After stopping work I’ve decided to fulfill one of my dreams and travel to Patagonia. For me Patagonia was something very exotic and unfortunately I didn’t know much about it.
One of the top attractions I wanted to see was the glacier Perito Moreno.
I’ve started to read travel office arrangements and was wondering why they do not go to Perito Moreno. I was trying to get a map of the region (hard enough). Finally I’ve realized that the Perito Moreno glacier and the Perito Moreno city are ca. 600 km away. And that the Perito Moreno glacier is close to El Calafate. That’s why the most travel groups do not go to the Perito Moreno city ! I am sure that I was not the only one who had these problems…
The second problem was to find map of Patagonia. There is one in the travel book “Know How Argentina” but it is spread over 25 pages. So I had to copy 25 pages and paste them together to get a Patagonia map!
Then I spoke with friends of mine who have been in the area.
The famous globetrotters Silvia and Cristoph asked me: Why don’t you go to Parque Pumalin? Where? To Parque Pumalin. Never heard! Well, it is a wonderful rain forrest on Carretera Austral. That sounds exotic to me. I’ve got to go there! Then they showed me a wonderful video on Peninsula Valdez and how they watched whales FROM THE BEACH! I’ve got to go there! When I got there I realized that in January/February time frame the whales have a meeting with some fish swarms in the Artic Sea and they are no longer there. But Valdez became one of my absolute highlights.
Karl, another famous globetrotter recommended a cruise in Chile from Quellon on hte Chiloe Island to Puerto Chacabucco/Coihaique. This was supposed to be a kind of shuttle for the local people to carry the cows and the sheeps from one village to another. I’ve spent hours and hours in trying to get information on this cruise and I finally found the info. The cruise starts once a week so I have arranged all my bookings to be Friday in Quellon and take the cruise. Reservation in advance was not possible (no reply to emails, no answers on the phone). When I finally arrived at the ferry company Naviera Austral in Puerto Montt I found out that two weeks ago they changed the schedule without update in internet. Now the cruise started on Wednsday. So I had to skip this cruise. Sh…
And then I was very happy to find Katja’s site. She has a wonderful trip report so I’ve planned my trip similar to her. Katja, thanks for your wonderful trip report!
I am sure that a trip by car on Carretera Austral is wonderful, however especially for the northern part of Caretera Austral you need a car of your own, because nobody hires you a car to go there! And threre is no bus or train neither!
I have started the trip preparations in August 2011.
My plan was initially not to book in advance, but to go there and book on site. However I’ve found out that during the high season in Patagonia some places are totally booked. So I’ve booked first the refugios in Torres del Paine and the cabanas in Parque Pumalin. And then the flights. But since I had now fixed dates for the flights, for Parque Pumalin and for TdP, then I started to book the places inbetween. And finaly I’ve booked nearly everything in advance. I used the Trip Advisor for the hotel/hostal reviews and booked most of the hotels by using booking.com. Booking.com has the big advantage that the reservations can be short term canceled without any fee.
The advantage in booking everything in advance is that you have a large choice and most of the top rated hotel were still available. But however I was less flexible. But I was happy that I did it like this and for me as a single person it was much easier.
Refugios in Torres del Paine
I was in Torres del Pain in the highest season (Januray, February). For this time of the year you have book at least 5 months before the trip. I’ve booked in September and for one night Refugio Los Corneos was fully booked and I had to book a very expensive cabana.
If you want to camp you can rent everything there everything you need.
For the flights within Argentina I have booked in Germany a “Visit Argentina” flight pass from Aerolineas Argentina. I had five flights (BA – Puerto Madryn, Puerto Madryn – Calafate, Bariloche-BA-Iguazu and Iguazu – BA) and it costed 660 euro. However the flights have to be booked two-three months in advance. With Aerolineas Argentina you can not be very sure about the flight times. They keep changing the departure time until 30 min before the flight. So the best thing to do is to not plan any other activities the day of the flight. In all the cities there are public buses to and from the airport at reasonable costs (5-10 Euro). However if you arrive too late (after 9:00 pm) you would need a taxi.
I had one flight in Chile (from P. Arenas to Puert Montt) with Sky. I’ve booked the flight in Germany but it would have been cheaper if I booked it directly.
The advantage of renting a car via internet is much better conditions regarding insurance (no liability in the case of an accident) and cancellation (free of costs up to 24 h in advance).
I have tried to book a car in Argentina and to go to Chile. This was not possible. Most of the companies required a fee of at least 200 USD AND a special insurance for Chile. One company asked me to apply for this two days before but only directly in the local rental office (no internet, no telephone) and then wait two day for the result. I didn’t do it.
I’ve rented cars via http://mietwagen.check24.de/. They are very supportive and have a hotline in the case of problems.
The car rental companies have a lot of restrictions regarding where you are allowed to go. Eg you are not allow to drive on Carretera Austral etc. Please check in detail all the restrictions before you rent the car!
Most of the public buses can be booked on site in Argentina and in Chile. The best thing to do is when you arrive in a city to book the bus for leaving that city. 2-3 days in advance you always can book a seat on a national bus. Buses crossing the borders need to be booked some days in advance. Be aware that in most of the cases the time schedules for the buses that you find on internet are not up to date. The only possible solution is to go there or to call them on the phone (however in Spanish only).
Somebody said that the bus time schedules change as often as the Patagonian weather. Very true statement! Furthermore on the touristic routes there are big differences between the summer and the winter schedule.
Some below links for the most important bus companies in the region.
I have used following books:
- Argentina – Lonely Planet edition 2010 (English). Includes Chilean Patagonia Rating: **** out of 5.
- Argentinien, Author: Juergen Vogt – Reise Knowhow Verlag (German) edition oct 2009. Includes Chilean Patagonia and a good map. Rating: **** out of 5.
- Chile, Author: Malte Sieber – Reise Knowhow Verlag (German) edition 2009. Rating: **** out of 5
- Trekking in the Patagonian Andes, Lonely Planet (English) edition 2009. Rating *** out of 5.
- Patagonien und Feuerland. Authors: Gantzhorn, Wilken – Rother Verlag (German) edition 2010. Rating *** out of 5.
- Patagonien, Chile und Feuerland Authors: Stormer, Möbius (German). Regenbogen Verlag edition 2010. Rating * out of 5 (information wrong and out of date).
Under the gernamn legislation I had two additional insurances: one Auslandskrankenversicherung with Hanse-Merkur and one Reiserücktrittsversicherung with TravelProtect. But I was happy that I didn’t use none of them.
Some useful Links
Trip Reports Patagonia
- mankei travel. two years trip form Alaska to Ushuaia. Good lonk collection
- reise Katja. very detailed description of the Katja’s trip to Patagonia.
- Torres del Paine National Park
- A lot of information on Calafate and all bus connections from Calafate. Unfortunately the Spanish site is more complete that the English traduction
- A lot of information and useful links on Patagonia
- Parque Pumalin
- Booking Cabanas Torres del Paine – verticepatagonia
- Booking Cabanas Torres del Paine – fantastico sur
Transportation – Flight, Bus, Ship
- Buses Pacheco – bus company crossing the border Argentina/Chile in southern Patagonia
- Zaahj - bus company crossing the border Argentina/Chile in southern Patagonia. You can book a seat on the bus via email
- Ghisoni – bus company crossing the border Argentina/Chile in southern Patagonia.
- Fernandez – bus between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas
- Cootra - bus company crossing the border Argentina/Chile in southern Patagonia. No internet site. email: email@example.com
- Via Bariloche – bus between Puerto Montt (Chile) and Bariloche (Arg)
- andesmar – bus between Puerto Montt (Chile) and Bariloche (Arg)
- Cruz del Sur – bus between Puerto Montt (Chile) and Bariloche (Arg)
- naviera austral – ship company in Puerto montt
- cruise puerto montt puerto natales – Navimag
- visite argentina air pass from Aerolineas Argentina
Travel Forum, Travel Offices
Forum South America – virtual tourist
Travel office Chilean Patagonia – ayacara