Travel to Patagonia in Argentina – Episode 531

categories: south america travel

Travel to Patagonia in Argentina (podcast) - What to do, see and where to hike in Patagonia.


Hear about travel to Patagonia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Jackie Nourse about this region of southern Argentina.


Jackie compares the northern region of Patagonia to Glacier National Park or Banff, “on steroids, times a hundred”. “The specific region where I was near Bariloche is known as the Lake district. It’s very close to the Chilean border. There are so many lakes and these lakes are crystal clear green-blue waters. The elevation is not too high there. The mountains do get higher and they are really dramatic.”

“In the mountainous region your going to find a lot of small towns and these villages built a church or a plaza, alongside a lake usually.” You are going to find National Parks, lots of hikes, and volcanos.

Jackie recommends everyone flies during the day when flying from northern Patagonia to southern Patagonia because it is a very beautiful flight. “Three are so many volcanos and there are glaciers. As you go further south the southern Patagonia ice field is the 3rd largest mass of connected ice in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. There’s plenty of incredible nature to see out there. It’s a great place for the adventure traveler to go and explore.”

She recommends a couple of days in Bariloche for hikes. Head south from there. Climbers will want to stop at El Bolsón. “The big wow factor is in the south, the Calafate and Chaltén area where you have the Perito Moreno Glacier. I heard so much about this glacier. It sounded overdone from what I was reading. I cannot even tell you how speechless I was when I walked out onto the boardwalks which offer a view directly across from the ice.” Jackie also took a guided hike out onto the glacier and high recommends it.

In addition to hiking Jackie, got out to the pampas area nearby to experience some of the Argentina cowboy culture. As someone who has lived for years in Montana, Jackie is used to beautiful scenery, but Patagonia wowed her as it will you.

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Show Notes

The Budget Minded Traveler
Bariloche Hikes
Route 40
El Bolsón, Río Negro
El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier Tour
El Chaltén
Fitz Roy
Patagonia Steppe
Refugio Frey, Bariloche
Cerro Catedral
Cerro Campanario | Bariloche (Not in English)
Exploracion Brazo Tristeza
Patagonia Hiking Adventure
Cruising Around Cape Horn
Cerro Tore
Laguna De Los Tres
Pampas and Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
Cerro Llao Llao Mirador
Patagonia Day Trips & Excursions
What it’s Like to Live in Bariloche Argentina
Tips for Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier and El Calafate Argentina
Hielo y Aventura – Big Ice and Mini Trekking adventures (reviews)


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Travel to Patagonia in Argentina (podcast) - What to do, see and where to hike in Patagonia.


Chris: Amateur Traveler, episode 531. Today, the Amateur Traveler talks about mountains and hikes, glaciers and gauchos as we go to Patagonia in Southern Argentina.

Welcome to the Amateur Traveler. I’m your host, Chris Christensen. If you were sponsoring this episode, we’d be talking about you right now. But you’re not, so let’s talk about Patagonia.

I’d like to welcome to the show Jackie Nourse from the Budget-Minded Traveler podcast and Traveling Jackie who has come to talk to us about Patagonia. Jackie, welcome to the show.

Jackie: Thank you so much, Chris. It’s great to be here.

Chris: Great to finally be here. I hadn’t realized we haven’t had you on the show before. We’ve known each other now for some years. I don’t know exactly how long. Have run into each other a number of conferences. And it’s a pleasure to have you.

Jackie: Thank you.

Chris: Especially another podcaster who knows how this all works.

Jackie: Yeah. It’s always fun.

Chris: So when we talk about Patagonia, what country are we in? First of all, we’re not in the country of Patagonia.

Jackie: No. So, actually, Patagonia is the southernmost region in both Chile and Argentina. And so I think, today, we’re gonna talk about Argentina. But, yeah, its best southernmost region. You can look at it like almost how we have states here, Patagonia would be like that.

Chris: Okay. And why should we go to Patagonia?

Jackie: Oh my goodness, where do we start? We’re talking about Northern Patagonia. I just lived in Bariloche, which in the Río Negro province, the northernmost part of Argentinean Patagonia. And it was pretty much like heaven on earth for me. Have you been to Banff or Glacier National Park, Montana, at all?

Chris: I have. And we’ve talked about both on the show as well.

Jackie: Okay. Yeah, I mean I kind of liken it to that on steroids, like times a hundred. The specific region where I was, in Bariloche, is known as the Lake District. And the Lake District actually also spans into the Chilean side as well. It’s very close to the Chilean border. It’s like 60 kilometers. And now I’m quoted on that. And I’m not sure if that’s exactly right. But somewhere in there. It’s pretty close. And there are so many lakes. And these lakes are crystal clear, green, blue waters.

Chris: And I’m guessing we’re talking high alpine lakes?

Jackie: Not necessarily, that’s the other thing. The elevation is not too high there. When you get down to Southern Patagonia, you’re literally at sea level. So I mean you don’t get too high. The mountains do get higher, and they’re really dramatic. And so you can gain a lot elevation in your hikes. But you’re not starting so high, like I do in Montana.

Chris: Okay. When you say you’re 60 kilometers-ish from Chile, the border between Argentina and Chile tends to be tall?

Jackie: It tends to be. It usually runs along the mountains in there or in the ice field as you get further south.

Chris: Yep.

Jackie: They use a lot of high mountain peaks as their border between the country. They don’t actually get along all that well, Chile and Argentina.

Chris: Okay. So we’re seeing we’re in the lake country here in Northern Patagonia seeing a lot of beautiful lakes. What else?

Jackie: If you’ve been to Europe and seen small lakes and small towns, villages, you can kind of picture that in Patagonia. I mean in the mountainous regions, you’re gonna find a lot of small towns and these villages built around a church or main plaza. Alongside a lake usually is gonna be, at least in this Lake District, national parks, tons of hiking and volcanoes. If you’re up in the air, in fact, it’s actually an incredibly beautiful flight. I highly recommend that everybody flies from Northern Patagonia to Southern Patagonia during the day, because it is the most beautiful flight. I mean I haven’t been to Alaska yet. I’m actually going there tomorrow. But it’s the most beautiful flight I have ever taken in my life going from north to south, because there are so many volcanoes just popping up everywhere. And there’s glaciers as you go further south. The Southern Patagonian Ice Field stretches. It’s actually the third largest mass of connected ice in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. So there’s plenty of incredible, I guess, elements of nature to see out there.

Chris: Okay.

Jackie: So if you like adventure, I guess it’s a great place for the adventure traveler to go and explore.

Chris: So my impression is that as somebody whose home base is in Montana, you go to Patagonia when you decide there’s just too many people in Montana?

Jackie: Yeah, when you want to get further off…

Chris: Further off the grid.

Jackie: Further away, yeah.

Chris: Excellent. What kind of itinerary would you recommend for say a week to two weeks in Patagonia?

Jackie: If you’re only doing Argentina, I would absolutely recommend a few days in Bariloche, because of the beauty, really, and the hikes. And I think a few days there would be enough. There are a couple of really great hikes you could do. There’s a lot of really good beer to be sampled and, of course, steaks. You got to sample the food. But I think a few days in Bariloche…

And then from Bariloche, I would head south. And this depends if you’re driving or hitchhiking, a lot of people do in Patagonia, or flying. But if you’re on the road, then you’re gonna take Route 40, which is the famous Route 40 all the way south. You can stop in a place called El Bolson, which literally means “a big bag” in Spanish. It’s another pretty famous place to do climbing and trekking from there. It’s just a tiny little small town. But that’s pretty close to Bariloche. It could also be done in a day trip from there if you don’t wanna drive all the way.

And then the big wow factor I would say is really in the south of Argentina, the Calafate and Chaltén area, where you have Perito Moreno glacier. Have you talked about Southern Argentina and Patagonia in this podcast before? I feel like you have.

Chris: We’ve talked about Argentina as a whole in a two-part episode 10 years ago.

Jackie: Oh my goodness, okay.

Chris: It’s been a while since we’ve talked and then we’ve covered Patagonia. We’ve talked about Southern Chile with Jodi Ettenberg a couple years ago.

Jackie: Okay. Well, I do not think that a trip to Argentina is complete without both of these areas of Patagonia, to be honest. They’re so different, but they’re both so incredibly beautiful. They are must-sees. And what’s so amazing I think about the southern part are just the glaciers. I mean we kind of mentioned Banff and glacier here in Montana. And those are really just cute compared to Patagonia.

Chris: Meaning that they’re small and less dramatic?

Jackie: Yeah.

Chris: Okay.

Jackie: That’s what I mean, so yeah. I mean when I first went to…I had heard so much about this glacier, Perito Moreno it’s called, in Calafate in Argentina. Everybody goes there. There’re boat trips. And honestly, I thought it sounded overdone from what I was reading. But everyone says, “Oh, you have to go. You have to go.” And so we made it a point to go while we were in Calafate. And I cannot even tell you how speechless I was when I first walked out on to the boardwalks, which offer a view from…you’re essentially directly across from the ice, I mean a stone’s throw away. You’re right up in its face. And it is…oh my goodness! I’ll never be able to relive that very first moment. But it was just jaw-dropping. And I suddenly realized why everybody said, “You have to go. You’ve to see this for yourself. You need to experience this for yourself.” And it’s an hour bus ride outside of Calafate. That you can do, glacier treks, on the guided only.

Chris: I’m thinking a five-minute glacier guided would be a good idea.

Jackie: No, glaciers are not to be messed with. I mean they are living, breathing giants. You take one wrong step, and you might be gone. So it’s a very precarious thing. I mean it’s safe. It’s safe. And they take you on safe routes. But yeah, you’re…

Chris: You need to be with somebody who knows what they’re doing.

Jackie: Exactly. And you got the crampons. So you’re well prepared to do that. But you can also take out a boat that kind of just goes back and forth in front of the big wall of the glacier. In fact, if you’ve seen “Lord of the Rings”…I always do that, “Game of Thrones,” it reminds me of the wall, because it’s just this massive wall of ice. And the boat that takes you out, I mean it kind of goes back and forth along it, which might sound boring…

Chris: And when you say “along it,” I’m guessing if I know my glaciers, they’re not getting close enough to touch it. They’re staying a quarter mile away or so because, otherwise, you could die.

Jackie: Yeah, basically.

Chris: Just in case people don’t know what I’m talking about, what can happen both is large chunks of the glacier will fall off, but also large chunks of the glacier may fall off under the water and come up. And so you need to stay a safe distance from the glacier if you ever get that opportunity. But it’s amazing.

Jackie: Yes. That’s really a good point, because what we saw…I mean it was just a small percentage of how deep it actually went underneath us, which is scary when you think about it. But, yeah, no, you can’t get very close. And we watched it calve in front of our eyes. That’s insane. I caught it on video. Oh, bucket list, check.

Chris: Yeah, yeah, with just the sound.

Jackie: Yeah, the hum of the boat, it’s not exactly quiet. But when you’re on the boardwalks, you get even closer than the boat really gets you. But you’re on land. So you’re safe. You’re just really at the edge of the water, which the glacier comes up right to the edge of land which is…its crazy. This particular glacier is…they call it equally balanced or something like that. It actually gains as much as it loses in a year.

Chris: Got it.

Jackie: So it’s consistent. But it still changes shape. And I mean there’s such fascinating things. If you’ve never seen a glacier face-to-face, make that part of your bucket list, because it’s something that absolutely needs to be experienced and seen, I think.

Chris: Well, and it’s kind of important when you talk about it being equally balanced. So it’s not receding. A glacier that’s receding is moving its way back up the valley as it melts. The best example of that that I can think of is if you go to Glacier Bay in Alaska, it has receded since…in the last hundred years, tens of miles maybe even a hundred miles. And so it’s quite common. A lot of glaciers are melting. They’re receding. And so it’s very cool being at a glacier that is…I wanna say healthy. But I don’t know what the right terminology there is in glacier-ology. But what is the name of the glacier?

Jackie: It’s called Perito Moreno. So it’s P-E-R-I-T-O.

Chris: Okay.

Jackie: M-O-R-E-N-O, Perito Moreno.

Chris: So you’re in Perito Moreno National Park?

Jackie: Actually, it’s Glaciares National Park. So it’s like Glaciers National Park is basically what it’s called. There’s a bit of it that comes down just north of Calafate. I mean it’s kind of confusing unless we were looking at a map right now. You have to drive all the way out back to Route 40 and back around to the northern part of it, which is in Chaltén, El Chaltén. So it actually spends both towns. It takes hours to get around to the other end of it, which I’ve done both of. That glacier, must-do.

The other thing down there is to go to the northern part of the park, either rent a car, which I did, it was really easy, go up to El Chaltén, or I’m sure you can take a bus or something. There are a couple of hikes in Chaltén. That’s where Fitz Roy is. So if you get to do this amazing flight down, you will see a massive rock sticking out. I mean kind of half dome-esque. It’s just a giant tall rock. It stands up like twice the height of every other rock in the range. And it’s just sitting there up by itself like a thumbs up. And that’s Fitz Roy. And Fitz Roy is one of the most famous mountaineering destinations in the world. Climbers come from around to world to try and scale it and may spend days out there in these rock spires that are just incredible. The scale of them is just massive.

I mean I also love that Chilean side of Patagonia. And there are rocks and towers over there that blew my mind when I saw them. And then I came to Argentina, and I just like “Just sit down.” Everything is just bigger. If we’re talking about the Argentinean side of Patagonia, yeah, I would highly recommend Bariloche and then making your way south to Calafate and Chaltén to see the glacier and Fitz Roy and do some hiking in there.

I have yet to go to Usuhaia. So I can’t add that in yet. But the other thing that there is to do in Patagonia is to go to a ranch. And I have done that a couple of times. This is interesting. Most of Patagonia, like 80% to 90% of Patagonia is actually high desert and like cowboy land. We talk about the mountainous region, which really is just a tiny sliver of it.

Chris: And when you say high desert and cowboy land, I’m picturing pampas, basically grassland?

Jackie: Yeah, that’s what it is.

Chris: Okay.

Jackie: I mean they still have mountains and rolling hills. But if you think Wild West, if you think Nevada, if you think Montana even, it’s very similar to that. It’s just kind of brown and rolling, lots of colors, but deserty. Oh, they call it the steppe. That’s what they call it.

Chris: Okay, sure, yeah.

Jackie: S-T-E-P-P-E.

Chris: And steppe would be grassland. Typically, steppe is used when grassland is flat. And so we call everything between kind of Russia and Mongolia the steppe, for instance, as well.

Jackie: Okay. So that’s what the rest of Argentina looks like in the south, in Patagonia I mean.

Chris: Well, and before we go to the steppe, I’ve been hanging on to some questions. So I don’t wanna get too far behind. You mentioned both where we started in Bariloche and in our second stop here that there were some great hikes. But you didn’t recommend specific hikes.

Jackie: So if you have an entire day, there’s one called Refugio Frey. You know what a refugio is, right? They’re kind of like chalets, almost hostel style, up in the mountains. And you can stay overnight at them. Sometimes they have services. Sometimes they don’t. There are four that are right in the Bariloche area that are very popular too. You can even hike…trek in between them, if you wanna go refugio to refugio.

Chris: So if I did that, for instance, I wouldn’t necessarily have to pack a tent?

Jackie: I would recommend it because…

Chris: You don’t know if you’re gonna be able to stay.

Jackie: They have small sleeping areas.

Chris: Okay.

Jackie: If they’re full… Or it’s so nice, you might just wanna sleep outside. Most people camp at them. But what’s nice about the refugio is that they’ve kitchens. I mean this one, Refugio Frey, which it would either be the first one or the last one that you’re visiting, because it’s on the end of the four. But they have a kitchen, and they do homemade pizzas up there. And they have beer. So you can spend a day hiking, and you can get up there and have a pizza and a beer. It’s amazing.

Chris: I’m hearing a theme here Jackie.

Jackie: What? Me? No.

Chris: You’re not going down to drink the wine, it sounds like.

Jackie: No, in fact… Yeah, so Refugio Frey, F-R-E-Y, it’s actually another hotspot for climbers because of the rock spires that are up there. But there’s this alpine lake with the refugio nestled right on its shores and just spires surrounding this late. It’s gorgeous. I think I did that hike three or four times, just that one.

Chris: And I lost track. And I apologize for this, because I let you get too far ahead of me. This is in our first stop or second…

Jackie: Yes.

Chris: Okay, so this is Bari-

Jackie: This is in Bariloche, yes.

Chris: Got it, okay.

Jackie: It’s actually right up above the ski area there. It’s called Cerro Catedral. So it’s C-E-R-R-O Catedral like a cathedral.

Chris: Cathedral, yup.

Jackie: Yeah, that’s their ski area right there in Bariloche. And if you go up there, there’s buses that take you up there, or you can drive. But this hike starts right from there. It’s so beautiful. And you’re off grid the whole time. And there’s no service. The climbers, once you get to the top…I mean the first time I walked up there, there were people playing guitar and chatting. And there was music going on. And I could hear the climbers’ voices echoing from the rocks. And I couldn’t even see the people just sitting out at the lake. And there’s people swimming and sunbathing. It’s like an oasis. You’d never know that it existed. But it’s up there. It’s beautiful.

Chris: Excellent.

Jackie: So that was one of my favorites.

Chris: Pause here for a second, because you’ve mentioned ski resorts, and then you’ve also mentioned you’re gonna wanna bring a tent, because it’s so nice. You’re gonna wanna sleep outside. What time of you were you going?

Jackie: Opposite of the U.S. So I was there…

Chris: Okay, you were going in there in summer.

Jackie: Yeah. You know what? You can still do these treks. You can snowshoe it. If you want, you can backcountry ski it. The refugios stay open in the winter. But they’re not staffed like they are in the summer.

Chris: So what month were you there?

Jackie: I was there February, March, and April. And I went in each month. I kind of watched the season change there. And I got food and beer every time.

Chris: Okay, excellent. And then did you have another hike that you wanna recommend there? Or should we go down to our second stop?

Jackie: Let’s do two more quick ones.

Chris: Absolutely.

Jackie: You could do both of these in a day. One of the things that you got to do in Bariloche is go out to the kilometers. And, yeah, this is a good point. I should’ve mentioned this before. The town of Bariloche is right at the edge…well, at the edge of town, this road goes out along the lakeshore for 30-plus kilometers. And they call it The Kilometers. And there are just residences and bars and restaurants kind of dotting the entire way. And it’s very forested. And along the way, there’s a spot in the middle called Cerro Campanario. So you can either hike up to this point, Cerro Campanario, or there’s a chairlift. It’s kind of a steep little hike but only takes like 30 minutes.

And when you get up there, you have a 360-view of the whole area, really. You can see town. You can see the ski area. You can see different lakes around. The big lake there is Nahuel Huapi. But I mean you’re in the middle of a national park. And so it’s just incredible. You can almost see all the way to Chile from up there. And they have a little café. And they have amazing chocolate cake and ham croissants. You can have a little snack. And they have outdoor seating and indoor seating. It gets really windy in Patagonia. So it’s one thing you gotta watch out for. But that was one of my favorite things to do in Argentina, because you can do it in a couple of hours, just an afternoon, go up. It’s beautiful. Have lunch. Get some exercise in. It’s not hard to get there. There are buses that go out to The Kilometers all the time.

And from there, you could go out to the end of The Kilometers where the bus basically stops. And there’s another hike there that kind of takes you up to a viewpoint of a different perspective, that kind of looking down, there’s a branch of the lake called Brazo Tristeza, which kind of goes around the corner. It’s not a like a big open lake. Nahuel Huapi is like…has lots of fingers. And so it’s very, very…there’s a lot of character, and there’s a lot of shoreline. And so this just offers a different forest. There are coihue trees down there, which I fell in love with.

Chris: I don’t know what that is.

Jackie: They grow pretty quickly. And they grow really tall. So the stems don’t have branches on them.

Chris: They’re an evergreen?

Jackie: No, they’re not an evergreen.

Chris: Deciduous, trees that lose their leaves.

Jackie: They’re only native between certain elevations in Patagonia. So they’re only native to that area. Their trunks don’t have branches on them for lots of feet, like up into the air. So you can see the entire forest of trees. And then you look up, and it’s just this canopy. And it’s beautiful. So, anyway, you can hike through this coihue forest up to another viewpoint. And it’s pretty much just…I mean I go up to this place, and I’m by myself every single time. And it’s just ridiculous to me that I can sit with this view of Patagonia to myself. That one is called Cerro Llao Llao, which in Argentina they say “shao-shao.”

Chris: Okay. And I had to look it up, because “cerro” was just not sticking with me. But that just means hill.

Jackie: It does. It means hill.

Chris: And Cerro Catedral means cathedral hill. But this reminds me that you speak Spanish or comfortable in Spanish. How much did you need that? Or how much could you get by in English if your Spanish was not up to snuff?

Jackie: I think you’d be able to get by, to be honest with you. I didn’t speak English, because I don’t need to. And so I don’t even know how many of my friends down there even speak English. I imagine that they do. They at least know some. They get a lot of tourists.

Chris: Yeah, it is a fairly touristy region. That’s what I was thinking.

Jackie: You know what, though? They get mostly tourists who speak Spanish. So like people come from all over Argentina to visit Bariloche. They get a lot of their own tourists.

Chris: Sure, yeah.

Jackie: But I know you’d be able to get by. And the people, I mean Argentineans are so wonderful. They wanna share everything. They wanna help you.

Chris: Well, and that leads into one of my other questions is when you said you were hitchhiking, there were people who were yelling at their iPhones, because they were amazed that, in this day and age, somebody was hitchhiking. So tell me about that experience. So this is something you said is quite common in this region of Argentina. And you are a little slip of a girl, if I may. You are not intimidating to anybody.

Jackie: If it makes you feel better, I actually didn’t hitchhike.

Chris: But it doesn’t sound like that something that you would necessarily not do.

Jackie: Oh, no, everyone does it.

Chris: Yep.

Jackie: Actually, it’s very, very common. No, it’s the thing down there. And, actually, if you’ve ever come across an Argentinean in your travels, there’s a good chance they’re hitchhiking. They kind of just do it that way. I’m going to say this. And it’s gonna sound really funny. But they’re very budget-minded travelers. And so they do. They love community. They sleep in hostels all the time. They hitchhike. They’re always with people. That’s kind of the way that they do it. I mean you’re coming to their home. That’s just a norm there. People hitchhike a lot. It’s very safe.

Chris: Excellent. And you had some recommendations for hikes also in our second stop.

Jackie: The second stop is gonna be down south.

Chris: Yes.

Jackie: If you wanna do one at the glacier, I would recommend doing the glacier trek.

Chris: Did you have a particular outfitter you were using for that. We mentioned work with a professional?

Jackie: There’s only one.

Chris: Okay. Well, there you go.

Jackie: There really is. There’s only one outfitter.

Chris: And you did the big ice trek that they did.

Jackie: There’s the mini trekking. Literally, that’s what it’s called. And then there’s big ice.

Chris: So the big ice is on the glacier. And the mini ice, they put some ice cubes at the parking lot.

Jackie: They’re both on the glacier. It’s really only a difference of time. If you wanna be all day or if you wanna be all day minus two hours, then you do the mini trekking.

Chris: Excellent. And then you mentioned you didn’t get to Ushuaia. If people wanna hear more about Ushuaia, we actually talked about that in the episode we did last year or the year before where my wife and I did the cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, Chile. We stopped in Ushuaia. So we talked about that in that episode. I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well.

I think we’re back to the pampas, unless there’s something else we wanna cover in all that region as we catch up here.

Jackie: One more thing, when you get to Chaltén, there are two big hikes there. There are two. And you can’t miss them, because Chaltén has like 30 people on it. It’s very small. It’s such a cute little town. And so one is called…and we got the Cerro again, Cerro Torre, which is tower hill. The other one is Laguna de los Tres.

Chris: The three lagoons.

Jackie: Yeah, and both of those are gonna be your two main hikes in Chaltén. And if you can get those, then you’ve kind of seen the best of the best in that area.

Chris: Excellent.

Jackie: And, really, you just wanna hope for good weather, because, otherwise, Fitz Roy will be covered in clouds. But I mean I had three days of sun when I was there last time.

Chris: Well, and we’re talking about a region…I think we didn’t see the sun when I was down in Patagonia, I think, the whole time. But we weren’t up in the mountains either. So it is a place that you might think about adding an extra day or two to your trip just to give you a better chance for better weather, to not try and be in too much of a hurry. And bring raingear. I mean it’s a place that does get rain.

Jackie: Oh yeah, when we hiked…so the first time I went down there, we had a snowstorm and just the most brilliant, beautiful sunset in the same day. It really does change really quickly there. And they say, you have to be prepared for four seasons in one day. And that’s true.

Chris: Okay, excellent.

Jackie: Waterproofing is important.

Chris: And now, we’re on the pampas with the gauchos.

Jackie: Whether you are in the glacier region or not, find a ranch. Go and do the ranch experience, which basically that means there are working ranches where you can get horse rides, wherever it is. I’ve done this in both Chile and Argentina. And you do a lamb roast. They prepare it for you. But it’s this community dinner. And they roast and they carve it in front you. It’s a really neat experience. But I think if you add that on top of these hikes and these beautiful glacier experiences, then you really got the best of Patagonia.

Chris: Excellent. And did you have a specific ranch that you went to that you would recommend?

Jackie: There was one outside of Bariloche that I actually went to. The other one was on the Chilean side, which I mean a whole nother episode to talk about Chile. So we might as well stick with Argentina on this one. That one in Bariloche was about an hour bus ride outside of town. So it’s super easy to get to. It’s just neat. And I mean, yeah, you feel a little bit like a tourist doing the lamb roast thing. But, no, I don’t think they view you like that. They welcome you into their culture. And you get to learn about it. And you get to also eat the best lamb in the world, hands down. I don’t eat lamb unless it’s in Patagonia. I don’t like lamb. But there, they do it well. And have it with a beer. Even if you don’t like lamb, try it there.

Chris: Excellent. And then you mentioned briefly about wine. I think that’s another trip. You’re a little further away from the wine region. Aren’t you further south?

Jackie: Yeah, so Mendoza is really the area known for wine. And that’s about an hour and a half flight north from Bariloche. But I would definitely say that Patagonia is the place for beer. There are a lot of craft breweries down there. They grow their own hops. Everything happens down there. It’s very localized. And they’re very, very into it. So the three main beers are rubia, roja, negra, which is kind of funny. It just means blond, red, and dark. And the dark can be stout or porter or anything. And the red can be a pale ale or a red ale or an IPA. You just get it, and then you figure out what it is after that. But there are a lot of breweries that have entire menus as well with porters and black IPAs. I mean they really get into it. So I highly recommend doing some beer-tasting while you’re there. There are so many really good breweries, especially in Bariloche

And one thing to keep in mind is that, well, we all know Malbec here in the States. And we probably enjoy a bottle of Malbec. Malbec is everywhere down there. You’re not necessarily getting the same quality of the imports that you get here in the United States. And so you buy a bottle of $2 wine in Argentina. It’s not like buying a $2 bottle of wine in Italy where you’re pretty much guaranteed to love it. At least that’s what I think. I had a very different experience in Argentina. The wine was very hit-and-miss.

Chris: Oh, that’s interesting. We had a better experience with the Malbecs and the wines down there.

Jackie: You probably were buying different ones than me.

Chris: Well, maybe we’re buying a $3 bottle of wine.

Jackie: Yeah, really, you do have to buy the more expensive ones. I lived in Italy before. And I know that I could get a two-year-old bottle of wine, and I would really enjoy that bottle of wine. But it was just not the case in Argentina. And so it was more of a “Well, is this $20 bottle gonna be good or not?” And so, for me, it was more hit-and-miss, whereas, the beer was delicious. So I actually drank more beer while I was in Argentina.

Chris: Well, and then for somebody…if you are interested in the wine, we’re talking about a different region, you might even think about doing that with the Chilean wine region, which is over by Santiago, which is actually very close to Mendoza, although there’re great big mountains in between. It’s much closer to that than it is to Buenos Aires and much, much closer than to where we’re talking about in southern Argentina. In fact, Mendoza is just a little north of Buenos Aires but way over on the Chilean side. So we’ll do that in some other show someday. Let’s talk about some detail. What surprised you about this area?

Jackie: What I was most…and I guess I’ve already kind of alluded to this, but what I was really most surprised about is the grandeur of the landscape. I mean I grew up in Tahoe. I grew up at a lake with beautiful mountains.

Chris: Not an ugly great place.

Jackie: And I live in Montana now. And it still knocked my socks off. This is just the most beautiful place I have ever been to. And that surprised me in itself.

Chris: One warning you would give?

Jackie: Bring multiple ATM cards, because there are entire towns in Patagonia that don’t accept the ones with the chip. When you land at the airport, I would say, in Santiago or in Buenos Aires, that’s when you pull out money. Do it as soon as you can. Don’t wait till you get to the tiny towns, because you might not find a bank that likes you at all. So that’s actually a good warning is make sure you have enough cash that you need. These places don’t take credit cards. You’re gonna be using a lot of cash.

Chris: Interesting. Yeah, I very seldom run into ATM problems these days and haven’t been to Antarctica, which I don’t know how to connect to there. But I’ve been to all the other continents. And the only place I’ve run into problems was Cambodia recently where one out of four would work for me. I’ve found that if you find an international bank, then you have a much better chance. And, of course, in a small town, you may not find that.

Jackie: And we tried every single bank in town. And it was a good thing that there were five of us, because I think one of the girls’ cards worked.

Chris: Interesting.

Jackie: And the rest of us didn’t. And so we just kind of had to borrow. So keep that in mind.

Chris: Well, the other trick I know with Europe, and I don’t know if it’s true in Argentina, is you can have a longer PIN in the U.S. that won’t work some places. Some places won’t take a PIN longer than four digits. And so that’s the other thing to be aware of as you’re traveling internationally. While a longer PIN is a good idea, it may get you into some trouble with traveling.

Jackie: I would just keep on hand, for these areas specifically, bring some U.S. dollars that you can always keep as an emergency to exchange if you need to, because it’s not the cheapest exchanging money. It should not ever really be plan A. You always get…

Chris: Right, an ATM is better, right, exactly, because of exchange rates and things, yeah.

Jackie: Yeah, but in cases like this, if you don’t have an ATM without a chip card, bring cash and plan to exchange it, just make sure you have enough.

Chris: Excellent. Before we get to my finals four questions, anything else you wanna tell people before they book their ticket to Patagonia?

Jackie: I’m actually leading a trip down there in November. And I’m really really excited. My ideal ten-day itinerary between Chile and Argentina is actually what I’m about to do. And I’m gonna hit Ushuaia time too. So I have more to say next time.

Chris: Excellent, excellent. Last four questions, you’re standing in the prettiest spot. Of all the places you saw, where are you standing? And what you’re looking at?

Jackie: One of them for sure is on top of Cerro Llao Llao, “shao shao” in Bariloche, with the lake just sprawling out in every direction around me and the mountains in front of me. And the last time I went up there, it had just started to snow on the peaks and the colors were changing to fall. It was April. And, wow, that was ridiculous. And the other two that came to mind were definitely the Perito Moreno glacier. I have never seen a site like it, just from the boardwalks.

Chris: From the boardwalks, okay.

Jackie: And then being up the base of Fitz Roy when you hike up there, Laguna de los Tres, that hike that I told you about. There’s a lake at the bottom of it. And it just towers over it in the back. And you’re in the depths of Patagonia, off the grid, and it’s just incredible.

Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh and say, “Only in Patagonia”?

Jackie: Getting anything done there is just difficult. You just have to kind of take Argentina with a grain of salt.

Chris: So what kind of things were you trying to get done, official paperwork sort of things?

Jackie: All sorts of things. For example, I went to the grocery store to buy…I bought $40 worth of groceries. And the woman asked me if I wanted to pay it all at once. And I just stared at her. And I asked her to repeat the question just to make sure I wasn’t losing something in translation. And, no, that’s what she asked. She said, “Do you wanna pay this all at once?” And I just smiled and nodded. And I just “Yeah, sure, that’s great. I’ll just pay the $40 all at once. That’s fine.” What was I gonna do? Like make a payment plan? I don’t know. I actually wrote an entire post about #Argentina, because there are things that just don’t happen to the standard that we’re used to. I mean, of course, but…

Chris: Last two questions. Finish this thought, you really know you’re in Patagonia when what?

Jackie: When the wind slaps you in the face like chills you to the bone and almost knocks you over. I mean the wind down there is unreal. It’s like receiving an embrace from Mother Nature. And it’s amazing, I have to say. It’s a very cool thing. But it’s raw. And you feel it in everything, not just through your eyes, but through your skin. Like it’s raw.

Chris: Now, I’m gonna guess that it’s a little easier to knock you over, Jackie, than it is me. I’ve got few pounds on you. If you had to summarize Patagonia in three words, what three words would you use?

Jackie: Unsoiled, raw as well, jaw-dropping, can I use that as a word?

Chris: We’ll count that as a hyphenated word, excellent.

Jackie: Cool.

Chris: Our guest again has been Jackie Nourse from the Budget-Minded Traveler podcast and Traveling Jackie. We’ll have some links in the show notes to her podcast, if your podcast schedule is not full, and also some links to some of the posts that she’s got there on Argentina that we’ve already mentioned. Jackie, thanks so much for finally coming on the Amateur Traveler.

Jackie: Thank you having me. This is really fun to relive my time there. So thank you. I had fun.

Chris: And thanks for sharing your love for Patagonia.

Jackie: Absolutely.

Chris: I heard from a longtime listener of the show when we did the show last week about Qatar, who objected to the show in part because he said that Qatar is a sponsor of terrorism. And that may or may not be the case. I’d certainly be willing to take his word for it. He lives in Israel. But it does give me an opportunity to mention that we do talk about countries that I don’t agree with their politics. And that certainly probably includes Qatar. But it also includes Israel. And it certainly includes the United States. I do not always agree with the policies of my own country when it comes to international relations. And so I hope people aren’t assuming that I do just because we do a show on them. We’ve done shows on North Korea, on Iraq. And to me I believe that more travel is better, that it breaks down barriers and gets people talking person to person. But I understand that some people may object to some of the destinations that we talk about. And I have to respect that.

Other news of the community, we just announced the details for the trip to India 2017, November 4th. You can find those in the show notes of this episode as well as on the Amateur Traveler website. I hope you can join us. There will be only 16 slots, and that counts me. With that, we’re gonna end this episode of Amateur Traveler. If you have any questions, send an email to host at or, better yet, leave a comment on this episode at You can follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram as chris2x. And as always, thanks so much for listening.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

4 Responses to “Travel to Patagonia in Argentina – Episode 531”



Hi there!

I absolutely love your podcast! My boyfriend and I are planning a 1 month trip to Patagonia and your show has been so helpful!

Thank you,



great to hear Colleen!

Anne Harai


Hi Chris! I just recently returned from hiking in Patagonia and stayed at Refugio Frey. You can now reserve a bunk at the lodge on their website but only 3 days in advance of arriving. I was there in February at the tail end of high season and had no problem reserving. The website is only in Spanish but it’s pretty easy to do even if you don’t speak a word :

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