Backroads or Nat Geo hiking Patagonia

Old May 7th, 2016, 01:51 PM
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Backroads or Nat Geo hiking Patagonia

I am fortunate to be able to have such a great choice to make.
In March, should I book the hiking trip in the Patagonia region with Backroads or Nat Geo?
Anyone have experience with either?
Backroads is day hikes spending 2 nights each at three luxury lodges in Los Glacieras.
National Geographic is hitting the highlights in Torres del Paine and Glacieres Park at standard lodges.

I realize this might be comparing apples and oranges. Point of reference- I went on the Peru Mountain Lodges trek to MP, and could not have had a more perfect trip. Trekking length each day from rewarding to challenging, great history, scenery and people.

Any thoughts appreciated. This is a big investment and decision. I was thinking Backroads would have me miss out on Torres del Paine- and maybe try to tack on Patagonia Camp $$$.
Or Nat Geo does it all...
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Old May 10th, 2016, 11:35 AM
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I wonder where in Los Glaciares the hotels are-it is a large park, comparable to the state of Delaware (if that means anything to you-don't know where you are from). There are no luxury lodges in El Chalten, some place I would not want to miss if I was going all the way to Patagonia, so that leaves me wondering what different areas you would be staying in. I also certainly would not want to miss Torres del Paine. I think if Nat Geo is doing it all-why not do that one? You aren't going to be spending much time in the lodge anyway assuming you are going all the way down there to take in the natural beauty.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 09:46 AM
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odie1,
Thank you for your reply. That is my hesitation- missing out on Torres delPaine after traveling all that way.
My husband is concerned the 6+ hour bus transfer from Calafate to TdP may "not be worth it for him to see more of the same".
Keeping everyone's interests in mind, and our budget, I was thinking doing the three stops in Los Cerros-El Chalten, Eolo-La Anita Valley and Estancia Cristina in Upsala Glacier.

This would give him the luxury he wants, the hiking and the vistas I want. I just read some very harsh reviews on the lodges from the Nat Geo trip.
Could do the above three luxury and then tag on the Eco Camp, risking the long and inconsistent transfer annoying husband...

Have you stayed at eco camp, or done through hiking? Through hiking is the kind of trip I prefer, yet we all have to meet in the middle, if I want to keep these trips on the schedule, and not be poolside.
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Old May 14th, 2016, 01:21 PM
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onthebow-
We have not stayed at those lodges nor done through hiking. We-My husband, daughter (10 at the time) and I stayed four nights in El Chalten, Two in El Calafate, four in Torres del Paine and then continued on to Punta Arenas. We stayed in individual lodges and did all of our own hiking-day hikes but we did some big ones. We hiked on the Perito Merino glacier as well. We rented a car for El Chalten, took a bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales and then on to Torres in another rental car. The scenery was unbelievable. So much so, we are headed back this December again for another two weeks!
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Old May 15th, 2016, 06:18 PM
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I would definitely not miss TdP...it is fabulous. It's very different from othe replaces we visited. Can't provide any advice beyond that as we did the trip ourselves and never did through hiking or stayed at the places you mention.

Have you done a search here for trip reports? I recall someone doing a tour that had luxury hotels, but can't recall exactly where she went.
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Old Jun 29th, 2016, 01:53 PM
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yestravel and odie1-Thank you for the reply. I have hammered out 3 different itineraries- and I am stuck- they all seem to have pluses and minuses. I know it is not about the lodges- I have listed them to give geographical way points. That being said- when reviewers say the lodges run out of food...that gives me pause. As my son said- we will just carry extra.

I was wondering if I should stick with these hotels, and do day hikes:
three stops: Los Cerros-El Chalten, Eolo-La Anita Valley and Estancia Cristina in Upsala Glacier
OR
try to do it all:
Punta Arenas, Hotel Lago Grey, Refugio Paine Grande, French Valley, Cerro Guido, then into Argentina for El Calafate/Perito Moreno, Leona Petrified Forest, 3 days in Los Glaciares based out of Hotel Destino Sur.
OR
the "O" trek:
Lodge Paine Grande, Camp Frances, Refugio Torre Norte, Camp Dickson, Los Perros Camp, Camp Grey.

Trying too hard and just need to decide I think....so input is very appreciated.
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Old Jul 1st, 2016, 07:19 AM
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You don't say how many days you would be staying in option #1, which I think could make a difference but that to me would be the preferable, although you miss TdP which is truly spectacular as well.

Option two seems to have it all. Hotel Destino Sur is in El Chalten so you get to see both TdP and Chalten. I assume this allows for a day hike to Laguna de los Tres?

Having seen everything I have seen, I don't think I would want to do the "O" trek as my first trip to Patagonia and miss out on everything else, unless I was a serious trekker. If it is an option, you could always do this one and then add on your own part to El Chalten-a guide is not needed for these hikes but are available to hire in town
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Old Jul 1st, 2016, 09:53 AM
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You might look at all or parts of the W instead of the O (new expression for me)...

If you are serious hikers I would do the hike to the Towers. You can do it as a day trip from Las Torres (several accommodations right there). In the summer there is plenty of daylight even if you are slow.

You can see the Cuernos and Glacier Grey from the road on the south side of the park. Also possible to hike partway up French Valley as a day trip from the Lodge Paine Grande.
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Old Jul 1st, 2016, 07:12 PM
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We eliminated el Chalten and I still regret it, so I would try to fit it in. We only did one all day hike in TdP and spent the rest of the time checking out what could be seen from the car send with short walks. But I'm not one to do strenuous hikes everyday.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2016, 06:15 AM
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onthebow- I wrote up a trip report here. It touches on El Chalten, El Calafate (including the bus transfer to TdP), Puerto Natales, TdP, and Punta Arenas. There might be some useful info in there to help with your decision.

here is the link:

http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...reath-away.cfm
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 04:52 PM
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odie1- great advice on the "o" not being first trip to Patagonia. Crossed that off.
If I want to hit my list over the years of Mont Blanc, Japan, cross UK etc I have to keep the whole group interested.
mlgb- yes we hope to trek to base of the towers weather permitting, we do like hiking over seeing from a van.
All of this is great- and I loved the trip report- I am narrowing things down and keep reading conflicting reports about crowds and garbage-

Do we want more time in TdP at the eco camp?
Or more time in El Chalten at places like Hosteria Senderos or Don Los Cerros?
Also thinking of betting the ranch and staying at just Eolo in LaAnita Valley and Explora in Tdp. by making it my birthday gift to myself for the next few years...

We will be there mid march- so that may help the crowds. We have 12-14 days available.
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Old Jul 16th, 2016, 05:17 PM
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You can stay at Las Torres Hotel, or Explora. You don't have to stay at the EcoCamp.

The best hike is the one to the Towers. Also the one up French Valley was pretty cool if you go as far as to hear the glacier cracking. That can be done as a day hike as well.

You can get the vistas of the Cuernos from the south side, or the catamaran. If it isn't really windy, there is also a hike out on a gravel spit which has some great views of the glacier bergs. The one thing that I have heard is redundant is going out to Glacier Grey if you are also going to Perito Moreno.

I think some of the lodges such as Las Torres or Explora also have all inclusive packages which include the transfers.
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Old Jul 17th, 2016, 05:46 AM
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If you stay at Eolo, will you make a day trip to El Chalten for the hiking? The hike to Laguna de los Tres is not to be missed. Google it for images.
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Old Jul 17th, 2016, 06:38 AM
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I need to change the title of my post(!) as I think we are not going with Nat Geo at all- you are all so helpful I am plugging it all together myself.

Las Torres is 1/4 the cost of Explora- thanks they do have all inclusive!

Eolo seems popular with guided trips- so I was figuring it is a good bet-*thoughts?.
I am looking at Aguas Arriba lodge or other in Chalten- *recommendations?.
Will not miss Laguna de los Tres -thank you.
Any other "must see" appreciated and I will build our lodging around that list:
Towers Base Trek
Perito Merino
Fitz Roy
French Valley
Laguna de Los Tres
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 05:04 AM
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We did the treks in El Chalten by ourselves and then hired the Hielo y Aventura for the Perito Moreno trekking. We didn't use guides so can't really comment on the prospect of having a guided trip.
Fitz Roy is the granite peak in El Chalten and you will only see it (if you are lucky) from town and while trekking to LdlT. There is really no other way to see it.
Aguas Arribas Lodge is in a spectacular location, completely secluded-and I mean completely. It certainly gets great reviews and we considered staying there as well but we enjoy mixing with the locals and going to various restaurants etc so we chose to stay in town. I know they do some guided trips from there.
If you are going to TdP, will you be staying in Puerto Natales at all?
So, what is your final itinerary looking like?
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 05:39 AM
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odie1- Thank you again. We had not planned on Puerto Natales- but willing to look if we can fit it in and you recommend it.
I do not know how many nights in each region, and just narrowing down the lodging.
I was originally starting North (fly into Calafate) and working South (depart from Punta Arenas)- but this can change and start South depending on lodge and flight availability. We plan on arriving in "trekking shape" so did not take into consideration starting with easier hikes.
In the interest of time, was not going to spend any days in BA.

Shaping up roughly 3 nights each lodge: Las Torres, Eolo, Aguas Arribas.
Figuring 2 days travel on either end- leaves me a night or two to play with.
I had thought eco camp would be fun as it is different- perhaps next trip.

Side note A friend just sent me the Mt Travel Sobek itinerary for Hikers Patagonia- all packaged with a bow Not sure about the guided aspect either- we are usually solo (except in Galapagos).
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 09:26 AM
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Just remember it is an entire day trip from Calafate to TdP, so figure that into your travel. If you are taking a regular bus for this it will take you into Puerto Natales (6 hours) and then from there it is another three hours to Torres in TdP. No need to add Natales into your itinerary, it is a city (though we liked it very much). Calafate really only needs one full day to do the Perito Moreno Glacier so I would add any extra days to Chalten or TdP.
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Old Jul 18th, 2016, 01:46 PM
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I stayed a night in Natales because it was a longish slog from Punta Arenas all the way to TdeP by public transit, so I wanted to take a day between to cruise with Turismo 21 de Mayo up the Ultima Esperanza sound. On the way back out I had a good connection in Natales and did it all in one long day.

If you are coming direct from Argentina I believe there are vans that don't go all the way in to Natales. Also, if you are on all-inclusive with Las Torres don't they provide your transfers also?

There isn't anything wrong with Natales, it's just a matter of how much time you have.
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Old Jul 19th, 2016, 09:04 PM
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We are signed up with Mt. Travel Sobek for the Hikers' Patagonia trip next March, as it is exactly what we want. I made a spreadsheet and compared several guided trips, including Nat.Geo ( MTS actually runs their trips), Bio-Bio, and a couple of others. MountainTravel won out.

We want a guided trip for several reasons, including the camaraderie of the other hikers. Plus we are happy to have someone else manage the transport logistics. A friend who went independently with her grown son last February said the independent travelers had a lot of rigmarole at the border, and wasted a lot of time on this and other transport issues. So while we are normally independent in our travels, we have chosen a guided trip for Patagonia.
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Old Jul 20th, 2016, 07:38 AM
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enzian- Thank you for your info. MTS does not have a departure date that matches up for us, and they have a different itinerary if you go solo. Their group itinerary looks like a great trip!
You sound like me- making a spreadsheet.
I do agree having someone handle the rigamarole might be the way to go. I have to get over paying a premium- eg. the hotel booked directly charges 500/night with guides and transport; yet one guide company is quoting 1k/day for all the same inclusives, itinerary, lodge guides etc.

And then I have not even begun on airfare research...
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