Catedral de Marmol AKA Marble Caves 2019

This piece is about visiting Marble Caves near by Puerto Rio Tranquillo as well as getting there from El Chaltén through Los Antiguos, Argentina.

How to get to Marble Caves?

In case you are coming from southern Argentina, to get to Marble Caves, you need to take a long-ish night bus from El Chaltén to Los Antiguos first. I’ve opted for the bloody expensive (they all were) 2090,-ARS (€49), 9pm – 6:30am bus that took me to the town of Los Antiguos. The night bus was comfy and I had a good nite sleep after an epic sunset over Argentinian steppes at the famous Ruta 40.

Due to the useless politicians and some unfortunate historical facts, there’s no public transport between the border towns of Los Antiguos and Chile Chico. Regardless if it’s silly or not, it leaves one to hitchhike or walk the 7km of no man’s land between two two towns on each side of the border. Getting through here was however rather easy as I was picked up by the second car passing by me without even hitchhiking. People there are very friendly.

I must admit that originally I wanted to skip Marble Caves and cross the Lago Gral Carrera (the 2nd biggest in the continent after Titicaca), because I just love ferries, especially if they are moving around steep snow capped mountains. I mean, that on board “you can smoke, have a coffee and if you do it together it’s fantastic, or when you hands are cold, you can rub them together”. Don’t ask – I just love such atmospheres – they boost the feeling of travelling or anything else to me.

“You can smoke, have a coffee and if you do it together it’s fantastic”: Peter Falk in Angles of Desire (Himmel Uber Berlin, Wim Wenders, 1987)

Back to Marble Caves

We have appeared in Chile Chico there on a national holiday on Sunday morning and there was only one agency operating only the Puerto Rio Tranquillo route so I had not much of a choice, other than to pay 20000,-CLP (€26) for a 3 hour drive in 4×4 or stay in the village. Although it was a nice place that’s famous for it’s pleasant microclimate, I’ve decided to move on. The driver of the 4×4 was very nice and stopped at several stunning viewpoints.

one of those gorgeous view was also Laguna Verde

Overall, the whole journey was as a great experience and good fun. I didn’t regret the sudden change of plans because the rewards were unquestionable. Marble caves, although being a very tourist trap-like place were – how to say it – really really beautiful 🙂 We were lucky for the weather and everything went smooth.

embracing the mass tourism was easy in Puerto Rio Tranquillo

In Puerto Rio Tranquillo, Marble Cave tours are widely available and cheap. I’ve paid 10000,-CLP (€13) for a 90 minute tour. It did involve bit of embracing the mass organized tourism but the nature helped a lot to make that embracing easy. FYI, you could also rent a kayak or even spend a night in the literally tranquil village to take it easy for one night as it appeared to me as really quiet and peaceful place.

the colours and shapes of Marble Caves were amazing
the rewards were literally unquestionable

Alternative route: walking across the border from
El Chaltén to Villa O’Higgins

In case you didn’t want to take this route via Los Antiguos – Chile Chico, 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. Unfortunately, I haven’t done it because my bags were rather heavy for long treks but people I’ve met on my journey talked about it as one of the highlights of their trips.

It involves taking two ferries across the lakes and a night spent by Lago del Desierto. In case you wanted to find out, the most recent description of this trip I found is here, published by Stingynomads. From Villa O’Higgins you can then head north towards Puerto Rio Tranquillo.

Other popular destinations near by

Other popular destinations travelling south

  • Get multiple views of the iconic Mt Fitzroy during your treks around the town of El Chaltén in Los Glaciares National Park
  • Please don’t miss out on majestic Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate if you are in the area
  • Visit the touristy town of Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park
  • A bit further south, well, nearly as south as one can get, you can enjoy the Tierra del Fuego National Park near the southernmost city in the world: Ushuaia

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Torres del Paine vs. Los Glaciares National Park (El Chaltén)

On my travels through the Patagonian mountains, I’ve heard many people comparing Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park national parks. Eventhough I find this comparison rather pointless, I decided to give it a go, only because it’s an interesting way to describe both parks in one go.

From the aesthetic perspective, it’s simply a matter of subjective preferences of a spectator. In my opinion, both parks are equally stunning when it comes to views and the actual treks. Both of them are also well maintained and tourism is generally well organised in both either.

Upon your arrival to either of the parks, you will be informed by rangers about your trekking options, park rules as well as about the safety precautions you will need to respect. On the Chilean side, you will also have to sign a declaration that you will follow the park rules.

When it comes to the comparison, I’d say that the only minor difference between these two parks is about their accessibility, which gives El Chaltén a little advantage under certain circumstances and below you’ll find out why.

Looking at Valle del Francés from across the lake from Mirrador Cuernos.

Parque Nacional de Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine National Park covers 242 242 hectares (598 593 acres) and it is one of the largest and most visited parks in Chile (around 1/4 million people annually). Some of the most epic views from Chile could be found in this place. It’s truly stunning park with beautiful walks but…

But unless you plan your trip well ahead (I’m talking two months at least), you’ll find it rather difficult to secure a spot in the camping places inside the park. And because there’s not much of a tourist infrastructure in the close proximity to the park, you’ll be most likely forced to commute from Puerto Natales that’s 172km away, that’s unless you can afford to stay in Hotel Las Torres inside the park. Commuting from Puerto Natales would leave you with less flexible itinerary, that will only allow you to do some of the numerous day treks in or around the park.

On the positive note, you will still be able to get to the famous iconic Las Torres view point. It’s doable in one day if you take the first bus from Puerto Natales at 7am, catching the last bus back to town. It’s a stunning trek and in spite that it’s a nature equivalent to such places like Eiffel Tower or Charles Bridge places when it comes to crowds, it’s well worth it. You can however lose the crowd if you let the really fast walkers to go ahead.

FYI: you do not have to be 100% fit to make it. There are some steep-ish sections on the way and the last hour on the way up is getting a mild hardcore altitude change signs, with a possibility of a strong winds trying to blow you off the trek but it’s doable.

Unfortunately, when it comes to other highlights of the park, with no camping places inside the park you won’t be able to get to the Mirrador Britanica in Valle del Francés unless you’re extremely fit and fast walker. You will just not have enough time to catch the last bus back ): If you were desperate – you should be able to make 3/4 of the way to the French Viewpoint.

The same applies to other long treks. If you haven’t secured the camping spots, you won’t be able to do the W or O multiple day treks, because they require you to sleep in the park’s camping grounds. I must however say that the day treks in Torres del Paine can’t be called a disappointment though. Read about some of the day treks available in Torres del Paine here, compiled by Stingynomads. Otherwise plan well ahead and you’ll be spared of this problem/dilemma.

day treks in Torres del Paine are also stunning

How much

The 172km, two hours ride on the bus from Puerto Natales will get you to the park for 15 000,-CPL return (€19,50). The entrance to the park will cost you 21000,-CLP (€27,50). From the park’s entrance you can take a short bus ride further into the park to the Hotel Las Torres for 6000,-CLP return (€7,90).

Please note that there are two stops in the park itself and if you want to go for example to Mirrador Cuernos or if you want to board the catamaran which would take you across the lake to the beginning of the Valle del Francés trek, board your bus again after the rangers’ park introductions and head to the second stop: Pudeto. The catamaran will cost you further 30000,-CLP (€39) return.

A little tip for a late night sip 🙂

You know that great feeling of coming back from a trek. Being pleasantly tired but still full of emotional energy so you kind of want to stretch the eve to maintain that feeling for longer, especially after taking a shower followed by a meal, then what? Well, in Puerto Natales, I’ve came across a perfect spot, where you can keep being excited for a bit longer and, like many places around here, it even comes with the additional cool attribute to it: being something southernmost.

I’m talking about Last Hope distillery. I can’t say that it was the cheapest cocktail I’ve ever had but the overall great social atmosphere and friendly staff made me to forget about the prices and the possibility of the next day’s headache as it felt like a great night out, I have a great memories off. They do make their own Gin and Whiskey and nice list of cocktails (no shots) you will contemplate to try all one by one, which would be rather unwise though…

El Chaltén

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is situated in the southwest of Santa Cruz province of Argentina. It covers the area of 726 927 hectares (2807 sq. miles). It is the largest park in Argentina’s Protected Areas System. Since 1981 it is a UNESCO”S world heritage site. It’s also a home to the iconic Mount Fitzroy.

Unlike in Torres del Paine, the entrance to the park is free (except the Perito Moreno Glaciar) and all treks starts and end in the town. In my humble opinion it’s therefore far more flexible in comparison to TdP and you will be able to sleep in bed after shower every night. I guess you now know which park I consider to be the winner in this pointless competition. Only if you had time for one of them – I would definitely recommend the Argentinian contestant due to the reasons stated above.

In both parks, all treks available are stunning, clearly marked and you’ll be provided a lot of information about them upon your arrival. In Argentina, I recommend trying some of those that are connecting the main treks – you’d be rewarded by nature with low numbers of the fellow tourists. Please – what ever you do – don’t miss the Laguna de Los Tres trek – it has been one of the highlights of my trip 😉

A little tip for a late night sip 🙂

El Chaltén comes with several nice places one can enjoy the drink outdoors if the weather permits. I mean the establishments I have visited in town did look and felt great from the inside but enjoying a beverage after your trek on a terrace in such place is just something special. Whether it was La Cervecería or La Vinería or in fact any joint in town looked like I wanted to grab a pint or two, especially if their terraces were filled with sun.

Laguna de Los Tres was one of the highlights of my trip in the whole Patagonia, but as I said previously – the aesthetic part of the argument is very subjective and I am not able to say that it was better than Las Torres in TdP.

Stay

  • Puerto Natales: First night I’ve opted for a hippie-ish Two Monkeys Hostel for €13 per night. It was a friendly and a very social place but due to the consequent hangover, I’ve moved to an Airbnb place called Natales Trip, cama 1 1/2 plaza near the bus station. For €21.25 I’ve had a comfy private room in a walking distance to the centre of the town. There was a good view of the lake, a smoking room/bar and nice friendly owners.
  • El Chaltén: From the many accommodations this town offers, I’ve picked Hostel “Kaiken”. It was a nice, clean place with friendly owners. The dorm cost me €11. It was an OK place to crash after the trek.

And what lies between Puerto Natales and El Chaltén?

The ultimate highlight: Perito Moreno Glacier. Click here to know more about this unforgettable place.

A glance of the Perito Moreno from the inferior trek.

What have I missed? Or shall I say: What would I do if I had a chance to come back?

  • Huemul Circuit. Viedma Glaciar, the 975 sq. km (376 sq. miles) is the second largest glacier in South America. It’s apparently challenging 6 days trek with tent and proper mountain gear. There’s rather detailed description of the trek here by ratravelsblog.
  • Sunrise at Laguna de Los Tres. Recommended by the romantic couple I’ve met in El Chaltén. This is doable from the camping place at the base of the mountain. Otherwise, the whole trek is approximately 8 hours long return from the town. The first 3 hours is pretty much just a pretty walk with not much of an elevation changes and the last hour is quite a hardcore push on the wet rocks.
  • Valle Frances ):
  • Sunrise at Los Torres. Unless you have a secured place in the camp near by – it would involve a long night trekking, which is not recommended for obvious reasons.

Other popular destinations travelling north

Heading South?

  • Then there’s Tierra del Fuego with Ushuaia and its amazing nearby Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego

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The River of Ice: Perito Moreno Glacier

A 2019 guide to Perito Moreno Glaciar: what, when, how and how much

I guess, instead of bombing you with Perito Moreno-matching superlatives like breathtaking, spectacular to start this piece with, I just say that I haven’t thought I could be so blown away by a place like at this level at the age of 43. The last time I’ve experienced such a massive sensation was when I visited the various temples of Angor in Cambodia and before that, only when I was much younger and many things were new for me, many of which I was trying for the first time 😉

Being all blown away by the visual element of the first glacier (Perito is very beautiful and proud, like a proper Argentinian), I’ve ever seen, upon getting closer I then heard the cracking Sci Fi sounds it was making. Those ruptures are caused by the pressure from the weight of the ice slowly pushes the glacier over the Lago Argentino, or its southern arm Brasco River.

When it happens at the edge of the glacier, the tourists are rewarded by an impressive spectacle of seeing the ruptured pieces falling off. I kept missing the fall offs that were always followed by happy human vocal approvals I almost grew envious about but I knew that things come to those who… 😉

A massive rupture @ Perito Moreno Glacier (things come to those who… 😉

First, I wanted to tell everyone off for cheering the Global Warming as well as ruining the soundtrack to my video 😀 According to a local inspirational Airbnb host Sandra, I was apparently lucky to witness an exceptionally huge chunk falling off – and no – I don’t think she says it to every guest. It appears like slow motion but if you think that the height is 80 meters, than this could in fact be a chunk equal to a 12-13 storey building falling down, right?

Some facts about Perito Moreno

Well, having my personal opinion about Perito Moreno out of the way, let’s go into some facts. Perito Moreno Glaciar (not to be mistaken by a small Argentinian town of the same name about 12 hours drive northwards), is one of the main tourist attractions in Argentina. It is located in Santa Cruz province, approximately 80km from El Calafate.

The glacier itself is 250 km2 large, 30 km in length and around 5km wide at its front, with height reaching up to 80 meters, which is 12m higher than Obelisco in Buenos Aires or 23m higher than the Tower of Pisa to give you some perspective. What is unusual about this glacier is that it is advancing as opposed to the most glaciers worldwide.

pretty and proud Perito Moreno Glaciar

How to get there and how much

  • From Chile’s Puerto Natales (Torres del Paine), the bus journey takes about 5 hours, it’s a pretty ride for 17000,-CLP (€22,50). Before boarding, make sure that you have the immigration slip of paper that looks like a receipt you have received upon entering Chile.
  • From Buenos Aires, you could fly from about €30, if you book the flight in advance. The usual suspects like Skyscanner should help you deciding about the flights. Return shuttle from the airport to the city is about 250,-ARS (€6), while taxis go at about 300% of that price.
  • From El Calafate‘s Bus Terminal or the main street, the return bus to Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares will cost you 800,-ARS (€18,60). The buses start running at about 7am. Please make sure to remember which company you have taken as upon your return, the amount of buses at the park could be rather overwhelming. Oh yeah – and bring some rain gear – you will be in the mountains and weather can change fast. FYI: you could also take one of the much more expensive tours from El Calafate in case this was your style.
  • Parque Nacional de Los Glaciares. Unlike when entering the park in the near by El Chaltén, here you will be asked to pay an entrance fee of 600,-ARS (€14).

Perito Moreno park’s infrastructure

Orientation in the park is very easy. The infrastructure build for tourists is amazing as one walks on solid metal paths along the river, in the forest, etc. It might get a little slippery when raining but it’s nothing a normal precautions wouldn’t deal with. The difficulty of the particular treks are all easy – I’ve seen old pensioners in all of the treks – so you don’t have to be mega fit to get around 😉

Hiking, or shall I say walking because I found all paths to be very easy and pleasant walk, is only allowed on these paths. To beat the crowds, I took the earliest bus possible. The hiking trails are colour-coded and the general difference is the time taken to complete the trail and difficulty level.

Every trail is clearly marked and you can find color markers throughout the park. Bellow, there’s all routes one can take. I personally found the timings as well as the difficulty levels a bit stretched as I was able to cut it by 30-50%.

  • The Central Route (Yellow): 1 hour; Low difficulty – accessible for a wheelchair users
  • The Inferior Route (Red): 1 hour 15 minutes; High difficulty – Circle loop
  • Accessible Route (White): 30 minutes; Very Low difficulty – accessible for a wheelchair users
  • Del Bosque Route (Green): 45 minutes; Medium difficulty – Leads to the red loop
  • De la Costa (Blue): 1 hour 30 minutes; Medium difficulty – Leads to the cruise and cafe.
My favourite walk turned out to be inferior trail due to the proximity to the glacier as well as lower numbers of tourists.

Boat Cruises and Ice Hikes

Other options to enhance your experience are taking a Boat Cruise, which could take one closer to the glacier. Another option was to walk on the glacier itself with guides. Both were a bit out of my budget, but when researching, there were two different kinds of ice hiking tours.

The 100 minutes Mini Ice Hike for visitors from 10 to 65yrs of age and was operational between August and June. The 3,5hrs Big Ice Hike was for 18 to 50 yrs of age. This route is open from September to April. Ice picks and crampons were apparently included in price.

When to go?

The park is pretty much an all year destination, however, November to February, during the Austral summer, you might get the warmest weather, naturally.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Stay&dine

I’ve personally picked a cheap Airbnb place called Habitación privada with a super-friendly host Sandra near the bus station but El Calafate is a rather nice (IMHO it’s prettier than Puerto Natales) and developed tourist town with numerous hotels available. FYI, at the time of my visit, Airbnb appeared to be the cheaper option.

As for dinning, the main strip in town is filled with plenty of restaurants and joints to enjoy the tasty Argentinian cuisine and wines. There are various fancy tourist joints such as Yeti Ice Bar or Glaciobar Blanca but as those are not exactly my cuppa tea, I’ve picked the one with the sunny terrace at the entrance to the market. If you like to people watch, it’s a good spot 😉

Other popular destinations near by

  • If you have time on your hands, I’d definitely recommend visiting the southernmost city in the world Ushuaia and its nearby Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego
  • Only a few hours drive over to Chilean Patagonia, there’s the town of Puerto Natales, a gateway to the iconic Torres del Paine National Park
  • Travelling few hours north would bring you to the cute little town El Chaltén and take upon some of the stunning treks in the Los Glaciares National Park it is located within

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Tierra Del Fuego

So you have arrived to southern Chile or Argentina and you are about to go to Tierra del Fuego, the place that invokes deep memories because you remember its cool mysterious name from your childhood (like me) or just because you’re simply fond of remote locations and the untouched nature they come with. Well, it all begins with the crossing the Strait of Magellan, a term that holds the appropriate volume of the adventure that’s ahead of you.

Punta Arenas

But let’s start a bit north of Tierra del Fuego, in Chile’s Punta Arenas. This largest human settlement in this part of the world (pop. 110 000) is an outpost town with friendly locals and rich history connected mainly to extreme exploration. It is therefore natural that eversince the end of the Pinochet era (1973-1990), the tourist industry begun to play a significant role in the local economy.

Before visiting one of the penguin colonies in the region the area is famous for, one can get educated in one of the town’s museums, I’d say that particularly Braun Mendez and Naval y Maritimo museums deserve some attention. Furthermore there are also some historical shipwrecks to be seen and if you like beer, you can head to the world’s southernmost brewery (Austral Beer) to try the tasty lager or IPA they make here.

IMG_0872
Straight of Magellan and Punta Arenas from mirrador Cerro de la Cruz

Other than that, Punta Arenas has very strong winds (hold onto your hats), massive ugly looking oil industry and rather flat/boring surroundings. It comes with everything any outpost should come with, from both positive but also from the negative point of view.

Personally, I found the city a bit miserable, with all do respect. For some reason, it reminded me of Ranong, the north-western outpost town in Thailand one has to visit if going to the gorgeous hippie-ish island Ko Phayam. I guess it depends on what time of the year one arrives and what conditions are there to meet him.

Penguin tours

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. The wind can get very intense and crossing the Strait of Magellan could become rather dangerous and authorities are sometimes forced to block the sea traffic for safety reasons.

And that was the reason why I’ve ended up on a different trip, which takes you to Tierra del Fuego‘s Bahia Inútil where there’s a small nesting colony of King Penguins. Unlike the speedboats that are used for Isla Magdalena trips, this tour boards a large ferry, which is more likely to pass and it’s therefore apparently guaranteed that you’ll be on your way in the morning.

The tour also cost 60 000,-CLP + the park entrance fee of 12000,-CLP. It’s a whole day tour (8:00-21:00), although we had to wait on the island for couple of hours for authorities to open the sea traffic to get back to the mainland, which was blocked for the smaller ferries that are crossing the Strait in the northern part of the island.

IMG_0947
King Penguins @ Bahia Inútil, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Straight Magellan and history

After crossing the Strait of Magellan by a huge ferry in 2 hours, which was for me one of the highlights of this tour, we have arrived to the small town of Porvenir. The town itself, takes “there’s nothing to do” to a whole new level, especially if we’re looking at the social and cultural aspects of life. Porvenir however holds a small museum and a “square” that commemorates the original inhabitants of the island Selk’nam, also known as the Onawo or Ona people, who are now extinct 😔

The worst of the occidental human nature that first took form of fighting over controlling the strategic trade routes connecting Atlantic and Pacific oceans, followed by the discovery of gold as well and the introduction of farming in the region has led to a drastic decline in the numbers of the indigenous population, in a process that is now described as genocide.

IMG_0926
Selk’nam Square in Porvenir, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

One can imagine how horrible the politics must have been in the days of British East India Company and their mass murdering profit driven counterparts in this region of those days. To give you just a hint of how things worked back then, here is one rather illustrative historical fact: a local government would pay a pound sterling for an ear or a hand taken off a local tribes members.

How was the Penguin tour?

Diego, the tour manager was very informative and it was him, who made this trip more interesting than it would otherwise be. Overall, it was a lot of driving through the boring north-west side of the island and few stops on the way. It’s not a trip I would exactly recommend to take but I am glad I went for it.

Apart from seeing the super cool and cute beings above, I’ve learned a lot about the region’s history and I didn’t have to stay in Punta Arenas the whole day. The next day I took the 12hrs bus back in the same direction to Ushuaia, the end of the world.

Porvenir takes “there’s nothing to do” to a whole new level

Ushuaia

Unlike Punta Arenas, this little outpost town of 60 000 inhabitants earned a space in my heart instantly. Being the southernmost large human settlement (although there’s a small town Puerto Williams across the Beagle Channel in Chile that’s even more south), Ushuaia meets the term outpost with pride, glory and beauty.

It’s dramatic mountain range surroundings help that a lot as opposed to the rather flat nature of the rest of the island. The temperatures are apparently going from -1C to 17C all year round. A lot of the friendly locals are often working in the End Of the World-related tourism going on, which includes the stunning Parque Nacional de Tierra del Fuego.

IMG_1045

The park itself is huge 630 km2 (240 sq mi) but not all parts are accessible for tourist to preserve the nature and the rich variety of wild life inside it. There are various treks one can pick from, ranging from short and easy up to medium-difficult. I’ve personally opted for Costanera trail, a beautiful walk along the Lapataia Bay (see above). It was very tranquil and easy trek with many rewarding views.

IMG_1043
Tierra del Fuego‘s Lapataia Bay with Chilean Isla Navarino in the background

Another popular short (and free) trek around Ushuaia is Glaciar Martial, which you can access for free from the city and takes about 4 hours (return), offering the beautiful view of the city and Beagle Channel. Other activities are various boat rides in the channel, taking the replica of a historical train which used to transport the prisoners to the park, and so on. Everything is well organized, trails are well marked – things and services basically work there.

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Ushuaia from Glaciar Martial with Beagle Channel and Isla Navarino in the background

What would I do differently now?

I’d cut down time spent in Punta Arenas and extend my time in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego National Park. I’d try to take the Isla Magdalena trip instead of the one to Bahia Inútil. There are supposedly some cheaper penguin tour options in a high season (Dec-Feb) I could not explore because I was there in November. I would also pay the $100 for a boat ride to the iconic light house in Beagle Channel near Ushuaia. Furthermore, if I had enough money, I’d sail to Isla Navarino over the Beagle Channel to take upon a challenge of the Dientes de Navarino trek.

Practical notes

  • Please note that unless you have your own, preferably an off road kind of transport, it is impossible to get from Porvenir to Ushuaia. I had to return to Punta Arenas and take the 12hrs bus from there to Ushuaia the next day.
  • To get to the Tierra del Fuego National Park from Ushuaia, you board a van for about ARS700 (€14) return at the bus terminal. The entrance to the park is 420,-ARS (€9). Make sure you’ll arrange your return trip for the particular time and spot in the park, as there are 3 bus stops.

Alternative routes

There are cheap flights to Punta Arenas from Santiago starting at €25 operated by Sky Airlines. Needles to say – the flights are stunning if it’s not cloudy – one can observe the Andes below, given the window seat was an option. To get to the town, there’s a transport from the airport to the centre for 5000,-CLP (€6,50) or taxis that start at about the double of that amount.

Bus from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia takes about 10 hours for around €48. There are various companies operating in the area. I opted for Bus Sur and it was a comfy and bit boring/sleepy/semi hangover ride. The last hour or so it’s worth to wake up to observe the mountains at the south of the island. You can also fly there from Argentinian cities by the local low cost airlines, if you are in a rush. The flights are not as cheap as flying within Chile but you can get a good deal from about €30 upwards.

Furthermore, there’s also a ferry sailing from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams (Isla Navarino) that could apparently be rather stunning, if the weather permits, from what I gathered reading about it. For more options about ferry travel in this part of the world, please click here where I listed and described all the possible public ferry transport rutes in the region.

Sleep

  • Punta Arenas: I’ve stayed in Airbnb place (which appeared to list cheaper alternatives than its competition in this part of the world) called Austral Logging. Peter was a good host, constantly improving his accommodation. In case he had finished doing what he was doing, it might now be a good place to stay. For about $17, I’ve had my own comfy room, which was one of the cheapest places in town at the time btw.
  • Ushuaia: Airbnb’s Habitación CANAL II also belongs to my top favourite places I’ve stayed in during my 8 months trip around Americas. The price of $9 for a single room gives away the fact that it’s a basic place but it’s made and maintained with love. You get a single bed, small wardrobe and a little desk with chair. Bathroom is shared between you and other two rooms only. The owner Marina is super-friendly and attentive person who lives on the property with her two cute kids and a friendly dog Ramón, I’ve played with in the patio. If you don’t mind simple places – I definitely recommend this place – plus you’d support a superb person if you stay with Marina 😉 It’s about 15 minute walk from the touristy centre, located in a residential area of town.

Other popular destinations near by

  • To visit the iconic Torres del Paine park, visit the town of Puerto Natales
  • To meet a contender in one of the best memories in your life, visit the Argentinian town of El Calafate to reach the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Only a few hours ride north, there’s a cute little town of El Chaltén that will allow you to take upon some of the many treks the Los Glaciares National Park comes with, including many views of the iconic Mt Fitzroy)

Just how south Ushuaia is?

A little geographical curiosity to end this statistical piece with: An interesting fact is that the southernmost city of Ushuaia AKA The End of the world is not as much south as one can go north on the other side of the planet. To illustrate that imagine that Ushuaia‘s northern equivalent city would lie somewhere between Dublin and Belfast. So Belfast’s hypothetical southern hemisphere brother is beyond the end of the world.

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Valparaíso

Valparaíso, is a historical port city located on a Pacific coast about 120km west of Santiago de Chile. Prior to the introduction of Panama Canal (1914), the city played a large role in the world of trade routes between Pacific and Atlantic oceans, serving as a major stopover for ships from all around the globe. As a result of that, Valparaíso still thrives on its intercultural richness and vibrant history to this day.

The city is also known to be a cultural capital of Chile. Historically it has been a home to many famous Chilean poets and artists, including the Nobel Price Laureates Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda but Valparaíso still attracts the free-spirit creative souls even today. The steep hills the city is built on, furthermore add another special ingredient to the overall bohemian character of the place.

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Colours and a hint of grittiness @ Valparaíso

Valparaíso’s Street Art

Visually, the most dominant element of that bohemian character appears to be the street art here. It will hit you right in the face, because it’s literally everywhere. I specifically liked, that in Valparaíso, the passion and love for arts seem to be more important than the art making skills because the levels of how these art pieces are executed vary a lot.

In other words, it feels rather unpretentious IMHO. I believe that in Valparaíso‘s street art there is no space for discrimination, there are no borders, no limits, giving a chance to all sorts of works: masterpieces, classics, kitsch made with love, work of wannabe artists, and so on.

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street art and colours of Valparaíso

FYI, I’ve posted just a random selection of pictures here but the whole town is pretty much one huge street art gallery. Except the outdoors, there are also numerous indoor art galleries, various studios and so on. One can also enjoy the musicians playing on the streets or hear them practicing an instrument from all directions – as I said above – you’re literally surrounded by that creative bohemian spirit. Basically, Valpa feels good if one’s into arts 🙂

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Valparaíso

The teenage you

It’s actually that kind of place which makes some people to be confronted with their own teen rebelian-themselves in a form of a mild headfuck. You know, the moment when you were dreaming of picking an art course but your parents or something else made you to go for business management instead.

And here, when you sip your wine in a stylish café, the thoughts of that hypothetical life you would have lived – how things could be different if you have committed to follow your dreams back then – just pop in, this time only to make the present practical you to realise about the importance of remembering our own dreams.

Safety

The locals are very friendly in the tourist areas of the town. I’m however told not to wonder too far as it might be a dangerous activity in certain parts of town. Be aware. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción are the two bohemian and tourist friendly hills but this is something you’ll read about in every brochure.

How to get there?

To get to Valparaíso from Santiago – head to Pajaritos Metro station, which is also a bus terminal towards Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. There are various bus companies running this journey. I paid 3200,-CLP (4.20) for mine. The journey is pleasant and it takes about 90 minutes.

From Valparaíso bus terminal, try to take a public transport for 300,-CLP (ask the people, they will help you), unless you fancy supporting a taxi driver who will rip you off and charge you 8200,-CLP (€10.70) for taking you few miles up to Cerro Alegre, as it happened to me.

Sleep

I’ve stayed in an Airbnb place called Habitación doble con la mejor vista al mar at Cerro Concepción. I must say that this was one of the best places I’ve stayed in during the whole duration of my 8 months trip. For only $12 a night I had my own fully furnished room with a balcony that proved the name of the place right as it came with one of the best views in the world..

The house is a very old posh place, previously owned by one of the richer Valparaisans with wooden floors and large tiled bathrooms and a great terrace. I mean heavens. The age of the place came with its signs of for example creaking staircase and a bit outdated kitchen but the overall atmosphere as well as the friendliness of the owner Maria and her semi-permanent tenants made me to feel like at home from the first minute onward. I’d go back straight away 😉

What would I do differently now?

I’d stay longer and take more Spanish classes. I’d be more culturally active to enjoy all the perks Valparaíso has to offer. And I’d go there with a girlfriend ‘cos it’s very romantic place.

Study Spanish?

In case you were considering taking some Spanish classes, I can recommend this course. You’ll be blessed to get to know two great people. The course is kind of custom made, adapted to your needs, given that you like Valparaíso and its perks, for instance my teacher was a poet. FYI – I’m not paid or given any advantages to recommend Interactive Spanish Course at all – I just felt improvements in my conversational Spanish (I’ve asked for) + I felt very welcomed.

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Valparaíso

In conclusion

Don’t miss this lovely town if you were ever near by 😉 To be objective, I must say that Valparaíso is not for everyone, one has to be keen on specific kind of vibe. I’m talking about the overall atmosphere of the city that is created by the contrast of certain grittiness and the ever-present bohemian spirit. I guess that you either love it or you hate it.

For those, seeking luxury and sparkling clean modern, resorty sort of places (such as the neighbouring Viña del Mar), this town might appear “dirty, crime-infested slum” as one of the travellers pointed out in a discussion on the infamous blue&white social network. My reply to him was: “I guess that we are two very different kind of people”. So what kind of a person are you?

This site has expired. In case you have enjoyed or you have found some of my articles on Along The Line useful, you can follow its successor https://quaintplanet.com/

About

This site has expired. In case you have enjoyed or you have found some of my articles on Along The Line useful, you can follow its successor https://quaintplanet.com/

This site suppose to be about travelling, life and culture. Content-wise, it’s a set of thoughts, observations and tips about life, travel and culture, served in rather informal way, occasionally spiced with humour, sarcasm and other various herbs 🎛 The goal here is to create and gather a variety of interesting, helpful as well as funny articles, mainly from the perspective of a 30+ years old independent traveller or just a curious reader who likes the way those subjects are presented here.

Why 30 plus? Most of the travel sites I’ve visited appear to be targeting either younger or wealthier audiences and both of these come with different preferences of what one wants, respectively can afford to experience during their time off. Age is however just a number and within the concept of this site, the 30+ number means something like “the middle ground” between those two groups.

In practical terms, it for example means picking a better wine of the menu in the local restaurant or preferring a basic private accomodation as opposed to drinking the cheapest booze, sleeping in dormitories and cooking in the hostels’ kitchens, respectively doing all that in 5 star hotels.

So if you like to explore places as well as various things in life from somewhat unique perspective, as opposed through the limits of various travel agencies, respective from certain restraints of the profit-based media, you might find this site suitable as well as (I hope) interesting source of information.

ℹ FYI, this site will be moving on fringes of a classic backpacker “party hostel” experience because I believe that one doesn’t have to cross 1/2 of the planet to end up having their local pub kind of fun. This is not to judge anyone, neither it is to say that such way of travelling so is bad or boring. On the contrary, I do like my local pub a lot, it’s just when travelling, I prefer getting to know the local culture and other things instead 😉

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Site’s Menu:

🌎 LOCATIONS category will be summing up all the research I had to do for what I was up to in combination with experiencing its results in the actual destinations. I hope that someone will find this section useful for their travels, mainly a first timer could use some info off those texts. I will be happy to provide any additional information about places I’ve been to if you will have any questions.*

LIFE category will be, I hope spicier and funnier as well as more personal because it aims to be about life itself. You know, we all occasionally suffer from observations, interesting ideas and the ‘right here right now’ things in general.

🎬 CULTURE category’s description is rather self-explanatory – but except the articles about culture, music and literature – it will be bringing you links to interesting articles and news from around the known Universe as well as recipes, movie recommendations, etc…

ℹ Please note that I also offer a service to create your own personalized itinerary for your upcoming trip, in case you were a bit of an adventurous person/people without having much time, taste or certain knowledge to do it yourself. We would however have to make sure to be on the same page in order to avoid any misunderstandings 😉 So far everyone was very satisfied with my advises 🙂

Laguna de Las Tres, Argentina

*FYI, this site doesn’t aim to be your alternative guide to one of the major tourist guides. I’d say that it’s more like an additional information about various places you might contemplate to visit. Everyone checks various major guides and while their resources allow them to provide a lot of useful information but they are often written for wide audiences, where the segment you belong to might not be given efficient space.

The wide audience approach of certain major guides furthermore makes them a bit tasteless so you’re often left clueless about the actual vibes the described locations come with. Plus it’s always good to get your information from multiple sources 😉 So this site is here to offer you a slightly different, or let’s say less formal angle describing various locations, in addition to the facts you’ve gathered in your major tourist guide.

🖖🖖🏿

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