We are looking to travel from Santiago de Chile to Buenos Aires combining South Chile and Argentina. We have 2 flights available to take to get us through this trip and we were thinking of flying from Santiago to Balmaceda to cut out the travel time from Santiago and then flying from Ushaia to Buenos Aires...would anyone recommend this?
We have about 2 weeks to do this trip and we want to incorporate El Cafafate and Torres del Paine National Park and anything else you can recommend?
I am not sure about the town of Balmaceda you mention? I realize its south of puerto montt? My advice is make sure there are roads that connect you from Balmaceda to your next destination. I know some maps show all these roads, but trust once you are there, things are much different. So check bus schedules and such. From my limited experience if you take a bus from Santiago you should cross the Andes there, to bariloche. From bariloche you would then have a few choices to go south. The main roads will take you towards the east coast of Argentina and south to port natales, which is where you need to go if you want to go to torres del paine park, or you could make the stop in el calafate first (which makes the most sense). Your other option from Bariloches is ruta 40 south to el calafate. This is a dirt road, some think its a adventure in itself to take. It will be 2 days, 11hrs a day on a bumpy bus ride. And cost wise it will not be cheap, flying from bariloche to el calafate wouldn't cost you much more, and only take an hour to get there. But beware both of these options will require long long bus rides!!, be ready. Once in el calafate , besides taking a day trip to the perito moreno glacier, the town is pretty lame. Sure its nice visually, but basically just a big tourist trap, serving all the pizza and pasta you want....Oddd. My advice from there would be see the glacier, its amazing ! but then take the 4 hour bus ride to el chalten, thats the new up and coming hot spot. Lots of hiking, spectacular views all around, much quieter (still very touristy) but overall a better more relaxing place to be. Plus if you into hiking/camping, its mostly free in el chalten, on almost all their trails, versus torres del paine which will deplete your pocket book very quickly. From el calafate its another 6 or so hour bus ride to port natales (gateway to torre del paine park) This too is a really big tourist town. All about renting gear, and tours into the park. Not sure your hiking plans, but basically the main 2 options are the W, or the circuit. The W will take you 4 nights, unless you push it, you can do it in 3, and the circuit will be 8 or 9 nights. The campgrounds charge you on the "W" and it aint cheap, roughly $10 u.s. per person, NOT tent !! so if theres 2 of you, only send ONE inside to pay, save a few bucks (there are a few free campgrounds on the W trail, but require a bit better planning ). Bring your own food, the food at the Refugio's is outrageous expensive, (example,,$4 u.s. for cup of hot chocolate) If you need more info on hikes, ask, plenty more to share. From port natales its a 4 hour bus to punta arenas, and another 15 hour bus ride to ushuaia (thats 30hrs R/T) Again, unless you have your heart set on making it to the bottom of SA, you may want to rethink that part. Its nice, but in the end, not sure it was worth the time on the bus. And once again, ushuaia is all about the tourist, a big port city, tour cruise ships always in port, lots of european high class tourists trotting around. Another tip, book your bus from port natales to ushuaia, unless you want to stop over in punta arenas, we found out the hard way, natales has more bus time and day departure options than arenas ( we thought since arenas was bigger, more options,, wrong ! haha)
hope that helps?
(FYI, we just got back from 3 months in SA, doing that basic route and more.)
Thank you soo much for all of your advice that was so great. Sounds like we are doing around about the same thing, we are travelling down from Quito to Santiago and then from there we have about 55 days to travel argentina and brazil...if you think some of the south chile and argentina arent worth the bus journeys can you let me know what places you would definately say is totally unbelievable worth it?? Would you think time would be better spent flying south for a few days at the glacier and then up to Buenos Aires and spend the rest of the time visiting north argentina, maybe uruguay and then into brazil? Or take the time travelling down south of Chile and Argentina and then just spend about 2 weeks doing buenos aires and a few cities in brazil? The trouble is we need to use 2 flights as we are booking the LANPASS thingy and to get a cheap flight up to Quito from Santiago (our arrival city for new zealand) we have to book 3 flights, it works out about 700 US dollars each that way. The flight alone to Quito is around 600 US so makes sense to pay a little extra for 2 more flights and ground coverage.
Really interesting in your views on this as I can hear that you are passionate about SA.
We are not really interested in the really tourist towns, i no how much they drove us crazy in other countries, its nice to get a mixture of touristy towns (when in need of pizza) and less touristy towns where you have more of a chance of meeting locals. We also are interested in hikes but probably just one day-ers due to time constrictions...