Uyuni Salt Flats 3 day tour

Kinda report from the tour I’ve taken + some possibly useful practical info for the first timers

Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. Its 10 582sq kilometers area is located in the Daniel Campos province in south western Bolivia at an elevation of 3,656 meters above sea level. As the name suggests, the area is covered by a few meters of salt crust with the estimated total of 11 billions tons of salt. The crust covers a pool of brine, which is exceptionally rich in lithium. It apparently contains 50% to 70% of the world’s known lithium reserves.

Due to its unnatural beauty, Salar de Uyuni attracts approximately 60 000 tourists annually. As number of hotels have been built in the area. The curiosity here is that many of them are almost entirely built with salt blocks.

insane landscapes and colours @ Uyuni Salt Flats

Which Agency to pick?

Well, this, like in most other cases depends on your budget and time available. The tours vary from one to four days and you can enter the salt flats from Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama or pick a tour in Bolivia’s Uyuni. The entry points will determine your itinerary.

There are multiple tour operators and the prices generally depend on factors like language spoken, level of accomodation and so on. From what I’ve heard of other people, all tours appear to be pretty much the same with some minor differences like where you sleep the first night. I went for a mid range bilingual option, which turned out to be Spanish only later on.

The iconic Licancabur on the left and the angry/active Lascar from
Hito Cajon at 4600 meters on the border between Chile and Bolivia

The tours are generally cheaper when purchased in Bolivia (count about 700,-BOB/€90 for a 3 day tour, all inclusive) but because I was travelling that direction from Chile, I’ve purchased a 3 day tour for 119 000,-CLP (€160). Together with the expenses of getting to Bolivia and stay there for a night, it didn’t make that much of a difference in prices…

It was all inclusive, meaning that accomodation and meals were included. I only had to pay the park entry (150,-BOB/€19.50) and a small fee for an optional dip in a thermal swimming pool, plus for the 6l of water, I was told to take with me.

Day 1

This one was one of the biggest wows ever. Lama and flamingos walking on water (:0

Early morning we were picked up from our hotels and driven to the border. We have entered Bolivia at Hito Cajon at 4600 meters above the sea level about two hours later. Right after the immigration process on the Bolivian side, followed by a gorgeous breakfast, we have entered this insane land full of lakes, volcanoes, flamingos, llamas, foxes and amazing colours.

There was a lot of breathtaking moments, some caused by the lack of oxygen and some by the the looks mother nature created up here. Other than that, it was basically a lot of driving through more and more insane places, eating a great lunch in a restaurant by the thermal pools. Take a dip at 3800m above a sea level? Yes please 🙂

Geiser Sol de la Manana at 4990m

The scenery never failed to surprise us as it kept changing. The only problem was to deal with the altitude as the lack of oxygen was rather annoyingly persistent of getting attention. The local solution is chewing on coca leaves. Everyone in Bolivia is chewing hojas de coca. The higher the people get, the more blown their faces are from the amount of leaves they’re sucking on. I’ve personally opted for coca pastilles.

Never forget your roots 😀 Coffee apparently doesn’t help the altitude sickness but it’s apparently a bit easier for smokers as they used to less oxygen 🙂

The day ended in a village Villamar with a mediocre dinner and a basic shared accomodation. I’ve enjoyed the day a lot. The crew was nice and we kind of become friends over the shared experience of enjoying the landscapes.

In salt flats is home to several kind of flamingos – truly majestic birds (:0
Salt Flats, Day 1

Day 2

So we woke up in Villamar where its 3000 inhabitants live their hard lives in 4010m above the sea level. It really appears to be hard life up here. For illustration, a man of my age looks 15 years older than me. The place, like others in this area are however under a massive development as one can observe a building site or some sort of extension being build almost everywhere. I guess that it’s a good news for the local community.

El Copa del Mundo AKA World Cup

If you are guessing that more riding was what followed – you are right. The second day wasn’t as full of highlights to compared to the first one though. Most of the day we were driven to places with various rock formations. Some of it was great, especially at the beginning but my interest later worn off a bit because as the day progressed, they kind of did look the same.

rock formations day
This lagoon was exception from otherwise #samesamebutdifferent rock formations. Pretty place it is.
probably a highlight of a day so far was this Catal Canyon, also known as Anaconda Canyon

We have ended the day each with about a thousand photos of various rock formations in a posh hotel made of salt with a mediocre dinner and an insane sunset. A storm behind us and a sunset in a distance at nearly 4000m above the sea level.

Insane sunset at nearly 4000m

Day 3

Seeing the skies with my 3:45am morning cigarette, I hoped to get there on time to capture the Milky Way with its reflection off the water surface to make the super cliché photo everyone aims to take. But I decided not to take the picture and keep the memory only – to be as cool as the Sean Penn‘s character in the Walter Mitty movie 🙂 Just kidding. In reality, we were a bit late for Milky Way as the night already started giving way to the sun ):

Nevertheless, it was still very magical. The whole day was to turn into even bigger photo shoot session that the previous two and after a brief moment of hesitation (I don’t like clichés that much), I decided to embrace it…

I decided to embrace it

After over an hour of enjoying the sun rise and walking on water, we then moved on. The change of scenery was crystal clear.

Change of scenery – welcome to salt flats

We drove towards Isla Incahuasi, a home to 7 people, some cats, goats and a lot of cactuses. For a small fee of 30,-BOB to enter the island, the photo shoot continued. It was like an Instagram paradise for a cactus hashtag 🙂 Any random shot could be sold as a postcard here.

cactus hashtag paradise 🙂
I wonder what would Bono do here

After everyone made at least 1000 pictures of cactuses, we had eaten the tasty lunch prepared by our driver and moved on further into the salt flat. It was rather strange place. I kept thinking I’m walking on a frozen lake in my shorts only while the skies played along.

frozen lake feeling @ Uyuni Salt Flats

I didn’t know that this will turn into mother of all photo shoots. Props were brought up by the driver, everyone went mad. I still had a bit of the cliché photos embracing in me at this point so I’ve used it to fight the Godzilla.

cliché paradise

The last stop was a train cemetery where I finally allowed the usual cliché-avoiding me to take over. The embracing positive energy had its own limits. I’ve never had so many pics of me taken in my life and I never made so many cliché photos either so I invented a slant photography 🙂

slant photography
How does it feel?

Practical notes

Don’t book your tour online – it appeared much more expensive that way to me. If you are taller person – make sure to stress that upon purchasing your tour so you are not squeezed in 4×4 for 3 days. Bring some warm clothes – it can get rather chilly in the mornings at that altitude. Take your flip flops with you. You’ll find the useful in the hotels + the walking on the water would destroy your shoes so the flip flops come handy there as well.

FYI: that water is not warm at 6am at 3800m. Don’t drink the night before you go – hungover at 5000m could be a form of torture… If you are factual kind of person – do your reading before the trip. The drivers are usually very nice and friendly lads but they are not trained as tour guides. The information sometimes give you is – let’s say – not always exactly right.

cool, innit?))

Next possible destinations near by

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Iguazú Falls

How much time is needed and which side of the falls to visit? Brazilian or Argentinian? How to avoid crowds? Plus how much, how to get there and so on.

Iguazú Falls is one of those places one could list together with all the superlatives such as breathtaking, incredible, wonderful, magic and all that. There’s no doubt, that it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

Numerous islands along Iguazú‘s 2,7-kilometre-long edge divide the falls into many separate waterfalls, their height varying between 40 and 82 metres. The total number of all individual falls is often stated as 277 but in reality it apparently fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level.

Magical Iguazú Falls

The World Wonder

Overall, it really is a spectacular place and that might be the reason why it has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 (Argentinian side), followed by the Brazilian side two years later. It’s also officially a World Wonder.

The classic wonders are: the Egyptian pyramids, the Pharos or lighthouse at Alexandria, the Phidiases statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus and the the Colossus of Rhodes, I’m not sure if I listed them in the right order though. Is there an order?

Iguazú Falls or Cataratas del Iguazú (esp) or Chororo Yguasu in the original Guaraní language are apparently one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, although it’s apparently 132 million years old as opposed to the Great Egyptian Pyramid which has “just” some 2580 years. So which one here is “new”?

the quieter inferior trail at Iguazú Falls

FYI: Iguazú falls are also often compared to Victoria falls. From the perspective of the variables that can be measured, Victoria falls have (at its more than 1,6km width and over 100m in height) the largest curtain of water in the world. The only wider falls are Congolese Boyoma Falls. As for the volume, Iguazú currently has the sixth-greatest average annual flow. 

The Legend

A legend says that there once upon a time, a big bad snake called Boi lived in the river. To keep him sweet, the aborigines (Guaranís) apparently sacrificed a young woman every year as an offering. However, once a brave Guaraní dude decided to save his love who was picked for the offering, but both lovers stupidly tried to escape through the river…

The bad Boi then naturally burst in anger. It bent its body to split the river, which was the act that formed the waterfalls in order to condemn the escaping pair to an eternal fall. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind to be eternally falling with my lover in this fairy-tale like place. It would be a matter of perspective then, the optimist could call it flying because the eternity of the fall should guarantee that one never hits the ground, innit?

So the snake’s punishment was silly because the pair must be then still falling/flying somewhere here, inside such beauty, while millions of visitors, whom didn’t even piss the snake off have to pay the entrance fee. Plus most of them are only view the falls from from the ground, unless they pay extra for the helicopter ride. Silly old bad Boi and his “punishment”. I hope that the lovers haven’t started arguing over some minor problems their extraordinary love life brings them, after all it’s been a while…

Just imagine that eternal fall. Here. With your love. Forever 🙂

Which side is better to visit?

The water supply of the falls is Rio Iguazú, which is the natural border between Argentina and Brazil here. On the right bank is the Brazilian territory, which is home to more than 95% of the Iguazú River basin but it contains just over 20% of the falls’ cascades. The remaining 80% of the cascades are therefore in Argentina. This divide often leads to the eternal question about which side of the falls is better to visit.

Well, Argentina’s side of the waterfalls have amazing infrastructure that allows the spectator to walk above this natural demonstration of power and beauty. I honestly have no idea how they build those paths. The footbridges on the Argentine side, reminiscent of those around Perito Moreno Glacier, are in my opinion also a minor construction wonder, given it’s extensive size and location but the Brazilian side has – let’s say – a better angles of the whole spectacle.

The whole competition is however completely and utterly unnecessary. The well designed and organised tourist infrastructure allows any visitor to see both sides, even in one day but I would however personally recommend to split your visit into two days.

Iguazú falls’ superior trail

How much?

The flights from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú are going from about €35, if you book your flight well ahead. From the airport, the shuttle takes about 40mins to your hotel for a decent €4,65.

From Puerto Iguazú, a small touristic town filled with hotels and restaurants on the Argentinian side, there are numerous bus companies that will take you to the falls. The bus journey is about 20 minutes and it will cost you €6.

If you heading to Brazilian side, the bus is the same price – it only takes a bit longer to get there, depending on how fast the immigration process is on the day of your visit. Check if there are any national holidays and so on to minimise the hustle.

The park entry on the Argentinian side is €16,50, while to get to the Brazilian part, you’ll pay a similar equivalent of money. Both, Brazilian as well as the Argentinian sides accept both, cash as well as card payments.

How to avoid the crowds?

Once you enter the Argentinian part, you can opt for a free ‘train’ ride to one of the two stops that would get to the 3 major walks: Inferior, Superior (1st stop) and the Garganta del Diablo (2nd stop). Another option you will get is to take a free boat ride to a small island San Martin and take a short walk there.

About half of the river’s flow falls into a long and narrow chasm called Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat). For most of the visitors, this is the highlight of the Argentinian side.

I recommend taking the very first bus from Puerto Iguazú at 7am to arrive with the first group. If you do arrive early enough to make the first ‘train’, take it and head straight to the 2nd stop (Garganta del Diablo). That way you will avoid the crowds at the busiest spot. We’re talking about one million visitors per year but it feels like if they were all there on the same day together with you, it does.

If you fail to be early like me – because the wine was too good the night before – just forget the train and take a 10 minute walk to get to the 1st stop of the ‘train’ where the inferior and superior trails begin. Otherwise you’ll get stacked right at the entrance waiting for the second or third train and the cues behind you will just get longer and longer, only to allow the million people inside the park right behind you, making the whole place very busy.

FYI, at the entrance you need to get a free train ticket that will indicate the time of your train. As I said, unless you make it to the 1st one, forget the train and walk to then less busy superior and inferior walks. You can always take the ride from the 1st stop to the Garganta del Diablo stop after you will enjoy the emptier superior and inferior walks.

Garganta del Diablo

The Inferior trail, I opted for to begun with turned out to be my favourite one. It takes you around the bottom edge of the falls. Very pretty. Superior trail takes you around the top edge. Both trails were not that crowded but it might be due to the fact that I did manage to make it to the second wave of buses and most of the early visitors headed further to Garganta del Diablo first.

With more and more tourists entering the park, the rest of the day turned out to be a great test about how much tolerance to the massive selfie crowds one has. I got personally irritated only much later, when I arrived to then already busy Garganta del Diablo trail. There was literally no space to walk and a lot of acrobatics were needed in order not to be hurt by selfie sticks.

better angles on the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls

The thing is that many of the visitors are rather inconsiderate (well, an English person would say it that way) but it would in fact mean that many of the visitors totally don’t give a shit about others at all. For example I was a gentleman and let the two ladies to go ahead of me to the viewpoint after cuing for 20 mins in a crowd but they not only took ages taking like a trillion selfies and videos each, they have started to watch them on the spot as well 😀

Anyway. Once you enter the Brazilian side, there’s a free bus that will take you towards the falls. There are earlier stops one can get off to explore the activities and some minor treks but most people headed to the last stop, which is pretty much the one main trek there. The bus returns to the entrance of the park from the end of that trek/walk.

Oh yeah – and get ready for getting wet off the falls’ rainy flow that reaches the paths with the help of the wind, especially on the Brazilian side. Another important thing is to remember the name of the bus companies that got you to the entrances of either of the parks as there will be many people/buses at the exit. Then there are the entry requirements, like visas and all that but I believe that you don’t have to be reminded about those 🙄

Walking inside the Iguazú Falls. The video below is to give some credit to Brazilian constructors as well. Although the infrastructure in much smaller in size, this is also very impressive job…

FYI: you can also take a rafting mini trip here. Helicopter ride is $120 for 15mins, boat rides are also available… My budget was a boring git here unfortunately ):

What would I do differently if I visited the falls with the knowledge I have now?

Except from trying to piss the bad Boi in order to be condemned to the eternal flight in the place with my girlfriend, I would fight the wine temptation the night before with stronger will and wake up for the first bus. The second bus I’ve taken meant that there were already too many people brought here by the first buses from the various companies and I couldn’t get to Garganta del Diablo earlier when it wasn’t so busy yet.

I would also split my visit in two days and went to the Brazilian part early morning the next day, I’m sure it would have been less busy during an earlier visit.

Can you get to Iguazú from Uruguay?

I’ve travelled to Puerto Iguazú from Urugua’s Montevideo. It proved to be a bit of a challenge but it’s doable. You can take a bus to Salto (6hrs/€30), then cross the river to Argentina’s Concordia, from where you can take the bus heading from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú (12hrs/€42).

A word of advise: Please make sure you will pre-book the connecting bus from Concordia because I haven’t done so I got stuck there for 1/2 day but the city isn’t exactly the nicest location to wait 8 hours for the bus. In fact, I decided to get a hotel instead. But after booking into a hotel room near the bus terminal, which I was to share with 3cm long cockroaches, Concordia was the first place I visited during this trip, where I’ve asked myself: “What the hell are you doing here?”

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Uruguay: Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio

Punta del Diablo

About 5 hours drive north of Montevideo (read more here about Uruguay and its capital), close to the Brazilian border, towards the end of Uruguay’s Ruta del Sol, there lies a little hippie town called Punta del Diablo. From what I’ve read about the place, due to its location and the consequent popularity it grew immensely in the last decade or so but it’s still a small town with strong party scene, beautiful beaches and overall friendly and free atmosphere that attracts the liberal crowds.

Hippie +

It’s not all hippie only, which makes it even better because you can be anyone and fit in. It felt like one of the least judgmental places I’ve been. The beaches are magical with a bit apocalyptic sunsets, although I would be careful swimming in Playa de la Viuda with her strong currents.

Playa de la Viuda, Punta del Diablo

However, Playa de Los Pescadores, the one in “the centre” was absolutely fine for swimming. People were great, beer was cold and overall atmosphere could be given 9/10 stars. The remaining 10th star is deducted because of the prices – Uruguay can’t be exactly called a cheap country – think more expensive than Germany.

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

Cabo Polonio

The place with the hype reaching much further than Uruguayan borders. What’s so special about this place? Vale. It is very (modern day) hippie. Its electricity is all run on turbines and solar panels. It’s friendly, it’s magical, it has many great places to grab a dinner made with love or a good drink, it has great non-mainstream music all over the place and it also has two beaches – one for the sunrises and the other for sunsets. And seals – there are seals near the light house – you can observe from quite a close distance. And it’s expensive.

“I’m an artist”

Personally, I’ve had a great time and I was treated like an equal by everyone. If I really really wanted to search for something negative, I’d have to resolve to the rather high amount of “I am an artist” types. You know those people, who’d tell you that themselves, even without you asking and they do it faster than vegans letting you know about their veganism. Instead of letting you figuring their personalities out by just being themselves – they impose it on you.

But that is just my thing – I’m not really fond of people who will tell you that they are artists, especially when it happens without anybody asking and withing 30 seconds of a conversation in a reaction to your question about the wildlife or something like that. Some people are just like that.

IMHO, being an artist is a state of mind, rather than a tool to advertise yourself to others as “cool” or “interesting”. Let us figuring it out ourselves 😉 But I don’t judge those who like to label themselves – it is, after all in their personality to do so – just as well as in mine is not to. I just prefer a good old fashion modesty ahead of any labels 😉

But in Cabo – because of the fact that I came to their world – I’ve embraced it. Some of those artists actually were interesting people and some of them were even interesting artists. And maybe some of the people I didn’t find that interesting were good artists either but I did not investigate that much 😉 Overall, people there were simply authentic in their own way and I must say that nobody judged me when I didn’t advertise myself as an artist 😉

Anyway, the settlement itself is a small community of semi-illegal settlers inside a national park that receives a lot of tourism. Unlike most places of similar nature I’ve been, Cabo came across as even less formal than other places, where one doesn’t feel like a customer there. But at the end of the day – you are a customer and you are helping these people to get by and if you look closer – it’s there.

It’s not a suggestion – don’t look closer please – it’s better that way, as they say – ignorance is bliss 😉 What I’m trying to say that such thing is naturally there and it’s not a bad thing as well – overall it’s a customer service that you don’t really feel like receiving, which makes it IMHO more comfortable, while it requires great deal of good vibes and skills to make it look that way 😉

One way or another – as I’ve mentioned above, over the years I’ve been to quite a few hippie places and they all operate on similar vibes – sometimes more profit-obvious and sometimes less. But yes, even hippies need to eat, drink and buy things and for that they need you to buy something off them first.

Anyway, I’d say that Cabo is definitely one of the best little hippie places I’ve visited. It is a special place and I’ve had one of my best Xmases ever there and if I was ever around again, I’d love to come back. And I haven’t mentioned that due to the nearly nonexistent light pollution, this place normally is (if there’s no full moon or clouds) one of the most stunning places for stargazing.

Cabo Polonio. The sunset beach on the left and the sunrise one on the right.

Which one of the two is better?

Right. Because of certain circumstances, such as the Xmas timing of my visit but also because the rather magical settings, lighthouse, seals, some interesting people as well – I’ve personally preferred Cabo. But if I had to be objective, I must say that Punta del Diablo offers more variety and comfort. After all, Cabo is kind off a semi-illegal settlement with limited electricity, WiFi and facilities. And because it’s a bit more remote, it is even more expensive than Punta del Diablo, while it provides 1/2 of the (physical) comfort.

I’m talking about hostels being used at the highest efficiency levels ever possible, which means the beds are rammed in small rooms with isles in between being about 50-60cm wide. If you’re over 180cm, your bed will most likely be short for you so your feet will stick out into that little isle. Mosquitoes are also present at levels equally efficient to the sleeping arrangements. What I’m trying to say is that – it’s not exactly a place for a conformists.

But it really depends on what kind of a person you are because once you get the vibe, you’ll be all right with the place or you will just leave on yr 3rd day 😉

Full moon during the sunset at Cabo Polonio

How to get there and how much

There are numerous buses running north from Monetvideo‘s huge and claustrophobic bus terminal. If I recollect it well, in about 5 hours we got to Punta del Diablo for 710,-UYU (€18). From Punta del Diablo to the entrance of the national park 259,-UYU (€6,60) in just under 2 hours. From the park’s entrance, there are this weird shuttle off road tracks running quite regularly and it will cost you 117,-UYU (€3) return. For the bus back to Montevideo from the park’s entrance I’ve paid further 643,-UYU (€16,30).

If you were travelling to southern Brazil, obviously head there from Punta del Diablo – I was only going back to travel west to the town called Salto* in order to cross over to Argentina to head further in order to visit the surreal Iguazú Falls.

Next possible destinations

*For football fans, here’s a curiosity – Salto (pop 100k) is a home to two of the most predatory strikers in recent football: Suárez and Cavani – otherwise there’s not much there…

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Uruguay and Montevideo

What do people know about Uruguay? If you are a football fan, you might be able to drop few names from their current successful generation of players. If you are into politics, you might know that it’s the most liberal country in South America, especially when it comes to women’s choices regarding the reproduction process.

You might also remember their Volkswagen beetle-driving sympathetic former president José “Pepe” Mujica AKA “the poorest president” because of his modest lifestyle as well as because he kept donating his presidential salary to charity. You could also know that it’s a relatively small country with 3,3million people, and that marijuana is not illegal in Uruguay.

Uruguay’s history

However, Uruguay’s journey to become a country with one of the most stable economies, in the region wasn’t easy. Like every country in Latin Americas (well – the whole world really but we’re now in Latin World), Uruguay also had their fair share of crazy coups, spins, wars and military dictatorships. La Plata basin was rather strategic post to control and the country’s history was therefore affected by ongoing fights between the (former) colonial powers of Britain, Spain and Portugal.

Jumping fast forward, after defeating the military dictatorship that ruled the country since the coup in 1973, on 2 February 1985, Uruguay finally became a democracy. Too much happen between the country’s “discovery” and 1985 to list it in a travel piece. I’ll therefore pick just 3 historical facts only, which I will select purely based on my subjective choices.

Palacio Salvo, Montevideo

A right to get a pregnancy-termination

Let me start from modern day and then head backwards in time. Some of you, liberal people might be aware that Uruguay is one the two countries in South and Central Americas where, rather than a general rule, an individual person has a choice over her body, when it comes to a possibility of getting an abortion, the only other country being Guayana.

Abortion has always been a controversial subject, especially in deeply religious countries. I’m not going to dive into the dilemma much because I’d write an essay on it and it wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll just mention few (IMHO objective) observations regarding this particular clash of opinions followed by what I want to believe to be an objective conclusion.

The dilemma

From what I understand people sometimes mistake the whole thing for a conflict between anti-abortionists and pro-abortionists, while in reality it is a debate between the pro-lifers and people fighting to be able to make their own choices. No one is fighting for abortions. Some people just want to have a choice of what to do, especially under extreme circumstances. I personally see this anti vs pro definition as a massive misconception from within this debate.

Another interesting point I would like to mention is that one side of the argument that likes to call themselves “pro-life” seems to be showing very passionate and uncompromising passion to protect all unborn children, while at the same time, when it comes to protecting the already born children in an equally uncompromising fashion, they are somehow not so eager to do so.

What I am trying to say is that the same politicians and other “pro-life” community leaders are often able to support selling arms to, or even sanctioning the actual bombings of certain areas where many already living children and pregnant ladies live. The same people furthermore often support certain political decisions of not providing these children and pregnant women with a shelter upon escaping those war zones either. Personally, I find it rather confusing and very inconsistent, this “protection of all life” thing of theirs. Proof me wrong, please.

Another observation regarding the pro-life group worth mentioning here is that – at least in places where they have succeeded – it strongly appears like a vast male-majority decision making process, while their opponents do come across as representing also women’s voices. I believe that this is another important distinction between the two opposing sides of this argument particular (or any other, as a matter a fact), because it’s a debate about a law which concerns women in a first place. Why should they not have a say in this debate?

I guess that the technical core of this argument comes down to a definition of what is a living human and what is “just” a fetus. I understand that for example for a happy couple with a great economic background in a safe and prosperous country, just a successful insemination is a god-like miracle already. I also understand that it’s all about a game of playing a role of god for people to have a say in such an issue. However this is an area that does not affect everyone equally, in every case of pregnancy and that is the major point to be taken into the consideration.

Back to just facts only

Anyway, when it comes to Uruguay, we are talking about already established legislation now as well as eradication of charlatanism of undergoing dangerous illegal surgeries. Women in Uruguay wanted to have a choice and they have succeeded in 2012. There were recent changes in Chilean and Argentinian legislations, allowing the procedure in case of rape or mother’s health being at risk, which is considered a big progress over here as it offers some control over women’s choices.

Prior to legalization of abortion in Uruguay, the punishment for undergoing the procedure was 3-12 months in prison, while performing an abortion was punishable by 6-24 months in prison. The amount of punishment depended on judge and the circumstances of accused, such as risk for the woman’s life, rape, family honor or particular economic standards of the accused.

While a right to have a choice in this case is considered to be a human right for many, the other liberal policy Uruguay recently promoted (legalization of Marijuana) is pretty much a life style choice, unless we take its medicinal use into consideration. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the plant.

The goal was to take the profit away from the criminal drug dealing gangs and offer an alternative for the smokers not to support the criminal gangs. As a matter a fact, there’s no recorded increase of the marijuana users but there is recorded decrease of the drug gang related crimes. Simple. Not much space for a dilemma here.

Montevideo’s La Rambla and the neighbourhood Barrio Sur

The second historical event I’ve picked regarding Uruguay’s history is taking us back to 60s. The country was troubled by economic crisis and social unrest from the mid50s. In 1962, the inflation was running at a historically high 35%. Among other protest groups, a movement called Tupamaros emerged. The name is derived from the revolutionary Túpac Amaru II, who led a major indigenous revolt against the Spanish colonialists of Peru in the 17th century.

Anyway, you can guess that we’re talking about a left wing group with deep social thinking. Their activities were literally Robin Hood-like. I’m talking about things that technically qualify as terrorist activities, such as robbing banks and distributing money in poor neighborhoods. Later it grew further, adding also political kidnappings and attacks on security forces on the menu. The legendary president José “Pepe” Mujica was an active member of the group back then.

Like it or not. It’s kind off romantic and it’s kind of terrorism at the same time, like Robin Hood or anyone who used force against the regime, whether you think it was morally right or wrong. Is it really like that? How about freedom fighters or whistle blowers? Where is the thin line between terrorism and freedom fighting or exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity? Who determines that? I like this “dilemma” and I think I will get back to it in another piece 😉

Anyway. Many of the group members were killed by Uruguayan army in early 70s and many others remained in prison, incl the “poorest president” until 1985.

Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo

And last but not least, is an important and sad historical event of massive importance. I must point that Uruguay is the only Latin country without any existent indigenous population because they’ve annihilated them all.

Charruas, the remaining original inhabitants of these lands whom were not eliminated by European diseases and soldiers were later all massacred by Uruguayan forces. The major event took place on the 11 April 1831 and history remembers as the Slaughter of Salsipuedes. Country’s “heroic” army led by president’s brother Bernabé Rivera attacked the gathering of the main Charrúa chiefs after getting them drunk first, apparently.

The order was given by Uruguay’s president and a national independence hero, AKA freedom fighter, Fructuoso Rivera. People don’t talk about that much in Uruguay though. The positive and friendly image of a friendly beetle-driving president and legal weed is too dominant to start damaging it with a dark historical mark of ethnic cleansing.


Uruguayans are known to be very friendly. I can confirm that and yes, they have shared their mate with me on numerous occasions. There might be some resemblance with their southern neighbours when it comes to accent and several cultural icons, such as Tango, steaks, mate and so on. Uruguayans are however more melancholic. Well, they actually are rather melancholic, which is almost impossible to say about Argentinians 😀



Montevideo is a nice charming city and it’s not even that small (pop 1,3million, area 201km2), it has nice caves, tango, steaks, beaches, La Rambla and much more. In my humble opinion, Montevideo’s biggest disadvantage is its proximity to Buenos Aires because many people can’t stop comparing the two. I admit, it took me a while to adjust coming there from BA but it would happen to any city after Buenos Aires, a city I fell in love with.

In a way it makes some sense due to the partially parallel history and similar cultural symbols architecture as well as some because of some architectural similarities. But yet, Montevideo is nothing like Buenos Aires, eventhough it’s just across of La Plata River. The best way to explore Montevideo’s unique beauty and charm would be taking one of the numerous walking tours that are available in pretty much every hostel.

I’ve stayed in nice and spacious Jazz Hostel near by Parque Rodó in Palermo hood and enjoyed the strolls around the Old Town during the day (it didn’t look like it’s going to turn into the safest part of the town after the office hours) either walking around the edge of the river (La Rambla) or cutting through the town.

How to get there?

The cheapest way was to take a 2hrs (€46) Seacat ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento from where you’ll be picked up by the bus heading to Montevideo‘s bus terminal or where you can stay and enjoy the strolls around beautiful old town colonial streets and cafes. You can take a more expensive ferry straight to Montevideo as well.

As for the public transport, friendly Uruguayans will be always happy to tell you which bus to get and where to get off. Unlike in most cities in South America, in Montevideo you can purchase the ticket off the driver.

Next possible destinations?

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Buenos, Buenos Aires

OK. I admit, it took me a while to process my feelings, thoughts, observations as well as my notes about this city. It’s because to me was a whole new level of ‘wow’ and FYI, before coming to Buenos Aires, I thought I knew about proper wows a lot already 😉

Basically, Buenos Aires has a real essence and a massive character, rather than just the looks. It also has Marilyn’s beauty mark as well as bit of a lazy eye of <insert a name of a charismatic lazy eye person> to illustrate the overwhelming character of the city.

My biased opinion about “Reina del Plata”

I am fully aware of being biased as a person who is in love with the place 😍 And that’s before even mentioning the added spices and herbs BA comes with as well as all sorts of tasty/spicy attitude or the love for life people here live by. The passion here is just overwhelming.

You know how Italians can enjoy life? Think that and add tango to it, that’s IMHO Argentinians 😉 But things are not so black and white – otherwise it would come down to dry tomatoes v tango between Italy and Argentina 🙂

the classic boring tourist picture

OK, let’s just step away from this subjective “It’s Friday and I’m in love” stuff. Think what you know about Argentina compared to any other country in the region or even in the whole world for that matter. Surely, you would be able to mention several cultural icons as well as some known historical figures from politics and sports. I mean who doesn’t know about the already mentioned tango? Or the best BBQ in the world? Who hasn’t enjoyed Argentinian wine? Who haven’t heard of Evita, Che Guevarra, Boca Juniors or Maradona? They all come with some sort of superlatives, aren’t they?

While this list can go on for much longer, it would still be just a fraction of Argentina’s history and presence. After all, it’s a big country with rich and vibrant history. I only wanted to illustrate how many things a normal person knows about Argentina, even without even reading about it as well as that those generally known facts and figures from Argentina all symbolize something that is rather full on.

Tango dancers in Plaza Dorrego, San Telmo in Buesnos Aires, Argentina

A bit of history

The city was first established under the name not many of us would remember as easy as Buenos Aires. Originally it was Ciudad de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre (City of Our Lady Saint Mary of the Fair Winds), a rather complicated name given to the settlement in 1536 by a Spanish expedition led by Pedro de Mendoza.

From its earliest days, Buenos Aires was a strategic trading location. This has led to several blockades and invasion by Britain or France, the usual suspects at the time. In the second half of the 19th century, the city increased its economic power with industrialization and mining. It made Buenos Aires one of the leading destinations for immigrants.

San Telmo‘s courtyards

In fact, in the last 150 years, Argentina welcomed millions of immigrants from the whole world, more than any other country except the USA. The majority of immigrants have arrived from Europe, mostly from Spain and Italy creating a major influence that is still very present.

Furthermore, there are also notable numbers of Jewish, Polish, Russian, French, German and Austrian immigrants (all above 100k). Then there were also many Portuguese, Czechs, Dutch, British, Irish, Swiss, Croats, Lebanese, Syrian, South Africans, Australians – you name it.

This influx has made the city more cosmopolitan that I would have expected. In South America, you hardly meet any local blond or red haired people, unless you are in Buenos Aires. Architecture, fashion and culture-wise, the city is stunning – no wonder people call it – The Paris of South America.

Buenos Aires AKA la París de América del Sur

Some of the million things to see

OK. There are too many to list them all here. I’ll mention only a fraction of what the numerous guide books offer. Like many other tourists, I have stayed in a quarter called Palermo. It’s a hyped up barrio full of venues that attract alternative as well as yuppie crowds. Palermo is considered to be the safest part of town and the rather intense police presence conforms that.

Palermo, the hyped up Berlin-like bohemian hood
Cafés of Palermo

Palermo reminded me a lot of Berlin, another favourite city of mine. Apart from tons of stylish restaurants, bars and cafés, it comes with many colours and amazing atmosphere. I loved walking and turning random corners where it will take me. My local friends told me that such activity in other quarters tourists often visit, like for example San Telmo or La Boca is not advised due to the safety precautions.

The colours of La Boca

La Boca, a home to the famous football club Boca Juniors is another tourist destination – but we’re only talking about a fraction of this otherwise poverty-stricken neigbourhood that is proud of its working class status. Those few colourful blocks around the touristy Caminito are filled with Maradona‘s impersonators, tango dancers, souvenir shops, statues of the pope and so on.

To be honest, it’s as touristy as it can get and few hours, including a coffee break, a purchase of postcards as well as visit of the museum of a local artist Benito Quinquela Martín was more than sufficient time to spend there for me.

República de La Boca

Another major tourist spot is Cementerio de la Recoleta. I have to say that I like visiting cemeteries, there’s something calm and deep about them. I’ve therefore visited many but this one tops them all. No wonder BBC and CNN hailed it as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world as well. The actual site contains nearly 5000 vaults in its 5,5 hectares.

Cementerio de la Recoleta basically is many mausoleums that are decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles such as Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque and Neo-Gothic. The entire cemetery is laid out in sections like city blocks, with wide tree-lined main walkways branching into sidewalks an some benches.

Recoleta Cemetary

There are mainly the (former) members of the privileged upper classes such as presidents of Argentina or a granddaughter of Napoleon buried here. Cementerio Recoleta is however also the place of the final rest for some poets, artists, writers as well as Nobel Prize winners. Perhaps the most famous person buried here is María Eva Duarte de Perón, whom you might know as Evita.

Evita’s rather modest grave considering its neighbours

The neighbourhood of San Telmo, quickly became my favourite part of town. It’s just a bit more real than all the major tourist destinations. There are just fewer touristy things and more places for the locals. Basically you can eat your steak in Plaza Dorrego (see the feature picture) and watch the tango dancers together with the locals. As they were greeting each-other – in my romantic imagination – I believed that some of the tango-watching locals used to dance here 20 years ago themselves.

Unlike in Palermo, the stylish restaurants and pubs of San Telmo are filled fewer yuppies and it’s also a bit cheaper. Just being there feels like being in a super-cool movie. Unfortunately, being a more local place also means not as heavy police presence, which apparently makes San Telmo less safe than it looks but still apparently better than Boca. I personally haven’t witnessed any unpleasant situations but these are the words of my local friends living there: “I wouldn’t walk few blocks this way” and I have obliged.

San Telmo

I’m going to stop here because when it comes to attractions of Buenos Aires a whole book wouldn’t be enough. There are many, I mean many architectural landmarks, parks, museums, art galleries and so on, mostly located in the centre. I feel safe to say that there’s something for everyone. I mean that even two weeks of a proper exploration weren’t enough to see everything I found interesting reading about, or and seeing it randomly first then reading about it.

Impressive Teatro Colón
Palacio de Aguas Corrientes – believe or not – this is a water pumping station

Some practical info

Buenos Aires has a very efficient and easy-to-use public transport. You will need to get yourself a local equivalent of an Oyster card called SUBE, which you can purchase, together with rather cheap top ups in every metro station. FYI, it works in more cities of Argentina, like Bariloche as well. Try avoiding rush hours ‘cos it can get rather claustrophobic, I mean London’s Bank-like claustrophobic. Wear your backpack upfront like the locals.

Use ATM to get Argentinian Pesos or exchange the money in official Cambio places – the street touts in the centre are dodgy. Safety-wise, as I said, I haven’t witnessed anything unpleasant – just use the normal precaution. Avoid dark alleys, don’t flash your iPhones around, don’t be a dick and so on. After all, in this city you are not as obvious foreigner as in any other place in Americas. To be honest, I’ve taken the 90minute ride on a night bus from La Boca to Palermo and I was as safe as in (the pre-Tory cuts) London.

Argentina hasn’t enjoyed a lot of economical stability lately and the inflation rates when I was there were stunning. Buenos Aires is normally rather expensive place to be but it really depends on the current economic situation of the country. For example for me it was one of the cheapest places (like €1,40 happy hours for pint of IPA, then it went up to €2 after 10pm) I’ve visited on the continent but many tell me that it could just as well be the most expensive.


Next possible destinations

  • ⁷If you have a spare two days, I’d certainly recommend visiting one of the most popular destinations in South America Iguazú Falls
  • Another option is taking only a couple of hours worth ferry ride from Buenos Aires will take you over the river to Uruguayan town of Colonia del Sacramento from where it’s another two hours bus ride to the country’s capital Montevideo
  • In case you were into nature, take a plane to Ushuaia, El Calafate or Bariloche to visit the ever amazing Patagonia

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Patagonia in 3 weeks

A guide to the Andes parts of Patagonia between Ushuaia and Bariloche

Heading to Patagonia with only 3 weeks to see it all? This piece is here to help you decide what itinerary to pick. Please note that I’ve only travelled by the Andes, so no Eastern Argentinian coast is much involved. So if you interested in places like Puerto Madryn – this might be a bit out of the way for you.


Arriving from Argentina: Buenos AiresUshuaia (optional) – Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine: Chile)El CalafateEl Chaltén (Arg)Los Antiguos/Chile Chico (Marble Cathedral: optional)Careterra Austral – Cerro Castillo (optional) – Coyhaique – Puerto Chacabuco – Quellon or Puerto Montt – Puerto Varas – Bariloche – Buenos Aires.

Arriving from Chile it would be the same, except the first steps. I’d suggest to fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas and head to either Ushuaia, Argentina (12hrs bus) or taking a 4hrs bus to Puerto Natales. Of course, you can do the same trip in the reverse way, heading south from Bariloche instead.

When to go

The ideal time to visit Patagonia are shoulder seasons. It’s either spring (October – November) or Autumn (March – April). Either way, you’d avoid the crowds gathering in Patagonia in austral summer, your accomodation options will be a bit better and overall cost of the trip will be considerably cheaper. It is however possible that some places might not be open yet and some treks closed for the bad weather if you go too early, respectively too late.

If you’re landing in Buenos Aires, I’d suggest to spend few nights in Palermo or San Telmo neighbourhoods to enjoy this stunning city, its restaurants, wine, tango, galleries, museums and general character. It’s a truly stunning city with great energy and love. I’ve compiled few thoughts and semi-practical tips about Buenos Aires here.

The flights from Buenos Aires are rather cheap when flying internally with the low cost airlines if booked in advance. Skyscanner should be able to help you with your choices. The destinations you’ll be looking at are either Ushuaia or El Calafate. If you book it early, you should be able to do it from about €30+. The same applies for the flights from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas, except the fact that you might get a flight from €25+

1: Ushuaia. 3-4 days (optional)

If you have 3-4 days to spare and if you’re willing to spend some time on the bus, Ushuaia is a charming little town (pop approx 70 000) promotes its tourism as the southernmost city in the world AKA El Fin Del Mundo, or End of the World. The town is surrounded by a dramatic mountain range and Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego is 17km away.

Isla Navarino, Beagle Channel and Ushuaia from the Glaciar Martial

If I were you, I would spend the first day exploring the town, including getting a End of the World stamp in your passport (by the port entrance) and I would also send exclusive post cards to my loved ones from El Fin del Mundo. Further two days, I’d spend in Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego and Glaciar Martial. Further information about Punta Arenas, Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia here.

2: Punta Arenas (Isla Magdalena). 2-3 days

The biggest attraction that puts Punta Arenas on the tourist map is the town’s close proximity to Isla Magdalena, an island that hosts a large colony of Magellanic Penguins (estimated population of 120 000). You can visit Isla Magdalena with multiple agencies offering the tour for 60 000,-CLP (€80), if the weather permits. Other than that, the town comes with some museums connected to its marine exploration history, few shipwrecks and a lot of wind. Further information about Punta Arenas, Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia here.

3: Puerto Natalas (Torres del Paine). 3 days

An approximately 4hrs bus drive (CLP8000/€ 10,50) from Punta Arenas lies Puerto Natales, the gate to Torres del Paine Parque Nacional, the place with some of the most iconic images from Chile. Two hours on the bus from the town will get you to the park for 15 000,-CPL return (€19,50) bus to the Hotel Las Torres is further 6000,-CLP return (€7,90) and the 3 day entrance to the park will cost you 21000,-CLP (€27,50).

Valle del Francés from across the lake

Please bear in mind that unless you plan your trip well ahead (I’m talking two months as least), you’ll find it rather difficult to secure a spot in the camping places inside the park. Such situation would disallow you from doing the multi day “W” or “O” treks but you will still be able to make numerous day trips commuting from Puerto Natales, including the iconic Las Torres trek. More information as well as the unnecessary comparison between TdP and El Chaltén is here.

4: El Calafate and El Chaltén. 1 day + 4 days

El Calafate is a tourism-boosted town of about 20 000 people. It’s main and unfortunately only well known attraction is its proximity to the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier, about which you can read here.

Perito Moreno

About 4,5 hours (800,-ARS/€18,70) bus drive from El Calafate will get you to El Chaltén is a small charming touristy outpost that lies in the valley at the feet of Andes. It’s a well oiled tourist machine with some nice restaurants, hotels, hostels and bars with tasty wine and artesanal beers.

All major treks are accessible from the town. The two main treks are Laguna de Los Tres (my fav) and Laguna Torre. The difficulty levels are usually easy-ish (pretty much a walk in the forest) and like in TdP, it usually involves of last hour push to get to the view points.

my fav Laguna de Los Tres

5: Los Antiguos/Chile Chico (Marble Cathedral: optional). 1 day

In case you have time and patience for a bit of a detour that involves a long-ish night bus journey, you can grab a night bus from El Chaltén to Los Antiguos. I’ve opted for the 2090,-ARS/€49 (I know, they all were bloody expensive), 9pm – 6:30am bus that took me to the Argentinian frontier town of Los Antiguos. The bus ride involved a stunning sunset over the famous Ruta40, followed by a good night sleep in a semi-cama seat..

Crossing over to Chile is in this case a bit challenging because one has to pass through a 7km stretch of land between Argentina and Chile to reach Chile Chico and no public transport is allowed to operate this route.

From there it’s a rather expensive (€29), 3hrs drive by a 4×4 vehicle to Puerto Rio Tranquillo on an unpaved road. *It’s possible that you might get it cheaper. I was there on Sunday, when only one company was operating only this route. Otherwise, the tours are cheap – I’ve paid 10000,-CLP for my unforgettable 90minute experience. I’ve compiled more detailed description of the Marble Caves here, in case you were interested to get more details.

Marble Cathedral is truly stunning

Alternative option

In case you have felt more adventurous than taking a night bus, you can alternatively walk across the border back to Chile via Villa O’Higgins (the beginning or the end of Carretera Austral) right from El Chaltén. It involves taking two ferries across the lakes and a night spent by Lago del Desierto. There’s a lot of information about this trip online and in case you wanted to find out, the most recent I found is here by Stingy Nomads.

If that is not you cup of tea either, the only other ways to get out of El Chaltén is either the previously mentioned long bus journey to Los Antiguos or head back to El Calafate’s to grab a flight to your next destination.

6: Careterra Austral. 3-4 days

Chile’s Ruta 7 is a 1240km long partially paved highway famous for its stunning views of glaciers, lakes, fjords, steep mountains and forests. From its south end, it starts at Villa O’Higgins and ends in Puerto Montt. I would personally recommend renting a vehicle to explore the full potential of what this beautiful stretch of land has to offer.

Hanging glacier at Queulat National Park

Queulat National Park is thanks to this double-cascade waterfall which is falling from the hanging glacier definitely one of the highlights but there so much more to see around Carretera Austral. More details are here.

Regugio Río Cisnes

I would just pick one other particular place into your attention. In case you are a coffee lover, you might enjoy a pit stop in Refugio Rio Cisnes, a beautiful place with a river and a real coffee, which is a rare commodity around this part of the world due to Chilean obsession with instant coffee. It’s about 6km north of Villa Amengual, right under the viewpoint, where you’ll definitely stop at to enjoy the view. FYI: I’m not paid, not I’ve receive any favours or advantages to share this info.

7: Cerro Castillo and Coyhaique. 4 days (optional)

I must admit that in this location, I was nursing my knee that gave in after overloading it during the previous days. My original plan was to take the 4 day trek in Cerro Castillo (well described here by Stingy Nomads) and take some rest and possibly short treks around Coyhaique. Instead I just enjoyed the local barley products and chatted to other travellers.

Sorry for the lack of information here. The town of Coyhaique is not extremely pleasant, nor it is an unpleasant place but I would not chose it for a pit stop if I knew what it was like before. Instead, I’d stay in either Bariloche (better social life and facilities for that) or if I wanted to be in very quiet place, Puyuhuapi would suit that a lot.

8: Puerto Chacabuco – Quellon or Puerto Montt. 2 days

This part of a journey was about taking my preferred means of transportation – a ferry travel. I’ve described multiple options of ferry travel in Southern Chile in a separate article here. The ferry I have picked took me though 2 fjords with impressive mountain ranges around and numerous waterfalls to look at. And one epic sunset inside the fjord. There’s not that many things that can beat such experience.

There’s not that many things that can beat a sunset inside the fjord 🙂

My goal was to get to Isla Chiloé, the largest island of Chile to find out about the local legends. More details about how I failed to do so, as well as some practical information about the island are here. If ferry travel is not for you, there are numerous comfortable and safe bus companies you can chose from.

9: Puerto Varas (2 days) and San Carlos de Bariloche (3 days)

Both of these places feel rather popular resort-like destinations and both are located on shores of glacier lakes of Lago Llanquihue, respectively Nahuel Huapi Lake. The resorty feeling and relatively close proximity are the main reasons why I’ve decided to write a joined piece about both towns here.

Lago Llanquihue and Vulcan Osorno

I personally found Puerto Varas a bit boring, less pretty and limited if compared to Bariloche but that might be due to the rather higher average age of visitors and other personal preferences. The ultimate highlight in town are Lago Llanquihue and Vulcan Osorno, the latter being perfectly shaped volcano that holds trekking as well as SKI options in the winter.

About 7 hours stunning bus drive from Puerto Varas will take you over the Andes to San Carlos de Bariloche for 18 000,-CLP (€12,90The town’s centre (Centro Cívico) is reminiscent of the Swiss Alpine houses and it hosts plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars.

Other than that, there is spectacular scenery and a wide-range of activities available all year round. If you are int trekking, you might consider visiting Cerros Otto, Tronador and Catedral, the last being also a SKI resort in the winter. Again, for more detailed information, please see this piece..

Bariloche from Cerro Otto

What would I change on my itinerary with the knowledge I have now?

I guess that I would plan better for Torres del Paine in the first place. Furthermore I would cut down time spent in Coyhaique or skip it completely.

Otherwise, I must say that except the limitations caused by my knee that gave in due to high volume of trekking and the past abuse of it from my football days, I am 100% satisfied with my itinerary, eventhough to say it sounds rather smuggy.

But I got what I wanted: a spectacular nature and a bit of solitude soul cleansing after a hard year at work at the beginning, followed by more and more constantly changing sceneries and I’ve ended up with some doses of social life in Coyhaique and Bariloche.

Whatever you do – enjoy Patagonia – it’s truly one of the most beautiful and diverse areas of our planet to visit.

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Puerto Varas and Bariloche

And now let’s switch to the towns of Puerto Varas and San Carlos de Bariloche, my final destinations in Patagonia 2018-2019. Although each of the two towns is rather unique in their own way, both places feel rather resort-like and both are located on shores of glacier lakes of Lago Llanquihue, respectively Nahuel Huapi Lake. The resorty feeling and relatively close proximity are the main reasons why I’ve decided to write a joined piece about both towns.

Furthermore, it’s also the fact that I found them both a bit pretentious, which is of course purely subjective opinion of a person who grew up in a kind of pretentious resorty place himself. The major difference between the two towns is that while Puerto Varas held the Norah Jones kinda soundtrack feeling to me, while Bariloche was more of a 4 Non Blondes with occasional hints of David Guetta atmosphere. Pick your own sonic poison 😉

Warning: This text contains some bad words, such as “Daily Mail”, “hitler” or “nazi” and more. If you are easily offended by bad words – be aware please – there will be some 😉

Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas

It might have been the slow-paced atmosphere or the rather higher average age of the visitors that reminded me of my home town a lot, although my home town doesn’t have the glacier lake and a perfectly-shaped volcano. It is Volcan Osorno, which could be called an icon of Puerto Varas. Apart from the fact that it looks like a child’s drawing of volcano (a perfect triangle with a white hat), it is a great option for a day trip and it turns into a ski resort in the winter.

For the non skiers and non trekkers, there’s also the cable car option available to get some panoramic views of the lake. There are about trillion agencies selling the expensive trip to the volcano, otherwise it is accessible by car via Route 225. Other favourite activity is hiking to Cerro Philippi, that offers alternative views over Lago Llanquihue. Or you can go a bit crazy and swim in the lake like me. FYI, I’ve lasted about 8 minutes 😀

San Carlos de Bariloche from Cerro Otto.


San Carlos de Bariloche is famous for several reasons, among which, one would name mainly the beautiful scenery; various activities such as trekking, skiing, rafting at Rio Manso or doing anything in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. However, being rather overdosed by the Patagonian nature south of Bariloche, I was looking for something else. And I was glad to find out that this town have had a reputation of being a nazi hideout in the past.

OK, let’s fast-forward. I was half-way up a description of the history regarding the immigrant nazis in Argentina, drowning the text deeper and deeper into explanations of particular contexts and semi-apologies for Evita and her husband (then a president) because not all their policies promoted such horrible ideologies.

Anyway, it was just when I begun to consider rewriting all that or even skipping the whole nazi hideout part because it was getting more and more off topic, I found this stupid article in Daily Mail, a paper that somehow can’t get rid off its fascination with nazis and any form of general fascism, even though it’s been more than 80 years since they have begun promoting it as a way to go forward.*

The article itself doesn’t explain anything about the history of nazi emigration to South America – it’s not a journalism, like any other article in Daily Mail – it’s full of shit and misleading information (well, except the sport’s section because one has to be very talented to screw the 6:1 for FC Liverpool text up). The article is just another stupid click-bite piece but for me it offers a way out of this nazi hideout theme as well as a chance to have a go at Daily Mail‘s and its fascist history.. One should wonder how such a paper could exists until now…**

Fuck Daily Mail

In case you haven’t drifted away by clicking on more and more articles about nazis in South America or Daily Mail‘s racist history (and presence), here’s the rest of my piece about Puerto Varas and Bariloche. But yes, it must have been weird, the clash between those poor Germans who fled hitler and the scum that fled Germany in 1945 with all the money they have stolen…

Anyway. The town’s centre (Centro Cívico) is reminiscent of the Swiss Alpine houses and it hosts plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars. Generally, it was refreshing for me to grab a few and not pay the London price for a pint like in southern Patagonia. Other than that (or because of that?), I turned a bit lazy, with the great excuse of having my right knee a bit overloaded from the previous 6-12hrs treks a day for few weeks in a row.

Cerros Otto, Tronador and Catedral

So I took a cable car up to Cerro Otto. The views were worth the 550,-Argentinian Pesos (€12,90) and, while sipping cappuccino in a rather spectacular bauhausy spinning restaurant on the top, I didn’t find it very difficult to forgive myself that I’ve opted for such a means of transportation instead of walking couple of hours uphill and then downhill, which was where my knee would come into the occasion properly (:0

Btw, bellow the restaurant, there was also a bizarre exhibition of a local artist who must have dedicated way too much time to copy works of others, particularly of Michelangelo, including the copy of the famous statue of David. FYI, I still wasn’t able to find out if he was circumcised because even here it wasn’t quite clear but I must say that it might have been due to the fact that I haven’t spent ages looking at his penis 🙂

Except the statue of David, there was another bizarre fact was that there was also a night club in the building. David Lynch would definitely shoot a scene or two in there, if he was aware of its existence.

stunning views from Cerro Otto

From Bariloche, there are also two other day trips to Cerro Tronador and Cerro Catedral people seem to like. The cheaper pints and the knee excuse prevented me to go but from what I’ve heard, the first one is the highest mountain in the lake region of Argentina. The Cerro Catedral is only about 19km from the town and as a ski resort, it also has a cable car 😉

A little tip for a late night sip

I was staying on Juramento street and there were few nice little trendy joints offering snacks, burgers and artesanal beers. My fav feature of any establishment: terraces were also present, not to mention the happy hours 😉

Other destinations near by

About two hours of bus drive south of Bariloche, there’s is the small town of El Bolsón. Because of the German immigrants (well before the nazis), it’s known for its production of cheese and beer. For the previously mentioned reasons I did not go myself but many people I’ve met several travellers who raved about El Bolsón, its hiking routes and Cajón de Azul, a a lake where one can swim.

How to get there

  • Puerto Montt to Puerto Varas: it’s a short bus ride. Buses are frequent and cheap
  • Castro to Puerto Varas: 2,5hrs @ 7500,- CLP (€10)
  • Puerto Varas to Bariloche: rather stunning 6 hours ride through the Andes @ 18 000,-CLP (€12,90). Try to get the front seat on the upper deck if you can 😉 FYI, you can also fly here from Buenos Aires on cheap if you book early.
  • FYI, once in Bariloche you will need a local Oyster card (SUBE) you can top up in order to use the public transport. This card is also usable in Buenos Aires so if you’re planning to visit the gorgeous capital of Argentina, it’s definitely worth to get SUBE 😉


  • Puerto Varas: I’ve stayed in one of the cheapest places in this rather expensive town. Airbnb’s Cama en habitación compartida mixta s/desayuno for $12 was just about all right for its price to serve the purpose.
  • Bariloche: I’ve picked the Airbnb’s Bariloche Patagonia Jazz Hostel. Given the $12.50 per night for a dorm it was again one of the cheapest accommodations one can get in town. The staff was super-friendly and the place appeared to attract a nice crowd. It was pretty much centrally located and there were community dinners. Overall it’s a nice place and I have a good memories of this hostel 🙂

Other popular destinations travelling south

  • You can access the mysterious Isla Chiloé from Puerto Varas in the matter of hours
  • Once you are in the area, I’d definitely recommend exploring the stunning Carretera Austral
  • While you are at it, you can also visit the little village Puerto Rio Tranquillo to experience the beauty of Marble Caves
  • About 1/2 day’s drive further south on the Argentinian side of Patagonia, I’d recommend visiting El Chaltén to take upon some treks in the Los Glaciares National Park
  • If you made it this far south, please do not miss out on what I guarantee would be one of the best experiences in your life and visit Perito Moreno Glacier near the Argentinian town of El Calafate
  • A few hour’s drive over Andes from El Calafate, there’s a Chillean town of Puerto Natales, which is a gateway to the famous Torres del Paine
  • To get to the end of the world from here, travel further south to Tierra del Fuego with the town of Ushuaia and its stunning National Park nearby


Life is not just about trekking

I have to admit, at this point, I was missing a social life. I was missing different conversations other than about trekking and how much is what hostel or park entry. I’ve missed a city. I realized that when I’ve had a glass of red and a coffee in El Calafate in a 30 minute window of clear skies to be able to sit outside on a terrace. I was ready for the city people, tango, wine, cafés, terraces and happy hours of Buenos Aires 🙂


*Daily Mail has been faithful to its heritage of hate towards minorities but it’s contemporary incarnation is rather flexible about what kind of hate it spreads and about whom, if compared to when it was founded. In case you are worried about antisemitism in particular, in this case you don’t have to worry so much, at least when it comes to Daily Mail because most of the hate they have been spreading lately isn’t aimed at Jewish people.

In the recent decades it’s been targeting other groups, in general it is any immigration of the non-white or poor people, but mainly it’s about Eastern Europeans and Muslims.

**Just look at the state of the 42% of modern Britain…

Epilogue on hate: Isn’t that bizarre how hate has its genres? Isn’t is just One Hate, Bono? And isn’t racism just racism? Or if you like Chinese and hate Japanese or other way around – are you any better? We even invent PC terms for these assholes now. Alt-right? What’s that? As someone pointed rightly out: if you fuck a sheep you stay a sheep fucker, you won’t become an Alt-lover

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Legends of Chiloé Island

This article is about my failed attempt to investigate and learn more about the legends and mythical stories from Isla Chiloé. The term “failed” illustrates the fact that it won’t bring anything new, other than some Googled info, which makes it almost entirely useless to read, unless you haven’t heard anything about those legends at all…

Chiloé is Chile’s largest island (8300 km2). It is known for its palafitos, AKA wooden houses build off the street-level out into the sea (see the pic above), seafood and typical carpentry-architecture.


Another thing the island is known for is the above mentioned witchcraft and pagan mythical stories. Unfortunately, I could not get to know more about those during my short visit because there wasn’t anywhere to get the information from. I’ve browsed the local joints for two nights in order to meet locals to get at least some spoken word about those stories without any success.

All I could get that it’s a mythology, a thing of a past. I’m not sure if my feeling was correct but it felt like it’s a thing the locals were not so proud off or they just didn’t want to talk about it because they are still superstitious, the latter option making me even more curious. There were supposed to be ghost ships, wizards, and many bizarre creatures, out of which some can trick you into having sex with them as Bruce Chatwin once described in one of his books. And all I got was two absolutelly unmythical hangovers 😀

A singing, fair-haired beauty similar to the German Lorelei is called la pincoya. It is said that if she dances towards the coast the sea will bring a lot of fish. A ghost ship carrying the souls of wrecked sailors, similar to the Flying Dutchman, is called caleuche. And if someone tells you he or she was seduced in the forest, it might have been the fiura or the trauco, which is often blamed for venereal disease or an awkward pregnancy. A very pitiful figure is the invunche; as a baby his orifices, including his eyes, were closed and one leg was sewn to his back, so that he walks on three legs.


But there wis more than just stories. In 1880, there was a real trial with a secret society of “wizzards” of La Recta Provincia (the Righteous Province), which was involved in kidnapping babies, killing loved ones and so on. All sorts of dark stuff, right? From my semi extensive reading on this subject, it appears that it was some sort of an underground government of which scarce tactics were witchcraft and all sort of dark shit.

Quellón’s typical carpentry architecture

Besides the ghost stories

The rest of the island reminded me of Ireland for some reason. Green, rather plain and wet. One can visit numerous UNESCO churches of Chiloé, the Puñihuil Penguin colony and Chiloé’s National Park, which is together with Ahuenca region habitat for diverse wildlife.

How to get there

From Puerto Montt it’s a couple of hours drive, the non-expensive buses leave every hour or so. From the east, you can take a ferry from Chaitén. From the south, you have the option to take the long ferry from Puerto Chacabuco as described in this more useful and practical piece.


At Castro, I’ve stayed in an Airbnb place called Hospedaje Familiar Magaly. Located about 3 minutes walk to the main square, it’s a nice little place at about the best price for a private room in town. For $17.20, the friendly Alicia and her family will welcome you in their family house warmly and make you a decent breakfast with coffee in the morning.

What would I do differently if I was there again with the knowledge about Chiloé I have now?

I guess that due to my previously explained frustration that I could not find out more about the local legends and mythical stories, I’d try to spend more time doing so. I would even go for the tourist-trap version, this is however only due to my subjective fondness towards such stories and legends.

Other popular destinations heading south of Castro

  • If you are in the area, I’d definitely recommend exploring the stunning Carretera Austral
  • While you are at it, you can also visit the little village Puerto Rio Tranquillo to experience the beauty of Marble Caves
  • About 1/2 day’s drive further south on the Argentinian side of Patagonia, I’d recommend visiting El Chaltén to take upon some treks in the Los Glaciares National Park, the town is surrounded by
  • If you made it this far south, please do not miss out on what I guarantee would be one of the best experiences in your life and visit the town of El Calafate to reach the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Hopping back over Andes, you’d get to Puerto Natales, from where you can access the iconic Torres del Paine National Park
  • Further 1/2 day’s ride from Puerto Natales will get you to the end of the world’s town of Ushuaia at Tierra del Fuego

Some destinations heading north of Castro

Only few hours drive north, you’ll end up in a picturesque but resorty town of Puerto Varas. Furthermore, after a stunning ride across Andes, you can explore San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina. Read more about both places here, in case you were interested.

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Ferry Travel in Southern Chile

This piece is about 4 options to travel by ferries in southern Chile. South to north or wise-versa:

1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón (Chiloé Island)
2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino)
3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt
4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt

If you are like me and like the ferry journeys, Chile’s Lake District is the perfect place to do so. Upon my research, I came across 4 different options:

1: Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón (Chiloé Island). This is the most basic and therefore also economical option of the four I considered. I opted for it consequently, after spending staggering amounts of money earlier on in southern Patagonia. At the offices of Navierra Austral in Coyhaique, I purchased a semi-cama ticket for 1920,-CLP (€26). Current prices and online booking are here.

There are numerous and inexpensive buses from Coyhaique to Puerto Aysen, where I had to change for collectivo which brought me directly to the ticket offices of Navierra Austral in the port in Puerto Chacabuco. Just before 12:00, the bus picked me up to board the ship.

12:00: here she is, my home to be for the next 30 hours

There was a cafeteria on board where I could buy classic mediocre cafeteria-style meals and non alcoholic beverages. But most of all, there were two stories of decks where one could sit down and observe the stunning nature around. The journey takes you though 2 fjords with impressive mountain ranges around with numerous waterfalls – those were literally everywhere in Patagonia.

waterfalls are literally everywhere in Patagonia

The major purpose of this ferry service is to deliver goods and passengers to the remote islands in Chile’s Lake District. We are talking very remote here, if the public transport passes by only several times per week and the nearest village is hours away. Some of the settlements however did appear romantic and I’m sure it suits some life styles. During one of the stops, a bunch of children boarded the ferry. Their teacher told me that it’s the whole school. 14 students.

Some places did appear romantic. This is one of them, I believe it was Puerto Aguirre

Then the thought of growing up there (in an adolescent age) crossed my mind and the romance was gone. Not much to do once the hormones kick in. Plus, it must most probably be a very hard life to live. Furthermore, imagine you break up with the only girl from your age group on your island and the nearest settlement is some 6 hours boat ride away, plus the chances that the only girl in your age group there is most likely not single 😀

Reggaeton terrorist

The definition of terrorism is: “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political or cultural aims.”

I’ve added “the cultural aims” bit 😀

The boat also takes passengers, the capacity is I think up to 250 people, who jump on and off in its (I believe) 8 stops. Sometimes it only slows down and small boats pick up people on the way. This guy unfortunately did the whole 30 hour trip. He carried a massive 100W loud speaker from which he kept imposing the worst loud reggaeton that ever existed on others. Was it to attract ladies? If so, he must also suffer from the lack of evaluation abilities because he did jam-dance by himself for almost the entire trip.

Reggeaton terrorist and his “use of intimidation against civilians, in the pursuit of cultural aims”

But then the sun started setting down. Thankfully, I’ve had the noise cancelling headphones and literally every song played like chocolate and the reggaeton threat was successfully nullified. I’ve also smuggled a 1/4 of whisky on board (it is illegal to drink on board but I wasn’t the only anarchist here) so I decided to enhance things a bit.

sunset inside the fjord

Special moments are usually rather short, at least according to my own past experiences. This moment kept going on and on and from the bit tired me, with a hint of whinging tendencies about the reggaeton terrorist, it transformed me mind into a pure 100% happiness. Two hours of that non stop. Those are the collective experiences one can witness together with people of possibly radically different political views, which makes it somehow more universal than most things, incl. music or art in general.

such views are hard to beat with anything

FYI: You can also board the ferry in Puerto Aysén before midnight but you would miss the epic sunset 😉

Other ferry options

2: Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino). This 30 hour trip operated by Austral Broom, would take you through the southern fjords of Chile across the Beagle Channel to Isla Navarino. It leaves at 6pm and arrives at about 11pm the next day. It would cost you staggering 140000,-CLP (€184) for a cama seat (fully recline) or 102000,-CLP (€133) for a semi-cama (1/2 recline), using cash only. You’ll be served food, and for some fee you might be also allowed to sleep on board upon arrival to Puerto Williams, the southernmost human settlement on the planet.

Book here or in Ferry terminal at least 24hrs prior to your departure. Please note that this not a passenger boat – like the Navierra Austral route above, this is just a cargo boat that also takes passengers.

I did not opt for this rather seductive option for economical reasons. The ticket was expensive and getting from Puerto Williams to Ushuaia, my next to be destination was also nearly 100,-USD, plus staying at Puerto Williams did not look cheap either. The other tourists usually take this trip to take the challenging Dientes de Navarino trek, which I wasn’t sure if I was up to physically, while my (universal for the full South America trip) gear wasn’t up for it for sure.

3: Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. This is a 3 day, 400,-USD trip operated by Navimag. It apparently has some signs of being luxurious (you get a bed in the dormitory as opposed to my semi-cama seat only). People I met described this trip as “a hostel on a boat”, while option one was predominantly used by local people. Book and get more info hereWordlyadventurer has described the trip here, in case you’re up for more details.

4: Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. This is a 24 hour passenger journey, also operated by Navimag. It runs once a week each way from October until the end of March. It will cost you about €75,- for a bed in a 4 bed dorm. The meals and everything else is apparently similar than on on the ferry from option one. Read more about this journey here from the first hand of Wordlyadventurer, who appears to like ferries like me 🙂

Whatever you will pick – I hope that you will have a great weather to enjoy the full potential of those journeys 😉

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Carretera Austral

Chile’s Ruta 7, formerly known as Carretera Longitudinal Austral Presidente Pinochet is a 1240km long partially paved highway famous for its stunning views of glaciers, lakes, fjords, steep mountains and forests. From its south end, it starts at Villa O’Higgins and ends in Puerto Montt.

one of the million-per-day stunning views one can get on Carretera Austral

How to explore Carretera Austral?

This part of the trip requires renting a vehicle to explore the full potential of what it has to offer. I was personally happy to jump on board of 4×4 two Swiss girls rented because the prices were – let’s say – not modest for one person. It might be due to the fact that the road is only partially paved and those unpaved parts can get a bit rough after the rain.

The tires are also most possibly not an everlasting commodity in this part of the world so make sure that the car you’re renting has a proper ones. Car rental works out roughly from 50 to 80USD per day, depending on the provider and a car quality but if you split it in between 4, it’s not that bad, given the rewards one can get on this picturesque road.

Anyway, after taking a public transport from Puerto Rio Tranquillo (Marble Caves) to Coyhaique, the car option proved to be a great choice. Not that the bus drive was bad, it’s just when you drive, you’ve got the freedom of stopping when you want to take a rest or take some pictures.

Road quality

Regarding the quality of the road, we found one thing very fascinating. Some parts were literally a perfect road and other parts were just a dirt road. Who decided what parts to develop and why remains a mystery because it didn’t make much sense. Without any education about road logistics, I would personally improve the steep hilly parts that must get dangerous and slippery in winter or when it rains, rather than random 20km flat stretches in between no points of interest for locals or tourists as it was the case in here.

I guess that someone important must be living around the done-up stretches or it was easier to build those just before the local elections. Thinking about that, I believe that the local elections should take place more often because a lot of things get normally done when coming up to new elections in an attempt to get re-elected. Well, few more of those and Carretera Austral will be fully paved. However, saying all that, I must add that the drive was hustle-free and smooth.

So we drove off from Coyhaique towards Puyuhuapi, a small fishermen village at the end of the homonymous fjord. There was so many waterfalls that we gave up stopping by each and invented a game of who spots more of them from the car instead. My most favourite element of the whole journey however turned out to be the truly amazing colours of spring.

the colours of spring on Carretera Austral

One thing we missed a bit, was a nice pit stop to grab a coffee and rest a bit. We did stop in Villa Amengual, a cute small village with even cuter central square but the usual instant coffee, Chileans are for some reason obsessed with, didn’t really do the job. However, just few minutes of driving further north, we drove by a road sign that said: “real coffee” and we were so lucky to spot it.

Refugio Rio Cisnes

So in case you were around in a need for a little rest, Refugio Rio Cisnes would provide you with a perfect opportunity. It’s a beautiful place with a river, restaurant that also serves real coffee. The place is run by a friendly Chilean hippie couple with a 2yrs old daughter Sammi, overall a magic spot. It’s about 6km north of Villa Amengual, right under the viewpoint, where you’ll definitely stop at to enjoy the view. FYI: I’m not paid, nor have I received any favours or advantages to share this info with you.

Refugio Rio Cisnes from the viewpoint

Queulat National Park

Further down the road, there lies the highlight of this stretch of Carretera Austral: Parque Nacional Queulat, park that’s mainly famous for it’s waterfall combined with a glacier hanging over the mountain. Through-out my travels, I’ve seen plenty waterfalls but this particular one could be a contestant in the top 10 waterfalls.

The park was open, however, we were not allowed to get closer to the falls due to a safety issues regarding the bridge. Although it looked like a that repairs would not take longer than 1/2 day of work, the bridge has been already broken for weeks, which is the fact that illustrates the “work in progress” state of tourism in Chile.

Hanging glacier waterfall @ Queulat National Park

Only about 40 minutes drive further north, there’s Puyuhuapi, a small picturesque tourist village that’s located at the head of fjord. The place comes with fresh sea products in its restaurants as well as numerous lodges where one can enjoy a good night sleep after watching a magical sunset over the fjord. I won’t attach the picture to leave it up to your imagination. Oh yeah – and don’t forget to drink some wine after your dinner – as all Chilean wines – it always tastes godly 😉


Eventhough I have only drove through a 1/2 of Carretera Austral, I can safely say that it’s one of the most beautiful regions I have ever seen, I guess that the pictures I uploaded here speak for themselves. I personally believe that spring time boosted the range of colours, so in case you were flexible enough to pick the best time of the year to visit this part of Chile pick spring or even better autumn. Think shoulder seasons 😉


  • Coyhaique: First I’ve stayed in an Airbnb place called Aumkenk Aike. Farid, the local lad with a good sense of humor was also a rather inventive constructor, building a wooden partitions in the dorm that offered some sort of privacy in the dorm. The bed was $15 a night. The place was about 10 minutes walk to the centre. Other place I’ve stayed was Mckay Truqueras Backpacker. It came with let’s say less features (no lockers) but far more space and a tiny bit better location, considering the distance to the centre and bus stations. The charming young lady that owned the place Maria was a great, friendly and attentive company. The bed in the dorm was $13.70.
  • Puyuhuapi: I’ve stayed in a place called Don Claudio. The private room @ $14.60 was a shared room where I’ve slept alone. Comfy bed, shared bathroom and 3 minutes walk to the fjord. Good place.

What would I do differently if I was there now wit my current knowledge?

I guess that I’d try to explore the whole length of Carretera Austral.

What was there next for me heading north?

I took a 30 hour ferry from Puerto Chacabuco to Isla Chiloé, where I was rewarded by yet another sun set, this time on board of the ferry inside the fjord, an experience I will never forget.

If you are travelling south from here

  • You can visit the little village Puerto Rio Tranquillo to experience the beauty of Marble Caves
  • About 1/2 day’s drive further south, you can get to a trekking paradise of Los Glaciares National Park near a cute little Argentinian town of El Chaltén
  • If you made it this far south, please do not miss out on what I guarantee would be one of the best experiences in your life and visit Perito Moreno Glacier near Argentinian El Calafate
  • Over Andes, there’s a town of Puerto Natales, which is a gateway to the famous Torres del Paine National Park
  • To get to the end of the world from here, travel further south to Tierra del Fuego‘s Ushuaia

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