Chile or Argentina?

Old Jun 25th, 2016, 02:08 PM
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Chile or Argentina?

in late November I will be on an 18-day Expedition cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica. While I am in that part of our world I want to see a bit of South America. But not a whirlwind tour of 10 places in 10 days! Because of the Antarctic portion, I won't need to visit glaciers and penguins in South America, but would rather see areas that are different in geography and wildlife. (Although Torres del Paine looks spectacular.) Also am interested in the cities and countryside for history, architecture, the arts and local culture, and food, opportunities to engage with the people. So I am thinking 7 days, before the cruise, in the central coast and northern part of Chile. Just can't decide where - still so much to see.

And then thinking about 3 days or so in Buenos Aires after the Antarctica portion before flying home.

I am grandmother age, active, solo traveler, casual, like small,lodgings, restaurants where the locals eat. Small hikes are enjoyable, all day trekking is not in the cards. interested in the off the beaten path ideas, Is there a must see national park in Chile? Santiago or Valparaiso or both? I welcome any feedback or ideas.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 03:39 PM
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Lucky you! I recently did a Valparaiso to Buenos Aires cruise. We did make it to the Falklands, if only for one too-short day..fantastic.

Valparaiso is definitely worth a stop. Especially for the architecture, arts and food. Look at Tours4Tips as far as walking tours of the Valparaiso street art and neighborhoods. If you like seafood Valparaiso and the coast south of there is also good. I think also it's a better place for a solo traveler.

I did enjoy Torres del Paine, the scenery is pretty spectacular, as well as Tierra del Fuego (if you have extra days there). But it may be similar to what you are seeing on the expeditions.

I didn't care for Buenos Aires. The food is pretty unspectacular and the landscape is flat and boring. I think Valpo is much more interesting (and manageable) and had better food, also. We did have a day in Montevideo which had some interesting shops, it's also a good place if you must eat steak is the Mercado del Puerto. Are you planning on ending in Buenos Aires anyways? If I had it to do again I would do just one night in BA and tack on Iguassu Falls instead of extra days in BA.

What about the Atacama desert? I think November should be okay for that.

Are other places in South America an option? If you did want to do Valparaiso/Atacama you could look into Bolivia and fly out of La Paz, or continue up the coast of Peru.
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 04:17 PM
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Very good info - thank you! So yes to Valparaso - one agent I talked to seemed to be pushing Santiago - but my research draws me to Valpo. I am interested in the Atacama but understood from same agent that it requires 5 days. You easily talked me out of 3 days in BA. Wasn't sure I "should" see Iguassu but I saw Vic Falls last year so perhaps I must see Iguassu. The only part of the trip that is certain is the Antarctica cruise - contract signed. All else is still in the planning stage. I am estimating 10 days for this additional travel because I have to have some estimate. I was thinking of a week before the cruise to travel and a few days post cruise. "Where" is flexible - I was thinking Chile and/or Argentina to minimize the travel time. I like to do my research and assemble a loose itinerary and then work with an agent to sort all the details. And yes, I must eat steak! (And seafood)
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Old Jun 25th, 2016, 05:21 PM
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I am not really a fan of SA cities, much preferred the scenery, but even I think Buenos Aires rates more than one night.

Understand you don't need more glaciers, but along with the glaciers, the premier sight on my trip to SA (Rio to Santiago via Patagonia, click on my name for the TR) was Iguazu falls. Can be seen as a side trip from Buenos Aires - recommend three nights, but needs at least two - as can Uruguay.

The Lake District around Bariloche is also worth seeing.

Note that the best steak is now in Uruguay, not Argentina.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 04:01 AM
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Thursdaysd, I just finished reading your TR for Rio/Patagonia/Santiago. Lots of excellent information. I am rethinking all of my first draft plans. Although I am still thinking of a week or so traveling before my ship embarks from Punta Arenas. And then two nights each in BA and Iguazu after I disembark the ship in Ushuaia. It's the details of the "week or so" that I am sorting. I have narrowed my choices to the Atacama, Bariloche area, maybe Santiago/Valparaiso, and Torres dry Paine. Ha! I have more "narrowing" to do. I am reluctant to commit to an agent until I have a general itinerary in mind.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 06:14 AM
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Glad it was helpful. And another vote for Valparaiso over Santiago.

Any reason you're doing the week before rather than after? Maybe the logistics would be better the other way round?
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 06:56 AM
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After staying up too late last night researching and still in my jammies at 11:00 today, I have my next itinerary draft:

Arrive in Salta (connect thru BA? Or?)
-Spend ? days in the Atacama area
Travel Salta to Santiago - air, bus?
-Spend ? days in Santiago and Valparaiso
Travel Santiago to Bariloche - air, bus?
-Spend ? days in Lake District
Travel boat/bus overnight across lake to Puerto Montt - Fodors says I should do this with a tour group since I speak no Spanish - 2 days
Travel Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas - air, bus?
-Spend ? days in Torres del Paine
(I board the Antarctica ship in Punta Arenas.)

What is the minimum time I should plan to do this? What are your must sees in these places?
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 07:20 AM
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Thursdaysd, just saw your post about reversing the order of my trip. The primary goal of this trip is Antarctica and after 18 days on a smallish ship, I thought it would be better to do the bulk of my other travel before the cruise. But - I come here for advice so I am all ears about your suggestion to reverse the order.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 07:39 AM
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"Fodors says I should do this with a tour group since I speak no Spanish - 2 days"

Nonsense. Well, maybe it depends on what they mean by a tour group. I booked with http://www.cruceandino.com/en/ via a local travel agent, and the guide accompanying the passengers spoke English. You don't need an additional guide. I speak essentially no Spanish, either.

Reversing - I was thinking about the length of the flights.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 08:31 AM
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Can you recommend your "local travel agent"?
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 08:40 AM
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Not to make your decision any more difficult, but Iguazu Falls is very much with the time if you can fit it into your itinerary. Having visited both Iguazu and Victoria, I give the edge to Iguazu. The two are quite different.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 08:58 AM
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No. I just walked into a handy office in Puerta Varas, have no idea which one. You really don't need an agent for SA, although there are recommendations on this board for someone called Isabel in Buenos Aires - a search here should turn up her contact info.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 09:21 AM
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Tripplanner001 - I plan to stop in Buenos Aires and Iguaza after the Antarctic cruise - maybe a couple of days for each. Although the whole itinerary could get rearranged before it's final. I saw Vic Falls last year - it was dry season - so although the falls were a bit "timid" I could see the geologic formations that create the amazing scene in wet season.

Thursdaysd - I did all my own planning and booking for Italy. Don't know why I am reluctant to do so in SA. The domestic transportation arrangements from place to place and advice on organizing the itinerary is what I want from the agent. Starting with how long should Impland and what should I expect to spend if I am happy with $$ small lodgings.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 09:48 AM
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If you were able to plan Italy, SA is no different. Just pick up or borrow some good guidebooks.

Only you can decide how long to spend somewhere. For costs see, e.g.

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/argentina/money-costs
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 09:58 AM
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Since you'll be leaving from Punta Arenas it makes sense to see Torres del Paine. I might go up to Puerto Natales (it's a longish drive so I'd overnight). Assuming you won't be hiking they run van based day trips along the southern side of the park with great views of the Cuernos (which is the iconic photo you've seen).

I have a trip report on here somewhere but I spent more time and hiked the "W" in sections.

In Punta Arenas I stayed at La Casa Escondida which is outside of town, loved it. The owners are English teachers and they provided transport into town when I needed it. They also arranged a tour and helped with getting bus tickets.

http://www.lacasaescondida.cl/home.html

In Valparaiso I stayed at the Ibis, which was convenient for the cruise. There are lots of trendy places up in Cerro Concepcion. I liked the Ibis. Easy to catch the green Trole (trolley) to get around the flats, not far from the starting point of the walking tours, and walking distance to one of the "ascensors". I would want at least two full days there, and another if you decide to take a side trip to Isla Negra (a Neruda house).

I had been to Santiago on a prior trip and didn't find it all that interesting, the airport is a ways out of town so if you wanted to do any sightseeing you would want at least two nights there.
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 10:10 AM
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There are a couple of worthwhile museums in Santiago, although one was closed when I was there.

http://www.precolombino.cl/en/
http://ww3.museodelamemoria.cl/
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 12:58 PM
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I just got back from the book store with a guide book on Chile. I found as I was reading the book I already had on Argentina that the mentions of trips across the border were grabbing my attention.

Correction to my draft itinerary above: not Salta for start - but San Pedro de Atacama - I want to see the geography, geography and critters of the desert area in the north of Chile.

Mlgb - yes, Torres del Paine has become a definite. I am interested in a short hike or two, but not the W. Although I love hiking, I hate camping. (I could be outside from dawn to dusk, as long as I have a shower and clean sheets at the end of the day, and someone else cooking dinner.) Thanks so much for your recommendations for lodgings in Valpo and PA. The pictures and descriptions of Valpo are so appealing. And your lodging choices fit my tastes. I like being a bit outside of the city center as long as I feel safe and can get to where I need to be without major effort.

Considering my other wish list stops, likely not enough budget to also see Puerto Natales. This will be my longest trip to date and I don't know what my mental or physical enthusiasm may be after Antarctica!

If I were going to hit just one big city - should it be Santiago or Buenos Aires?! It would be very convenient to time a visit to either with arrival on or departure from the continent (thinking airports).
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Old Jun 26th, 2016, 01:07 PM
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Buenos Aires. No contest. More to see. Also, probable entry/exit for Iguazu.
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 05:23 AM
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Next draft - Fewer places, maybe a more efficient route:

Arrive Santiago and connect to Calama
Bus to San Pedro de Atacama - 3 nights
Fly to Santiago, bus to Valparaiso -2 nights
Fly Santiago to Puerto Natales/Torres del Paine - 2 nights
Bus to Punta Arenas - 1 night
(board ship in Punta Arenas for Antarctica, Falklands, South Georgia - 18 days)
Disembark Ushuaia - 1 night (gives me a cushion in the event the ship is late returning)
Fly to Buenos Aires and connect to Puerto Iguazu
Iguazu Falls - 2 nights
Fly to Buenos Aires - 2 nights

Definitely the best birthday present I ever gave myself. Advice? Comments?
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Old Jun 27th, 2016, 06:00 AM
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Haven't been to Atacama, so have no opinion on that. Are you doing both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides at Iguazu? (If you are a US citizen you will need a visa for Brazil.) If so, you really need two days, so make that a late flight to BA.
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