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

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Jan 17th, 2018, 05:52 PM
  #61
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Thanks for the food for thought, @mlgb and @crellston!!

Upon further research, I have to admit: I am a bit taken by the idea of Punta Tombo--which very much seems to be the Holy Grail of penguin viewing in December (as far as sheer volume of animals, in addition to seemingly far less people than Isla Magdalena). Magdalena would be tough as it'd mean we'd have to get to Punta Arenas the night before and, as mlgb mentioned, with the lingering chance of a boat cancellation.

If I did go this route, I'd have to see what flights hold in store and if that'd really even work out (and it's way too early to even get a sense of that: which makes this challenging!). But, theoretically, it seems possible to fly from El Calafate (after El Chalten) down to either Ushuaia (or up to BA) and then connect to Trelew (which is much closer to Punta Tambo than Madryn). Or, supposedly, there's some random airline called LADE that flies from El Calafate to El Tehuelche, which is near Puerto Madryn. Sounds a bit sketchy but they allegedly fly direct.

I know going this route would mean sacrificing Bariloche but it also would give us some more breathing room in El Calafate.

To be completely honest, Bariloche is the one part of the trip I'm still most ambivalent about (people keep saying it's all about the views but I'm honestly struggling to think what we'd even do there to fill up 3 days). Also seems like, with our current itinerary, we've got a lot of similar scenery...and the ability to do something like this and see penguins might break that up a bit.

Perhaps this is just a whim and I'll decide it's ultimately not worth the headache just to see this particular penguin colony. But, then again, it also seems like a little bit of a mini-adventure, unpredictable and a bit exciting--which definitely appeals to me.
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Jan 17th, 2018, 07:56 PM
  #62
 
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Unless you use one day for a day trip to San Martin I agree you don't need three days for Bariloche,

Pix of the views here: https://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/...012/Bariloche/

Then you may want to take one of the boat rides on the lake, especially as you are not doing the bus-boat Andes crossing.
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Jan 18th, 2018, 10:28 AM
  #63
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Thanks for that, @thursdaysd. I guess what I'm asking is: do you think Bariloche is a "must-see" given our overall itinerary? I still can't really get a sense of Bariloche other than it having a pretty view of the lakes (which your pics definitely showcase!)...but not much else.
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Jan 18th, 2018, 10:53 AM
  #64
 
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Well, I really liked Bariloche, obviously, but it is not in the same class as TdP or El Calafate/El Chalten. And the town itself is very touristy - but then so is El Calafate. If penguns or whales are a high priority for you (I didn't see any), then I would prioritize them over Bariloche.
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Jan 19th, 2018, 11:09 AM
  #65
 
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Still having issues with the new format but see if these pictures post

Punta Tombo

https://www.fodors.com/community/att...1&d=1516392257

https://www.fodors.com/community/att...1&d=1516393195

https://www.fodors.com/community/att...1&d=1516393217

Last edited by mlgb; Jan 19th, 2018 at 11:22 AM. Reason: added photos
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Jan 19th, 2018, 02:12 PM
  #66
 
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mlgb-pics not viewable-says invalid attachment.

El Calafate is touristy, that's why the suggestion to spend as little time there as possible. We only spent one night in Bariloche, so can't comment too much on things to do but the scenery outside of the city itself is very different then TdP and Chalten. LADE is actually the airline that flies to Antarctica from Argentina. If penguins are your thing, then I would try for that and when it comes time to booking flights, if getting to Tombo doesn't work then fly into Arenas and put the penguins there, just bumping your schedule days up a bit, because remember it is possible that you might not get flights into Natales-that connection has seem to come and go over the years-which means you will have fly into Arenas.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 04:56 PM
  #67
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Upon further digging, it looks like we might have better luck flying from El Calafate to Trelew. Seems to be far more flight options that way. That said, Madryn and Trelew, at first glance, seem terribly depressing and uninteresting. Likely, as mlgb suggested, places to get in and out of very quickly.
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Jan 21st, 2018, 08:34 PM
  #68
 
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Sorry re the pics, still having new forum issues
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Jan 24th, 2018, 03:06 PM
  #69
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So, not sure how, but EOLO is sold out already (almost a year in advance and not even for dates the week of Christmas/New Years!) Never seen that happen and I've stayed in all kinds of in-demand places all over the world. I could understand Christmas but not a week before it.

Anyway--I digress. What are other options in El Calafate for decent to higher-end lodgings? Looks like Estancia Cristina and Helsingfors are both quite a bit out of the way and probably wouldn't be worth it for 2 nights--considering we're only in El Calafate to see and hike on Perito Moreno.

Totally understand that EOLO and the like are top-notch accomodations, but not seeing much in between basic digs and that.

Any suggestions are appreciated and welcomed!!
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Jan 25th, 2018, 05:45 AM
  #70
 
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Did you contact them directly? I think you may be too early. We have had problems many times in Argentina trying to book this far out.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 10:52 AM
  #71
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Originally Posted by odie1 View Post
Did you contact them directly?
I did...twice. They're saying they're fully sold out. I've heard of booking in advance (which I've always been told I was crazy to do this early) but sold out this far in advance? ...this one takes the cake.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 12:18 PM
  #72
 
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I stayed here: HOSTERIA HAINEN - La Hosterķa

But I doubt it is what you are looking for. However, I had a big room and the staff were excellent. They prebooked everything except the bus to Chile (you have to show up at the bus station with a passport to do that). They put up a very edible packed lunch both days. The owner drove me to the bus station the day I left.

It is not right in town, and it is not a hotel. I would certainly say it was decent, but it was definitely not high end. Of course, compared to the one night I spent in a hostel nearer the bus station after El Chalten, it was nirvana.
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Jan 25th, 2018, 12:40 PM
  #73
 
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wow-i wonder if there is a Nat Geo trip or something like that staying there then. That is pretty crazy.

We stayed at Santa Monica Aparts both trips. The location was fantastic-walked to dinner, also to the car rental office we used, the staff wonderful, breakfast was pretty basic, the cottages were nice (bathrooms especially) BUT the wooden floors squeaked! Not a problem if you don't get up in the middle of the night but when one of you does it can be annoying. No views but lovely gardens visited by ibis, which can get a bit loud sometimes! I do not think you are going to find anything else on the level of EOLO there. The two estancias you mentioned are way out of town-really a trip unto themselves, not conducive for a short stay.
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Jan 30th, 2018, 01:37 PM
  #74
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@odie1, thanks for the car rental recess for El Calafate. You mentioned you used EMSA Car Rental in El Calafate?

I don't see them having a location listed (their website only shows Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales). Is it possible they've closed that location?
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Jan 31st, 2018, 03:26 AM
  #75
 
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filmwill-sorry for that, I used EMSA in Puerto Natales with a return to Punta Arenas. In Calafate we used Servicar twice-both times we had excellent service and the cars were fine-don't expect them up to American standards. We never got a 4x4 and we took the cars down ripio roads, including to the end of Lago Desierto with no problems. Also managed to cram two extra hitchhikers (lots of backpackers on the road to Chalten) in with us a few times. And don't be surprised when they talk about "roll over" insurance-the winds can be something fierce down there!
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Feb 1st, 2018, 02:17 PM
  #76
 
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Feb 19th, 2018, 01:53 PM
  #77
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I'm back! So, after a lot of additional thought, and now that flights are loaded for December, I'm reconsidering the Punta Tombo/Puerto Madryn portion of our trip. If you remember, we had planned 3 nights there to see the penguins at Punta Tombo and also visit Peninsula Valdes (before heading to the final legs of our trip in Iguazu and then BA). But the flights and travel times are just making it almost impossible to plan and, frankly, just want to finalize our plan.

So it's looking like we'll, instead, head to Ushuaia from El Chalten (flying out of El Calafate), spend 3 nights and head to Iguazu from there.

Flight times all check out and seems pretty straightforward.

Now, would those of you who have been to Ushuaia...what would you recommend? A day tour at Tierra Del Fuego seems like a must -- as does getting our penguin fix vis a vis Isla Martillo.

Also, which hotel would you recommend? Looking for something on the higher-end, but also realize we're going to the end of the world...so not expecting much.
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Feb 21st, 2018, 10:57 AM
  #78
 
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If you have nights to play with you could again try for the penguins at Magdalena Island by flying in or out of Punta Arenas.

I did only have a full day around Ushuaia and visited the park for a day...it seemed like enough but was extra beautiful because it was when the trees were in color and with a dusting of snow.
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Mar 13th, 2018, 09:59 AM
  #79
 
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filmwill,
Perhaps you could book somewhere else in El Calafate for 2 nights, just to see Perito Moreno which was amazing and worth the trip. And, keep checking with EOLO for likely cancellations....we just stayed there at end of January and it truly was a remarkable location. Bariloche? I initially wanted to add that to our trip but the more I researched, the less I wanted to go.
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Mar 16th, 2018, 06:45 PM
  #80
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Thanks, all, for the usual stellar advice.

@barefoot: Yes, we've already done that. Will be staying at Esplendor, but we're already on the EOLO waiting list. If it works out, great...it not, no spilled milk: we're staying at a bunch of other great places and happy with how this all netted out.

Everyone else: we did end up booking to Trelew instead of Puerto Madryn (or the alternate Ushuaia plan we were considering). It was all about flight times departing this part of the trip, as we didn't want to get stuck connecting multiple times (e.g., Ushuaia) when we head to Iguazu from there and spend/lose that whole day traveling. So we'll be staying in Trelew, essentially, for just over 24 hrs...which is fine with me, since, from what I gather, it's not exactly the most interesting place. A quick in and out just to see the penguins is just how we want it...so let's hope it's not a rainy day!

I think I can finally say that the planning part of the trip is over. We've got our trip booked!!!

Thanks again, everyone. Will be reaching out soon with questions on specific destinations.
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