.All Trips / Argentina / Chile / South America

Patagonian Roadtrip: El Chalten to Torres Del Paine

01-El-Chalten

It’s hard for many people from the “Old World” to envision the vast people-less places of the Americas, especially the closer one travels to the poles.  It’s equally empty in northern North America (Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories) as it is in southern South America (Patagonia).

There are stretches of road in these remote areas regions where you might not encounter a petro station for hundreds of kilometers (don’t worry, signs will warn you in advance so you’d need to be a fool to run out of gas).  No towns, often not even a rancher, to be found as far as the eye can see.

When visiting Patagonia, we made a rather long drive from Argentinian Patagonia to Chilean Patagonia.  A …

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“Pic of the Week”, July 8, 2016: Guanacos, Patagonia

El Chalten 2014 (6c) Guanacos

I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America.  Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one.  After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong.  They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day,   As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw.  They’re everywhere!  These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.

Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall  at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb).   Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 3, 2016: La Leona, Argentina

El Chalten 2014 (50d) La Leona

La Leona Rest Area and Countryside Hotel is 110 kilometers from El Calafate, on famous Patagonia Route 40, about half way between El Calafate and El Chaltén.  It’s an isolated place in an isolated region — the Patagonian steppe.  La Leona consists of a small collection of buildings sandwiched between the La Leona River and Route 40, and is close to Lake Viedma.  The main building was constructed in 1894 by the Jensens, a family of Danish immigrants.

It was at this spot that Francisco P. Moreno (Argentinian scientist, explorer and namesake of the famous glacier) had previously been attacked and wounded by a female cougar (known locally as a “lioness”).  Because of this incident the river that flows beside the …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 5) Viedma Glacier, Argentina

Viedma Glacier, El Chaltan 066

Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake.  You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).

The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better.  Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield.  The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west).  The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock.  El Chalten is in a non-snow …

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Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 4) El Chalten, Argentina

22 El Chalten 2014 (186)

Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina.  This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.

The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote.  It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.

The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 18, 2015: The Fitz Roy Massif, El Chalten

03 El Chalten 2014 (224)

For many years I’d wanted to see one of the most famous peaks in the world with my own eyes, namely the Fitz Roy Massif (aka Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy).  In fact, seeing the mountains of Patagonia was my greatest motivation for visiting the southern reaches of South America.

This mountain is very near that small Argentinian town of El Chaltén, which abuts the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  The Massif is situated around the poorly defined (and often disputed) border between Argentina and Chile, although the Argentinians claim it as theirs.  The mountain was named in honor of the famous captain by Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, in 1877.  Captain Fitz Roy and his ship, the HMS Beagle, traveled extensively around and …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place: Visiting Patagonia, 3) Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Argentina, Perito Merino Glacier 128

Our adventure in Patagonia is just beginning!  We’re going to start visiting and exploring those places people travel thousands of miles to see.  El Calafate may be a pretty little town but no one comes to Patagonia just to see it.  They come here to experience the magnificent landscapes of the Andes, the extensive Patagonian ice-fields, and the vast barren steppe.  The main Patagonian attraction close to El Calafate is the Perito Merino Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Glaciares National Park entrance is about an hour’s drive west of El Calafate .   You’ll drive mostly near the shore of Lago Argentino, the majestic Andes coming ever nearer.  We saw …

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Nowhere is a Place: Visiting Patagonia, 1) El Calafate, Argentina

074 Sunset in El Calafante

While they look extraterrestrial, those aren’t flying saucers or wormholes in the sky; rather, they’re some of the most unusual cloud formations I’ve ever seen.  The above image (and more in the photos below) was captured at dusk my first night in Patagonia and it affirmed my desire to visit this corner of the world.  It had taken 20 years, but I finally made it!  The breath-taking and sometimes surreal and barren landscapes of Patagonia are unlike any other!

Many people don’t know where ‘Patagonia’ is, or consider it just the name of a famous outdoor clothing brand.  My first in depth exposure to Patagonia (the southern portion of South America) came from reading the book, “Nowhere is a Place“, written …

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