Patagonia: A bus ride from Mendoza to El Chaltén
I spent almost one month traveling in Argentina and Chile, most of it by bus. Therefore, I learned that Argentina and Chile are huge countries, and that I was not used to those long bus rides (24 -28 hours in some cases). Both countries have many types of landscapes, from cosmopolitan cities such as Buenos Aires or Santiago to the isolated life of a “gaucho” in the Patagonia.
Before visiting this area you should do some research depending on your interests, and plan the bus itineraries in such a way that you don´t have to stay extra days in certain cities you may not enjoy too much. Here I have some info about a couple of cities I visited in Argentina, I hope this helps for your next trip. For any follow up questions please feel free to post a comment and I will answer it as best as I can.
On december 27th I left Quito, I flew to Santiago de Chile, then took a 6 hour bus ride to Mendoza (Argentina), a beautiful city (considered the cleanest in the country). In summer it can get very hot (too much for me, a person that lives in the mountains at 2800 meters of altitude), and so, I learnt why do the people from the city still do the “siesta” wich means that every single store or business is closed from 1pm to 3 pm, because it is too hot, you barely see people on the streets (those you find are mostly tourists). In summer, the city has a lot of cultural activities. “San Martin” park is a great area for jogging or just have a pic-nic. If you are a wine lover, Mendoza has many of the best Argentinian wineries that you can visit. Tourism industry is big in Mendoza, especially that one for adventure tourism (rafting, climbing, biking, and skiing(in winter July-August). Perhaps the biggest (literally) attraction is that from this city you can arrange visits to Aconcagua mount, the highest in the Americas.
THE BUS RIDE FROM MENDOZA TO BARILOCHE
Buses are very comfortable in Argentina, there are usually two categories: “cama” (which is actually like laying on a bed) or “semicama” which is a very comfortable seat. If you buy your tickets in advance, you may have the option to buy the first row seats on the second floor, which have a wonderful view! Here you can see some of the routes and bus itineraries.
From Mendoza, there are almost 60 hours of bus ride to El Chalten. A good option is to take a bus from Mendoza to Bariloche (24 hours), stay there one or two days enjoying the city, doing some hiking, swiming in the lake and enjoying the beaches. Then taking a bus to Rio Gallegos (28 hours), there is not too much to do in this city. It is better if you only have to spend one or two hours there and take as soon as possible a bus to El Calafate (5 hours), a very nice town where you can stay a couple of days enjoying specially the Perito Moreno Glacier. And finally, yoou should take one last bus to El Chalten (4 hours).
A good idea is to make this itinerary on one way , and take a flight to Buenos Aires from El Calafate or Río Gallegos(3 hours flight)
EL CHALTEN, ARGENTINA
El Chalten is an isolated town in the heart of the Argentinian Patagonia . Even in summer (Dec, Jan, Feb), it is a cold, rainy and windy town. It is a hot-spot for tourism, because is in the closest town to the mytical Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks (I was so happy only knowing that -even if it was cloudy- I was surrounded by these peaks). The town is actually part of “Los Glaciares” National Park -which has no entrance fee because of some historical background-. In this park, you can hike by your own to view points to see the mountains, lagoons, wildlife, etc (It is supposed to be the “national capital of trekking”). And if you like camping there are a few free camping sites in the park. I liked the town really much, their way of living, the nice and simple people, the views, the fact that you can walk the entire town in one hour, and the most wonderful feeling of isolation, that unfortunately this place is losing because tourism is growing too fast considering the size of the town.