Walking holiday in Patagonia
Description of Walking holiday in Patagonia
Although this walking holiday in Patagonia takes you into some of Argentina’s most dramatic trekking territory, the itinerary has been designed to suit those who want to experience world class hiking trails but in a less intense way. If you are a weekend hiker rather than a mountaineer then this one is for you.
Spend your first two days in Argentina’s vibrant capital, Buenos Aires, acclimatising and enjoying its cultural and cosmopolitan scene before taking one of three internal flights on this trip to El Calafate in southern Patagonia. This is when you really start to see the mountain wilderness terrain that awaits, as we dip in and out of long distance walking trails in the likes of Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego National Parks. Although our routes are aimed at hikers who prefer a low intensity experience, we do include four nights’ camping along the way, so that you can immerse yourself in the real Patagonia. The rest of your accommodation is in small hotels, such as in El Chaltén gateway to the Fitz Roy massif. And in Ushuaia, sandwiched between the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel, and the gateway to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
On this walking holiday in Patagonia we take in segments of two famous long distance walking trails: The M Trek, so called because its route forms the shape of the letter M around the Fitz Roy Mountains, with spectacular views over glaciers and lagoons. And the Tierra del Fuego Trail, which is less well known but with just stunning scenery not far from the island’s port of Ushuaia where you fly into. This trek takes you along guanaco trails, through ancient forest that has been clinging on to mountain sides for eons, and to some spectacular glaciers. Some of the peaks you see in this park still haven’t been named; it is that far out there. And certainly that far south. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and this is certainly the southernmost national park in Argentina. Not quite the end of the world, but certainly out of this world.
PlanetYour holiday starts in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, a huge, dynamic, city with a tight colonial core, elegant residential suburbs a refurbished port district and several well conserved and refurbished culturally significant art-focussed neighbourhoods. However, this active Patagonia adventure holiday is built around trekking and camping in the far south.
First, you visit the Los Glaciares National Park. The administrative body of this protected wilderness area of outstanding beauty, with its glacier-stubbed cobalt lakes, needle-sharp mountain peaks and wind-buffeted grassy plains, takes management of tourist visits extremely seriously. Los Glaciares National Park was created in 1937, and gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1981. By paying the entrance fee to visit the park you are helping contribute towards the preservation and conservation of this fragile region. Here, you will be spending several nights camping, complying with the park’s advice and regulations. This is rustic camping, there are no fixed amenities. The camp sites are in designated areas at least 50m from a water source. There are no showers, nor is soap or detergent permitted while bathing in rivers. We ensure that all rubbish is taken out of the park.
You will visit the popular Perito Moreno Glacier, where you can get up close to the towering wall of ice. In order to maintain its UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the administration of the Los Glaciares National Park has adopted a programme fulfilling the Restructuring Plan for the Moreno Glacier area, necessitated by the impact of the increase in tourism. This restructuring includes road improvements, planning of visits through a new walkway system and services for visitors such as restaurants and toilets: all instated to enhance the site’s protection and the quality of the visit. While visiting the glacier’s site, you are helping to ensure the continuation of this policy, and your actual visit is guaranteed not to have a negative impact on the location.
Trekking and camping is similarly controlled in the wild hinterland of mountainous Tierra del Fuego, where your hiking routes cover little known and little walked territory: that is part of its appeal. Around the lakes, rivers, meadows and snow-dusted, glacier-riven crags there are frequently no footpaths, you follow trails forged by guanaco or others of the many wild animals which inhabit the park. You will camp at designated sites. Our staff have personally undertaken the trek here, organised by a small local supplier run by two environmentally-conscious qualified mountain guides, and approved their green practices which include giving guests advice on how to dispose of rubbish, not to pollute water supplies or build fires etc.
Our policy is to offer you programmes using shared transfers or public transfers, cutting down on needless emissions. In fact, to minimise waste (and bring you a good-value holiday), where practical we’ve included excursions and transfers on a shared basis – you’ll be taking the public coach service in Patagonia from El Calafate to El Chaltén and back.
The hotels we use on this holiday are all relatively small, mostly constructed in keeping with local architecture traditions. Hotel Kenton Palace in Buenos Aires is air-conditioned “green” so as not to damage the ozone payer, with lighting and LED TV technology providing significant energy savings and environmental protection. The small-and-friendly Sierra Nevada hotel in el Calafate is a two storey, Patagionian- style property in keeping with the ranch-style of buildings in the area around Lago Argentino. Independent Hotel Campanilla in Tierra del Fuego also has a family-run ambiance.
The authorities in el Chaltén, the town which is a base for visits to the Fitz Roy massif, and the Commission for the Environment have introduced a programme, Sello Verde Sostenible el Chaltén, which awards “stamps” to properties and companies which fulfil a series of eco-friendly targets including composting, recycling, the use of low-energy bulbs, recycled materials, advice for guests about water conservation. Where possible, we prioritise using these services.
PeopleAs is the case with all our private journeys, we adopt the services of locally recruited guides and drivers in each location in order to promote local employment. This also ensures that you have face to face contact with people who are intimately familiar with their environment and community, and have a vested interest in protecting it so as to ensure the future of tourism in their region. This will help to put a brake on the current tendency for people to leave their homes to seek work in the large urban centres, which harms the socio-economic viability of the countryside and smaller settlements and puts pressure on the infrastructure of the larger cities.
Where possible, your accommodation is in independent, locally owned and operated properties, where the income filters through to the local community. You are visiting two small towns, El Calafate and El Chaltén, which rely on tourism to survive and maintain their communities. Both are fully conscious of the need to conserve the natural environment, the pristine condition of which is vital to the sustenance of the local economy and socio-economic health of towns and villages. Here, as in Ushuaia, by supporting the local tour companies, shops and eateries you will help ensure that the communities both thrive and are encouraged to continue putting eco-friendly practices in place.