Exploring Argentina in Two Weeks

Last month, Kevin and I went on an adventure of a lifetime exploring as much of Argentina as we could (within reason) in two weeks! The lofty goal we made on our honeymoon in Thailand almost 4 years ago (wow!) was that we would try to go on a big, international adventure every other year, so we kind of viewed this trip as our second honeymoon! Our list of places we want to visit is extremely long… & if you’re wondering why we decided on Argentina like a lot of our family and friends were, here ya go! Kevin is currently in grad school part time getting his MBA, so the first factor for scheduling a two-week vacation was coordinating with his school schedule. This left either summer break (my busy season) or winter. While we do love to snowboard, going somewhere sunny and warm was definitely appealing. Summer in the southern hemisphere for the win! Some of the main things we consider when choosing a country to visit is food, culture, and natural beauty. Argentina checked ALL of those boxes. We started day dreaming about sipping Malbec in wine country, hiking mountains in Patagonia, and exploring the sights in Buenos Aires, and hit “buy” on two round trip plane tickets from Seattle.

Planning trips is definitely part of the fun for me, so I bought the trusty Lonely Planet guide for Argentina back in March. PS – we’ve relied on Lonely Planet for several vacations now and I can’t reccommend them enough – they are GOLD. I didn’t seriously start planning for several months, but looking at that beautiful little book full of city & activity recommendations sitting on our coffee table made me giddy with excitement. I post-it noted, highlighted and dog-eared page after page. I don’t know why it never occurred to me how giant of a country Argentina was! (8th largest in the world to be exact!) Two weeks hardly seemed like enough to even scratch the surface, but alas, we do have jobs, a puppy & finances to consider! To my planner-brain dismay, scheduling, booking and coordinating got put on hold when we found out (just a few weeks in advance!) that Kevin would be going to Vietnam for work just less than a month before our scheduled departure. I was thrilled that I was going to be able to join him though, bought my next Lonely Planet guide for Vietnam, and quickly planned some extra activities and restaurants for us to try while we were there. We had a blast exploring another corner of Southeast Asia (with a quick pit-stop in Tokyo) & then quickly geared up for Argentina after we got home.

An original goal of mine had been to camp while we were traveling through Argentina, however, time got the best of us in preparation & we decided to go the hostel route instead (still carrying only our backpacks & hiking daypacks for luggage). We stayed at some seriously amazing hostels so I’ve included them in this recap as well! Kevin’s and my favorite highlight of the trip was our last hike in El Chaltén, Patagonia, to Laguna de los Tres & Fitz Roy. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen, and the difficult summit & clearing clouds made it that much better. We rarely daydream about going back to places we’ve already been (we’re definitely still on a mission to cross more countries off our list) but Kevin & I already want to go back to this magical place! So enjoy some photos from our adventure, lots of shots of me in my puffer coat & beanie, and hopefully this inspires you to visit Argentina as well!

We arrived in Buenos Aires early on the morning of December 11th at out first awesome hostel, Chill House. It had an amazing rooftop patio where we drank a little vino before dinner each night. Every Monday there is a live, outdoor percussion performance called La Bomba de Tiempo that was just a blast – we loved dancing along next to the locals and enjoying some fun music! Tuesday was our only full day in Buenos Aires so we visited the iconic Recoleta Cemetery (including Evita Peron’s!), walked to the Japanese Garden, and then wrapped up with a fantastic steak dinner (Parilla Peña). We half considered staying up all night to catch out 4:30am flight to Mendoza, but snagged a quick nap and then headed to the airport.

I seriously loved this rooftop! – Also, this Show Me Your Mumu dress was perfect for hot summer nights in Argentina (and didn’t wrinkle stuffed in my backpack!)! 

Dulce de Leche ice cream all day ‘er day, please! 

Next stop: Mendoza! Wine Country. *Praise hands!* We caught the city bus to Maipú to rent bicycles and tour some wineries. It was an adventure getting to the bike rental shop (Mr. Hugo’s) and to the subsequent wineries (it wasn’t quite as glamorous as I thought it would be haha) but once we arrived, the vineyards were beautiful and the wine was delicious! The wineries had views of the Andes mountains, empanadas for snacking, and I learned a good bit about wine tasting, and Malbecs especially! Here’s a recap of the spots we hit:

Bodega Domiciano, Tempus Alba, Bodega Mevi, Familia de Tomasso, and a brewery for good measure.

Another adventure we had in Mendoza which we unfortunately don’t have any photos of was white water rafting on the Mendoza River & hiking to a waterfall which we got to rappel down! It was definitely a bonding experience for Kevin & me!

Our favorite meal in Mendoza was at El Palenque – the food was incredible and they served the house wine in little penguin pitchers (“pingüinos”) – pictured later in this post. I ended up buying a pingüino from El Palenque as our only souvenir from Argentina which we have lovingly named Tinto (red wine)!

Next stop: El Calafate! El Calafate is the closest airport to El Chaltén, so when I was first planning it was almost a means to an end, but I am so glad we ended up staying an entire day there! Not to mention, our hostel, America Del Sur Calafate, was probably one of our favorite hostels we stayed in the entire trip. The common area had huge windows that looked out over the city, mountains and lake. It was always lively with music and other travelers, and had a great breakfast included! (Pictured below next to Kevin with the pengüino!) The “thing to do” in El Calafate is visit Perito Moreno glacier. There are tons of tour options, but I selected one that included a boat ride to the face of the glacier and a few hours at the visitor center’s extensive walking trails. It was about an hour or so drive from our hostel to the national park, all the while our fantastic tour guide told us all about the region and the history of the glacier. Fun Facts: Glacial ice is 6x stronger than freezer ice cubes; Perito Moreno is the 3rd biggest glacier in Patagonia, but the easiest accessibility; it is a stable glacier meaning it grows & melts at the same rate!

It was CRAZY windy, and cold (as you can imagine) on the 1 hr boat tour – holding onto my hat & taking photos was definitely a challenge! The sun also kept coming in and out from behind the clouds making shooting on manual a little crazy. The ice was blinding but beautiful! Talk about adventure photography!

Next we were able to view the other face of the glacier – it cuts Lago Argentino in half – from the walkways at the visitor center. We finished off the tour with some scotch over a chunk of glacial ice, because, why not?

I couldn’t get over these crazy beautiful colors!!! The water is “milky” from the sediment in the surrounding soil that it picks up as glaciers advance and recede over time. Also, can anyone say, Game of Thrones? Hello giant wall of ice!

Above: Scotch over glacial ice

Left: The view from America Del Sur Calafate, Right: Kevin & our beloved pengüino!

Favorite meal in El Calafate was hands down, lamb ravioli at La Zaina!

Finally, we took the 3 hour bus ride to El Chaltén, ready to get our hike on. The bus stopped at the park ranger station on the way in to tell us about the trails, how to take care of the land and the weather conditions. Luckily we had 3 full days in El Chaltén, so we were able to hold off on the Laguna de los Tres hike for the best weather on the last day.

Day 1 Hike: Laguna Torre – 9km 1 way, 200m elevation, approximately 9 hours round trip. Go ahead and click here to see Cerro Torre – the mountain technically behind Kevin’s head here haha – it was a little foggy, but the hike was still incredible and it was pretty cool to eat our lunch next to an iceberg!!

We took our second day in El Chaltén to rest up, explore the tiny town and read in bed. The weather was pretty tumultuous, dumping rain, howling wind, but what better reason do you need to post up with a beer & a bowl of locro stew at La Cerveceria? This was one of my favorite meals in Argentina & I can’t wait to find a recipe to try and make it at home!

Day 3 Hike: Laguna de los Tres. The big kahuna. 10km 1 way, 700 meters elevation, approximately 10 hours round trip (although we ended up spending 2 hours at the summit watching the clouds lift off the mountains!) The reason this hike was pretty challenging was in the last kilometer, you gain 400 meteter in elevation. Basically we were like goats scaling the face of the mountain. It took us nearly an hour to make the last stretch of the hike, but boy was it worth it! As you can tell in my photos, it was still pretty cloudy when we arrive at the top, but slowly the mountains peered out from behind the clouds just enough for us to fully embrace their epic-ness! Kevin and I were both blown away. Hiking back down we realized that the mountains had been hiding from us the entire hike and we kept turning around to take more pictures. They were out in full face as we bussed away from El Chaltén the next morning, but that’s just how it goes some times! It was truly breathtaking (literally and figuratively). 

Reluctantly we headed back to Buenos Aires to start our journey home. We had one more activity planned for our last night in Argentina, a dinner & tango show, which was the perfect cap to an incredible vacation. We also visited La Boca and saw the brightly colored buildings, dancers in the street & more delicious empanadas. Argentina – you are an intensely beautiful, varied, country, full of amazing food, drink & lively people. Thank you for this wonderful experience – we can’t wait to plan our next adventure together! What’s on your travel list? I’d love to hear! xx

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