Regretfully, Leslie and I left Patagonia on Friday. :(
I had a wonderful time! I thought I would leave some comments below regarding transportation and accommodation, etc. I will add a post on clothing, weather, too.
- Roads / transfers - they are tricky and can be quite long! It is important to check to see if your hotel(s) will pick you up / drop you off and at what locations! Flights are also irregular, airlines seem to reverse their schedules (i.e. one day it may be Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, El Calafate, Buenos Aires and the next day they will reverse the route.
- Airlines - the main airline carriers are LAN and Areolineas Argentinas but there are also some smaller airlines like Sky (that seems to have some flights into Puerto Natales during the summer) and Austral. Other regional airlines that fly elsewhere in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are Pluna, Andes, Aerosur, Sol (depending on where you might want to go!)
- HOT NEWS! - we heard that there is a new road being considered that will link El Calafate (Argentina) to Torres del Paine National Park (Chile) and that drive will only be about 1.5 hours, today it takes about 5 hours to get from the park / Puerto Natales to El Calafate. Also, there is a flight from Punta Arenas to El Calafate in the works. This will make planning options much easier but who know when it will all actually happen. The road could be as far out as five years from now.
Hotels / cruise:
- Cruceros Australis - this is the cruise line we took from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas which we enjoyed a lot and thought it was a fabulous way to get from “point A to B”. They also offer a reverse trip and seem to be adding more options for 2012.
- Explora - wonderful! The hotel is right in the Torres del Paine National Park and is worth the money. We really enjoyed staying at all three properties over the last three years (Patagonia 4 nights, Atacama 4 nights, Easter Island 5 nights). If possible, I might have opted to stay a but longer in Patagonia just to enjoy the scenery and lay in at least one morning! The weather was tricky here so it would have been nice to wake up on a bad day and say ‘nope, let’s do it tomorrow’! It is worth the money to pay extra for one of the Cordillera Paine rooms. The view is unbelievable!!! See attached photos.
- Remota - in a do-over, I may have skipped this hotel in favor of more nights at Explora, only because the setting and convenience of staying at Explora is incredible! Remota is less expensive per night, though, and gave us time to see Puerto Natales, learn about the Milodón (sloth) and visit the museum.
- Ushuaia - it is small so you can do the town in an afternoon. It is full of shops selling hiking gear, etc., in case you forgot something! There are also a lot of excursion options available to go horseback riding, visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park, etc. You could fill a couple of days. Population about 60,000.
- Punta Arenas - there is not much going on here at all! You can do a trip to the Magdalena Island to see the Magellanic Penguins, though! Population about 160,000.
- Puerto Natales - nice little town, if you stay in a hotel in town you can do excursions around the area or into Torres del Paine National Park. I would opt to stay in the park, though. Population about 18,000.
- El Calafate - totally geared towards tourists and full of shops selling gear. It is a nice town, though, and there are all sorts of excursion options for seeing glaciers and visiting Los Glaciers National Park. You could fill a few days. Population about 18,000
- On average, the cost of hotel laundry services was about $1 for a pair of socks or underwear and a pair of pants or pajamas/nightgown was about $7. I always hand washed my T-shirts, but assume they fell in the middle of the above prices.