PATAGONIA!! I’ve been so excited to write about our time in Patagonia! There is no place I’ve experienced that is like it. It should be on everyone’s bucket list! Our amazing Patagonia experience was with an organization called Yay God Adventures (check out my post specifically about that here). And for this particular trip Yay God teamed up with Wilderness Travel for an unforgettable journey through a unique part of the world ~ definitely a bucket list trip!
Okay first, let’s back up and talk about just exactly where and what Patagonia is. I will admit I had to look it up when we first started talking about this trip. Patagonia … Where is it? Is it a country? A City? A brand for outdoor clothing and gear??
Patagonia is a region in the southernmost part of South America that covers parts of both Argentina and Chile. We were in Argentina for our adventure.
And yes, the brand Patagonia uses the Cerro Fitz Roy skyline from El Chalten in Patagonia as its logo.
Patagonia is so unique and special in that you will experience so many different landscapes all within one area. From the steppe, which is desert, to mountains and glaciers, trails lined with Lenga trees and Calafate bushes with their berries, a marine fossil canyon, electric blue lakes with icebergs big and small … SO many unforgettable and beautiful sights.
The weather there is just as varied. We were there in February, which is their summertime, but you can experience everything within one day. There were days we went from coats, hats, and gloves to sweating in t-shirts and putting on sunscreen moments later. And the Patagonia wind is no joke!
Our guide, Karen, from Wilderness Travel was absolutely amazing. She taught us so much along the way. One of the many things she was great at was pointing out the local wildlife. We saw guanacos (which look kind of like llamas), grey foxes, flamingos, condors (HUGE birds with a 10 foot wingspan!), and armadillos.
We also learned about the local culture in Argentina. All the people we met were so friendly and personable; it was like once you met someone, you were friends immediately. I was fascinated with their tradition of drinking mate (pronounced ‘mah-tay’) together. Mate is a hot drink (I think it tastes somewhere between a coffee and a tea) that is a huge part of their lifestyle and culture. One person will make their mate, usually in a gourd cup with a metal straw called a bombilla, and then they pass it around to share with whoever they are with.
When we were first told about this part of their culture it was such a shock to us that everyone just drinks from the same straw. Literally, someone passes their cup to you, you take a sip, and pass it back. Then they pass it to the person next to you, that person takes a sip and passes it back again. No big deal to them at all. At first it seems a little … gross, for a lack of a better word … but then it turns into something kind of … beautiful. The closeness and community and sacrifice even … I wonder now if COVID has changed that part of their culture. It makes me sad to think about that because it is such a huge part of who they are and how they live.
El Pilar Hosteria
This was my favorite of the all the places we stayed! Small, cozy, in the middle of nowhere with Mount Fitz Roy right out the front door! … the best food … the best hosts. I loved this place.
Our days while we were here looked like this: breakfast was a wonderful spread set up in the dining room, where you could look out the window and see the sun peeking out behind Fitz, and with a big wood burning stove making it warm and cozy. Then after breakfast they would have stuff out to make a lunch to go in your backpack. We would hike all day, stopping for our lunch somewhere gorgeous along the way. Then when we got back to El Pilar, after we cleaned up and had some special time with our group, we would have a 3 course absolutely divine meal!
Laguna de Los Tres Hike
Our first hike was to Laguna de Los Tres with breathtaking views of Fitz. This was one of the toughest hikes. I remember our guide Lukas telling us before the last section of the hike about how the incline was going to get tougher and there would be chains to grab onto to help. It was a little nerve-wracking, and coming back down you really had to be careful where you placed your feet. But the views were so worth it – nothing like I had ever seen or experienced before. It left a pretty cool feeling of accomplishment as well, thankful that our bodies were able to do that. We also filled up our water bottles from a rushing glacial stream, which was a pretty cool experience.
Laguna Torre Hike
Another great hike was to Laguna Torre, a glacial lake, with views of Cerro Torre along the way. Our guides kept remarking of how great the weather was and how lucky we were to get such good views! They said that sometimes Fitz or Torre will be hidden by clouds for days at a time, but we had clear beautiful views the entire time! The best part about this hike was the glacial lake with all the little ice bergs (bergy bits) floating in it. We not only got to see it and touch the ice, but we also took our hiking boots off and cooled our tired feet in it! Then we had time to relax there while we ate our lunch before hiking back. Truly spectacular.
Another beautiful, cozy place to stay within Glacier National Park. The first night there we had this amazing outdoor dinner – a big long table set up with the view of the lake and mountains but shielded from the wind. So beautiful and perfect. Then, the two in-ground fire pits with roasted lamb, vegetables, and Argentinian provoleta – and of course Argentine Malbec wine. I think it was the most relaxed, carefree, fun night for the whole group.
Lago Azul Hike
I think this was overall my favorite day of the trip! First of all, Helsingfors seemed more secluded so we really didn’t see people other than our group, and it was very peaceful. Also – we got to ride horses! The scenery riding these beautiful animals was just breathtaking. At certain times the wind was CRAZY! The gaucho took us along some pretty skinny paths on high ridges with these thorny bushes as far down the hill you could see … So there were a few panicky moments, but so much fun!
We rode the horses for the first half of the hike, tied them up at some posts within the shade trees, then hiked the rest of the way to Lago Azul. This hike was one of the tougher ones for me with the incline – instead of having rocks to step up on as you get higher, it was more of a just constant incline. But oh the views at the top! My favorite! The bluest water you could imagine with snowcapped mountains surrounding it, a glacier in clear sight as it sprinkled down into the lake. We ate our packed lunch here, took lots of pictures, and just breathed in the beauty and goodness of God.
Calafate is a city in Patagonia, Argentina and was the biggest of the places we stayed, but still not a big city. It is named after the Calafate berry. Patagonia folklore says that if you eat a Calafate berry you will be sure to return again someday. From Calafate we took a bus ride to see the Perito Moreno Glacier, which was just magnificent (I shared more about that here). Josh and I found this amazing restaurant in Calafate that we loved called La Zaina. I had beet gnocchi and Josh had guanaco steak … both very different … both very delicious!
Estancia Cristina was the last place on our journey and was, as everything else had been, truly spectacular. It was remote, only accessible by boat; so we arrived by catamaran, where we got to float by some electric blue glaciers.
The food at Estancia Cristina was not my favorite of all the places, but still plenty of good options. The views from the big windows in the rooms were so amazing! We also got to ride horses here too! This ride was a bit more relaxed than the one at Helsingfors because the wind wasn’t so crazy and it was mostly flat. Crossing a very big stream a couple times, with deep enough water we had to hold our feet out, was fun. We also got to ride in groups and trot when we wanted.
A unique area and hiking experience for Cristina was our hike through fossil canyon. We had been seeing and experiencing mountains and glaciers, which we LOVE, but now here we were in this vast canyon with totally new views and colors. The shades of reds and grays in all the rock, as well as different textures, and of course the marine fossils, some of which were really big and perfectly defined – it was all amazing!
This Patagonia trip was the longest trip we’ve done without our kids. We love traveling as a family and hope to go back to Patagonia one day as a whole family. (We did eat the Calafate berries after all, which means we will return!) But this time together as a couple, as well as being with the group from Yay God Adventures, was so good and special. Everything was pretty perfect from the weather to the people, the food, the views. It felt like God had His hands on every detail. I’m beyond thankful we had this opportunity. It still blows my mind how it all came together for us to be able to do this Patagonia bucket list trip.
I’ve used this quote on the blog before, but I just agree with it so much … “Life is too short, the world is too big, and God’s love is too great to live ordinary.” -Christine Caine.