My Next Trip: Off to Patagonia!

Tomorrow I leave for my next trip — 3.5 weeks in Patagonia!

This trip sort of fell into my lap. In early December, a travel deal popped onto my Facebook feed — only $170 roundtrip from Washington D.C. to Santiago, Chile. Was it an error fare? Just a good deal? I saw the link minutes after it was posted so I clicked on it… and sure enough, the fares were real.

1 FB Chile error fare.png

I glanced at my calendar and realized I could book a trip for April. Without thinking about it too hard, I entered my credit card numbers and booked it. If freelance work prevents me from going, then fine, I’ll simply forgo the airfare and visit Chile another time. But by early February my work schedule was still wide open for April, so I made the call — I was going to Chile!

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(images via 1, 2, 3, 4)

As soon as I started planning the trip, I had to reconcile a few things:

— Chile is 2,600 miles long and only 150 miles wide, so everything is really far apart. And while I booked the flights rather spontaneously, Chile is a dream destination for me so I had to take this seriously — no winging it. Time to plan and prioritize. Did I want to go to Easter Island? How about the Atacama desert in the north? But after looking into those options and more, the answer was clear: hiking down south in Patagonia has always been high on my bucket list. I HAD to get there.

— It turns out that Patagonia stretches over both Chile and Argentina, so while I’d been telling people I booked a cheap flight to Chile, Patagonia is really where I’ll be traveling. And technically I’ll be in Argentina more than Chile on this trip.

— I feel a pretty deep sense of guilt for taking a vacation when there is so much horror happening in the world. Especially after my last international trip working with refugees in Greece — I know how good that feels, and how much of a difference it can make. So many friends I met there are still suffering. Shouldn’t I be doing more to help? I Googled volunteer opportunities in Santiago and didn’t come across anything that really stood out. Most require volunteers to pay to participate, which I’m on board with to a certain extent, but the red tape around the application process for some of these organizations often turns me off (“jump through these hoops and then you can volunteer with us”). I realized how badly I wanted to hike in Patagonia and, in order to do that properly, I needed to prioritize spending my whole time down there instead of splitting the trip in half to volunteer. But by no means am I done with volunteer travel.

— Having decided to focus exclusively on Patagonia, I realized I would arrive there at the tail end of their trekking season (it’s currently autumn down there). This is both good and bad. Good because there will be less people on the trails, and it will be easier to book refugios (spartan structures with dorm beds tucked high up in the mountains). But bad because Patagonia’s already unpredictable weather is even more likely to be cloudy, rainy, and snowy as winter approaches. My vision of an alpine trek with breathtaking views — images I have been picturing ever since Patagonia officially went on my bucket list years ago — could very likely be a cold, wet, miserable experience. I am rolling the dice by going in mid-April.

So I dove into itinerary planning, and here is what I’ve come up with for my 24 day trip:

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Note: all photos below are linked to their source.

Week 1: Torres del Paine National Park

After flying into Punta Arenas near the southern tip of the continent, I’ll take a bus to Puerto Natales, which is the base city for visiting Torres del Paine National Park. I’m going to do the “W” trek in the park, which is five days / four nights of hiking through some of the most incredible scenery. (For anyone looking to plan their own trip, here are seven bloggers’ guides that I’ve relied on: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.)

This is Mirador Las Torres, which I plan to visit on the first day:

5Torres2.jpgOne more time from a different angle since it’s so beautiful… hopefully it won’t be completely blocked by cloud when I’m there (a very real possibility):

6Torres4.jpgDay two will bring me to Los Cuernos, another crazy impressive mountain that translates to “the horns” in Spanish:

7LosCuernos.jpgDay three is the French Valley… if they haven’t closed it due to snow by the time I get there… This trip could be a bust but hopefully some of these views will pan out.

8FrenchValley.jpgAnd on day four I hope to kayak at Glacier Grey. When I contacted them yesterday, they said they’d only be open if there are enough people still hiking next week. So… this might happen, fingers crossed:

9GlacierGrey2a.jpgWeek 2: El Calafate & El Chalten

Then I’ll cross over into Argentina and explore the region around El Calafate — this is Perito Moreno, their most famous glacier:

10PeritoMoreno.jpgAnd then I’ll head up to El Chalten for around four days to hike the Mount Fitz Roy area, another outrageously scenic area.

11FitzRoy.jpgWeek 3: Bariloche & Mendoza

Then I’ll take an overnight bus up to Bariloche, a city on a lake that looks like something out of the Alps:

12Bariloche1.jpgAnd then another overnight bus up to Mendoza (I’m not looking forward to any overnight buses, much less two, but airfare is like $400 so I’ll deal). This area has both mountains and wineries — a combination I love.

13Mendoza3.jpgWeek 4: Valparaiso & Santiago

And for my final couple of days, I’ll bus over to the colorful city of Valparaiso on the coast:

14Valparaiso1.jpgAnd then spend two days in Santiago before flying home:

15Santiago2.jpgAnd who knows — this is very much subject to change, especially as the weather is so fickle in Patagonia this time of year. Maybe I’ll end up on Easter Island after all.

For the record, I have tickets to see a play the night I get back (this is very much par for the course of how I plan my life) so hopefully my return flight won’t be delayed any more than a couple of hours. I just jinxed it, didn’t I?

As always, thanks for following along. I look forward to sharing updates on Instagram as time / wifi allows. And while I’ve been horribly tardy at recapping my past two trips (Spain/Portual and Central America), I will blog about this immediately upon my return.

4 thoughts on “My Next Trip: Off to Patagonia!

  1. Wow! How exciting! This is something I really want to do, so can’t wait to hear how it goes for you. Sending you all the good weather vibes (though I’m not sure I know what good weather looks like anymore). Very much looking forward to reading about the rest of your trips as well. Have a wonderful time!

    • Thank you, Kelsey! I appreciate the good weather vibes! Also — I have been bookmarking your Cuba posts to read in-depth; I look forward to leaning on them when planning my own trip there someday!

  2. Very excited for you Ca, and so happy that you are following your dreams, and making them into reality! Love you so much!

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