Argentine Patagonia Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- It's big Argentine Patagonia comprises three districts: The Lake District, Atlantic Patagonia, and Southern Patagonia. You'll probably only have enough time to visit one or two areas, so plan accordingly.
- Protect the landscape Despite commercial pressures to mine for gold, oil, and other materials, Patagonians advocate wildlife conservation. Be respectful and leave the land just as you found it.
- Lakeside villages draw crowds Increasing popularity has transformed sleepy villages into bustling tourist havens. You'll want to avoid the high season (late-September through February) to avoid the crowds.
This region in the Andes mountains is nothing if not enchanting. Cobalt lakes, azure-tinted glaciers, emerald trees, and turquoise skies stretch as far as the eye can see. In fact, Argentine Patagonia's vistas are so sweeping that Charles Darwin once described the region as "boundless." Visit Argentina's Lake District and you'll discover villages brushing against snowy mountain peaks. Travel east and you'll find whales gliding through Peninsula Valdés' marine wildlife sanctuary. Venture to Southern Patagonia, and you'll stumble upon deserts extending into rugged estancias (cattle-ranges) and melting glaciers. And, if you continue downward to the Chilean border at Cape Horn, you'll come across an expansive horizon reaching out to Antarctica's frosty edge. Patagonia's beauty knows no bounds.
But don't let the frontier's vastness fool you: Argentine Patagonia's rapidly developing infrastructure grants visitors easy access to all major attractions. Rustic roads lead to dramatic natural wonders like Perito Moreno Glacier and Mount Fitz Roy. Look around this beautiful landscape and discover a region buzzing with life. Magellanic penguins and albatross mingle in the Punta Tombo wildlife reserve, while history survives on the walls of the Cave of the Hands.
How To Save Money in Argentine Patagonia
- Book your flights early Avoid paying high airline fees by reserving your flight several months in advance. Flights from the U.S. will most likely route through Buenos Aires or Santiago.
- Visit during the off-season Come during March or April for comfortable weather and lower hotel rates.
- Don't dial Chile Despite Chile's close proximity, the telephone rate from Argentina to Chile is roughly the same as the call rate to the U.S. (about $2 per minute). Travelers should confirm any and all travel arrangements before leaving home.
Argentine Patagonia Culture & Customs
Argentine Patagonia's recent development has spiked the region's popularity with tourists. Still, Argentine Patagonia has a long way to go before it can compete with other South American hot spots like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
Argentine Patagonia houses an eclectic mix of cultures. In the 19th century, British settlers arrived and shared the land with indigenous tribes, like the Tehuelche and the Mapuche. Today, their descendants do the same. Under the Lake District's snowy mountains, quaint towns are pockets of classic and folk music. In Atlantic Patagonia's more urban and Welsh-infused setting, traditional tea time persists as a part of daily life. And in Southern Patagonia, you'll find an assortment of tourists and locals savoring the fresh air, aquamarine lakes, and towering mountains.
Although the official language is Spanish, popular lakeside cities welcome thousands of English-speaking tourists each year. Hotels in these locales can connect American and European visitors with English-speaking guides. Travelers note some local tour guides are difficult to understand, so learn a few Spanish phrases. When it comes time to compensate your guide, the official currency is the Argentine peso (ARS). The peso is weak compared to the U.S. dollar: 1 ARS amounts to approximately $0.25 USD.
Seafood is a staple ingredient in Patagonian cuisine, but not all the food is fishy. Sink your teeth into some parillas (authentic BBQ) and sip some of the delectable wines fermented in Neuquen, a popular province located in Patagonia's Lake District. The cuisine has been influenced by the European palate; tea houses, chocolatiers, and pastry shops thrive here. Patagonians prefer to eat late, so you will find restaurants do not start serving dinner until at least 8 p.m. But most locales will dine closer to 10 p.m. Most restaurants add a small seating fee per person, and as far as tipping goes, 10 percent is considered polite.