10 days, 4 girls, 1 small car, 1,300 miles and an epic adventure through Argentina and Chile. This trip has been top on my bucket list for a long time and I was lucky enough to make it a reality in early March. With so many amazing photos and memories to share I have put off this blog post for a long time because I just couldn’t narrow it down.
Vegetarian options were surprisingly delicious and available throughout our trip, even in the small towns. I am not a vegetarian but many times prefer the veggies, although I must say there is nothing like an Argentine steak!
There is so much to love about this beautiful world and embarking on a (foreign and adventurous) cross country road trip did not disappoint.
Day 1 – Flight from Buenos Aires to Bariloche
Bariloche is on the very north end of the Patagonia region, known as the lake district. In the winter it is a hot spot for skiing and in the summer an unbeatable hiking location surrounding glacier lakes. Known for its chocolate, and swiss style architecture the town has so much to do and see even though it has a small town feel. I really could have stayed here for a week and done the Seven Lakes Drive but we had plenty of driving ahead of us and not enough time for everything.
Be sure to stop by the most famous chocolate store Rapanui. We stayed in this Airbnb with an amazing view of the lake and surrounding Andes Mountains. A close walking distance to town and just a few blocks from the water. We ate dinner at Alto de Fuego, it was an AMAZING first introduction to the famous Argentine steaks. When we first sat down they brought us pickled beef, fresh bread and a spicy olive oil dip. We watched as the chef braided our strip steak and grilled it over the open flame in the kitchen. We asked our server what he recommended, he spoke English well, and we went with a couple different types of meat, the Patagonia trout and dolche de leche mousse for dessert. It all tasted extraordinary after a long day of travel with a glass of Argentina Malbec!
Day 2- Bariloche, up around the Llao Llao Hotel
Woke up and walked to Holly’s for breakfast, right on the water. Walked the streets of downtown with our mouths watering with windows displaying decadent chocolate, alfajores (my favorite!) and other Italian inspired pastries. After the shops we took the bus up to the famous hotel Llao Llao. We could have rented bikes but we were on a time crunch and decided we would rather leave extra time to explore and drink a local beer, Duham, with empanadas. We found a cute local spot called El Tronador, a very small restaurant off to the side of the road over looking the water and mountains. For dinner we went into town and had pisco sours and dinner at Antares, a fun casual brewpub right in town.
Day 3 Bariloche – El Bolsón – Rio Mayo
The real adventure begins! And it started before we even got the car. We rented our car from Modena Car Rental, it was less than half the price of any of the main car rental facilities because we only wanted a one-way rental. If you plan to drive across the boarder be sure to let them know, you must have special documentation to drive a rental car across we got a bit held up as they frantically tried to speed a 3-day process into about 2 hours. We got a later start than anticipated and had to take a different route into Chile (the boarder closes very early). Once we got our little white stick-shift Clio, we hit the road and drove for a few hours until lunch in El Bolsón. A small, hippy vibe town on the edge of the Andes. I would recommend if you have more time to spend the night here and explore, eat, drink and hike around a bit. We had just enough time to get lost looking for a brewery, that happened to be closed for the day but found tomatican for lunch. The salad was so good and much needed! After El Bolsón it is desolate, beautiful road ahead. There were no cars in sight much of the time but plenty of Guanacos (llama looking animals) to keep you on your toes. We stopped in a small town Rio Mayo and stayed in Cabañas at El Viejo Curdonga (there is no website I could find, it is very small). There’s not much here but it was a bed to lay down and get some sleep before waking up to chickens out our front door and getting on the road again.
Day 4 – Rio Mayo – Puerto Tranquilo
Crossed the boarder out of Argentina and into Chile. This was the most incredible, scenic drive of my life. I won’t say it was an easy drive but it was well worth it. Winding, mostly dirt roads, around the mountain side and looking down over Lake Argentina was thrilling and magnificent. It is the second largest lake in South America behind Lake Titicaca. We turned a corner and the view literally took our breath away. We had lunch at a little house with nothing but a sign out front called Pension de Mesa. We sat down and they served us bread with tomatoes and cucumbers, juice, and lamb and seaweed stew. Then it was on the road again to the Marble Caves in Puerto Tranquilo. Kayaks were the way to go, getting to paddle through the caves, feeling and seeing the intricate marble jetting out of the crystal clear, icy blue water was spectacular! Then it was back to our Cabaña Don Hugo to start a fire and warm up with a bottle of wine before walking down to Arisca for dinner, where it was more pisco sours, beer and one of the best sammies of my life along with a salad and fries with a fried egg. The owner also owns a more fine dining restaurant in town as well.
Day 5 Puerto Tranquilo to Chile Chico
We stayed just outside of town at Hosteria de la Patagonia, where our room was a boat turned hotel room. With chickens roaming the yard, a woodfire heated hot tub overlooking a beautiful backyard with views of the mountains. There are not too many places to eat in Chile Chico so we opted to stay and eat a homemade dinner at our hotel. The owner made incredible lasagna and even accommodated our vegetarian request. Wine was available to purchase and waffles with homemade jam for dessert.
Day 6- Chile Chico – El Chaltén
Crossed back over into Argentina, this was a day of the most deserted driving. The man we met at our hotel was on a motorcycle trip by himself and had run out of gas going the opposite way we were headed. He warned us to fill up every chance we could, because stops are few and far between. We stopped to let Guanacos cross the road and that was about it. We arrived in El Chaltén late that night and stayed at Hotel Kalenshen. It is the one of the cutest towns I have been to, I wanted to stay and bake Alfajores (click the link for the NTY recipe and enjoy them at home!) the rest of my life. I was in love with this place and so sad we had about 1/2 day there before having to leave to our final Patagonia city, El Calafate. El Chaltén is at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy the famous 7 peak mountain that makes up the logo of Patagonia Clothing. El Chaltén is of course full of hikers and outpost stores, but there is no shortage of incredible food. We had dinner at La Tapera. Starting off with buttery, fluffy hot out of the oven rolls and homemade pumpkin spread, then ravioli, famous Patagonia trout, and of course Argentine beef. If there is one place you must try it is the Alfajores at Chaltenos, if not for the most amazing Alfajores, than for the attractive baker man that makes them 😉
Day 7 – El Chaltén – El Calafate
Hike Mt. Fitz Roy! We bought some sammies the day before to take on the hike with us and were one of the first groups on the trail in the morning. It was well worth the early start. The sun was still beginning to peak through the mountains, although March is not the high tourist season there are still plenty of people out. It was chilly in the morning so layers are key. It is an incredible trail with changing terrain throughout. Most of it is pretty easy until the last km, where you essentially hike straight up the mountain to reach the glacier lake. When we made it back to town we rewarded ourselves with a beer (after all it was St. Patricks day!) and snack at B&B and an Alfajores for the road to El Calafate.
Day 8 Glaciers at El Calafate
Woke up bright and early for a tour of the glaciers! There are plenty of places in town to reserve a tour. It was amazing to actually walk out on a glacier, drink water straight from the ice and finish the hike with a shot of whiskey on the glacier “rocks.” Be sure to bring warm clothes and gloves! They provide some if you don’t have any but they are not the best. We got back to town, warmed up and were off to dinner at Pura Vida. It is a little off the beaten path which is what I like and so tasty! Amazing vegetarian options, good wine and a great casual, fun atmosphere.
Day 9-10 El Calafate – Buenos Aires
Back to Buenos Aires then home. I will have to leave that to another post because this is already way too long!
If you have any questions I love to talk travel, please feel free to leave a comment or share your recommendations and experiences 🙂