Estancia Cristina Lodge, El Calafate

The Estancia Cristina Lodge is a historical farm situated on the northern shore of Lake Argentino in Argentine Patagonia and can only be reached by boat from El Calafate.

This is one of the many El Calafate lodging options available but the advantage is that you are well off-the-beaten-track in pristine nature.

 

Setting

The setting is stunning on the lake shore surrounded by glacial peaks. Here you are away from it all surrounded by the majestic Patagonian scenery and immersed in the history of this remote location.

 

Facilities and package

It has 5 cottages which comprise of a lounge and 4 en-suite bedrooms with stunning panoramic views. The “Octagon” is an exclusive facility for overnight guests which comprises a bar, restaurant and lounge.

Overnight stays include full board, a choice of activities chosen from an extensive menu of horseback rides, 4×4 vehicle excursions and guided hikes.



Trip Highlights

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  • Remote and off the beaten track

  • Sailing on Lake Argentino amongst the ice floes

  • Incredible views of the Upsala Glacier

  • Learn in situ about the incredible history of the European settlers in Patagonia

  • Hike the stunning fossil canyon

  • Different hiking trails with stunning views away from the crowds

  • Options for horse riding and fly fishing in remote nature

Stunning place, beautiful setting, fabulous activities, wonderful all round!

A. Lyall, 2019

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Full Itinerary

Day 1: Transfer to Punta Bandera, sail Lake Argentino, afternoon activity, overnight Estancia Cristina. (L,D)

You will be picked up at your hotel in the morning for the 45 minute shared transfer to the pier at Punta Bandera on the shore of Lake Argentino.

Board your boat and set off on a 3 hour sailing adventure on the lake. This journey takes you into the northern arm of Lake Argentino sailing amongst the enormous and stunning ice floes which have broken off the Upsala Glacier. Views of the Upsala Glacier in the distance cap the experience.

Finally dock at the pier at Estancia Cristina. Walk around 100m to the Octagon, check in and settle in to your comfortable room admiring the view.

Depending on the sailing time you may have had a packed lunch on the boat, otherwise lunch is on arrival.

Dinner at night in the Octagon.

 

Day 2: Choice of activities, overnight Estancia Cristina. (B,L,D)

After breakfast head off for your chosen activities.

Options are
 Ice Field Viewpoint (hike)
 Upsala Viewpoint (horse ride or hike)
 Cristina Viewpoint (horse ride or trek)
 Mount Carnero (hike)
 Laguna de la Pesca (horse ride or hike)
 Cascada de los Perros Waterfall (horse ride)
 Self-guided tours on foot or mountain-bike.
 Upsala Viewpoint & Cañadón de los Fósiles (4×4 drive plus 14km trek)
 Upsala Viewpoint (4×4 vehicle)
 Cascada de los Perros Waterfall (hike)
 Historical Tour (walk)

Details can be found in the information snippet titled”Excursions from Estancia Crsitina”.

 

The estancia also has some self-guided trails that are available as well as a museum which relates the fascinating history of Estancia Cristina. A summary of the history can be found in the information snippet “History of the Estancia Cristina”.

Lunch may be a packed lunch on your excursion.

Dinner is served in the Octagon.

 

Day 3: Choice of activity, sail Lake Argentino to Punta Bandera, transfer to hotel in El Calafate. (B,L)

There is time for an activity before leaving. This can be tailored depending on your departure sailing time which may be 1500 or 1700. Lunch is included.

The sailing time to Punta Bandera will be around two hours.

There is a shared transfer for the 45 minute drive to your hotel in El Calafate.


Prices From $1,200 / £960 per person

Enquire about booking

What's Included?

Shared transfers between El Calafate and Punta Bandera, sailing from Punta Bandera across Lake Argentino, up the Upsala and Cristina Channels to Estancia Cristina, full board, non alcoholic drinks, accommodation with en suite,  shared small group activities at the estancia with bilingual Spanish – English speaking guides, Los Glaciares National Park entrance fee, Wi-Fi access in the Octagon,  generator-powered electricity, which is turned off at night to conserve energy.

What's Not Included?

Alcoholic beverages, laundry service, tips, fishing permits, satellite phone calls and fly fishing equipment.


Accommodation

The estancia has 20 rooms distributed in 5 cabins – each one with 4 rooms, same category- with stunning views of Mt Norte, Pfifter and Moyano and its hanging glaciers.
Cabins are located 50 metres (maximum)  from the main building (‘Octógono’), where breakfast, lunch and dinner services are exclusively offered to guests.
Wi-Fi service is available in the Octogono area.
Electricity is provided by a power generator that is turned off at night.

Tour Staff

The estancia staff are all enthusiastic and experienced personnel.

The horse riding guides are expert riders and the hiking guides know the terrain like the back of their hands.

All have an in-depth knowledge of the area and a love for the great Patagonian outdoors.


Meals

All meals are included as well as non alcoholic drinks.

Breakfast is an abundant buffet with choices of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, breads as well as cooked breakfast options.

If on a full day excursion, in the morning before setting out, you prepare your own tailor made packed lunch. There is a wide variety of salad items, plus cold cuts, breads, fruit and biscuits. You won’t go hungry and you will be impressed by the variety and quality on offer.

Those lunching at the estancia have a set menu with a choice of starter, main and dessert served in the Octagon.

Dinner is a fixed menu with choices of starter, main and dessert served in the Octagon.

Special meal requirements can also be catered for.

Activity Level

As you choose which activities you would like to do the level is tailored to your needs.

Practical Information

Excursions from Estancia Cristina

 

4X4 VEHICLE

 

Mirador Upsala Viewpoint

Duration: 4 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Low

Set off from the Octagon by 4×4 vehicle for a 9.5 Km drive to the Upsala Glacier viewpoint. En route you will be able to appreciate a variety of Patagonian Flora:  bush vegetation, ñires and lengas nothofagus as well as landmarks such as the base of the Continental Ice Institute and the “lengas cemetery”.  En route a stop is made at a viewpoint with a magnificent view of Laguna Anita, Mount Norte and the valley which surrounds the estancia.

Head off on foot for a short 20 minute hike to the view point , passing en route the Upsala Refuge which is the base camp for  expeditions venturing onto the ice zone.

From the Upsala viewpoint you will be able to appreciate the immensity of the glacier and its eastern wall, its tributary glaciers, Lake Guillermo, Mounts Cono and Murallón, and the Southern Patagonian Continental Ice Field. Also keep you eyes peeled in order to spot Condors.

Head back along the same route.

 

HIKING

 

Waterfall Cascada de Los Perros

Duration: 2.5 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Low

This can be done guided or also on a self-guided basis.

We leave the estancia, crossing the Caterina River with its waterwheel, heading  north-east.

The trail is a gentle climb through forests of ñires and lengas nothofagus.

From the first view point you will appreciate a view of the valley from Lake Argentino to Lake Pearson. Continue walking uphill until reaching Río de los Perros waterfall.

Tale your time to enjoy the location and then head back the same way.

 

Laguna de la Pesca (fish pond)

Duration: 3 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Low

Set off from the lodge heading north into the valley of the Caterina River. This hike will let you appreciate the flora and fauna of the region.  With luck you will spot birds such as the Upland and Ashy-headed Goose, Black-necked Swan, Coscoroba Swan, and Spectacled Duck, amongst others.

The final destination is the Laguna de La Pesca where the founding family grew rainbow trout for their personal consumption. It was also a recreational site for the family and the estancia workers. Time to enjoy the site before heading back.

 

Mount Carnero

Duration: 4.5 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Medium

Head  off south-east along an old cattle trail. The route is a gradual ascent, with lake views and as you get higher, the panoramic view of Cristina channel, the estancia main premises and the valley will increase.

After traversing a forest of ñires, lengas, and waterfalls from the de-icing we will reach the final destination, Mount Carnero.

From here the immensity of the valley, the magnificent view of the Southern Andean mountain range and of the glaciers descending from these mountains can be enjoyed. Also in the distance views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the Mariano Moreno mountain chain.

 

Ice Field viewpoint

Duration: 3.5 hours (one way)

Level of  difficulty:  Medium to high as there is a steep slope for the last 40 minutes.

Set off in a 4WD ascending northwest along the Feruglio mountain range up to Mount de los Loros from where the hike will start. This hike leads us to a panoramic spot from where there will be views of the Upsala Glacier and Lake Guillermo. Here visitors can feel the strong Patagonian winds, a unique and unforgettable experience. There are also views of Mounts Bertrand, Cono and Murallón as well as part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

After a break for lunch, head back along a different trail, on a descending slope, traversing the

Pampa de los Potros until we reach the estancia main premises.

 

Cañadón de los Fósiles

Duration: 5 hours (included 4×4)

Level of  difficulty:  Medium to high.

Minimum age: 12 years old.

Set off by vehicle on the for the 9.5 Km drive and 20 minute walk to the Upsala Glacier viewpoint.

From this point, start a 14 Km trek. Head into the Cañadón de los Fósiles, an area where a great concentration of marine fossils of unique features can be observed.

The Upsala Glacier once covered this terrain which is reflected in the yellow, black, orange and red coloured moraines.

The trek is along a continuously descending trails which levels out as it leaves the gorge and opens up into the valley. Continue walking in the valley to the estancia.

 

 

HORSE RIDING

 

Waterfall Cascada de Los Perros

Duration: 2 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Low

This is a short ride heading east into the Valley. The trail is a gradual uphill through forests of ñires and lengas nothofagus. The ride also takes us across loose rock terrain.

The Río de los Perros waterfall, is a simple but beautiful waterfall of glacial de-icing from where we can see Lake Anita, the Hanging Glaciers, the Valley and the Estancia Cristina main premises.

 

Cristina Viewpoint

Duration: 5 to 7 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Medium – experience required

For this ride, in particular, it is necessary to have some experience in order to control the horse and your balance. Our gaucho-guide will be the one to decide, according to the experience of each guest, whether they can carry out this activity or not.

The ride heads north-east across the valley of the Caterina River. We will encounter some obstacles along the trail and ride over a loose rock terrain.

Stop to enjoy the Río de los Perros waterfall from where there is a panoramic view of the estancia in the valley and Lake Pearson.

Continue ascending the hillside of Mount Mesón to finally reach Cristina Viewpoint where we will enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of the adjoining mountains, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the Upsala Glacier.

  

Laguna de la Pesca (fish pond)

Duration: 2.5 hours

Level of  difficulty:  Low

Ride heading north. We go deep into the valley of the Caterina River –a tour that enables us to enjoy the flora and fauna of the region.

This is an ideal activity for bird lovers since the should sightings of specimens such as the Upland and Ashy-headed Goose, Black-necked Swan, Coscoroba Swan,and Spectacled Duck. This activity is also ideal to get acquainted with horse-back riding and also with the horse.

The final destination is the Laguna de La Pesca where the founding family grew rainbow trout for their personal consumption. It was also a recreational site for the family and the estancia labourers. Time to enjoy the site before heading back to the estancia

 

TAILORED

Options for more demanding hikes or horse rides can be looked into. This will have an additional cost.

History of Estancia Cristina

 

History – Introduction

Estancia Cristina was founded in 1914 by Joseph Percival Masters, an Englishman who came to Patagonia with his wife in 1900. Having heard marvels about the Patagonian lands of Southern Argentina and searching for a promising future, he decided to embark with his wife towards Buenos Aires. They later travelled to Río Gallegos, where he worked in a farm to save some money and begin his dream.

 

From Employee to Landowner

In 1905 Percival Masters, left his work at Estancia El Cóndor and, along with his family, headed for the Lake Argentino area to obtain the assignment of land rights in order to have his own estancia.

They reached Lake Argentino after a long and difficult journey through the deserted plateaus across the Province of Santa Cruz. Also at that time, the main wool dealers of the region started to expand from the coast to the mountain range due the demand for wool from all over the world.

Percival decided to go to that fertile valley described by Pritchard in from a Daily Express expedition, which was located in the north-western area of Lake Argentino. Percival reached the valley of the Caterina River on board a lifeboat that he had found abandoned at the Atlantic coastline and which he carried on a cart pulled by oxen.

The family was fascinated by such beautiful place, but most of all because this valley offered good pastures for the sheep.

Due to the distant location, no authority or wool dealer would prevent the Masters from settling down there.

Once they made the decision to live in the valley of the Caterina River, Percival began to gather and keep all kinds of provisions inside a small shed in Punta Bandera. Later on, they went to Boca del Diablo with a few sheep and horses, to get ready for the final part of the journey. Jessie, Herbert and Cristina, along with some pieces of furniture, travelled to their future estancia by boat. Percival, on the other hand, travelled by land with one hundred sheep and dozens of cows and horses, enduring a difficult herding across the mountains of the pre-Andean region.

In 1914 the Masters family acquired the valley by means of a land occupancy permit. And so the Masters’ estancia became a reality.

The first year they lived in shelter tents. They wired the pasture land, planted poplar trees and designed gardens and orchards. Finally, they built a precarious house made of mud and stone which they gradually improved and enlarged. Little by little, the hard work paid off. And after some time, the family acquired the Herminita peninsula, expanding the estancia to 22,000 hectares where they raised 12,000 sheep and dozens of cows and horses.

Later on, Fred Masters, Percival’s brother settled down in the estancia with his wife Sidney. The Masters brothers built the waterwheel and a system of irrigation channels to water the garden and the orchard. Also they made some remarkable carpentry works. Sidney became the school teacher for Herbert and Cristina. However when at the end of the 1950s Fred died, Sidney returned to England.

 

A tragedy

In 1924, Cristina, who was only twenty years old, died of pneumonia. From that moment, the estancia was named “Cristina”.

 

The National Park and The Masters

Los Glaciares National Park was created in 1937 and the valley where the Masters lived was included within its limits. Until then, the Masters had a precarious occupancy permit granted by the government of Santa Cruz. According to the law in force at that time, the ownership of this land could be obtained after twenty years had elapsed from the granting of the permit.

However, before this term had been completed, the national park was created, and this fact meant they had to give up their ownership title. Then, the park granted them another precarious occupancy permit which could only be passed from parents to children and it expired upon the death of the last inheritor.

 

Don Alberto

Herbert , known by the gauchos as “Don Alberto”, was a good administrator, a crafted carpenter and also an excellent photographer and explorer of that region.

He was sent to Buenos Aires to complete his high-school education at Saint George’s College. Upon graduation, he went back to the estancia to help his parents.

In the 1940s, he became a radio operator. From Estancia Cristina he communicated with hundreds of other radio operators around the world: the Prince of Jordan, the Prince of the United Arab Emirates, American military officers stationed in Alaska, etc.

 

The CRISTINA

Due to the distant location of the estancia, the family had been always in need of a boat to transport the wool they sheared every year to Punta Bandera.

At the beginning, the family moved around on board an old boat found on the Atlantic coastline, which they repaired and took to Lake Argentino. Later on, they bought a steamboat named “Cesar”. In the 1950s a sudden storm jeopardized the lives of the crew, who were forced to get rid of the wool to save their lives. In view of this fact, Herbert and his foreman Mansilla, based on the drawings of a boat they found in the famous American magazine “Popular Mechanics”, built a boat which they named “Cristina” in honour of his sister. This boat was entirely handmade at the estancia, and all the wood they used had been cut by axe and saw. They brought the big logs from Herminita, where they chopped down the trees and prepared the rafts. They brought the rafts across the lake up to the estancia and on the shore they worked on them. The engine was imported from the United States and it took several years to arrive.

The Cristina used to take 4 hours from the estancia to Punta Bandera. Once there, the wool had to be transported by land to the Atlantic ports in order to be sold. At the beginning of the Twentieth Century this transportation was made on carts pulled by horses. More recently, the trucks have replaced the carts.

At the end of the 1980s, the engine broke down. The boat was left stranded at Cristina Bay, where it still remains.

In 1961 the main house burnt down and a new house was built on the site. This new house was built with cement and bricks and had a more modern style. During the interior restoration, the workers found the remains of the first house as they encountered walls made of stone instead of brick. At the estancia there were two more houses, a little one for the foreman and his family and another with bedrooms and a kitchen for the estancia’s personnel. Both houses had been built with wood. The posts were built with sheet metal and timber.

 

Janet, the last Heiress

Janet Herminston was born in Scotland. She arrived at the estancia in 1966 as a lady-in-waiting for Jessie.

Janet had come to Patagonia with her parents in the 1910s, when she was a little girl. After spending a short time in Punta Arenas, the family moved to an estancia near Rio Grande, in Tierra del Fuego. There they lived until 1950, when her father died. That same year, Janet got married to Mr. Mc Donald, the foreman of the estancia. After the estancia went bankrupt, Janet, her husband and her mother moved to an estancia in Santa Cruz. In 1960 her husband died in an accident while inspecting a mill. Janet and her mother moved to another estancia, where Janet got a job as lady-in-waiting.

Janet learnt about Estancia Cristina in the mid-sixties through a friend who told her that Jessie was looking for a lady-in-waiting.

When her mother died, Janet decided to try her luck at Estancia Cristina. When Janet saw the estancia for the first time she was charmed by the great beauty and instantly adjusted to the family’s pace and she became the “housekeeper” of the Masters.

In 1976, Jessie died at the age of 96. A year later Percival died at the age of 99.

In 1982 Herbert and Janet got married. They were not in love but simply to keep each other company. A year later, Herbert got sick and his health deteriorated very quickly.

Finally, in 1984 Herbert died at the age of 82. And so, Janet became the last heiress of the Masters family.

 

Estancia Cristina. Scientists, Mountaineers and tourists

Estancia Cristina had been the necessary crossing point for many expeditions going from the Upsala Glacier to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Also, Father De Agostini stopped by, first in 1928, then in 1930-31 when he climbed mounts Mayo and Tormo and traversed the ice field towards the west in an attempt to see the Falcón fiord, and during the summer of 1937-38 when he explored the Upsala Glacier. Several scientists such as have conducted valuable glaciological studies in this area.

 

Introduction to Patagonia

For most people, Patagonia evokes a vast, windblown plateau, jagged mountains and the life of the gauchos.

The steppe that occupies much of southern South America is only one aspect of a magical region, jam-packed with amazing and contrasting landscapes.

Patagonia (latitudes 40°-55°, approximately) embraces a vast portion of southern Chile and Argentina, from the Rio Colorado in the north, to Tierra del Fuego in the south.

For convenience, we have divided the region into three zones: the Lakes District of northern Patagonian, central Patagonia and southern Patagonia.

Geography of Patagonia

Southern Patagonia (latitudes 49° to 55°), encompassing the southern Andes of Chile and Argentina plus Tierra del Fuego, has an altogether more vertical aspect than the rest of Patagonia.

As the continent tapers towards its southern point, the Andes take on new characteristics and offer some truly impressive panoramas.

Much of southern Patagonia is characterized by virgin landscapes where man’s hand has either not been present or, because of the scale of the landscapes, goes almost unnoticed. To the west of the semi-arid Patagonian plateau, mile-high granite spires – e.g. Cerro Torre and Fitzroy in Argentina and the Torres and Cuernos del Paine in Chile – rise abruptly from the Andean foothills, while vast blue glaciers, fringed by southern beech forest, gouge out thevalleys below.

At the heart of these magnificent landscapes lies the South Patagonian Ice Field, an utterly remote icy wilderness spanning hundreds of kilometers, whose glaciers – including the Perito Moreno and Upsala – are tens of kilometres long by severalkilometers wide.

Also characteristic of the southern Patagonian Andes are its turquoise, iceberg-filled lakes. To the west lies the southern portion of the Chilean Archipelago, comprising snow-capped islands and fjords.

Across the Magellan Straits from mainland Patagonia lies Tierra del Fuego which, like the rest of Patagonia, is divided between Argentina and Chile.

The north and east of Tierra del Fuego is flat, but flanking the Beagle Channel in the south, the tail end of the Andes provide very dramatic mountain scenery.

 

The Lake District (latitudes 40° to 45°) or the Araucania, is a region of dramatic conical volcanoes, evergreen, high-canopy forests and, of course, lakes.

It straddles the Chile-Argentine border, and also takes in Chiloe island, in the extreme north of the Chilean Archipelago. This region stretches from Temuco in the north to Chiloe in the south.

 

Central Patagonia (latitudes 45 to 49) is one of South America’s best-kept secrets. The vast wilderness area can be divided in two:

  • The dry band of Andean foothills and wind-blown plateau lying on the Argentine side of the Andes. This remote area is traversed north to south by a gravel highway known as the Ruta Cuarenta (Highway 40).
  • The Chilean portion to the west of the Andean watershed, often referred to as the Careterra Austral (after the little-used gravel highway that crosses it from north to south).

This huge region, embracing the sparsely-inhabited southern Araucaria and Aisén Region, features temperate rainforests, snow-peaks (often extinct volcanoes), lakes and, to the west, the Chilean Archipelago: a labyrinth of fjords and mountain-islands. This, the Chilean portion of central Patagonia, boasts the northernmost of Patagonia’s many giant, sea-level glaciers.

The San Raphael Glacier, probably this region’s most famous landmark, is an immense hanging glacier whose seracs calve into an iceberg-filled lagoon.

 

Find out more about Patagonia with our blog about its wildlife.

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.


ATOL protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Geography of Argentina

Argentina’s neighbours are Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.

The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa.

There is jungle in the extreme northeast while the southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia.

The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Close to Aconcagua lies Mendoza, an area famed for its fine wine production.

The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert.

Most Antarctic cruises embark and disembark in Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, allowing access to the South Pole, South Georgia and also the Falkland Islands.

Introduction to Argentina

Argentina is a land of contrast.

Nothing states this better than the fact it features the highest point in the South America, Aconcagua, and the lowest, Salinas Chicas, 40m below sea level.

Its vastness – it is the eighth largest country in the world – and diversity are just part of the appeal. A fantastic culture of fine wine and dining sits alongside its adventurous and beautiful landscapes.

The local’s cheery disposition and fantastic word plays add to the enjoyment of being in this fascinating country.

The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.

There are distinct regions of Argentina, from the Andean culture of the North West to the rancho lifestyle of the plains of Patagonia to the eternally seductive Buenos Aires.

Kit list, Argentina General

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

 

Overview

Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world, and has a myriad of climates from humid tropics to bracingly cold Patagonia.

When planning for these changeable climatic conditions you will encounter across Argentina, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system.

The sun is very strong throughout the country, so good sun cream, a hat and sunglasses are vital. Summer in the north of the country means t-shirts and shorts.

It can also get very cold at night time especially in the mountains. Jumpers, fleeces and warms hats – which you can buy there – are also essential.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Detailed kit list

  • Medium weight parka or a down jacket.
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers. The jacket needs to be water proof and roomy. Side-zip pants are recommended.
  • 2-3 long-sleeve shirts – no cotton
  • 2-3 short-sleeve T-shirts – no cotton
  • 2 pair of hiking trousers- cotton or synthetic material (no jeans)
  • 1 fleece or sweat trousers (for cold evenings)
  • 2 pair hiking shorts
  • Long thermals – synthetic or wool – light to medium weight top & bottoms.
  • 2-3 mid-weight (wool or synthetic) socks.
  • 2-3 liner socks if needed
  • Athletic-type socks, several pairs, city use
  • Hiking boots that are waterproof and well broken-in.
  • Running/tennis shoes or sandals are very comfortable when you are in cities
  • 1 lightweight wool sweater or windproof fleece
  • 1 wool or synthetic warm hat.
  • 1 light sun hat with a wide brim.
  • 1 pair of medium-weight wool or synthetic gloves
  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Sunglasses with UV filter.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx.) & purification tablets.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Insect repellent (just in case)
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other to help pass the time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

 

Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life, especially in big cities.

Food, Argentina

Read our blogs about Buenos Aires’ restaurants and the best food experiences, plus where to eat in Patagonia.

 

Main dishes     

Asado                    Roast cooked on open fire

Parrillada             Mixed grill of roast meat, offal, chorizo (spicy sausage) & morcilla (black pudding)

Churrasco             Thick grilled steak

Bife de chorizo      Rump steak (not to be confused with the chorizo sausage)

Bife de lomo          Fillet steak

Choripan               Chorizo (spicy sausage) in a bread roll

Puchero                 Stew

Carbonada             Onions, tomatoes and minced beef

Bife a caballo         Steak topped with fried egg

Arroz con pollo       Rice, chicken, egg, vegetables and sauce

Puchero de gallina     Chicken, sausage, maize, potatoes and squash cooked together

Empanadas             Excellent pasties which come with a variety of fillings, including beef, chicken, cheese & tuna.

Milanesa de pollo   Chicken escalope (good value)

Milanesa                 Veal escalope (good value)

Ñoquis                     Gnocchi potato dumplings

Locro                       Thick stew of maize, white beans, beef, sausage, pumpkin and herbs

 

Desserts    

Almendrado               Ice cream rolled in crushed almonds

Dulce de zapallo        Pumpkin in syrup (usually eaten with cheese)

Dulce de leche           Very popular soft, pale fudge

Dulce de batata/membrillo        Sweet potato/quince preserve (served with cheese)

Postre Balcarce         Cream and meringue cake

Alfajores                      Very popular maize-flour biscuit sandwich, usually filled with dulce de leche or jam

Media lunas                Croissants served at breakfast. Come in 2 varieties: de grasa (dry) and de Mantequilla (rich & fluffy)

 

Drinks  

Vino                      From cheap & cheerful upwards, Argentine wines are pretty solid

Cerveza                Mainly lager-style beer. In bars, often served with a snack, e.g. peanuts.

 

 

Argentine Patagonia

Argentine Patagonia, the southern half of Argentina, is a remote, wind swept land of plains, mountains, lakes and glaciers.

The main airport is at El Calafate which is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park.

Nearby is the mighty Perito Moreno glacier where you have the opportunity to get up close to the ice on one of the many walkways or on a boat trip.

El Chalten, a  3 1/2 hour drive from Calafate, is the trail head for treks in to the base of Cerro Torre, Fitzroy or for the more intrepid, on to the South Patagonian ice-cap.

Ushuaia, on the Beagle channel, is the southern most city of Argentina. Ushuaia is fascinating for historical interest, is rich in wildlife and is departure port for many Antarctic cruises

Bariloche, Argentina

Bariloche is the jewel in Argentina’s Lake District Crown.

Beautiful mountains, forests and lakes make this area perfect for anyone who likes the outdoors.

You can kayak, bike and hike around the stunning scenery of Nahuel Huapi National park.

Or perhaps hike to amazing viewpoints with panoramas over a geographically stunning area of great beauty.

Bariloche also offers the Cruce Andino Lake Crossing into Chile. The best time to visit the area is October-April.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is Argentina’s elegant capital city.

It is a city of culture, art and music and gateway to the rest of the country, well worth a few days of exploring.

Must sees are the Casa Rosada Government Palace, the Cathedral, La Boca district with its colourful houses and tradition of tango and football.

Also not to be missed are the flea market and streets of the bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo and the Recoleta cemetery where Evita’s tomb is to be found.

After a guided tour by bike or on foot, take the time to sit at one of the many excellent coffee shops and watch the sophisticated Porteños go about their business.

The city has a plethora of good restaurants and is a haven for meat eaters, with plenty of veggie options too.

The night life is buzzing and the district of Palermo will have a meal and bar to suit all pockets and tastes.

El Calafate, Argentina

El Calafate is situated on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, and is your starting point for discovering Argentine Patagonia.

Most trekkers will come through El Calafate en route to Chalten and Fitzroy National Park.

Nearby attractions to El Calafate itself include the Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the few glaciers which is still advancing. There are a series of walkways mean that you can get up close to the 75 m high and 5Km wide glacial wall.

Other glaciers which can be visited are the Upsala glacier and the town has its own Glaciarium – ice museum.

The town offers a wide range of accommodation options and restaurants as well as outdoor shops.

El Chalten, Argentina

El Chalten is the trailhead for the trekking trails into the Glaciares National Park – Fitzroy!

Day treks include the Torre Trail (to Lake Torre), trek to Laguna Los Tres at the base of Mount Fitzroy, and the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado Trek.

The town is also the departure point for expeditions to the Southern Ice Field.

Other options in the area include horseback riding, kayak, mountain bike and glacier treks.

This small settlement has a variety of accommodation options.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

The mighty roar of the water poring over the cliff edges is the soundtrack to this incredible spectacle of nature.

Iguazu Falls is made up of some 275 individual cascades which line the rim of a crescent-shaped cliff about 2.5 miles long.

From here, the waters plummet up to 82m/269ft into the gorge below, in one of the most dramatic settings in Argentina, with the thunderous roaring of Iguazu heard from miles away.

Walk the paths among the different falls and for those with a head for heights take the walkway that leads you into the heart of the Devil’s throat, the biggest, deepest, most impressive fall.

There is the opportunity to take a boat ride at the foot of the falls or to just walk and admire the lush tropical vegetation and wildlife, as well as the scenery.

It is well worth visiting both the Argentine and Brasilian sides of the Falls to really experience and appreciate the true power of these waterfalls.

North West Argentina

North west Argentina is one of those places that is still off the beaten track but when you get there you wonder why.

The main gateway is the city of Salta – famous for its pasties, known locally as empanadas.

Places to visit are Cafayate – famous for its wines and the “Quebrada de Las Cochas” with its incredible rock formations.

North of Salta don’t miss Humahuaca with its multicoloured hills,  Tilcara with its Pukara (pre-Columbian fortress) and the Salinas Grandes salt flat.

Peninsula Valdes, Argentina

The Valdez Peninsula on the northern coast of Argentine Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers.

The Southern Right whale can be spotted from June to December, killer whales from September to April and Magellanic Penguins from September to March.

Sea lions, dolphins, seals as well as guanacos, rheas and armadillos can be found all year round.

There are lots of shells, fossils and natural history on full display in the rocky cliffs.

The gateway airport is at Trelew and the ideal base for exploration is Puerto Madryn.

Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, is Argentina’s southernmost city and is perched on the Beagle Channel.

What was once a remote penal colony is now a bustling port and the gateway to Antarctica.

Ushuaia is historically interesting, Charles Darwin wrote much about it, and it is home to some interesting museums of naval history.

Visitors can take a sailing tour on the wildlife rich Beagle channel, visit a Penguin colony during the season, trek into the mountains behind the city and kayak in the Tierra del Fuego national park.

Cruises set off from here for Antarctica or Punta Arenas in Chile – via Cape Horn.

 

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