The Argentine Patagonia is the right destination for nature lovers; the region has an incredible diversity of breathtaking landscapes. Snow-capped peaks, glaciers, big lakes, beautiful national parks, and so on, sights to behold and speed up the heart. Ushuaia, known as the world’s southernmost city, and El Calafate – famous for its majestic glaciers – were the destinations chosen to be explored in a 7-day trip through Argentine Patagonia during the summer.
We flew from São Paulo to Buenos Aires first because there was no straight flight to Ushuaia or El Calafate from any Brazilian city, so we had to stop at Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. The connection was long, way too long! We spent the night waiting to board, sitting in an airport chair. We arrived in the city around 7:30 pm but the flight to Ushuaia – the first destination of our itinerary – was at 4:40 am (the first one of the day), a gap of 9h.
If that kind of thing happens during the day, you can find something to do. You can leave the bags at the airport and hit the city for a while, or even find something to do at the airport since everything is going to be open and busy. But at night the scenario is different, and the solution was to wait, and wait, and wait! The ideal would’ve been to book a hotel for a few hours inside of the airport – but there was none -, or go to Buenos Aires one day before and pay for a regular hotel, instead of getting there at night to catch a flight in the morning.
The cities & The time of stay in each one
The trip was divided into two parts, Ushuaia and El Calafate. It’s worth to include both cities in the itinerary because there are not (very) far from each other and there are straight flights connecting them. We decided to go to Ushuaia first just because of the values of the tickets, but it could be the opposite as well. We spent four days in Ushuaia (counting the day we arrived, since we landed in the morning) and three days in El Calafate.
The Patagonian summer & What to pack
The trip was planned for the summer (begging of February), which is the high season. Some tours are available during the whole year, and other only during the summer, like the Penguin’s Island in Ushuaia, and the trekking on the Glacier Perito Moreno in El Calafate – which interested us a lot.
Don’t think that for being summer the temperatures are high; you absolutely have to pack winter clothes, especially because the wind is too strong in both destinations. Don’t forget a waterproof and warm jacket, gloves, winter cap, scarf, and trekking shoes. Don’t be fooled by the word “summer,” the chilly weather will accompany you the whole trip, and it can get very cold at night.
Language & Currency
The official language of Argentina is Spanish, but we were able to communicate with everybody speaking a mix of Portuguese, Spanish and English. The currency in the country is Argentine Peso, and the best place to exchange money is in the cities you are visiting (Ushuaia and El Calafate in this case), not before the trip. Cards are well accepted in some places, but it’s good to carry cash all the time.
A place with a good exchange rate in Ushuaia is the souvenir/teddy bear store called “Me Quiere,” located at the corner of Av. San Martin with Gral. Manuel Belgrano. In El Calafate, you’re going to find good exchange rate in a store called “Souvenirs Patagonia Argentina,” located close to the casino – there’s a cute area full of wooden houses (restaurants, souvenir shops), one of those little houses is the store I’m talking about. Both places belong to the same owner and accept euro, dollar and real.
Good to know before you go
- The touristic tours from both cities vary according to the season of the year; many activities can only happen during the summer, and others only during the winter. So, think about your priorities e decide the best time to go.
- There is a boarding fee that has to be paid in cash at Ushuaia’s airport. You must present the receipt to enter the departure lounge. We had to get out of the line fast to pay this fee; we didn’t know about this detail.
- If you have a passport from Mercosul, you pay less to enter the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in El Calafate (where the Glacier Perito Moreno is located). So, don’t forget to bring it when visiting the park.
- If you want to buy souvenirs from Patagonia (magnets, keychains), I had the impression that Ushuaia has cooler stores with a bigger variety than El Calafate. A very worth souvenir to buy in El Calafate is the Calafate Liqueur.
How the itinerary ended up
Day 1: Arrival in Ushuaia by the morning (8:25 am), purchase of the tours (at the Ushuaia Extremo agency) and walking around the port area.
Day 2: Navigation on the Beagle Channel (tour) during the morning, and walking around the city center in the afternoon.
Day 3: Trekking to the Glacial Martial (by ourselves) during the morning, and enjoying the city during the rest of the day.
Day 4: Visiting the Tierra Del Fuego National Park (tour), the activity took almost the entire day.
Day 5: Arrival in El Calafate by lunchtime and purchase of the tours (at the Hielo & Aventura agency)
Day 6: Balcones de Calafate (tour) during the morning and walking around the city during the rest of the day.
Day 7: Visiting the Parque de Los Glaciares and trekking on the Glacier Perito Moreno (tour).
Day 8: Return to Brazil