A Complete Guide To Hiking Laguna Esmeralda

A Complete Guide To Hiking Laguna Esmeralda

The one to Laguna Esmeralda easily qualifies as the best hike in Tierra del Fuego. It’s not a strenuous trek at all – it is fairly short and with very little ascent. The stunning scenery and the challenges of the trail, however, make it one you will remember. If you plan to just go on one hike when you visit Ushuaia, make sure it is this one.

Read more about Ushuaia in my post “Everything You Need To Know About Ushuaia, Patagonia” and if you are planning a longer trip to Argentina, check out my post A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina.”

Laguna Esmeralda is a gorgeous glacier lake located in Tierra del Fuego, at a little less than 20 km from Ushuaia. It’s surrounded by the mighty Albino Glacier and by the peaks of Las Torres and Cordón Toribio.

The lake can be access via a trail that goes through a lenga forest and then along the peat moss. It’s a much easier hike compared to many in Patagonia, such as that to Mount Fitz Roy. However, the very muddy terrain and the peat moss that you’ll inevitably walk through do represent a bit of a challenge.

Read more about Fitz Roy on my post A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten.”

In this post, I will highlight all the information you need to prepare for a hike to Laguna Esmeralda, providing a lot of practical tips.

Laguna Esmeralda

Laguna Esmeralda: the views are simply stunning

Hiking To Laguna Esmeralda

The starting point of the trail to Laguna Esmeralda is in Valle de Los Lobos, at about 17 Km east of Ushuaia, along Ruta 3, where you’ll see a small parking lot and a very clear blue sign pointing to the trail. You’ll have to follow the blue marks to get to the lagoon.

The initial part of the trail to Laguna Esmeralda goes through a beautiful, somewhat eerie lenga forest. You’ll be walking through the forest for roughly 45 minutes before getting to the river.

After a short while, you’ll enter the forest again. The trail through this part of the forest to Laguna Esmeralda is very easy to follow, though you have to pay attention as it is very muddy (it rains a lot in Tierra del Fuego, even during the summer months).

Once you cross this other bit of forest, you find yourself in the peat moss. There is no really visible trail there, as the peat moss takes over for most of this part of the hike. Either way, all you have to do is continuing on – it’s fairly straightforward.

After crossing the peat moss, you’ll have to walk up a hill. Once at the top, the view will finally open up for you to see Laguna Esmeralda in all its glory.

You will have to walk back from Laguna Esmeralda via the same trail, and it will take you just the same amount of time to get to the starting point at the parking lot.

Laguna Esmeralda

The views along the way to Laguna Esmeralda are nothing short of amazing

The Sights Along The Trail To Laguna Esmeralda

The sights along the trail to Laguna Esmeralda are gorgeous. You’ll first be crossing a beautiful lenga forest, which will lead you to a plain where the scenery finally opens up to incredible views of Tierra Mayor and Carbajal valleys. The surrounding mountains are not as tall as those of other parts of Patagonia, but the sight remains impressive all the same.

Right by the river you’ll get to see the beavers damn. They are impressive, but keep in mind these animals, which are not native to Tierra del Fuego, have done a lot of damage to its natural landscape and environment, threatening its primeval forests.

Once you cross the plains and the river you find yourself once again in the forest, until the moment you reach the peat moss.

TIP: Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut as you walk through the forest, trying to make as little noise as possible. Red foxes live in the forest and there are good chances you’ll encounter one!

At the peat moss, the view opens up once again: you’ll see a beautiful stream and the Albino Glacier and Cordón Toribio mountain in the background, and a small hill which you’ll have to climb to get to Laguna Esmeralda. From the top of the hill, the views are simply spectacular: the water of the lagoon is of a splendid emerald color, and the surrounding mountains add to the beautiful landscape.

Check out my post “A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier.”

Laguna Esmeralda

The peat moss is the main challenge when hiking to Laguna Esmeralda

What To Expect When Hiking To Laguna Esmeralda

The hike to Laguna Esmeralda is not a strenuous one for the most part. There is a short ascending bit, but this is not where the real challenge is. It’s the massive field of peat moss that you’ll have to struggle with, and there hardly is any way around it: you’ll have to walk over it.

It will take you a good half hour to 45 minutes to cross the peat moss, each way. There is no real trail in this part of the hike, at least not a visible one (especially if it has rained recently), so use your instinct to find the bits that seem less muddy, and head straight to the lagoon.

TIP: The best way to avoid getting trapped in the peat moss is to keep moving. Walk as fast as possible – in any case, there’s no way you can avoid getting muddy.

TIP: The hike to Laguna Esmeralda is an easy half day trip, so you can combine it with other activities in the area (ie a guided tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park, or a boat tour along the Beagle Channel). The good news is that during the summer months there are a lot of hours of light in Tierra del Fuego, so you can even plan to take it very easy and, if the weather cooperates, have a proper picnic at the lagoon.

Laguna Esmeralda

The river and the mountains at the back, during the trail to Laguna Esmeralda

Practical Information For Your Hike To Laguna Esmeralda

Hiking to Laguna Esmeralda independently

The hike to Laguna Esmeralda can be done independently, as the trail is fairly easy to follow – just make sure to always keep an eye for the blue marks as at times they are not so visible. In any case, I recommend not to hike alone.

Check out my post “11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea.”

Guided hikes to Laguna Esmeralda

If you prefer, you can also join a guided excursion. Here are a few good ones:

Guided hiking tours of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

One good option if you are short on time or would rather leave the organization of a trip to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego to the experts is that of booking a guided tour. This way, someone else will take care of accommodation and transportation bookings, and you’ll have a guide to help you navigate the trails.

Here is a selection of the best tours:

  • End of the Eart tour – this G Adventures tour is an extremely active tour that goes through Patagonia (both the Argentinian and Chilean sides) and Tierra del Fuego. It includes stops in Torres del Paine, Chile, where you’ll hike the W trek; El Chaltén, where you hike Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre; El Calafate, where you hike Perito Moreno Glacier; and Ushuaia, where you hike in Tierra del Fuego National Park and to Laguna Esmeralda.
  • 13 day best of Patagonia – an excellent tour that covers all the highlights of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, including several hikes and even canoeing on Lapataia River.

Getting to the beginning of the trail

Unless you have your own car, you can count on the excellent shuttle services that connect Ushuaia to the beginning of the trail to Laguna Esmeralda. These depart from the parking lot by the gas station, at a short distance from the tourist information center. The round trip costs around $400 ARS (around $10 USD).

The shuttle back departs from the same point where you’ll be dropped off, more or less 4 hours and a half after you start hiking – the driver usually specifies the pick up time, but make sure to double check.

Laguna Esmeralda

The beautiful view on the way to Laguna Esmeralda

Overall walking distance

The overall walking distance to Laguna Esmeralda and back is around 9.6 Km.

Overall walking time

It takes around 4 hours to walk the entire trail, including stops for photos and to take in the magnificent views.

Food and drinks

There are no kiosks or places that sell food along the trail, so you’ll have to carry enough water and food for the duration of the hike. Depending on the day, there is a small street foot vendor standing right by the starting point of the trail, selling choripan (similar to a hot dog), empanadas and cold drinks.

Other practical information

For the most part, this is an easy hike so it is also suitable for families with children (I saw several during my hike).

As Laguna Esmeralda is not part of Tierra del Fuego National Park, dogs are actually allowed on the trail, though I recommend you keep them on leash as there tend to be stays around.

There are no toilets along the way, nor garbage bins. Make sure to carry a bag to dispose of your garbage, and take it back to town with you.

When To Hike To Laguna Esmeralda

There is no escaping the elements in Tierra del Fuego. On an average summer day, you may get strong winds, rain and at times even snow. It is plain cold! Having said so, the best time of year to visit Tierra del Fuego is in the summer, between late October and March, when the days are longer and the weather conditions less adverse. That’s when you should plan to hike to Laguna Esmeralda.

TIP: I recommend to spend a few days in Tierra del Fuego, as it is truly a magical place. If you have time, do wait for a sunny day to hike to Laguna Esmeralda, or at least make sure it hasn’t rained for a day or two, so that you can avoid drowning in the peat moss!

Laguna Esmeralda

Make sure to gear up for your hike to Laguna Esmeralda

Essential Items To Wear And Carry On A Trek To Laguna Esmeralda

As I have already explained, the first consideration when planning to hike to Laguna Esmeralda is that the weather in Tierra del Fuego is hardly cooperative. I recommend to make sure to be properly equipped for rain and even snow.

Here’s a list of essentials items you should be wearing and/or carrying:

  • A good backpack. I likeOsprey Daylite Plus as it fits everything I need and sits nicely on my shoulders.
  • A pair of excellent hiking boots. They need to be waterproof, as the terrain will be wet. I suggest you also wear a pair of galoshes, for extra protection especially when you cross the peat moss.
  • A pair of waterproof hiking pants. I like by my new Kuhl Horizn Straight or my Kuhl Weekendr Tight.
  • A pair of thermal underwear. Yes – it can be that cold!
  • A base layer such as Kuhl Kondor Krew – it’s comfortable and lightweight.
  • A good fleece – I like Kuhl Alska. I suggest you also take an extra one along, in case it snows.
  • A snow jacket.
  • A good wind and rain proof jacket to wear above the snow jacket. I use Kuhl Airstorm Rain jacket and love it.
  • A beanie, a scarf and gloves.
  • Sunscreen and lip balm.
  • Sunglasses – you never know the sun may come out.
  • A camera. I use a Nikon D3300 and on for landscape photography I use a 18-105 mm lens. If you are not a photography geek, a smartphone with a good camera such as iPhone X will do. Make sure to take a power bank as well!
  • Tissues or toilet paper, and a good antibacterial hand gel. If your feet tend to blister, make sure to take compeed with you.
  • Enough food and water for the hike, and an extra spare bag to put all your garbage.

I will soon be writing a full Patagonia packing list.

Have you hiked to Laguna Esmeralda?

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Discover what you need to know to hike to Laguna Esmeralda. Tierra del Fuego - via @clautavani

Everything You Need To Know About Ushuaia, Patagonia

Everything You Need To Know About Ushuaia, Patagonia

Ushuaia, Patagonia: few places on earth are so mysterious yet so charming. Argentinians call it “Fin del Mundo” – end of the world. And upon visiting, the impression one has is really that of being at the end of the world, not so much geographically (though to be fair, this really is the southernmost city in the world), but in the emotional, psychological sense.

One of the main cities of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, Ushuaia is nothing special in and of itself. The city is nothing more than a messy series of less than charming buildings and steep roads between Beagle Channel and the Martial Mountains. But the surroundings are nothing short of amazing.

I visited Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego on my latest trip to Argentina, and inevitably and hopelessly fell in love with it, and hope to visit again as soon as possible.

For a general overview about Argentina, check out  my post “A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina” and if you are planning a trip there, read my post “A Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary.”

In this post I highlight the best things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia, and in its surroundings. I will also share some tips on how to make the most of Tierra del Fuego. Before I get to the juicy bits, however, I’ll share some background information about the city and the region.

Ushuaia Patagonia

Tierra del Fuego is home to guanacos and other wildlife

A Few Interesting Facts About Ushuaia, Patagonia 

The archipelago of Tierra del Fuego is located at the southern tip of South America. The main island has the shape of a triangle and is separated by the mainland through the Strait of Magellan. The north of the main island is mostly lakes and moraines, whereas the southern and western part are a prolongation of the Andes mountain chain.

Magellan first landed in the archipelago in 1520, and named it Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). Indeed, during his expedition he noticed smoke coming from the island (due to the fires lit by the indigenous people along the coast), thus first calling it Tierra de Humo (Land of Smoke) and then changing it to Tierra del Fuego.

It was only from the 1880s, when Thomas Bridge started his mission in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, that the area started being explored. Until then, the Ona and Yámana indigenous peoples that lived in this part of Patagonia continued living there undisturbed. It was only when gold was found in the region, and when it was deemed favorable for animal farming, that Chileans and Argentinians started having an interest in it.

Unfortunately, the contact with the increasing number of colonizers looking to hunt sea lions and in search of gold proved fatal the for indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego, who succumbed to the diseases carried by the foreigners. The last Yámana woman died in 2004.

Tierra del Fuego quickly became a penal colony, where the worst kind of criminals and political prisoners were held. The prison was moved to Ushuaia in 1906, but from 1950 Ushuaia, Patagonia, became an important naval base; furthermore, a lot of factories were established and last, but definitely not least, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, became a popular tourist destination.

Speaking of tourism, here are my suggestions for the things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia.

Things to do in Ushuaia

Desdemona ship wreck is a mighty sight.

15 Unmissable Things To Do In Ushuaia, Patagonia

Get off the beaten path at Cabo San Pablo

Not many people visit Cabo San Pablo during their trip to Ushuaia, Patagonia – and they are missing out. I was one of a whopping four when I went, and in a way I hope it remains undiscovered. To be fair, I had never even heard of this place until Ignacio, one of the masterminds behind Tierra Turismo (allegedly the best tour company in Ushuaia) recommended a visit. He was right: this is one of the most unique, beautiful places in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Cabo San Pablo faces the Atlantic Ocean, giving way to a long pebble beach that is swept by the strong Patagonian wind. The landscape is unique, mysterious and eerie. The wildlife beautiful, with lenga forests giving way to the steppe, and guanacos populating the area.

Once at Cabo San Pablo, you can hike up to reach an old lighthouse, which was built in 1945 and bent by an earthquake in 1949 – a new lighthouse that operates automatically was placed nearby in 1966.

The views from up there are absolutely breathtaking: on one side, the long pebble beach; on the other a sandy one where you’ll find the huge wreck of Desdemona, a large cargo ship made in Germany and carrying the Dutch flag that wrecked in 1983. It’s easy to see why visiting Cabo San Pablo is one of the most incredible things to do in Ushuaia.

things to do in Ushuaia

The lighthouse at Cabo San Pablo is one of the eeriest sights in Tierra del Fuego

Practical information about Cabo San Pablo

Cabo San Pablo is located at 182 km from Ushuaia. It takes a good 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to this isolated promontory, following Ruta 3 and going through Garibaldi Pass, right by Lake Escondido.

The only company that organizes guided day trips to Cabo San Pablo is Tierra Turismo. This is a full day tour, with various stops throughout the day, including one at Tolhuin, where you’ll have the chance to fuel up at La Unión bakery (a rather quirky bakery with a very interesting history); one at Cabo San Pablo with a short hike to the lighthouse; one at Desdemona ship wreck; and a final one at Estancia Rolito (more about it below). The tour tour includes snacks, lunch and drinks.

TIP: Make sure to wear hiking boots, a good wind and rainproof jacket and sunglasses and to carry some extra water for the day.

things to do in Ushuaia

Estancia Rolito is one of the nicest, local places to visit in Tierra del Fuego

Learn about the life of an estancia

One of the nicest things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia, is getting to know the local culture and way of life. Tierra del Fuego, much like the rest of Patagonia, is vastly used for animal farming, with locals claiming that the best lamb in the world is produced there. Farms in Argentina are known as “estancias,” which literally translates as “stay” and refers to the concession granted by the government to use a piece of land for a certain amount of time.

I wholeheartedly recommend visiting an estancia as part of your trip to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. The most popular one in the area is Estancia Haberton, which was founded in 1886 by Thomas Bridges and is the oldest building in the region. Nowadays, however, this estancia is mostly a tourist attraction, with very little animal farming. That’s why I decided not to visit, and opted to go to Estancia Rolito instead.

Estancia Rolito is a family run farm in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by a beautiful lenga forest, which is perfect for hiking. You can stop by for lunch, for tea (or better, mate!) or even sleep there. I stopped for little over one hour and the welcoming owners Pepe (senior and junior) and Annie took me for a walk around the property and explained the charm and challenges of living in such an isolated place – the main one appears to be that of dogs that roam around Patagonia and attack sheep (to the point that some farms, including Rolito, facing so much damage and financial loss, switched to farming cows).

Estancia Rolito can be visited as part of Tierra Turismo tour to Cabo San Pablo.

things to do in Ushuaia

You simply can’t skip Tierra del Fuego National Park

Visit Tierra del Fuego National Park

Tierra del Fuego National Park is a huge park – more than 630 square km, that extends from the Beagle Channel to Fagnano Lake (also called Cami Lake). However, only 200 hectares are open to the public, on the southern side of the park.

This is probably the most touristy place to visit in Ushuaia, Patagonia, yet a must see because it simply is marvelous. Here you’ll find the typical vegetation of this part of the world, and various species of animals and birds, including guanacos, grey and red foxes, seagulls, cormorants, albatross, and even kelp goose. Among the most common species there are the European rabbit and the north American beaver, non-native species that have had a serious impact to the delicate local ecosystem, to the point that the local authorities are researching various solutions to eradicate them.

Tierra del Fuego National Park is where Ruta 3 (which basically is the Pan-American) finishes, right in Lapataia Bay. The view from the bay is stunning, but you’ll get an even better view if you walk up to the Mirador Lapataia, following the trail that goes through the forest. Another must see is the Acigami Lake, and the Southernmost Post Office – a tiny post office that has been run by the same man for decades.

Speaking of trails, inside Tierra del Fuego National Park you’ll find a series of easy to medium difficulty hiking trails – hiking is one of the nicest things to do in Ushuaia (more about the hikes below).

things to do in Ushuaia Patagonia

One of the many incredible sights in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Practical information about Tierra del Fuego National Park

Entry fee

It currently costs $490 Argentinian Pesos (ARS) to enter Tierra del Fuego National Park. That is little over $12 USD at the current exchange rate.

Getting to Tierra del Fuego National Park

By bus

There are regular buses that connect Ushuaia to Tierra del Fuego National Park. They leave regularly from the bus station located at the corner between Maipú and Juana Faidul, in front of the gas station. Make sure to ask for the pick up times to get back to town.

By train

Another way to get to the national park is by riding the Fin del Mundo train, but keep in mind the station from where this leaves, at regular hours, is located 8 km west of the city and you’ll need a taxi to get there.

On a guided tour

One of the top things to do in Ushuaia if you are short on time and still want to make the most of Tierra del Fuego National Park is going on a guided small group tour. I went with Tierra Turismo and had a great guide that provided excellent background information and took me to all the best places.

Further recommendations

There are no garbage bins around the park, which is pristine. Make sure to carry a bag to dispose of your waste, and do not abandon it anywhere at the park.

Do not feed the wild animals, and don’t take your pets with you: pets can’t access national parks in Argentina.

Ushuaia Patagonia

The views on the way to Laguna Esmeralda are breathtaking

Go hiking

Patagonia is hiking galore, and I had my share of fun walking the many trails of this part of Argentina. Other than hiking to Cerro Fitz Roy, I did a great deal of hiking in Tierra del Fuego too. Indeed, there’s little doubt that one of the best things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia, is hiking. I can’t possibly mention all the hikes in the region – there are so many! I have done a few though, and enjoyed them all.

Check out my post A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten.”

One of the hikes I enjoyed the most in Ushuaia, Patagonia, is the one to Río Larsifashaj waterfall. It’s a short walk with very little incline that takes a total of around two hours, first going through the fields of Estancia Haberton (which however, is very distant from the trail), then along the river and through the forest, and finally takes to a very scenic waterfall. The best bit (aside from the incredible landscape, obviously) is that this is a very unknown trail and you won’t meet other people during the hike.

Keep in mind that the starting point of the trail to Río Larsifashaj waterfall is not marked. In fact, the area where the trail is located is private land and you need special permission to trespass. I did this hike as part of the crab fishing guided tour run by Tierra Turismo.

Ushuaia Patagonia

The roaring Larsifashaj River waterfall

Another incredible hike in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, is the one to Laguna Esmeralda. The trail starts right off Ruta 3, at around 17 km from east of Ushuaia. It’s a well marked trail (you have to follow the blue marks) that runs for about 8 km along through a gorgeous forest inhabited by red foxes and along the river, and during which you’ll have to go through a huge peat moss. Once you get close to the lagoon, the view is incredible. It takes around 4 hours to complete the hike.

PRACTICAL TIP: private shuttles run at regular times between Ushuaia, departing from the parking lot by the gas station, and the starting point of the trail to Laguna Esmeralda. The round trip costs around $400 ARS (around $10 USD). Make sure to bring enough water for the duration of the hike, and food if you plan to eat there.

Check out my post “A Complete Guide To Hiking Laguna Esmeralda.”

Ushuaia Patagonia

Peat moss is common in Tierra del Fuego – hiking can be challenging, but always fun

Another great place to go hiking is Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is packed with good hiking trails of various difficulties, and you can even mix and match various trails and walk them on the same day.

Senda del Torbal, in the national park, is an easy trail of about 1 km that goes through the peat moss, whereas the Senda Castorera (beaver trail) goes to small lakes where it’s possible to view the massive dams built by beavers.

Among the best hiking trails in Tierra del Fuego National Park there is the Senda Costera (Coastal Trail), whose access point is Ensenada Zaratiegui and which goes all the way to Acigami Lake. It’s an 8 km trail that takes around 4 hours, along which you may see some conchales, piles of seashells left by the Yámana of high archeological value.

If you are up for a bit of a workout, one of the things to do in Ushuaia is hiking the trail to Cerro Guanaco: this is the hardest hike in the park, as it’s a steady uphill walk. It’s a 4 km trail (plus 4 km to go back along the same trail) which take roughly 4 hours. The main access point is from Senta Hito XXIV, another trail that goes along Acigami Lake until the border with Chile. Cerro Guanaco trail goes all the way to the viewpoint, from where there is an incredible view of the mountains and the peat moss.

TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: The weather in Tierra del Fuego is very unpredictable. On an average summer day you are likely to get wind and rain, and chances are that it will be cold. Trails tend to be muddy, and if you hike to Laguna Esmeralda you’ll be crossing the peat moss with high probability of getting mud up to your knees. Make sure to wear a pair of very good, waterproof hiking boots; a good ski jacket over which you can wear a wind proof one (you can take a layer off as you warm up). I also recommend not to hike alone – though mind you, on trails like that to Laguna Esmeralda and the ones in the national park you are bound to meet other people.

Check out my post “11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone Is Actually A Bad Idea.”

Finally, make sure not to leave any garbage behind. Tierra del Fuego is pristine, and it’d be great if it continued staying this way.

things to do in Ushuaia

The Fin del Mundo train goes all the way to Tierra del Fuego National Park

Ride the Fin del Mundo train

One of the most touristy things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia, is riding the Tren del Fin del Mundo. This steam train was originally meant to carry prisoners from the city to the work camps. As I have previously said, the station from where the train leaves is at about 8 km west of town. The ride lasts around 1 hour and you also get a basic commentary in English and Spanish.

The price of a ride starts at $1200 ARS for adults (around $30 USD), to which you’ll have to add the $490 to get inside the national park. As it gets packed in high season, you are better off booking the ride in advance. You can do so here.

Tierra del Fuego Argentina

One of the reasons to visit Ushuaia, Patagonia, is the possibility of admiring wildlife

Go on a boat tour along Beagle Channel

There is no doubt that one of the main appeals of Ushuaia, Patagonia, is the possibility of admiring the incredible marine life of the Beagle Channel. Thus, one of the best things to do in Ushuaia is going on a cruise along the Channel.

During the cruise, you get to see various species of birds such as seagulls and cormorants; a huge amount of sea lions; a large penguins colony with Magellan and even Gentoo penguins (they are the ones with yellow paws and beak) and, on a lucky day, even whales (depending on the season).

Cruises along the Beagle Channel depart regularly from Ushuaia tourist harbor and can last anything between 2 and a half and 8 hours, depending on the itinerary and the amount of stops along the way. The cruise I did lasted 4.5 hours and stopped at Isla de los Pájaros (Birds’ Island); Isla de los Lobos (Sea lions’ Island); Les Eclaireurs lighthouse and Isla Mirtillo, which is a penguins’ rockery.

The price of the cruise varies depending on its duration. The one I did costed $75 USD, to which I had to add a $40 ARS tourist fee.

Please note that only one company has permission to land at Isla Mirtillo to get even closer to the penguins. Frankly, I don’t see the need to disturb and even scare these lovely animals – you get to see them very well from the boat, which stops long enough for plenty of photo opportunities.

Check out my post on the use of animals in tourist attractions.

TIP: Even in the summer months, Tierra del Fuego is very cold, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 10 or 12 at most. While the boat is nice and warm inside, it’s very cold outside and the chances of rain are high. Make sure to dress appropriately, and wear a good ski jacket and gloves.

TIP: The photo opportunities on a Beagle Channel Cruise are endless. Make sure to take a good camera with a good lense (I recommend a 70 – 300 mm as a minimum).

TIP: If you tend to get seasick, make sure to take some motion sickness tablets with you.

things to do in Ushuaia

Fishing and eating king crabs (centollas) is one of the yummiest things to do in Ushuaia

Fish for king crabs

King crab is known in Tierra del Fuego as centolla. This part of the world has incredible, high quality fish and seafood, and several restaurants in Ushuaia specialize in serving dishes made with locally sourced fish. Needless to say, eating centollas is one of the yummiest things to do in Ushuaia.

However, if you want a full local experience I recommend to actually go fishing for centollas, and then eat the ones you manage catching. It’s a fun, chilled experience: you get on a small boat that goes along the Beagle Channel and throw in the traps, and wait for the crabs to get in. Meanwhile, you may have even be able to admire whales as they pass by the channel.

Once you catch the centollas, you go back to the fisherman house, where you can sit for one of the most delicious meals of fresh seafood, accompanied by excellent Argentinian wines.

While finding good restaurants that serve centollas is easy in Ushuaia, Patagonia, the same can’t be said about the fishing experience. Tierra Turismo cooperates with a small family run company located at around 15 km from Puerto Almanza, the southernmost fishing port in Argentina. The same family has a tiny restaurant in Puerto Pirata. The tour is the same one that goes to Río Larsifashaj waterfall.

Ushuaia Patagonia

Local museums provide insights on the history and culture of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Visit the local museums

One of the best things to do in Ushuaia to get a bit of background information about its history, economy and environment is visiting the local museums – not to mention, this is the best way to keep entertained when the weather doesn’t allow outdoors excursions.

Museo Maritimo and Museo del Presidio is located in the prison that, until 1947, hosted up to 380 inmates. The various rooms illustrate what life in the prison used to be like. There’s also a part that’s dedicated to models of the most famous ships.

Museo Yamana is actually quite small, but it’s a great place get a better understanding of the indigenous peoples that once inhabited Tierra del Fuego. Here, you can find out how the Yamana managed to survive the adverse weather conditions despite being naked, or why only the women could swim and how they managed to keep a fire going inside a navigating canoe.

Museo del Fin del Mundo is in a building that dates back to 1903 and until 1979 the local branch of Banco de la Nación was located there. It was then turned into a small museum which provided some insights into the natural history of Tierra del Fuego.

Walk to Martial Glacier

There is little doubt that Ushuaia, Patagonia, is one of the most expensive places to visit in Argentina. One of the nicest things to do in Ushuaia that is also free is walking to Martial Glacier, which is very close to the city. From there, you’ll have splendid views of the city, the surrounding mountains and even Beagle Channel. The trail gets all the way below the glacier –it’s not spectacular as Perito Moreno, but a beautiful sight all the same.

Check out my post “A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier.”

To get to the trail that goes all the way to Martial Glacier and Cerro Martial, you have the option of either getting a taxi (it’s a fairly short ride), get a bus that departs at the corner between Maipú and Juana Fadul. You can even walk there – it’s a 40 minutes walk.

Go to Lago Escondido and Lago Fagnano

Two of the nicest places near Ushuaia, Patagonia, are lakes. Lago Escondido (literally “Hidden Lake”) is a beautiful sight. It’s located at the base of Garibaldi Pass and it is a fantastic location for hiking, canoeing or even fishing. Fagnano lake is of glacier origins and it is shared between Chile and Argentina.

One of the coolest things to do in Ushuaia is joining a soft adventure guided tour that goes to both lake and includes short treks along the lakes and canoeing in their clear waters. A few companies run this tour. I recommend the one run by Tierra Turismo, which has small groups and a strong focus on sustainability.

things to do in Ushuaia

Sunrises in Tierra del Fuego are stunning – photo courtesy of Ignacio Ronco

Admire the most incredible sunrise

I have already explained how Tierra del Fuego got its name. Aside from the historical version, there is a more romantic one according to which the word “fire” in the name refers to the incredible color of the sky at sunrise on a clear day. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend setting your alarm clock early enough to see the sun rise above the water. It’s one of the most beautiful things to do in Ushuaia.

Shop at Paseo de los Artesanos

Of all the things to do in Ushuaia, shopping is hardly the first one that comes to mind. However, if you are looking for the odd souvenir, head to Paseo de los Artesanos. It’s located next to the port and the tourism information office, and there you’ll find anything from paintings to leather goods; from ceramics to smaller trinkets.

Ushuaia Patagonia

Busy eating asado fuengino – photo courtesy of Simona Biagini

Have a proper Asado Fuengino

Having a good asado fuengino – a mixed grill of several kinds of meat, usually including beef Patagonian lamb, and at times even pork – is one of the things to do in Ushuaia. Many restaurants in Ushuaia serve it. Yet, any proper Argentinian would tell you that there is nothing like having a good, home made asado – where local cuts of meat are used, rather than those sold to restaurants. I have tried both, and enjoyed both. But if I had to pick one I’d go for the home made one.

A good home made asado fuengino is not only a culinary experience, where cuts of meat that generally don’t make it to the restaurants but are just as delicious are grilled on a barbecue. It is, more than anything else, a social one. Locals don’t take their meat and each eat from their plate; rather, meat is served on a wooden tray placed at the center of the table and everyone gets to pick it from there.

GOURMET TIP: Argentinians typically eat their beef “jugoso” (juicy). To most of us, this would mean beef that is anything from rare to medium rare. To Argentinians, it means beef that is almost entirely cooked through yet remains soft and juicy. The reasoning in cooking meat more than we normally would is that the quality is incredible and the beef remains soft even when cooked longer.

things to do in Ushuaia

Sea urchins are among the local delicacies of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Eat

Eating is one of the top things to do in Ushuaia, and finding good food there is not a challenge. Prices are generally reasonable. The places I mention below are all approved by me – quite possibly the pickiest eater on earth.

Rincon Gourmet – outside of the center, in a neighborhood called Andorra, a chef turned part of his house in what may well be the coziest restaurant in town. There, he serves a variety of excellent dishes cooked with local ingredients and paired with fantastic wines. It’s not cheap, but it’s a must for foodies.

Ramos Generales – located on Maipú, one of the main streets in town, it’s a very popular eatery among locals and tourists. The in-house bakery sells fresh bread, croissants and other pastries, making it an excellent option for breakfast. The lunch menu is very varied.

Viejo Marino – also located on Maipú, it’s the best choice in town if you like fresh fish or seafood. Portions are huge, and prices fair, thus making it favorite of locals and tourists. It’s a good place to try centolla, either plain or in a variety of different ways. The staff is very friendly, the service quick and the environment easygoing. There often is a line for a table, but you can put your name down and the staff will give you an estimate of waiting time. Meanwhile, you can go have a beer at the nearby The Birra.

things to do in Ushuaia

A well deserved pint of Beagle in Ushuaia, Patagonia

Try local beer

Few things taste better than a good beer after a day of hiking, and one of the best things to do in Ushuaia after a day of wandering around is having a good pint. Tierra del Fuego has its very own local beer, called Beagle. Several places in town serve the bottled version, and a few have the draft one. The best place to try a good Beagle is The Birra, a small pub, fairly priced. The bonus? They play good classic rock in the background.

Practical Information About Ushuaia, Patagonia

Where to stay in Ushuaia

There is an abundance of places to stay in Ushuaia, but they are generally a bit overpriced for what they offer. Here is a small selection of places I recommend:

When to visit Ushuaia

The best time of year to visit Ushuaia, Patagonia, is in the late spring and summer months, thus between late October and the beginning of April. Even then, the temperatures tend to be cold, and there are high chances of rain and, at times, even snow (it did snow for a few hours when I visited at the end of February).

In the winter months, Tierra del Fuego is one of the best places to go skiing in Argentina.

Ushuaia Patagonia

There are so many things to do in Ushuaia that I recommend spending a week there, or more

How long to stay in Ushuaia

I remember years ago, during my first trip to Argentina, someone told me that Ushuaia, Patagonia, is nothing special. We may have been to a different place, as Tierra del Fuego easily qualifies as one of the most scenic, beautiful places I have ever visited.

I spent 5 days in Tierra del Fuego and I could have easily stayed longer to visit more places, do more hikes, explore the surroundings and, quite simply, to soak the incredible local atmosphere.

My recommendation, especially if you like hiking, is to plan to stay at least 5 days, possibly even 7 or more, so that you can make the most of all the things to do in Ushuaia and have higher chances of getting at least a day of clear weather conditions.

How to get in and around Ushuaia

By plane

The best way to travel to Ushuaia is by plane. The Aeropuerto Internacional Malvinas Argentinas has daily direct flights to Buenos Aires and El Calafate operated by Aerolinas Argentinas, and weekly flights to other locations in Patagonia.

By bus

There are regular daily and weekly buses that connect Ushuaia to Punta Arenas (18 hours) and Puerto Natales, in Chile. If you are traveling from El Calafate, you have to change buses in Rio Gallegos. Keep in mind that Ushuaia is on an island and there will be a ferry crossing. Therefore, adding to the long bus hours there may be delays due to the rough sea conditions.

Moving around Ushuaia

Once in Ushuaia, you can rent a car directly at the airport. Check out the prices of car rental here.

Alternatively, you can count on a good local and medium distance bus system, and on the regular shuttles that connect the city to the most important attractions in Tierra del Fuego.

Taxis are easily available in town. There is a small taxi station where all drivers park and stay in between rides on Maipú, not far from the tourist port. There even are a few remis, local cab companies.

things to do in Ushuaia

Guided tours are an excellent way of discovering Ushuaia, Patagonia

Guided tours in Ushuaia, Patagonia

Guided tours are an excellent way to visit Ushuaia and its surroundings, provided that you do them with the right company. Right by the tourist port you’ll find the vast majority of tour companies that go to the most popular places in Tierra del Fuego. If you fancy something more off the beaten path and prefer smaller groups, get in touch with Tierra Turismo (unlike most companies, it doesn’t have an office at the harbor). This small company has a strong focus on sustainability and in supporting small local businesses. Guides are excellent.

ATMs

Most businesses in Ushuaia accept credit card payment. Some only take cash – when that’s the case, you’ll see a notice at the door. There are several ATMs scattered around Ushuaia, but there is a withdrawal limit of $6000 ARS ($150 USD) and regardless of the amount you withdraw you have to pay a fee of around $350 ARS (little over $8 USD).

Other useful information

Though the health care system is excellent in Argentina, I recommend you purchase a good travel insurance for your visit to Ushuaia, Patagonia. You can find an excellent one here.

Make sure to pack appropriately for your trip to Tierra del Fuego, carrying a good ski jacket or winter coat (yes, even if you visit in the summer); a rain and wind proof jacket; beanie, scarf and gloves; fleece and thermal underwear; hiking pants and good waterproof hiking boots.

I will soon be writing a post with suggestions on what to pack for your trip to Patagonia.

Have you ever been to Ushuaia, Patagonia? What did you like the most about it?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Tierra Turismo during my visit to Ushuaia, Patagonia, and I wish to thank them for the incredible experiences and for taking me to the most unique locations in Tierra del Fuego. Needless to say, all the opinions expressed in this post are honest and without any bias. I also wish to personally thank Ignacio Ronco, the mastermind behind Tierra Turismo, for taking me around, teaching me so much about the local culture and way of life, and more than anything else for welcoming me into his life as if I was family.

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Read about the things to do in Ushuaia, Patagonia - via @clautavani

A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier

A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most incredible sights in Argentinian Patagonia. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, this is likely the most famous glacier in the world, and for many good reasons.

Is Perito Moreno Glacier Worth Visiting?

Perito Moreno Glacier is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Argentina, and for a good reason. Unless you are obsessed about staying out of the tourist trail, I wholeheartedly recommend you visit as it is simply magnificent. In fact, I honestly think you should visit in any case and include it in your Argentina itinerary.

The area of Perito Moreno Glacier is so vast, there are so many view points and balconies, that even on a very busy day you’ll hardly feel it is crowded. Chances are you’ll be too concentrated admiring the glacier, listening to its ice walls cracking and crushing into the lake, producing a thunder-like noise, and trying to keep warm.

Yes, visiting Perito Moreno Glacier is actually costly. As of right now, the entry fee to Los Glaciares National Park is 700 ARS (Argentinian Pesos), which at the current exchange rate is around $18 USD. To that, you’ll likely have to add the cost of transportation and of other activities – unless you go on a Perito Moreno Glacier tour that covers all the costs.

These are some of the best guided tours of Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park:

Perito Moreno Glacier

There is no doubt that Perito Moreno Glacier is an incredible sight

Some Background Information On Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier is named after Francisco Moreno, who played a vital role in protecting Argentina’s interests during the endless border disputes with Chile.

It is located at around 80 km, and at around one and a half hour drive from El Calafate. Make sure not to confuse it with Perito Moreno town, which is 12 hours drive north!

The area is part of the Southern Patagonia Ice field, known to be the third largest frozen body of freshwater in the world. In fact, the glacier is huge: 30 km in length, 5 km in width and a whopping surface of 250 square km.

Los Glaciares National Park, of which the glacier is part, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. This is a truly unique place: it’s one of the most active glaciers in the world. Thought to be one of the very few growing glaciers in the world (as opposed to the majority, which are receding), in fact Perito Moreno is stable: every day it grows a bit, but loses a bit as well.

What’s certain is that this is one of the most unique places in the world, and a must for anybody traveling to Argentina.

Check out my post “A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina.”

Perito Moreno Glacier tour

Perito Moreno Glacier as seen from the balconies

Everything You Need To Know Before Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier

When to visit Perito Moreno Glacier

The best time of year to visit Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares National Park is in the summer, between November and March. That’s when you’ll have the highest chances of a sunny day. Sunny days are thought to be the best to experience the ice cracking and falling into the lake with its thundering noise.

Having said so, fall in the area of Los Glaciares National Park is splendid, with the red leaves striking against the white and blue of the glacier, giving it a special glow. The fall is also significantly less crowded, so you may have a more solitary experience than if you visit in the summer.

I have been to Perito Moreno twice on two different trips to Argentina, and both times I experienced it the weather was overcast and it rained most of the time. Though seeing Perito Moreno Glacier glow in all its glory under the sun would definitely add to the experience, I recommend going even if the weather broadcast isn’t the best. I can assure you the sight is going to be breathtaking all the same – and you will be able to see and hear the ice cracking – though perhaps not as often.

Whether you visit on a sunny or rainy day, keep in mind that the weather can be quite unpredictable in Patagonia: I recommend layering up and carrying rain proof gear.

Perito Moreno Glacier tour

Make sure to hang around long enough to see Perito Moreno Glacier ice cracking and falling into the lake!

How To Get To Perito Moreno Glacier

The best access point to Perito Moreno is El Calafate, a small town of around 25000 people that is connected to Buenos Aires, Bariloche in Patagonia, and Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, via direct flights with Aerolinas Argentina and a few other companies.

You can also travel to El Calafate by bus from Puerto Natales, in Chile – it’s a smooth 6 hours drive; from El Chalten, which is just 3 hours north (by the way, this is the best access point to hike around Mount Fitz Roy); from San Carlos de Bariloche – but it’s a 24 hour bus ride; and Puerto Madryn – which is 20 hours away.

Planning to hike around Mount Fitz Roy? Check out my post “A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten.”

Once in El Calafate, accessing Perito Moreno and Los Glaciares National Park is actually very easy, and you have several options, depending on your budget and your travel style.

Independently, by car or bus

You can rent a car directly from El Calafate airport and drive around. Check out the prices of car rental here.

Buses to Los Glaciares National Park leave regularly from the bus terminal located in Jean Marmoz 104. The ticket costs around 800 ARS (around $20 USD). Buses leave at 8:30 or 9:00 am, depending on the company, and if you make it to the terminal well in advance you can buy tickets on the same day.

Buses going back to El Calafate leave at 4:00 pm from the same spot where they drop people off. CalTur also has buses that leave from town at 1:00 pm and go back at 7:30 pm.

Once at the entrance, cars, buses and even private tours have to stop to get tickets to the park.

As I have said previously, the entry fee for Los Glaciares National Park is of 700 ARS. Make sure to bring cash as credit cards are not accepted. This ticket will allow you to walk around the many balconies and view points to admire Perito Moreno. Make sure to pick a map of the area, as there are several trails to follow, all of them well marked.

Optional activities include a boat ride that takes you right under the glacier and even an ice trek on Perito Moreno Glacier itself. You can opt to do the boat tour and just show up for the boat, but you have to join a guided tour if you intend to go on the ice trek. More about the boat ride and the ice trek later.

If you plan to visit Perito Moreno independently make sure to bring your own lunch, unless you plan to eat at the rather expensive cafeteria on the site. Keep in mind that outside food is not allowed in the cafeteria – there are a few benches on the viewpoints, but if it’s a rainy, cold day eating out isn’t exactly a good idea.

Perito Moreno Glacier

A Perito Moreno Glacier tour usually goes to the viewpoints – some also include the boat tour or the ice trek

On a guided tour

The main benefit of joining a Perito Moreno Glacier tour and a tour of Los Glaciares National Park is that it is easy: you’ll only have to worry to make it back to the same shuttle that dropped you off. Pretty much none of the guided tours is inclusive of the entry fee to the park, so make sure to carry enough cash for that even if you have already paid your tour.

Tours vary in length and quality: most cover just the basic, taking you to the balconies and, at most, including a packed lunch of sort. You’ll have a guide, but to be fair the information you get on the boards is enough to get by.

The best Perito Moreno tours are those that some include a boat ride and / or take you for an ice trek.

Guided tours of Patagonia that also go to Perito Moreno:

If you prefer to take the edge off organizing a trip to Patagonia and would like to leave this task to the experts, you can even join a guided group tour of Argentina that includes a visit of Perito Moreno. Here are some of the best tours:

  • Patagonia Hiking: perfect for active travelers who enjoy nature, this 9 days tour includes stops at El Calafate with visit of Perito Moreno Glacier, and at El Chalten, to hike Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
  • Argentina Multisport: the best tour if you are looking for adventure. It includes activities such as rafting, cycling and trekking, and obviously a visit to Perito Moreno.
  • Hike Patagonia In Depth: if hiking is your thing, this is the tour for you. You may be camping on some nights – no better way to experience Patagonia!
  • Best of Patagonia: a 13 days tour that takes you to all the best places in Patagonia.
  • 6 Day tour of Patagonia: a good compromise if you have limited time in the region.
  • Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego: a fantastic hiking tour that also takes you to the end of the world, between Argentina and Chile. You’ll be hiking Perito Moreno and even Laguna Esmeralda.
Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier are a great way of experiencing the glacier

Boat tours on Lake Argentino and Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno boat tours are probably as touristy as it gets – picture a guide almost robotically giving facts about the glacier to a less than interested audience, a photographer on board ready to snap photos of passengers with the glacier in the background, for a hefty fee, and so on. But honestly, the view is so beautiful that it is worth putting up with everything.

Boats go well under the glacier, on the northern side, keeping a distance of around 100 meters from the wall itself, and you’ll get an incredible view of it from below: you’ll see the ice crack and fall into the lake, you’ll get close up photos. Tours typically last around 90 minutes and usually include a snack and a drink (can be anything, but whiskey on glacier rocks is probably the best option on this occasion).

The following tours include a boat ride to Perito Moreno Glacier:

If you are after a more adventurous experience and aren’t bothered by the cold, you can even go on a Perito Moreno Glacier kayak experience.

Perito Moreno Glacier

On an ice trek you get close and personal with Perito Moreno Glacier

Hiking tours of Perito Moreno Glacier

I didn’t go on an ice trek of Perito Moreno Glacier on my first trip to Argentina, but I did last time I visited and I am glad, as it actually was a lot of fun. It hardly is a private experience, with several people on the tour.  But it’s fun, and you’ll be so concentrated on walking with the crampons and on admiring the glacier that you’ll hardly realize there are others around.

The Perito Moreno Glacier trekking tour usually start from the southern banks of the lake, where you’ll take a 20 minutes boat ride to the base camp – that’s in an of itself a treat, as you’ll get very close to the glacier, for incredible photos.

Once at the camp, you’ll join a group for a short walk through the forest until a small stand where the guides will help you wear the crampons, which are necessary to walk on the ice.

The trek lasts around 90 minutes (unless you go on the Big Ice, which goes on for several hours). It is a very easy walk during which you’ll see the many cracks, the small caves and you’ll even have a chance to taste the freezing cold but delicious glacier water. At the end of the tour, you’ll be offered a whiskey on the (Perito Moreno Glacier) rocks.

The overall experience is incredible, and the views (and photos) you’ll get unforgettable. It’s an expensive thing to do, but honestly worth every penny.

These are some of the best tours of Perito Moreno that also include an ice trek:

Perito Moreno Glacier

You need to be properly equipped to hike Perito Moreno Glacier

What to wear for your Perito Moreno Glacier tour

I can’t talk for others, really, but both times I have visited Perito Moreno Glacier I found it to be incredibly cold. Perhaps, on a sunny day, it is not nearly as cold. Anyways, my advice is to make sure to layer up and to carry an extra layer of warm clothes and rain proof gear just in case.

Interestingly enough, it is colder on the balconies overviewing the glacier than on an actual Perito Moreno Glacier ice trek.

These are some essential items to wear when visiting Perito Moreno Glacier:

  • A snow jacket– make sure it is also rain proof
  • A thermal shirt and thermal underwear.
  • Thickhiking socks.
  • A good t-shirt and a nice thick fleece.
  • Hiking pants, best if waterproof.
  • A beanie, a scarf and gloves (best if ski gloves). Gloves will be needed for the Perito Moreno Glacier ice trek as well.
  • A good pair of waterproof hiking boots – these will be required if you intend to do the ice trek, as you’ll need some footwear where the crampons can be tied up.
  • Sunglasses – necessary on a sunny day.
  • You may also want to take some hand warmers (I even put them in my shoes at times!).

Make sure to carry a good camera and lens (I use a Nikon D3300 and on this occasion I used a 18-105 mm lens). A good smartphone will also have a good camera – I am a fan of iPhone X.

Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough warm clothes for your visit to Perito Moreno Glacier, several shops in El Calafate rent out jackets and pants for a very reasonable price (around $10 USD per piece per day).

Perito Moreno Glacier

A beautiful view of Perito Moreno Glacier

Where to stay in El Calafate

Calafate is packed with excellent accommodation options. These are some of the best places to stay in El Calafate:

Other practical information

I always recommend buying a good travel insurance on any trip. Make sure to get one even for your trip to Patagonia. Check out the prices of travel insurance here.

Have you ever visited Perito Moreno Glacier? How was your experience?

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Perito Moreno is a mighty sight. Discover everything you need to know to plan your visit to Perito Moreno glacier, whether you want to go on tour or visit independently | Perito Moreno Argentina | Perito Moreno glacier Argentina #argentina #patagonia - via @clautavani

A Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary

A Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary

I had been to Argentina already, but when Flash Pack invited me to take a look at their Argentina itinerary, I had no doubt: that’s where I’d be going next.

Having come back and still dreaming of the incredible landscapes of Patagonia, I can only say this was the trip of a lifetime; one I will never forget and – in fact – one I am hoping to repeat.

I spent 10 days in Argentina traveling on an incredible Flash Pack tour that was so packed with activities and adventures that – for the first time in my life – I didn’t even have time to reminisce about the previous day, or to start thinking about the next. Everything on my trip to Argentina was about the there and then. It was absolutely refreshing, and altogether memorable.

My Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary was all about finally embracing a “no more not yets” attitude – finally putting an end to the “not yets” that for way too long stopped me from doing the things I really wanted to do, and jumping in on the opportunity to actually live my dreams.

Thanks to Flash Pack, I got to meet 14 other likeminded travelers – men and women who, like me, are quite happy with their lives yet are very curious to explore the world; professionals who are willing to pack their bags and go in a zip; people who can just as easily puff up a mountain and soak up in a jacuzzi, holding a glass of champagne (or better, one of Malbec – since it is Argentina we are talking about).

On my third trip to Argentina, I finally got to better explore one of the most buzzing, vibrant capitals of the world; I got to actually walk on a glacier; I stared at the most beautiful mountain I have ever seen; and I sipped on some of the most delicious wines ever produced – all in the company of some very fun people.

In this post, I highlight all the best experiences and adventures one can have on a Flash Pack trip to Argentina.

Read more about everything that Argentina has to offer on my post A Guide To The Greatest Things To Do In Argentina.”

Argentina itinerary

Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary is absolutely EPIC!

Flash Pack – AKA The Ultimate Argentina Itinerary

Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary is all about discovering the best of the country in a less conventional, yet somehow more in depth way. On my tour, I learned much more about the local culture and way of life than I ever did on my previous two trips, all thanks to specifically targeted activities that perfectly combined learning with a good dose of fun.

My trip to Argentina started in Buenos Aires, went to Patagonia, and finished in Mendoza. The more the trip went on, the more I fell in love with this beautiful country.

Here’s what my Argentina itinerary looked like. (Keep in mind it may be subject to change, as the people at Flash Pack are always working to improve their tours and listen to their customers’ feedbacks to create even better products)

trip to Argentina

A street art tour is a great way to get to know Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, The Vibrant Argentinian Capital

Buenos Aires is, inevitably, the first stop of Flash Pack itinerary through Argentina. The city is packed with interesting sights and things to do, and there is a multitude of good restaurants and bars and an incredible nightlife.

To discover more about Buenos Aires, check out my post “25 Unmissable Things To Do In Buenos Aires.”

Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary allows two full days in the city (but you can arrive early if you wish to explore more). These are enough to get a good feel for it and tickle your interest in the capital.

Instead of going all classic and showing the typical sights of Buenos Aires, on a Flash Pack trip to Argentina you get to discover more of the history, culture and overall vibe of the city and (with that) even of the country thanks to a guided street art tour. An incredible guide, who is first and foremost an artist, walks guests through Palermo, one of the most lively barrios of Buenos Aires, explaining how the various murals came to life, what their meaning is, and how they have contributed to change in the city.

Although street art may not be for all, this tour puts everything in context and by the end of it you will feel like you have learned a great deal about the city.

If a street art tour is not enough to appreciate the culture of Buenos Aires, a “dinner” at The Argentine Experience will provide one further push. Through food and wine, the friendly hosts help guests understand the incredibly diverse heritage of the city. Guests are involved in activities such as making empanadas (one of the local staples) and learning the basics of the local sign language; and all the while get to enjoy a fabulous dinner cooked using strictly local products, and accompanied with various local wines.

Argentina itinerary

Dog walkers in Buenos Aires – they can walk up to 10 dogs each!

Practical information about Buenos Aires

Where to sleep

Hotel Clasico – a small boutique hotel in the heart of Palermo Soho, it features comfortable rooms and a stylish environment. The area is packed with good bars and restaurants.

Where to eat

Bellagamba Bodegon – a favorite of locals, this eatery serves some of the best milanesas in town.

La Popular del Soho – a typical parrilla where you can expect to have some of the best steaks in town.

Lo de Jesus – a nice upper-scale restaurant that gets regularly packed with locals and tourists alike. It’s right inside a shop called La Malbequeria – the name is good enough an explanation for the wine selection you can expect!

Where to drink

Patagonia – a craft beer that can be found all over the country; there is one in Palermo Soho that has a lovely garden.

Growlers – another pub pretty much in front of Patagonia.

Boticario – a super quirky pub located in what used to be a pharmacy. It’s very vintage, and the atmosphere is unique yet friendly.

Moving around

Buenos Aires public transportation system is quite efficient. Make sure to get a SUBE card that allows you to ride buses and subway. It’s a top up card that you touch in every time you want to travel.

Alternatively, cabs are fairly cheap – especially if you can share the costs with other people.

Uber is illegal in Argentina, but you can download the app Cabify which works pretty much the same way.

Argentina itinerary

El Calafate is the second stop on Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary

El Calafate, The Getaway To Patagonia

The second stop on the Flash Pack’s Argentina Itinerary is El Calafate. This nice small town located on the shores of Lake Argentino is the best access point to visit Perito Moreno Glacier, and is home to a multitude of excellent restaurants where to taste the best Argentian asado (mixed grill).

El Calafate is a nice place to explore. A walk along the lake is the perfect occasion to admire the incredible local bird life, with pink flamingos living in the lagoon, battling the wind which blows strong in this part of the country. Laguna Nimez is an even better place for birdwatching.

Yet, Perito Moreno Glacier steals the show of this part of Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary.  A full day is dedicated to its visit, but the tour is less than classic. Most companies go to the balconies and explore the various viewpoints to the glacier, which Flash Pack tour certainly does – and what a show it is to admire the glacier as the ice cracks and falls in the freezing waters of Lake Argentino, with a thunder-like sound.

Some companies also go on a boat tour to the northern wall of the glacier. Only a few, however, go full frontal and take their groups to actually walk on the glacier. Sure enough, Flash Pack is among those.

If you join Flash Pack trip to Argentina, after having admired the glacier in all its glory you’ll be ushered to the southern part of Lake Argentino, where you’ll board a catamaran that will take you as close to the southern wall of Perito Moreno Glacier as possible, for even more stunning views and incredible photo opportunities, and then drop you off at the southern base of the glacier.

There, you’ll meet a local guide that will help you wear crampons and will take you on a short but rewarding hike on the ice, showing you the best cracks and creases, allowing you to taste glacier water and finally offering you a shot of whiskey on Perito Moreno rocks.

Check out my post “A Complete Guide To Perito Moreno Glacier.”

trip to Argentina

Flash Pack takes its group on a glacier hike, and it’s a lot of fun!

Practical information about El Calafate

Where to sleep

Hotel Esplendor – a fantastic boutique hotel located on a hill and with beautiful views of the lake. Rooms are incredibly large and comfortable, and the overall place is very stylish. There is an on site spa and a restaurant that serves delicious food.

Where to eat

La Tablita – known as the best restaurant in El Calafate, this literally is an institution. It serves the best asado, fantastic steaks and has a huge selection of wines.

Where to drink

Borges y Alvares – a lovely small café and bar with plenty of books on display and a great selection of drinks (mostly beer and wine).

Cerveceria Chopen – a nice craft beer pub. Ask for the beer sample before placing your order.

Moving around

El Calafate is walker friendly, and small enough for visitors to walk from one place to the other. The occasional taxi drives by and you can haul it from the street.

trip to Argentina

El Chalten is usually the favorite stop on Flash Pack trip to Argentina

El Chalten, The Heart of Patagonia

El Chalten is the third stop on Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary, and the one that most people on the tour end up enjoying the most. To be honest, the town is nothing special – houses and hotels built in complete disregard of any architectural style, set around two main roads; a few restaurants (excellent for the most part) and (for some unknown reason) more than enough breweries (all of them offering happy hour, which is good news for the hikers); a handful of shops and just two ATMs (hardly sufficient during peak season).

It’s what’s around El Chalten that makes it the highlight of any trip to Argentina. Indeed, El Chalten is right at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. These can be seen from a long distance, as the bus from El Calafate approaches El Chalten first on Ruta 40 and then on Ruta 23.

Needless to say, if you visit El Chalten you are in for a real hiking extravaganza. As per the itinerary of Argentina followed by Flash Pack, the group hikes the trail to Laguna Torre, which goes to the base of Cerro Torre.

Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary allows an extra day in El Chalten, so the group has the option of going on an extra hike, going rafting, biking or just relaxing at the hotel or in town. I guess you know what I did already!

Together with 5 other girls in my group (because I never recommend hiking alone), I opted to hike to Laguna de Los Tres, at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy. This easily qualifies as the best day hike I have ever done. The hike to Laguna de Los Tres is the perfect combination of a hard workout and breathtaking views.

To find out more about this incredible hike, check out my post A Guide To Hiking Around Fitz Roy, In El Chalten.”

trip to Argentina

At Laguna Torre with 3 more girls on my Flash Pack tour of Argentina – it was great to meet other likeminded travelers!

Practical information about El Chalten

Where to sleep

Estancia La Quinta – a lovely hotel a bit outside of El Chalten. It’s a good walk to town (around 55 minutes) or a few minutes drive by taxi (at the time of writing, a ride to town costs $400 Argentinian Pesos). Rooms are plain but incredibly comfortable and the settings absolutely gorgeous.

Where to eat

Maffia – a nice eatery that serves home made pasta – approved by Italians.

Ahonikenk – prepares some Argentinian staples including a good milanesa.

Mathilda – a lovely café with good salads and sandwiches, and drinks that go from your choice of coffee to craft beer.

Where to drink

La Vineria – a bit after the entrance of town, it has good draft beers and an excellent selection of wines.

Cerveceria Artesanal – the best pub in El Chalten.

Moving around

El Chalten is tiny, so unless you are staying out of town ie at Estancia La Quinta, there won’t be any need to hire a taxi. If needed, several companies can be called and booked.

Argentina itinerary

No better place to end a trip to Argentina than Mendoza

Mendoza, Where The Wine Flows

Mendoza is the perfect place to wrap up an incredible trip to Argentina, celebrating with wine and delicious food in the lovely surroundings of vineyards and Andean peaks. If the rest of Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary is all about adventure and adrenaline, in Mendoza it is all about taking it slowly.

In line with the idea of appreciating local culture and way of life, once in Mendoza you get to visit the nicest bodegas (vineyard) in the region – one is large and you can buy the bottles in stores and find them in restaurants; the other is tiny and family run, the old way. Both of them make fantastic wines.

Here, you will be biking and even go horse riding through the vineyards and have a chance to try several wines and to learn about the process of wine making and bottling, and are then offered nothing less than a 7 courses lunch – accompanied by yet more wine. And – in case you are wondering – you will be given the chance to buy wine at a real steal.

Argentina itinerary

A lovely bike ride through the vineyards – and lots of wine drinking!

Practical information about Mendoza

Where to sleep

Posada el Encuentro – tucked away in a small alley in Chacras de Coria, one of the nicest areas a bit outside Mendoza, this nice boutique hotel exudes countryside charm.

Where to eat

The best places to eat in Mendoza are actually the fantastic bodegas you will visit during your Flash Pack tour. There, you will have your good share of local specialties such as empanadas and the best cuts of meat.

Vegan or vegetarian? Head to Cuenco, right outside the center of Mendoza. They have delicious fresh vegan food at more than reasonable prices.

Where to drink

Should the wine you have at the bodegas not be enough, you can pop in one of the many lovely bars and pubs on Chacras de Coria main street. Patagonia is guaranteed to have good beer.

Moving around

As in any big city in Argentina, the public transportation system works quite well. Flash Pack provides transportation to and from the wineries, but if needed you can also count on a good and fairly cheap taxi service.

Argentina itinerary

Time to plan your trip to Argentina!

Plan Your Flash Pack Trip To Argentina

I recommend booking your Flash Pack trip to Argentina well in advance. Until the very last, I was unsure I’d be able to join the trip as it was fully booked! Advance bookings will also help you save money (you may be lucky to find a sale!), included on airfare!

The trip runs between October and April, so between spring and late summer in Argentina.

You will need to book flights to Buenos Aires, where the trip starts. Buenos Aires is well connected to the rest of the world via all the major carriers. From Europe, the best deals are with Alitalia, which has regular flights from Rome; Iberia, which flies from Spain, and Lufthansa. From North America, Air Canada and United Airlines have the best prices.

The trip ends in Mendoza, and from there you will have to book your flight to Buenos Aires or to another place, should you wish to extend the trip.

Flash Pack trip to Argentina costs between $3779 and $4699 USD, depending on whether you opt to sleep alone or are willing to share a room with another member of the group.

This price includes domestic flights from Buenos Aires to El Calafate and from El Calafate to Mendoza; local transportation and tours and activities; 10 nights’ accommodation, 3 lunches and 3 dinners, all of them delicious. Any other meal and extra activities and transportation will be on you.

Make sure to pack smartly, as Buenos Aires and Mendoza tend to get very hot in the summer, but Patagonia is mostly windy and chilly. Carry some good layers for Patagonia, as the weather tends to be unpredictable, it may rain and it is (unsurprisingly) freezing cold on Perito Moreno Glacier. Hiking boots are a must, as well as sun block!

I will be writing a more detailed packing list for Patagonia.

If you, like me, are a professional between the age of 30 and 49, accustomed to traveling solo but with not much time to plan your trips, looking forward to meet like minded people, interested in adventure and in getting to know a country’s culture a bit more in depth, a Flash Pack trip to Argentina may well be the best one for you.

Are you considering joining Flash Pack’s Argentina itinerary?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Flash Pack during my trip to Argentina and I wish to thank them for the incredible experience. Needless to say, the opinions expressed in this post remain my own.           

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The 7 Best Places To Go Hiking In Cuba

The 7 Best Places To Go Hiking In Cuba

Not many people know, but hiking in Cuba is actually excellent. Most people who travel to this vibrant and lively Caribbean country enjoy the beautiful colonial cities, the fantastic beaches, the delicious food, the fun music, the contact with a completely different culture.

Talk about hiking in Cuba, though, and most people simply ignore that it’s actually a thing. The country is packed with good trails that allow you to get closer to nature, breathe in the clean air, enjoy an incredible view and just get away from it all. Hiking is definitely one of the best things to do in Cuba.

For more things to do in Cuba, check out my post “The Most Fantastic Things To In Do Cuba: The Ultimate Guide.”

This post highlights some of the best hikes in Cuba and shares some tips to make the most of them.

hiking in Cuba

Vinales Valley is one of the best places to go hiking in Cuba

Hiking In Cuba – 7 Unmissable Places

Valle de Viñales

The nicest place to go hiking in Cuba is by far Viñales National Park, in the province of Pinar del Rio. This is the most Western province of Cuba, a place that most travelers go to to explore the tobacco plantations and the appreciate the countryside vibe. While most limit themselves to a one day visit that involves a car tour around the valley, the best way to fully appreciate the area is on a hike or bike tour.

The valley has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and it became a National Park in 2001.

Viñales has a unique environment of carsic mountains, known as “mogotes” (these are beautiful, isolated steep-sided hills that have a rounded, tower-like shape, and are surrounded by flat alluvial plains). The tobacco plantations, the many caves that are scattered around the valley, and the rich cultural heritage make this the perfect place to go hiking in Cuba.

There are many trails in the area, and you can mix and match to make them longer and adjust them to your taste and interests. I recommend one that goes by the mogotes, through the tobacco plantations, by the caves and that reaches places the small community of Los Aquaticos.

It’s not a difficult hike, but there’s hardly any shade along the way, and with the strong sun and heat it can be exhausting.

TIP: Make sure to carry sunblock, lots of water and enough food for the hike. There really aren’t places to et water and food along the way. Also take your swimsuit and a quick dry, lightweight towel with you as there may be a chance to swim in the Cueva del Indio.

hiking in Cuba

There are some great hikes in Las Terrazas – photo courtesy of BinoCanada (flickr)

Las Terrazas

Not many people who travel to Cuba make to Las Terrazas, in the Sierra del Rosario. I did, and let me tell you: it’s worth going. This eco-village was founded in 1968 in the attempt to re-forestate the region, and is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The area is fantastic for birdwatching, and it’s an overall great place to get away from the chaos of Havana for a day or two.

Discover more about Havana in my post “27 Absolutely Unmissable, Fun And Quirky Things To Do In Havana.”

The Sierra del Rosario is one of the best regions to go hiking in Cuba, and there are plenty of good trails. The bad news is that none of the trail is well marked, and that you’ll need a local guide to enjoy them. The good news is that guides are easy to scout in Las Terrazas, and you’ll be able to pick from a great variety of trails.

Among the best trails there are that to San Claudio, the most challenging one with a 13 km walk that gets all the way to San Claudio waterfalls; the El Contento trail, a nice, easy 8 km walk through the Campismo El Taburete (a Cubans-only camping site) and the Baños de San Juan, that also goes to some coffee plantations; and Sendero la Serafina, which starts at Rancho Curujey and is the best one for people who are into bird watching.

TIP: While the few tourists that venture to Las Terrazas only go on a day trip (after all, it’s only one hour drive from the capital), I recommend staying a bit longer to appreciate all that Las Terrazas has to offer, especially if you are into hiking.

hiking in Cuba

The area of Topes de Collantes is one of the best for hiking in Cuba – photo courtesy of Gabriel González (flickr)

Salto de Caburní

One of the best places to go hiking in Cuba is Topes de Collantes, a natural park in the province of Sancti Spiritus that can be easily reached from Trinidad.

Learn more about Trinidad, Cuba’s prettiest colonial city, in my post “Trinidad, Cuba: The Most Complete Guide.”

One of the best trails in Topes de Collantes is that to Salto de Caburní, where the Rio Caburní ends in a 62 meters high waterfall that drops right into a gorgeous natural – yet freezing – pool. The trail is 5 km long (10 km there and back). You will be walking downhill on the way to the waterfall, and uphill on the way back. It’s a fairly easy trail to follow, but a guide is recommended.

TIP: Make sure to carry a swimsuit and a lightweight towel. Though cold, the natural pool is pleasant and swimming there is a great way to cool down before walking back. Make sure to carry enough water for the duration of the hike.

hiking in Cuba

There is a nice trail in El Nicho

El Nicho

One of the nicest places to go trekking in Cuba is the area of El Nicho. To be fair, these are more like walks than proper trails, but still worth going as the area is stunning. It is where the Rio Habanilla has a beautiful system of waterfalls and natural pools. A short hiking trail allows you to admire the caves, get close to all the natural pools and do some bird watching.

TIP: The water is the natural pools quite cold, but incredibly transparent and inviting, so make sure you bring a swimsuit to make the most of your day.

hiking in Cuba

Pico Turquino is perfect for hiking in Cuba – photo courtesy of Fabian Michelangeli (flickr)

Pico Turquino

If you are looking for the ultimate, most challenging place to go hiking in Cuba, head to Pico Turquino, which is where the revolution forces established one of their basis during the civil war. With its 1972 meters, this mountain is the highest peak in Cuba and dominates the Caribbean Sea. It’s covered in a gorgeous cloud forest and protected by a national park of roughly 140 square km.

The usual starting point to hike Pico Turquino is Santiago. The hike is a challenging one that takes two to three days and starts in Alto de Naranjo, near La Plata, and finishes at Las Cuevas, on the Caribbean coast. You need to hire a guide for the duration of the hike.

You spend the first two days walking on the trail that goes to Pico Turquino, sleeping in the huts of Pico Joachín and Pico Cuba. From there, you’ll get another guide that will take you to Las Cuevas.

The main challenge of this hike is the fact that you’ll go from 2000 meters above sea level to virtually sea level in just one day, and in less than 10 km. Yet, the views are rewarding.

TIP: You’ll need to carry virtually everything you may possibly need for the duration of the hike, including warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a rain coat, sufficient food for the duration of the hike plus a bit extra to offer to the guards on duty at Pico Cuba. You can buy drinks at Pico Cuba, where the trail starts.

Check out my post on what to pack for long distance hikes.

TIP: Spanish speaking guide are easily found, but if you’d rather have an English speaking one make sure to book well in advance. Ecotur is a good company to ask for a guide.

La Gran Piedra

Among the places to go trekking in Cuba there is La Gran Piedra, which is not far from Santiago de Cuba, in the south of the country. This is a massive boulder weighting 63000 tons located at the top of a mountain range whose highest peak reaches 1234 meters above sea level. Given how hot Santiago can be, this is nice and cool in comparison.

In order to hike La Gran Piedra, you have to get all the way to the information center which is at the top of a 12 km road that is very steep. You can get there by car or taxi – buses can’t really make it up there, as it really is too steep.

The trail starts at the information center, and it’s very easy to follow. Some 500 steps take you all the way to the Gran Piedra, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view. From there, you can also reach the nearby coffee plantations – some of the oldest in Cuba – where you can have a tour and even taste coffee.

TIP: You can combine your hike to la Gran Piedra with a visit to one of the beaches in the area such as Playa Siboney.

Check out my post about the best beaches in Cuba.

hiking in Cuba

On the way to El Yunque for one of the best hikes in Cuba

El Yunque

One of the most famous places to go hiking in Cuba is El Yunque, near the lovely city of Baracoa, in the Guantanamo province. Locals and tourists alike enjoy this trail, which is some kind of rite of passage. The mountain, which can be seen from a distance in Baracoa, is cone shaped and flat at the top, and though it only gets to roughly 500 meters above sea level, this is a challenging hike.

The region is very tropical, with incredibly thick vegetation and trails that are though marked can be difficult to follow, as they are so muddy. In order to get to the starting point of the trail, you have to walk through the countryside and then cross the river – either on foot, getting in the water, or on a cayuca boat is this is available once you get there.

It takes around 2 hours to get to the top, and more or less the same amount of time to walk back down to the beginning of the trail. The overall walk from the visitors center – including stops at the waterfall – takes around 6 hours.

The views from the peak are incredible: you can see the many beautiful beaches near Baracoa. It’s one of the most challenging hikes in Cuba, despite being a short one, because the region is very humid and it rains every day, which means that you don’t only have to battle the heat, but you also have to walk along a very muddy, slippery path.

TIP: Make sure to wear a good pair of hiking boots that properly hold your ankle, as the terrain is muddy and very slippery. Wear a swimsuit, as there will be plenty of chances to swim in the beautiful rivers of the region. Also take plenty of water for the hike, and enough food, as there are no shops or kiosks along the way.

TIP: You will need to hire a guide for this hike. You can get one at the visitors center, once you get to the park.

Baracoa is Cuba’s best kept secret, and one of the top gourmet destinations in Cuba. Check out my post about the best Cuban dishes you should not miss.

Have you been hiking in Cuba? What are your favorite trails?

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Discover the best places to go hiking in Cuba - via @clautavani