains and volcanos) and very cheap prices.

We went on tours each day but one day was hellish, taking about five hours of driving with an obnoxious group of Germans in their late 50's/early 60's, whom needed to stop for every single interesting faun/flora on the roadside, yet getting very irritated when my wife and I took a while to do some shopping in one of the little towns that we stopped in. The eventual destination was some lake or other at a very high altitude, near the Bolivian border, to see, I suppose flamingos, and upon arrival, we saw maybe half a dozen flamingos and then had to endure the ride back with the Germans.

The rest of the time at Atacama, I enjoyed very much. The restaurant at the Tulor Hotel, was nearly the equivalent, in my opinion of the indoor dining room at Singita, the most exclusive lodge in South Africa, charging $900 USD per person per night. Well, for the Tulor Hotel, with very modest rooms but with great common areas and a beautiful restaurant charged about $75 USD per person per night.

Santiago was pretty nice but very conservative and tranquil. We had three nights at the Plaza San Francisco, a very nice hotel but if I could do it again, I would've stayed at the Carrera Hotel or the Sheraton. Plus, now the Ritz Carlton just opened up a hotel in Santiago.

We spent the time doing a little sightseeing, but had the most fun looking at real estate, including very luxurious high rise apartments in Las Condes, a very nice part of the city. You could literally wander in one high rise and out to the next one.

We did go on a couple tours, including one of Valparaiso seeing Pablo Neruda's house (Pulitzer Prize winning poet and Chilean National Hero). We did have a city tour that was so boring (presidential palace, congress, etc., that we eventually told our guide to just show us the very nicest parts of the city and spent this time looking at real estate).

From there the grand finale was to be Patagonia, but I suppose by then, my wife and I were beat up. It was a four hour flight south and then a very long ride to Torres Del Paine. It was a vanload of ten people, and we spent an hour on the way seeing penguins, in very cold windy weather, a contrast to seeing Penguins in the perfect weather in Cape Town, as I had earlier that year.

Everybody except for my wife and I got off in Puerto Natales, a very beautiful seaside town, with many restaurants, nice looking little hotels and shops. This town looked fabulous and the sun was barely setting at 10PM when we were there. We had the opportunity to have an hour exploring and to have dinner, before being met for our last two hour drive into Torres Del Paine.

Our room at Hosteria Las Torres was tiny, no more than 200 square feet, including bathroom, and the walls were paper thin, and this in a "Superior" room. Not more than 1,000' away was a campsite where others were staying in tents for $17 per night, while I was paying $200 per night for my room.

The next biggest mistake was pre-booking tours inside the park. Most people did these tours on their own, as the park is very well marked with signs directing hikers to all the same destinations that we went, but we were paying $50 per person for someone to hold our hand.

The only highlight of Hosteria Las Torres was that we were each able to get 2 hour massages, from very good massage technicians and the massages were only about $50 each, or less than half the price they would have cost back home in Los Angeles.

The biggest ripoff at Hosteria Las Torres was the food. $20 for a boxed lunch that included a sandwich, candy bar, piece of fruit and can of soda or juice.

Buffet dinners were $30, excluding all drinks except tap water, and with food that was not that great, despite their website leading you to believe that they had the best food in all of South America.

The lowlight and the straw that broke the camel's back is on our scheduled second to last day when we went horseback riding, a planned five or six hour excursion to the area highlight, Los Hornos, two towering granite mountains. The horses were filthy and about 30 minutes into the ride, I started suffering from severe allergies and I could feel an asthma attack coming on, not having had an asthma attack in at least 20 years since I was a child, but being reminded what they felt like. Not wanting to die in Patagonia, we turned back.

Upon returning to the lodge, my wife and I made the decision that we were going to forfeit our final night at Hosteria Las Torres and demanded that the lodge take us back to Puerto Natales since we were giving up our final night and had been provided with NON-English speaking guides most of the time, despite requesting and being promised English speaking guides. My wife speaks fluent Spanish, but just as I drive but refuse to do so while on vacation, my wife didn't want to sit there and translate everything while on vacation.

Eventually the Hosteria Las Torres gave in and gave us a ride back to Puerto Natales and we were able to get on the four hour busride back to Punta Arenas for the amazingly low price of $5 each.

The Jose Noguiera Hotel was gracious enough to accept us a day early and for less than we were paying at Hosteria Las Torres, we had a juniour suite that measured no less than 700 square feet with a full sized whirlpool jacuzzi. The Jose Nogueira Hotel is a wonderful and historic hotel and it at least allowed us to end the trip in comfort.

We paid $100 extra per person in order to fly out a day early. Personally, I wouldn't have minded an extra night in Punta Arenas at the Jose Nogueira, as the hotel was only about $180 per night, but my wife was very under the weather and I didn't mind getting home a day early either, in order to watch a heavyweight championship fight.

In retrospect, if I had not gone to so many places with so much time in the air and on road transfers, I may have had a better time. But, I am still very pleased that I ran the Vina Del Mar Marathon, a nice change of pace running with only 150 other runners after running my two previous marathons with 20,000 other runners in Los Angeles and San Diego (Rock N Roll Marathon).

Lastly, here is what I originally posted on the subject, not caring to talk about it much when I returned. Hope this helps:

Author: Rocco
Date: 12/12/2002, 09:40 pm
Message: Hello from Punta Arenas, Chile. Arrived in town a night sooner than expected and gladly gave up my last night at Hosteria Las Torres in my paid ''superior'' room to do so (about a $200 sacrifice, plus the cost of my transfer back to Punta Arenas, a five hour transfer).

After starting this trip well enough in Vina Del Mar at the Gala Hotel, a 3 star hotel that somehow calls itself a 5 star hotel, a four night stay in San Pedro De Atacama at the Tulor Hotel and three nights in Santiago at the Plaza San Francisco, I arrived at Hosteria Las Torres.

Let me just say that whoever designed the website of Hosteria Las Torres is a marketing genius. I mean how else can you get people to leave the friendly and convenient confines of Puerto Natales, every bit as beautiful as Hosteria Las Torres, with all the modern conveniences of restaurants, internet cafes, shopping, etc., to come to Hosteria Las Torres??? At Hosteria Las Torres, 2 hours away from civilization, one may be expected to be price gouged, offered terrible service and best of all, substandard food and rooms that do not measure even 200 square feet, and that is in a superior room!!! I paid about the same for a 180 sf superior room as I did for a 650 sf jacuzzi suite at the Plaza San Francisco. Hosteria Las Torres has the nerve to charge about $20 for a box lunch consisting of an awful sandwich, a piece of near rotting fruit and a chocolate bar that was honestly past its life expectancy date!!! The buffet dinner is nothing special but is a whopping $30 per person excluding even soft drinks or bottled water. No worry...a can of Coke is only $4 and the wines are only marked up 200%. You can get a candy bar in the store that retails for about 35 cents in Puerto Natales for ONLY $2!!! What a deal!!!

Anyway, I was happy to check in to the beautiful Jose Nogueira Hotel in Punta Arenas and have an incredible room with a full sized jacuzzi, huge bathroom, sitting area, and nice sized bedroom with a King Bed (instead of the full bed offered in the Superior room for two people sharing).

If you must go to Torres Del Paine, I strongly suggest the Hosteria Pehoe, instead. It is only about $160 a night and has much nicer rooms that are larger than Hosteria Las Torres and is in a location 50 times better, right near Explora (with a location just as spectacular). Of course, the very best suggestion would be not to venture past Puerto Natales, unless you are hiking/trekking the circuit at Torres Del Paine. I am sure you can do all the worthwhile hikes at Torres Del Paine and still stay in Puerto Natales, not giving Hosteria Las Torres the opportunity to rape you with their atrocious prices and service.
Like I said, whoever designed that website is an absolute marketing genius. Don't believe the hype.
On a more positive note, my wife and I loved Santiago and even looked at new luxury apartments in Las Condes. Not very cheap compared to some countries but we would love a place in a nice thriving Southern Hemisphere city such as Santiago that we could spend a few months a year in within the near future. Also, I had a good time in Vina Del Mar, running the Costa Del Pacifico Marathon from Puchuncavi??? to Vina Del Mar (26.2 miles).
I will definitely return to Santiago but probably not to San Pedro De Atacama (nice for three nights, glad I saw it but once is enough) and definitely not to Torres Del Paine. I would possibly return to Puerto Natales and definitely like Vina Del Mar, especially the bordering Renaca Beach.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Author: xxx
Date: 12/14/2002, 09:45 am
Message: I agree and disagree with your comments. I feel Torres del Paine is a not to be missed location. We drove from Punta Arenas where we had a wonderful stay at the Jose Nogeira. We also stayed at Hosteria Las Torres and I agree the website makes the place look much nicer than it is. The rooms were small, there was construction going on so there was constant noise and hammering. The food was the most expensive and the most tasteless food we had in Chile. The restaurant was full of tour groups. Since we travel on our own we usually try to avoid 'tour-group' hotels. We very much enjoyed driving through the park and the short hikes we went on. Beautiful waterfalls, the glaciers at Lago Grey, the guanacos and nandu along the roads, unbelievable beauty. We had lunch at Hosteria Lago Grey and the food was much better with a good view. Hosteria Pehoe has a great location, it would have been a better choice. Also stopped by the Explora, can't see why it costs so much. Overall, we loved Chile and would definitely go back.

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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 09:46 AM
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I do have a few pictures of Patagonia and the Atacama Desert in my online portfolio, but it mostly consists of my Africa pictures. You can follow this link if you wish to view my photo album. Registration is free and may be required to view the photo album:

http://www.ofoto.com/BrowsePhotos.js...1&sort_order=0
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 10:20 AM
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And to answer your question about little feedback regarding Chile and Patagonia...it is just not a very popular tourist destination. It is very far from both the United States and Africa.

Remember, East Africa is only an eight hour flight from Europe and quite a few posters on the Africa forum are European.

Additionally, while many people get bitten by the "Africa Bug", you would be hard pressed to find those that have bitten by the "Patagonia or Chile Bug," wishing to return to Patagonia or Chile, time and time again.

Unless you absolutely need to go to Chile, I would suggest that you consider Argentina, which also features a portion of Patagonia. The prices are MUCH better in Argentina and it is completely safe, from what I learned from others I spoke to in Chile. Chileans are flocking to Argentina right now to take advantage of the bargains that abound. I would think that Buenos Aires is much more interesting than Santiago.

However, in Argentina, you would miss the Atacama Desert, but if you are not planning on seeing it anyway, then you should really consider Argentina instead.
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 10:22 AM
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Ooops, I meant Chile was very far from Europe, NOT Africa (although I didn't see a single person of African descent in my entire time in Chile).
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