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Author Topic: Patagonia In Late December?  (Read 8508 times)
Mort54
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« on: March 14, 2008, 11:40:47 AM »
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Hi All. I'm thinking of visiting Torres del Paine in late December of this year. I've been there in the February time frame, so I know what that's like, but I haven't been able to find anything about how things are in late December. In particular, is the weather worse in late December than a bit later in the season? Does late Dec correspond to the rainy season?

The places I'm considering staying at are open and have vacancies in that time frame, so that's not an issue. It'll be colder than Feb, but that's also not an issue. But if late Dec is typically very rainy, that would be an issue.

Also, are there any reasons to definitely consider the early spring? For example, guanacos calve in the September timeframe, so I'll be able to see youger calves than I was able to see in my February visit. Anything else like this that would make late Dec a more desirable timeframe?

Any thoughts and feedback would be appreciated.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2008, 12:27:22 PM »
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Hi Mort -

I've only been to Patagonia once, so I don't have thorough statistics or anything, but I can give you my one data point.  I was there at the very beginning of December.  We had about three days of rain out of two weeks in Torres del Paine (Chile) and Los Glaciares (nearby in Argentina).  Some additional days there were clouds drifting around the main peaks, but the majority of the days were relatively clear.  It was very windy many days, but from what I read it's at least that bad in peak summer too.

Lisa
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Mort54
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« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2008, 02:23:10 PM »
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Hi Mort -

I've only been to Patagonia once, so I don't have thorough statistics or anything, but I can give you my one data point.  I was there at the very beginning of December.  We had about three days of rain out of two weeks in Torres del Paine (Chile) and Los Glaciares (nearby in Argentina).  Some additional days there were clouds drifting around the main peaks, but the majority of the days were relatively clear.  It was very windy many days, but from what I read it's at least that bad in peak summer too.

Lisa
Lisa, thanks for the feedback. There are no guarantees on the weather, of course, but your experience is encouraging. Plus I've just talked to someone who's a bit of a regular down there, and he indicates December is actually his favorite time to visit, due to possibly more dramatic weather, and fresher spring colors. So that's two YES votes :-)

I just got back from three weeks there, covering roughly the same ground you covered, with Buenos Aires and Iguazu thrown in for good measure. I loved the trip, and the area, but the one thing I didn't like was that we changed hotels every second night. So it seemed like we were always on the move. For this trip, I'm going to plant myself in one location (Hosteria Pehoe) for a week and do day trips from there.

Loved your website Patagonia images, by the way. I had actually stumbled across your site a few months ago when I was gearing up for my last trip, and it was a big help in helping me get my head around the place.

Regards,
Mort.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 02:23:42 PM by Mort54 » Logged

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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2008, 03:41:23 PM »
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Thanks, Mort!  It's good to know that someone's getting some good out of my web site.  

I tried to stay at Hosteria Pehoe too, but three to four months ahead they were already booked up for our days.  In fact, most everywhere in the park was booked up that far ahead for the whole five days we were there, and we ended up splitting the time between Hosteria Las Torres (fine, but overpriced), and Hotel Rio Serrano (pretty luxurious, equally expensive but better for the price).

Lisa
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btchristensen
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 04:26:49 PM »
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Another early December data point: We did four days in Torres del Paine in early December 2006.  Two days were absolutely perfect, one was overcast (dark) with  scattered showers, and one had steady rain, low clouds, heavy fog, etc., over a large chunk of the park. Those two days were the only rain we had in roughly 16 days in Argentina/Chile.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2008, 11:15:45 PM »
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Thanks, Mort!  It's good to know that someone's getting some good out of my web site.   
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=181517\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Lisa,

Your website is high up on my list of favorites, too. I'll have to check out the Patagonia shots. Our local library just had an exhibit from there, and my wife and I have started toying with the idea of doing that some day.

Eric
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2008, 06:05:10 PM »
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Your website is high up on my list of favorites, too. I'll have to check out the Patagonia shots. Our local library just had an exhibit from there, and my wife and I have started toying with the idea of doing that some day.

Hi, Eric!  The Patagonia shots are currently in the "Click here for new pictures" link, and will be for the next two or three months.  Thanks for the compliment!

My Patagonia trip was one of my all-time favorites.  It was a stunning place, and it was quite fun if you like a somewhat "adventurous" feel to your vacations.    It was a lot of work to plan it, however (getting reservations months ahead of time on another continent in another language, finding a 4WD rental vehicle, etc.)  If you like that sort of vacation, I recommend it highly.

Lisa
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Mort54
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2008, 09:29:45 AM »
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It was a lot of work to plan it, however (getting reservations months ahead of time on another continent in another language, finding a 4WD rental vehicle, etc.)
Lisa, do you remember which company you rented the 4WD from? I was planning on renting an SUV from Budget for my December trip, but I would be interested in any other alternatives. I'm especially interested in any outfit that will also provide an extra spare tire, given how punishing the gravel roads are in many areas.

Regards,
Mort.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2008, 10:17:53 AM »
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Lisa, do you remember which company you rented the 4WD from? I was planning on renting an SUV from Budget for my December trip, but I would be interested in any other alternatives. I'm especially interested in any outfit that will also provide an extra spare tire, given how punishing the gravel roads are in many areas.

Ours was from Budget.  As far as I could find, they were the only major chain with an office in Punta Arenas that rented 4WD SUVs.  It indeed only had one spare tire.  We were traveling with another couple in another rented SUV (because some of us were going separate ways on some days of the trip), and they had a flat tire once during the two weeks.  The spare got them into El Calafate, where it was easy to find a tire patching shop (by asking at our hosteria's front desk there) that charged us less than $10 to patch the flat one.

If your espanol is up to the task, you might try calling the local rental office after you get your reservation and ask if they could put an extra spare in the vehicle (for an extra fee).  They might not, but then again maybe they would.

Lisa
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Philmar
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« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2008, 04:30:03 PM »
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Hi Lisa, Did you have to return the vehicle to Punta Arenas?

I too plan to rent a vehicle and go as far as Chalten. I'd hate to have to double all the way back, if possible. Any suggestions?

Is a 4WD vehicle neccessary for TdP and Fitzroy?
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« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2008, 04:55:28 PM »
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Quote from: Philmar
Hi Lisa, Did you have to return the vehicle to Punta Arenas?

I too plan to rent a vehicle and go as far as Chalten. I'd hate to have to double all the way back, if possible. Any suggestions?

Is a 4WD vehicle neccessary for TdP and Fitzroy?

Hi.

From El Calafate to El Chaltén (Fitz Roy) you don't need 4WD vehicles. Last year (Oct 2007) there was a good amount of unpaved roads, but very well suitable for regular cars. The road is under construction, so it's probably better this year. I like to stay at Cabañas El Puesto Sur while in Chaltén. Talk to the guys over there (info@elpuestosur.com.ar) and ask about the road conditions, they are very friendly.

Now, for Torres del Paine, you'll need a 4WD. It's a long trip and the weather over there is very unpredictable (as well as anywhere around those places). Plan your stay for at least 2 days over there if you want to get a good chance of a clear view of the peaks.

At El Chaltén there are two major trails that you can't miss: Fitz Roy and Laguna de Los Tres. At both locations you can arrange for camping, which is good for sunrise and sunset pictures. They have everything set (tents, etc), you just go there and sleep, very easy and not expensive for someone from Canada. Fitz Roy is harder, but worth it! Focus on these two trails. If you don't have the time, don't go to places like Lago del Desierto. Last year it was closed, but try Glacier Viedna. There's a mini-trekking tour that's really nice and A LOT better than the one at Glacier Perito Moreno in El Calafate (less crowded).

I didn't drive from Calafate to Chaltén, I took the regular bus. Very cheap! There's not much to do with a car in El Chaltén if you're planing on going for the trails.

These guys have free versions of maps for Garmin GPS devices. There's an excellent "Chalten Extremo" map that includes all these tracks:

http://www.proyectomapear.com.ar/

Please let me know what else you want to know about those places!

Luis
« Last Edit: October 23, 2008, 04:58:40 PM by lbalbinot » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2008, 04:56:01 PM »
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I've been several times.

If you are planning on taking photos, and this is your main goal, and you are not interested in hiking, then hire a car in Chile for Torres del Paine, but do not think about taking it over the border to Argentina... it's a costly option and won't save you much time anyway. Fuel is hard to find in between stops.

My recommendations are:

1) Head up to Puerto Natalis from Punta Arenas by bus. Hire a car in Puerto Natalis (It's a few hours outside of Torres del Paine). Drive into Torres via the new southern road - not sign posted but will save you time. You get great views of the entire mountain range from the south part of the park, which no tourist gets to see if they take the bus in.

2) Come back to Puerto Natalis and drop the car off. There is a bus each day to el Calafate. It's a full mornings journey there. Once there, it's easy to hire a new car - just use it for 1 day to get into Perito Moreno for sunrise - the glacier faces east, and no bus takes you there before 10am, so go in by car.

3) Drop the car off, and take another bus up to El Chalten. It's a long journey, not much to see, and the roads are bad. Once in El Chalten, there is no point in having a car because all the views of the mountains require a 3 hour hike in one way. So take your tent, sleeping bag, etc and enough food for three or four days. There are some supermarkets in Chalten, BUT NO BANKS, so take plenty of money.

If you are intending on hiking around Torres, all the scenery is on the northern side of the park, away from the road side, so you won't need a car for this. If you want to get close up pictures of the Torres, then simply get the bus in.

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« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2008, 09:28:45 PM »
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Hi Lisa, Did you have to return the vehicle to Punta Arenas?

I too plan to rent a vehicle and go as far as Chalten. I'd hate to have to double all the way back, if possible. Any suggestions?

Is a 4WD vehicle neccessary for TdP and Fitzroy?

I don't know of any feasible way to avoid doubling back to Punta Arenas.  You can drive yourself or take a bus, your choice, but you'll be spending hours in a wheeled vehicle either way.  (Note that I'm no expert - I've just been there once, and things might conceivably have changed in the meantime.)

The border crossings between Chile & Argentina weren't a big deal.  Just waiting in a number of lines on both sides of the border, filling out all the right forms, all taking something like an hour total.  The one important thing to know about is that if you plan to take your rental car across the border, you need to notify the rental agency in advance and pay an extra fee (I don't recall exact numbers, but something on the order of $50) to have them put together the extra paperwork you'll need to take the car across the border.  Having at least a slight familiarity with the Spanish language helps a lot at the border crossings, or things could get confusing, since I recall that some of the border guards' knowledge of English was no more than rudimentary.

The roads in Argentina between the border and El Chalten were a mix of "recently paved" and "not yet paved" (at least as of a year ago), but the main routes were all OK.  (Just stay off the minor roads, which can be pretty bad.   It helps to do some web research ahead to time to find out more about conditions of various roads.  And have a good map, preferably two different maps, since they aren't as reliable as the ones we're used to around our part of the world.)  Some of the roads in Torres del Paine (I'm especially remembering Lago Grey) were bad enough I wouldn't have wanted to do them in anything but a 4WD.  I'd recommend having a car at Paine; there are great viewpoints and trailheads all over the park, and I believe you'll need a car to get to some of them (unless you opt to stay at a hotel there and take their local tours).  Of course, if you only stay for a day or two you won't run out of things to do wherever you stay, but I strongly recommend staying longer and seeing more of the park (we were there for about five days, and that felt about right).  There's a lot to do there, and, as someone above pointed out, it can sometimes take several days for the clouds to clear enough to get a good view of the mountains.  Get reservations *early* there, too, if you plan to stay at one of the hotels - last year, they filled up very early, and we had to split between two different places despite getting our reservations about three months in advance...

A car is much less necessary in El Chalten.  The town is relatively small, and the main trailheads leave from in or near town.  Still, if you're tired and sore from hiking all day, that car might be much appreciated for getting you that half-mile to dinner at the restaurant across town you wanted to eat at!  (I should point out here that the best views of FitzRoy and the other best mountains are not from town, but from out on the trails.  If you don't want to hike, El Chalten is substantially less interesting.)

Our experience last year was that fuel for your car in Chile was easily available but expensive, while fuel in Argentina was dirt cheap but stations often are short and won't sell you more than a little to get you to the next town (unless something unusual was happening the week we were there, which is always possible).  If that or the border crossings would be a big source of stress for you, then you might be better off with the bus in Argentina.

If you have any other questions I can help with, just let me know.

Lisa
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« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2008, 10:06:55 PM »
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Quote from: lbalbinot
Hi.

From El Calafate to El Chaltén (Fitz Roy) you don't need 4WD vehicles.
Now, for Torres del Paine, you'll need a 4WD. It's a long trip and the weather over there is very unpredictable (as well as anywhere around those places). Plan your stay for at least 2 days over there if you want to get a good chance of a clear view of the peaks.

At El Chaltén there are two major trails that you can't miss: Fitz Roy and Laguna de Los Tres. At both locations you can arrange for camping, which is good for sunrise and sunset pictures. They have everything set (tents, etc), you just go there and sleep, very easy and not expensive for someone from Canada. Fitz Roy is harder, but worth it! Focus on these two trails. If you don't have the time, don't go to places like Lago del Desierto. Last year it was closed, but try Glacier Viedna. There's a mini-trekking tour that's really nice and A LOT better than the one at Glacier Perito Moreno in El Calafate (less crowded).

I didn't drive from Calafate to Chaltén, I took the regular bus. Very cheap! There's not much to do with a car in El Chaltén if you're planing on going for the trails.
Luis
Tudo bem, Luis? Thanks for this invaluable info!!!
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« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2008, 10:23:27 PM »
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Thanks Lisa for your thoughts - excellent insight.

Bruce - your advice is perfect. I was trying so hard to find a way to avoid doubling back such a long distance with a rental car. Your suggestion will save me much time and money - from El Chalten I can fly to Ushuaia and not bother retracing steps. Seriously - thanks!

MY principal goal on this trip (as always) is photography. I'd love to be hiking with a tent but alas I do share a life with my 40+ sedentary girlfriend who will not forgo certain creature comforts while on a vacation. Photography and suffering to get to be in the right spot at the right light is not her passion. I think a night's camping may be possible in El Chalten but she will not go for a 'W' trail type hike in TdP. I fear I'll miss many a spectacular sunset/rise shot. She didn't mind camping in Wadi Rum, Jordan or Rajastani desert in India but we had transportation (Landcruiser/camel). She isn't too enamored with carrying loads of gear and long walks unless there's a lovely shower and nice warm served meal at the end of the day (in a comfortable bed). Compromises have been struck. I need a car and warm bed in order for her consent to go to a place like TdP.
EDIT: Seeing as she'll probably read this I best add that she has already consented to an excursion to the Uyuni Salt flat in Bolivia - a trip involving lodging in extreme cold temperatures and without running water - as well as a climb of Villarica volcano. So asking her to submit to further withholdings of creature comforts risks my relationship.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2008, 10:04:09 AM by Philmar » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2008, 04:20:49 PM »
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Hi All. My late December trip to Torres del Paine has shaped up nicely. The only thing I still don't have is hotel reservations in Punta Arenas. Can anyone recommend a decent hotel in Punta Arenas?
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« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2008, 09:50:22 PM »
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Hi All. My late December trip to Torres del Paine has shaped up nicely. The only thing I still don't have is hotel reservations in Punta Arenas. Can anyone recommend a decent hotel in Punta Arenas?

I always check tripadvisor.com to figure out what hotels to stay at everywhere I go.  It's a place with reader-generated reviews, and has been quite useful and reliable for me for several years now.  I look at the hotels available there, then check the hotels' own web sites to see which of the well-reviewed ones is closest to what I'm looking for.

As far as Punta Arenas goes, we ended up staying at the Hotel Tierra del Fuego.  It was nothing special (sort of equivalent to an urban Best Western), but nothing wrong either, and centrally located.  The one down side if you have a car was that it had a miniscule parking lot where cars were stacked several deep, so it was a pain to get several other cars moved to get to yours, but I didn't see any large parking lots elsewhere in town so I don't know that you'll find any better in that regard.

You might also try the Hotel Jose Nogueira, which has a quite excellent restaurant (we ate there).  I think I tried that place first (it sounded a little nicer), but they weren't answering their emails, so I gave up and got reservations at the Tierra del Fuego instead.  Maybe they're answering their emails again.  

Lisa
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« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2008, 10:41:27 PM »
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Quote from: nniko
I always check tripadvisor.com to figure out what hotels to stay at everywhere I go.  It's a place with reader-generated reviews, and has been quite useful and reliable for me for several years now.  I look at the hotels available there, then check the hotels' own web sites to see which of the well-reviewed ones is closest to what I'm looking for.

As far as Punta Arenas goes, we ended up staying at the Hotel Tierra del Fuego.  It was nothing special (sort of equivalent to an urban Best Western), but nothing wrong either, and centrally located.  The one down side if you have a car was that it had a miniscule parking lot where cars were stacked several deep, so it was a pain to get several other cars moved to get to yours, but I didn't see any large parking lots elsewhere in town so I don't know that you'll find any better in that regard.

You might also try the Hotel Jose Nogueira, which has a quite excellent restaurant (we ate there).  I think I tried that place first (it sounded a little nicer), but they weren't answering their emails, so I gave up and got reservations at the Tierra del Fuego instead.  Maybe they're answering their emails again.  

Lisa
Thanks Lisa. I'll check out the two places you mentioned, as well as tripadvisor.com (which I didn't know about).
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« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2008, 09:59:28 AM »
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Quote from: Mort54
Hi All. My late December trip to Torres del Paine has shaped up nicely.

Well then our paths may meet - literally. I'll be there in December as well. Here's praying for blue skies!!
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« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2008, 10:11:33 AM »
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one further question:

How essential is a 4WD vehicle if one is just going to drive between TdP NP and Puerto Natales (and within the park)?
There doesn't seem to be many roads within the park. Are there smaller roads that a 4WD could navigate that one doesn't find on these maps?
http://www.gochile.cl/eng/Guide/ChileNatio...ne-FotoTour.asp
http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/secci...2/a/popup/3.htm
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