Studying Abroad in Argentina: a Guide to Patagonia by Mallory Watford

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¡Hola todos! My name is Mallory Watford and I began my abroad journey in Argentina by flying down a week early to travel around Patagonia. I’m here to tell you the do’s and don’ts of the vast, amazing southern region of Argentina (and Chile).

Patagonia is actually an incredibly huge region with the most notable northern town being Bariloche and the southernmost being Ushuaia. Even though I did 1 week I highly recommend 2 weeks in Patagonia. If you are already there, I encourage you to seize the day and stay longer to get the most out of your experience. Price of living and exploring is very reasonable and never know when you’re going to go back! Going in the summer is the only time to go, in my opinion, because even at that it can be very chilly! Another pro tip that is that days are very long from about 6 am to 10 pm! Don’t worry, it doesn’t feel as weird as you think.

Ideally you will begin in Bariloche (3 days). I flew through here to get to El Calafate which is a town that is the center point for all of Patagonia. Even though I have not been to Bariloche, I will be going later in the semester due to how highly recommended this trip is! Do your individual research on this one or wait and see if I write another blog post about it!

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After Bariloche, take a short flight to El Calafate (2 days). I very much recommend staying at America Del Sur Calafate Hostel— it is incredible for sunsets, live music, and almost a full restaurant is nestled in the quaint hostel. Definitely picture-worthy and you can meet some other travelers in this popular hostel! If this doesn’t work out, there are plenty of others in the area, some even have individual rooms at a very low price (Schilling Patagonia Travelers). Both hostels are located around the main street Avenida Libertador. On this street you’ll find loads of tourist shops (get some post cards), restaurants, and desserts (try alfajores!). Don’t let the side streets slip you by, they are adorable.

You can take many of these off-streets to Reserva Laguna Nimez—a nature preserve that is an easy walk from Avenida Libertador. This park encompasses four ecosystems and has access to the infamous Lago Argentino. Here there’s a beach where people are reading, kite surfing, and walking their dogs. Go at any time of day from 9am to sunset for only $8!

However, the main attraction of El Calafate the Perito Moreno Glacier in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. To do this you must do a tour of the glacier through Hielo y Aventura as they are the only company who has a license to take people hiking on the glacier. The tour you’re looking for is Mini Trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier for a morning tour which begins at 8 am and ending around 7 pm with pick-up and drop-off from your hotel as an add-on option (highly recommended). This is the third largest glacier in South America and is one of the only ones in the world that is at equilibrium (not shrinking). You’ll be surprised how exciting it is to see parts of the glacier fall of and crash into the water, and how many miles you will end up walking! I can’t recommend it enough—it was one of the incredible amazing days of my life!

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Next stop is El Chaltén (1-2 days). You can take a bus from El Calafate to this tiny town at the base of the Andes. The view as you drive into it is on the famous Route 40 that gives you an awesome view of the Andes. This is simply a hiking town with many cute restaurants and bars. There are dozens of trails, the most popular (and busy) being Mt. Fitz Roy which I recommend if you’re feeling up to it! There are great local maps that give the difficulty and approximate time each trail is. I recommend staying overnight one night if you can go enjoy a full day of hiking and some time with other travelers during the evening! However, it is possible to go there and back to El Calafate in one day, just choose your hiking trail wisely.

Upon arrival back in El Calafate, you can go to Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine in Chile. It is about a four-hour bus ride to Puerto Natales (3-4 days), one of the closest towns to Torres Del Paine. From Puerto Natales it is about 1.5 hours to the park. This is a lot of traveling back and forth and I had very mixed emotions about my experience here because we chose to stay in Puerto Natales and do the commute. What I recommend is taking busses because it will allow you to enjoy the scenery outside during your hours of traveling. After some reflection on the park itself, what I have to say is: two days here is more than enough but staying one-to-two nights in the park is the best option. I highly recommend this as it will allow you to do a long hike (French Valley or Towers Base Camp), and another day you can explore the smaller trails and the park facilities (like having a meal on the hostel on an island). This place is incredible, and it still stuns me that it even exists. After this, return to El Calafate for a flight back to Buenos Aires.

If going to Chile doesn’t work, Ushuaia is known as the jump-off point to Antarctica. It has wildlife like penguins and whales and might be a place to go just to say you did it. It is very cute and quaint, so I recommend about 2 days here. Then, a flight back to Buenos Aires!

That concludes my travel guide. I have been itching to get this written down so that I can share it and so that I can remember my own recommendations! My main takeaway is things don’t always go to plan but it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes it helps just to take life a little less seriously!

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