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Dec. 2018 in Chile/Argentina: Need your help planning!

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Jan 4th, 2018, 06:53 PM
  #41
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THANK YOU again, my fellow Fodorites!

Just so you know, folks, I'm not completely ruling out El Chalten. I think I need to meditate on this more to see if we'd rather do El Chalten and then cut San Martin (but just do Bariloche) and then also potentially cut a day from BA. I do think the scenery and vibe in El Chalten is definitely up our alley.

Speaking of overall timing: currently we have 4 nights in BA. Is that too much? Just right? Would 3 be just as adequate? BA is a bit of an enigma to me. I do love cities, but even in the best of cities, 4 nights is a good amount of time. Just wondering what perspectives on this are.

We still have a decent amount of flexibilty until we book our flights in 2-3 weeks. Love these forums BTW! In just a few short days, I've gone from daydreaming to an almost-complete plan. Crazy!
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Jan 4th, 2018, 07:02 PM
  #42
 
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I may not be the best person to comment on BsAs. Just as many people love Bangkok and I'm not a fan, many people love BsAs and I was a bit disappointed. (And it's not that I dislike all cities, just some in particular). Plus, I think the scenery in Chile and Argentina is so outstanding it's hard for the cities to compete.

I think you can get a pretty good look in two full days, but you could stay busy for three as well. Did I already recommend the graffiti tour?
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Jan 5th, 2018, 05:06 AM
  #43
 
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I agree with thursdaysd re BsAs. Now granted we spent one night on our first trip to Patagonia and two nights (one on each end) of our second trip to Patagonia, and we were not overly impressed with it. And we too like cities (we were just in Lisbon for two nights and we loved loved loved that city). I also agree that the scenery in those countries is beyond one's imagination and the thrill of being out someplace so grand, so raw and wild puts to shame any city there.

BTW-As every one agreed, you still do not need three full days in Calafate. And just as an FYI If you are doing the walk on Perito Moreno, which includes a boat ride, and may include the walkways, then I am not too sure why you would need to do a second day to another glacier on a boat.

And not to beat a dead horse, but you brought it up again , if you are choosing between San Martin and El Chalten (both of which we have been to; EC twice and hoping for another return in 2020), then hands down it is El Chalten. The town is more like an outpost, completely isolated yet with a great vibe. The mountains looming above the town are something you can never grow tired of looking at. San Martin is just like El Calafate in a way, and similar to Bariloche, but on a smaller scale. San Martin is pleasing to the eye architecturally and scenery wise it sits in a pretty valley on a lake but that's it. El Chalten is not a tourist destination-it is a destination for those who came to explore the outdoors. Comparing them is like comparing apples to oranges. Now with that said, if El Chalten is out of contention, then I would think more seriously about staying in San Martin instead of Bariloche. Doing both is very redundant in my book. We would return to San Martin, mostly because we love to fly fish, but if someone gave us a choice of San Martin or Chalten, well I think you know which one would win!

If you are interested here is my trip report to our first trip, including Chalten, Calafate, TdP, Natales and Arenas:

https://www.fodors.com/community/sou...reath-away.cfm

And our second trip that I am not sure what happened to the many of the postings but there are links to Vimeo videos that show many of the areas:

https://www.fodors.com/community/sou...-patagonia.cfm

If you pulled a day from Calafate and one from BsAs, then you would be able to either comfortably add San Martin or Chalten.
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Jan 5th, 2018, 06:33 AM
  #44
 
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You are really choosing between the outdoors and its fabulous scenery and what big cities have to offer. I have been to BA 4 times and really like it. Like most big cities there is plenty to see & do there so that is really not the issue. Three days would give you a taste of BA. If you don't plan on returning to this area I would take a day from BA and 2 from el Calafate and fit in el Chalten.

We enjoy leisurely drives with good scenery & are glad we left Bariloche as its charm escaped me. We quite liked San Martin de los Andes. We went up the 7 Lakes road before it was paved and weren't overly impressed with it. We returned via rte 270 and surprsingly thought that more scenic. I think our TR was pretty detailed as to what we saw & our thoughts at the time.

Everyone seems to agree the outdoors is spectacular and it's a matter of how much time do you spend in it versus seeing a city and small town? I think ou cant go wrong with whichever you choose. Just different experiences.
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Jan 5th, 2018, 09:39 AM
  #45
 
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Seems like there at least 3 of us who don't care for Buenos Aires, and for me, not particularly Santiago although I'd chose the latter over BA.

I do however, like Medellín, Lima, Bogotá, Valparaiso, and even Quito, as far as larger South American cities go. And I live in a big city so it isn't a mattter of not liking cites. I just think the emperor has no clothes.

Spend a few days to get a taste and assume you'll be back if you like it.
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Jan 5th, 2018, 09:40 AM
  #46
 
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And La Paz, how could I forget La Paz..talk about an amazing combo of city life, scenery, and culture!
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Jan 5th, 2018, 10:55 AM
  #47
 
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That's the beauty of Fodors -- we all like different places and things.
In SA Santiago, Quito & Lima did nothing for me, but I liked Medellin, Bogotá & Valparaiso.
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Jan 10th, 2018, 02:40 PM
  #48
 
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We also thought Buenos Aires was just OK. Expected to like it more. We had our worst hotel experience ever there but luckily changed to a wonderful one. We also fought off a scam and a robbery attempt which all colored our impressions of the city. After that, I wanted to leave.
We flew from BA to Bariloche and enjoyed it for a few days. There is a strong German influence there and in the Chilean Lake District too as German farmers were recruited to settle ni those areas many years ago. We enjoyed doing the Lakes Crossing and stayed overnight at a very nice lodge n the middle of the national park in Chile. We liked Puerto Varas, Chile, the end of the crossing, a lot. We explored the towns along the lake for a few days too.
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Jan 14th, 2018, 02:09 PM
  #49
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Okay, gang, so I think I'm inching my way closer to a pretty solid itinerary.

Since we all last spoke, I've had a very good friend (who is Argentinian) visit and he's told me I must see El Chalten, so despite my previous intentions, it looks like we're going to try and fit it in. This will come at the cost of San Martin (which shouldn't come as a surprise) and a night in BA (but given the feedback I've seen here so far...3 nights in BA sounds fine (vs 4). Also--you'll likely notice I've added a day in Iguazu. That's for two reasons: 1) I can assume we'll get there late in the day (it'll be a long travel day that day) and 2) we want to stay at the new Awasi property that just opened there...and they've really taken a strong stance on showing folks as much of Iguazu away from the falls as they do at the falls. They have a gorgeous property and a ton of hikes and excursions in the rainforest that make the 3 nights there a natural choice for us.

That said, here's the new working itinerary:
DAY 1 Depart from LAX
DAY 2 Arrive Santiago (@ 7 AM) / Transfer to Valparaiso or Santiago
DAY 3 Valparaiso
DAY 4 Fly to Puerto Natales / Transfer to Torres del Paine
DAY 5 Torres del Paine
DAY 6 Torres del Paine
DAY 7 Torres del Paine
DAY 8 Transfer to El Calafate
DAY 9 El Calafate
DAY 10 Drive to El Chalten (Car Rental)
DAY 11 El Chalten
DAY 12 Drive to El Calafate / Fly to Bariloche
DAY 13 Bariloche
DAY 14 Bariloche
DAY 15 Fly to BA / Iguazu
DAY 16 Iguazu
DAY 17 Iguazu
DAY 18 Fly to Buenos Aires
DAY 19 Buenos Aires
DAY 20 Buenos Aires
DAY 21 Fly to LAX (@ 6PM)


Now, a few additional questions based on the updated itinerary:
  • Is Valpo for 2 nights too much? Assume the first day we'll be a bit beat but are there enough walks and things to do to fill up 2 days?
  • Given this new itinerary, where would we work in penguins? I can't leave and not see them. Just not sure where the best place to try and attempt that would be. My Argentinian friend is convinced Ushuaia is worth a visit to fit the bill, but there's no way I can cram that into this already ambitious plan (unless we dumped one destination in favor of it--and I just can't see that happening). Really do want to get up close to those penguins, though, so looking for your advice.
Thanks, as always, and looking forward to your responses!
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Jan 14th, 2018, 04:33 PM
  #50
 
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Other than El Chalten feeling rushed with 2 nights, your itinerary looks good and reasonable. I had one long day in Valparaiso and saw plenty but two days will allow you to slow down. If you find yourself bored - or even if you don't - Isla Negra is down the road from Valparaiso and well worth a visit. There are wineries near Valparaiso and Isla Negra offering tours and tastings if that interests you. As for penguins, unfortunately, you won't find them in the places you are visiting. Ushuaia is a good place for a day trip to a penguin colony, as is Punta Arenas.
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Jan 15th, 2018, 05:35 AM
  #51
 
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Agreed that Chalten is rushed. Your friend said you have to see Chalten, sometimes the mountains are behind the clouds for days which is why most people give it a few more days. If you think you can take a day from BsAs, I would. Otherwise, it looks good. Unfortunately, as tripplanner stated, you will not see penguins in any of your locations. Your only option would be to fly to Arenas, instead of Natales and take a day trip to one of the penguin colonies. Since you are staying in Bariloche, check out Lirolay Suites for a hotel-it is wonderful! Make sure to book your Perito Moreno excursion ahead of time. We had good look with EMSA care rental in Calafate on two separate occasions-they don't have offices at the airport but you can drop off there for a small fee.
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Jan 15th, 2018, 08:19 AM
  #52
 
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I was able to fill Valpo easily. You can do a graffiti tour (there are multiples). I also enjoyed the "cultural" tour offered by Tours4Tips. By myself I rode the ascensor and walked up to the Neruda house at the top of the hill (La Sebastiana). Also went to Isla Negra. There is a museum in Viņa del Mar that some people liked, as well as the big beach there and I think crellston mentioned horseback riding. The seafood options for dining are good in the Valparaiso area..I liked SaborColor and a local restaurant in Isla Negra. There is also a craft beer scene there.

Penguins..you would want to take a day off of Torres del Paine for that and would need to come in via Punta Arenas . Isla Magdalena has the huge colony of Magellanic Penguins..check the seasonality, they migrate. There is also a new colony of king penguins in Tierra del Fuego but unless you go by plane, it's a two day excursion by ferry from Punta Arenas. The company Far South Expeditions is probably the main wildlife guiding expert around TdP out of the Chilean side...although we didn't especially like the guide assigned to us. However a friend used him another time and liked him. FSE didn't give us our guide's name after we booked, he just showed up (late) at the meeting place.

If you are staying at Explora, they might offer some advice also.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 15th, 2018 at 08:23 AM.
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Jan 15th, 2018, 02:38 PM
  #53
 
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Look into staying at Casa Higueras up in the hills of Valparaiso. We loved staying there, views, service, food, a charming place. We had a guiided walking tour from there, all so interesting.
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Jan 15th, 2018, 08:38 PM
  #54
 
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We're also thinking of visiting Chile and Argentina, but in April, during wine harvest and bottling.
Should we include some time in Patagonia? Guessing the weather might not be ideal then.
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Jan 15th, 2018, 10:09 PM
  #55
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Would it even be a feasible idea to think we could make our base El Chalten for 4 nights and just day trip to Perito Moreno (and other local sites) from there instead?
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Jan 16th, 2018, 04:24 AM
  #56
 
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You could not base out of Chalten to do Perito Moreno and there are no other local sites. El Chalten is very remote. If you are looking to get one more night in Chalten, a lot will depend on your transfer times and if you are trekking on the glacier or seeing it from the walkways. This would work if you are only seeing it from the walkways (we did this last time):
DAY 8 Transfer to El Calafate, pick up car, head to Chalten
DAY 9 El Chalten
DAY 10 El Chalten
DAY 11 El Chalten to Perito Moreno
DAY 12-Fly to Bariloche

If you have a late flight out to Bariloche you could potentially do the walkways the morning of but still staying Day 11 in Calafate. Remember you have daylight until almost 11:00 at night.
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Jan 16th, 2018, 07:14 AM
  #57
 
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Dave, April is late 'high season". It may be lovely..clear weather, the lengua trees changing color, and a dusting of snow.

However there may be fewer penguins, and other migratory birds will start leaving.

In 2016 I went on a Cape Horn Cruise that arrive in Buenos Aires in late March. There were still penguins around in Argentina (the Punta Tombo colony) and in the Falklands. But the season (and cruise ships) start to wind down toward April. Still we had excellent conditions less a huge windstorm on the Argie side. Ushuaia was fine.

I understand that the last cruise returning in April was quite a bit rougher.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 16th, 2018 at 07:18 AM.
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Jan 16th, 2018, 06:18 PM
  #58
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Thoughts on Puerto Madryn/Peninsula Valdes? Our Argentine friend recommended as an alternative to Bariloche. Also looks like a potential destination to get a fix for marine animals.
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Jan 17th, 2018, 09:04 AM
  #59
 
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If this is just for penguins I'd look at Punta Tombo is where the colony is, not Peninsula Valdes. We went as our land excursion off of the Cape Horn cruise.

It's about 3 hours each way driving and probably best to rent a car so you aren't limited on time there.

I don't know what flight options look like and not sure I'd want to have to spend any extra time in Puerto Madryn. So it would be a tradeoff vs taking a sometimes cancelled boat to Isla Magdalena in Punta Arenas.

If you wanted whales also be sure to check into their seasonality. But Christmas time is good for penguins.

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 17th, 2018 at 09:16 AM.
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Jan 17th, 2018, 09:27 AM
  #60
 
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We visited Peninsula Valdes in November staying in Puerto Madryn for a few days. The whales were magnificent, on the beach outside of town, by boat from Puerto Pyramides out on the pensinsula and even from the jetty right in town. In all three places we were just yards from th whales, by far the best whale watching experience anywhere we have been. BUT, I am pretty sure that the season is June - Dec, so unless you are thre in early Dec, I think the chances are low.

We also saw quite a few penguins but it was the wrong season for them really. Lots of elephant seals though which were v. Impressive.
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