Argentine Patagonia itinerary
The route from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia (Tierra de Fuego) is a classic that any traveling soul must know. Starting in the proud and beautiful capital, the road to the south will be full of beautiful and varied natural places: the arid (and underestimated) central pampas, the green Región de los Lagos (Lakes District/Region), and, above all, the endless and spectacular Patagonia. It is a vast territory whose limits are not very clear (in fact, the Lakes Region is considered by many the beginning of the Patagonia). What is clear is that the attractions are scattered everywhere, both on its semi-desert shores full of wildlife and its mountains, forests, rivers, lakes and glaciers inland. And so on until reaching the end in Tierra de Fuego. You cannot go further south on the map.
Sierra de la Ventana & Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park
Lihué Calel National Park Villa El Chocón
Junín de los Andes & Lanín National Parkl
San Martín de los Andes & Seven Lakes Route
Bariloche & surroundings El Bolsón & Lago Puelo National Park
Los Alerces National Park
Península de Valdés
El Calafate & Los Glaciares National Park (Perito Moreno)
Strait of Magellan
Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego National Park
The Argentine capital is a very beautiful and lively city. In addition, the downtown reminds the Madrid one (architecturally speaking), which will make all madrileños feel at home. There are many events, from plays in theaters to couples dancing tango down the street, and thousands of places to visit. These are some of the coolest: Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo (and the obelisk), Florida Avenue, Colón Theater, San Telmo neighborhood, La Boca neighborhood (the cheapest place to stay), Palermo, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the cemetery and Recoleta neighborhood, the Museum of Eva (Evita) Perón, the Botanical Garden, the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. As a less touristy place, I recommend the Velatropa ecovillage, a few meters from the UBA (University of Buenos Aires). Also, Buenos Aires enjoys a great location to do some excursions to interesting places in the country (like Rosario or La Plata) and in Uruguay (Colonia Sacramento, Montevideo).
SIERRA DE LA VENTANA AND ERNESTO TORNQUIST PROVINCIAL PARK
Quiet town in the province of Buenos Aires that rests in a beautiful environment, with a river where you can cool off and on whose banks you can camp and chill out. I will always remember this place with joy because I met some kids (from Pehuajó) with whom I camped for a few days, during which they shared mate with me for the first time in my life and prepared me the first Argentine “asado” (like a barbecue but way better). The main attraction is the Ernesto Tornquist Provincial Park, nearby. Very nice and ideal to do some hiking.
LIHUÉ CALEL NATIONAL PARK
A very surprising place. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, in the Argentine Pampa. You can hike some trails through that kind of desert, camp among guanacos, visit the interpretation center/museum, observe rock art... To get out of here there are only two alternatives (at least when I visited the area, 2014): take the bus that runs south around 4-5 in the morning (there is only one); lift your thumb.
VILLA EL CHOCÓN
Near Neuquén lies this interesting town, where you can go to the Ernesto Bachmann Paleontological Museum, which houses, among others, the most complete fossil of the largest carnivorous dinosaur in the world: the Giganotosaurus carolinii. Awesome. In addition, there rests one of the largest artificial lakes on the planet, the Ezequiel Ramos Mexía Reservoir.
JUNÍN DE LOS ANDES AND LANÍN NATIONAL PARK
Here is one of my favorite places in all of Argentina. A few km from this charming town of Neuquén province nestled in the mountains is this National Park full of magic that bears the name of the highest volcano that inhabits it. There are many excursions, from climbing the Lanín volcano to hikes through forests, leaving rivers and waterfalls in the way. More beautiful impossible, with many camping and hiking options. In Junín there is a peculiar tourist attraction: the Vía Christi, a forest in which different artists have created their works summarizing the life of Jesus Christ (from birth to death), with elements of the Catholic and Mapuche traditions. For Christians and religion lovers it is certainly a gift, but for the rest of us so it is. It's worth coming to visit.
SAN MARTÍN DE LOS ANDES AND SEVEN LAKES ROUTE
Small town very clean and well cared, with attractions in the city itself and the surroundings. For example, the Che Museum (the Pastera Museum). From here begins the route of the Seven Lakes, in which there are actually more, each more beautiful than the previous one. By order: Lácar (at the feet of San Martín de los Andes), Machónico, Falkner, Villarino, Escondido, Correntoso, Espejo, Nahuel Huapi. The latter “bathes” the populations of Villa la Angostura and Bariloche. Apart from those, which are on the main route, you can go to other lakes taking small detours, such as the Hermoso or the Espejo Chico. In addition, an interesting town to keep in mind to visit is Villa Traful. Take your time to explore the whole area, it is worth it. The route ends at Villa la Angostura, a charming touristy town where, in addition to cool off in the Nahuel Huapi Lake, you can taste the best ice cream on Earth! Try cafayate, tomato, wine and many other flavors that you did not even know existed.
BARILOCHE AND SURROUNDINGS
A thousand plans await you in Bariloche (province of Río Negro). It is a well-known destination both in the winter season (lovers of skiing) and in summer. The town rests on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, in the Nahuel Huapi National Park, enjoying many places worth visiting nearby. For example: Los Arrayanes National Park, a forest of a unique tree species (the arrayán); the Route of the Seven Lakes, Villa Traful and Villa la Angostura; Cerro Tronador and El Ventisquero Negro Glacier; Cerro Catedral, a huge ski center... And many more you will discover in your visit.
EL BOLSÓN AND LAGO PUELO NATIONAL PARK
Essential destination for the backpacker who seeks nature and meet people. This hippie atmosphere village 120 km south of Bariloche will welcome you with open arms: craft beers, handicrafts, locals and travelers, festivals and events in summer, and many green spaces. Some of the most beautiful are: the Lago Puelo National Park, the Piltriquitrón Hill and the Bosque Tallado (Carved Forest), or the trail that leads you to the Cabeza de Indio Rock.
LOS ALERCES NATIONAL PARK
In the province of Chubut, a short distance from Esquel, we have this beautiful Park that houses and protects forests of one of the longest-lived trees on the planet: the alerce (larch). The show is served with these tall grandparents and those huge lakes with crystal clear waters..
PENÍNSULA DE VALDÉS
It is worth leaving the mountains of Andean Patagonia to make an incursion into the steppe ecosystem in this coastal area of Chubut. It is a paradise of wildlife. The Valdés Peninsula is a World Heritage Site, among other things because it welcomes the largest breeding population of southern right whales in the world. In addition, you can spot orcas, dolphins, sea lions, elephant seals, armadillos, penguins (of Magellan), cormorants, martinetas and a great variety of birds. The peninsula is huge and spectacular. You do not have time to see it all in one day! Not even renting a car (which by the way it is recommenden for touring the Peninsula). You can stay in the Peninsula itself (the only population is Puerto Pirámides), or in Puerto Madryn (outside and cheaper).
Punta Tombo, on the other hand, is a wildlife reserve that will give you the opportunity to see thousands of penguins of Magellan, less than a hand's breadth. You can watch them in great detail (wandering, resting or swimming), in addition to learning interesting data on the ecology of the species (interpretation center at the entrance). You can not miss this excursion in the Patagonian steppe... There should not be many places in the world where guanacos (camelids) and penguins live together in the same space.
EL CALAFATE AND LOS GLACIARES NATIONAL PARK (PERITO MORENO)
Large and lively town (at least in summer), in the province of Santa Cruz where everyone stops on their route to Perito Moreno (80 km away), in Los Glaciares National Park. There are several ways to go to the glaciers. The only one you can visit on your own (and the only one suitable for the backpacker budget) is the Perito Moreno itself, in front of which there are a series of walkways to enjoy it. On the other hand, if this is your dream (and have money) you can also “take a walk” on the glacier with a guide. Finally, you can take a boat tour through the channels of Lake Argentino where, in addition to the Perito Moreno, other beautiful glaciers (such as the Spegazzini and the Upsala) will be there greeting you (this excursion is also expensive). El Calafate is also nearby the dazzling Torres del Paine National Park (Chile). Many traveleres continue their trips in this wonder. Read more here.
Three hours north of El Calafate, this town is also within the confines of Los Glaciares National Park (northern part). The environment is also a dazzling beauty. However, the landscape is very different: change glaciers for mountains and forests. There are dozens of routes for lovers of climbing and hiking. Some of the most popular are: the climb to Mount Fitz Roy (also known as Cerro Chaltén), the highest in the region (3405 meters) and at whose feet the community rests; Cerro Torre; the Lake of the Three; the Lake of the Desert (beautiful, right on the border with Chile).
STRAIT OF MAGELLAN
This route through the deep south is home to several must-see pearls as we have just seen. The adventure also involves going through a piece of Chilean land (and the nightmare that the border implies), through pastures only populated by guanacos and crossing the Strait of Magellan (for which an expedition, led by Fernão de Magallanes, crossed for the first time from one ocean to the other).
USHUAIA AND TIERRA DEL FUEGO NATIONAL PARK
We are at the end of the world, far from everything: Tierra de Fuego. In addition to strolling through the streets and observe the way of life of the inhabitants of the southernmost city on the planet, Ushuaia, nestled in a spectacular bay between the Andes and the Beagle Channel, has much to offer: tour the Tierra de Fuego National Park (12 km to the west), full of amazing landscapes; hire a boat tour on the Beagle Channel, feeling a bit like Darwin and spotting sea lions, penguins and cormorants on islets (even going down on some small islands), while the guide tells you about the Fueguinos groups that not so long ago inhabited those lands; Take a ride on the Train of the Prisoners (Train of the End of the World), imagining the hard life the prisoners had in those remote lands.
Ushuaia is also the main port of departure for expeditions to Antarctica... But you will not set foot in those cold and wild lands unless you have a lot of money or you have a lot of luck getting a good deal (for example, working as a crew on ships).