Ellie Švrlanská: Trip to patagonia
08. 03. 2023
After a long caravan ride from Cusco, through Bolivia and all of northern Argentina, I finally made it to Patagonia! The first stop in northern Patagonia is Bariloche! In the winter, which is here from May to September, Bariloche is one of the most popular ski resorts. However, I'm here at the end of January, which means summertime, swimming in the lagoons and trekking in the national park.
The town and surrounding area offers a wide range of accommodation, from hotels to hostels and campsites in the forests or by lagoons. I check in at a hostel and the very next thing I do is head to the national park information center, to find out the information I need for trekking and camping.
The national park is full of hiking trails with several mountain lodges and campsites, for those who are interested in multi-day trekking. However, you need to book a place in a campsite or mountain lodge in advance and fill the national park online entry form.
For a two-day trek, I choose to hike to the Refugio Lopez mountain lodge, where I have reserved a campsite. A bus runs several times a day from the town center to the Colonia Suiza, translated as Swiss Colony, where the hiking trail begins. The route is not difficult at all, just follow the red signs. After about an hour and a half uphill, you will come across a mountain restaurant with spectacular views. From the restaurant, it is another two hours or so to the mountain hut. In addition, there is a natural swimming pool next to the hut, ideal for cooling off after a few hours of trekking in the sun.
As for clothing, even though it is summer here, I recommend packing everything from shorts to winter gloves. It's warm enough during the day and there's plenty of sun, so LAPINA-W shorts, a quick-drying LISMAIN-W t-shirt, along with sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen will come in handy. However, it's blowing terribly at the hut and the nights are cool even in summer so warm clothes to change into are not to be missed. So in my backpack next to my camping gear I also had LIGANO-W leggings, AILEEN-W sweatshirt, MAMBA-W outdoor jacket and TONIA-W winter hat. But I would recommend taking a winter jacket or something really warm too.
You can easily walk to the hut and back in a day, but if you want to enjoy the sunset and sunrise over a landscape full of lakes, mountains and lagoons, I deffnitely recommend staying overnight. Besides camping, there is the option to rent a room in the lodge and they even prepare dinners and breakfasts.
Around the lodge, you can take further hikes to the surrounding mountain peaks. The way back to the town is the same and ends in the Swiss Colony, where I recommend stopping for a while to see the picturesque huts or visit the local market.
Before you leave Bariloche, I recommend trying chocolate or chocolate ice cream at least once. The town is also nicknamed Little Switzerland and is famous for its great chocolates. There are many chocolate shops in town, and almost every one of them has an ice cream section, which is also amazing.
Not far from Bariloche is the small town of El Bolson, which has become very popular with travelers thanks to the Rio Azul ( Blue River). Beautiful clear turquoise water with enchanting nature and rocks in the surroundings, it's definitely a great destination for a day trip from Bariloche or as a stopover if you're traveling from Bariloche to the southern part of Patagonia.
In addition, there are many campsites, small restaurants and kiosks along the river. The most famous area is Paraiso Azul (Blue Paradise), where the river winds through a quiet area with pools that look like natural ponds.
Another destination not to be forgotten when visiting Argentine Patagonia is the Perito Moreno glacier, located near the town of El Calafate. There are many things to do at the glacier. The easiest and most popular is to walk along the hiking trails that are directly across from the glacier, offering to see it from many different angles. Many people then also take boat trips that take you directly under the glacier and some even go to more remote glaciers that are only accessible by boat. And last but not least, there is also the option to go on a guided trek directly on the glacier.
TIERRA DEL FUEGO AND USHUAIA HARBOUR
From El Calafate you can either take a flight or a bus to the port of Ushuaia in the Tierra del Fuego ( Land of Fire). The bus is a lot cheaper, but more challenging because you have to go through Chilean territory and then back into Argentine territory, so we had 4 passport checks in one day and eventually a ferry crossing as well. In the port of Ushuaia, nicknamed the End of the World, you can easily stay and entertain yourself for a few days because the Land of Fire offers many treks, hikes and excursions.
For a day or two, you can visit Tierra Del Fuego National Park, which is full of great views, lagoons, hiking trails and campgrounds for those who would like to stay overnight as well. All the hikes I did were well marked and there is always a map at the beginning of the trails, the estimated length of the hike, elevation gain and number of kilometers.
A great day hike as well is through the mountain lagoons to the Oveja mountain pass. The start and end of the trek is easily accessible by bus. You can swim in the lagoons and camp around them without any problem.
One of the more famous treks is the hike to the Esmeralda lagoon, which starts not far outside the town. You can take a bus to the start or, like us, hitchhike. Patagonia is known for safe and easy hitchhiking, so if you enjoy this way of traveling, meeting people and want to improve your Spanish, I can recommend it with all my heart. In fact, from El Bolson to the Perito Moreno glacier I traveled by hitchhiking. First day I was in a truck and on the second day I met 4 Czech bikers and they drove me all the way to the glacier!
To the lagoon, there were five of us hitchhiking and within minutes a car pulled up and said it would take us all at once, and even offered us chocolate and cookies!
The walk from the parking lot to the lagoon is not long or diffcult at all. Moreover, the path is well maintained. But we don't stop at the lagoon. In the mountains behind the lagoon is the Ojo Del Albino glacier, which we will try to reach. Here the road is more dificult as just after the lagoon you only go uphill on stones without any markings. I recommend having an offine map with the route ready or going with someone who already knows the way. Just to be safe, we always asked people who were already coming back from the glacier which way to go exactly. Towards the end you almost have to climb on rocks at times, and combined with the strong wind it is not a pleasant experience. But the result is worth it! A giant glacier with a mountain lagoon and nobody anywhere! Compared to the Perito Moreno glacier, which is one of the most visited destinations in Patagonia and accommodates thousands of visitors every day, this place is only visited by a small group of people every day.
We didn't stay too long at the glacier as the wind is really strong and cold here. As I have mentioned several times, and many locals have confirmed it to me: in Patagonia, you can experience 4 seasons in one day. At the beginning of the trek I was wearing only shorts and a t-shirt, and I finished it with 4 layers of clothes, gloves and a hat.
In between all the hiking in the mountains, a boat trip is a relaxing way to spend a day. There are a few small houses right by the harbor, each with a different tour operator offering boat cruises around the area. It is possible to see different fauna and flora, depending on which part of the channel the cruise will take place in. One of the most popular ones is the penguin watching cruise.
For day hikes and trips, I always carry a 40 liter ROLLER backpack, which fits water, food, extra clothes and in my case, cameras and lenses.