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Native Intelligence: Tips on Traveling to Patagonia

We've found the best hotels, tour companies, eateries and shops in Patagonia.
By Katherine Taylor
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Fishermen on Lake Nahuel Huapi

lake nahuel huapi, patagonia fisherman on lake nahuel huapi

Correntoso Hotel

pictures of patagonia, traveling in patagornia correntoso hotel The Correntoso hotel, on Lake Nahuel Huapi.

Correntoso Hotel Entrance

correntoso hotel, patagonia, argentina the entrance of the correntoso hotel The entrance of the Correntoso hotel.

The Correntoso's Pool

correntoso hotel, patagonia, argentina the correntoso's pool The pool at the Correntoso hotel, overlooking Lake Nahuel Huapi and the Andes.

Estancia Peuma Hue

estancia peuma hue, patagonia hotels estancia peuma hue The Estancia Peuma Hue's main building.

Chris Barrett and Marcelo Marpegan

estancia peuma hue, patagonia hotels chris barrett and marcelo marpegan Horse caretaker Chris Barrett and Marcelo Marpegan, manager of the Estancia Peuma Hue.

The Perito Moreno Glacier

perito moreno glacier, patagonia perito moreno glacier Hiking on the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Nahuel Huapi National Park

nahuel huapi national park, patagonia nahuel huapi national park On Isla Victoria, in Nahuel Huapi National Park.

Katherine Taylor

katherine taylor, patagonia, estancie puema hue katherine taylor The author on the ropes course at the Estancia Peuma Hue.

Lago Gutierrez

lago gutierrez, patagonia lago gutierrez

Map of Argentina

map of argentina map of argentina

Patagonia

patagonia a sheep and pig in patagonia An interspecies tete-a-tete on a farm near the Manso River.

Ice Climbing

perito moreno glacier, patagonia the perito moreno glacier Scaling the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia.

Patagonia Glacier

perito moreno glacier, patagonia patagonia glacier The Perito Moreno Glacier, in Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park.

Perito Moreno Glacier Sinkhole

perito moreno glacier, patagonia perito moreno glacier sinkhole A sumidero, or sinkhole, on the Perito Moreno Glacier.
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Click here to see our feature article on traveling in Patagonia.

When calling the telephone numbers below from the United States, except for those that are toll-free, first dial 011-54.

When to go

Patagonia's crowded high season is midsummer, in January and February, when Bariloche alone hosts upwards of 100,000 visitors. The area's off-seasons are October through December and March through the beginning of April. I visited at the end of March and in the first days of April, just as autumn began. The weather couldn't have been lovelier — sunny and sixty-five degrees, a warm wind, no rain — and the hotels were nearly devoid of guests. In high season, groups of twenty hike to the center of the Perito Moreno Glacier; we had five in our group.

Getting around

The easiest way to navigate the in-country flights, the complicated airport transfers and the dirt roads that unpredictably branch off Patagonia's two-lane highways is to hire Blue Parallel, a company so organized and precise and devoted to pleasing the client, I'm not sure how I have continued to operate in the real world without it. Blue Parallel meets you as you get off the plane. Should you arrange to fly privately, they'll be waiting for you at the end of the Jetway. From there you'll have no worries whatsoever; every need is seen to. From $1,000 a person per day, depending on itinerary and excluding international airfare. 800-256-5307; blueparallel.com.

Where to stay

Outside Bariloche

Correntoso Lake and River Hotel As I breakfasted by a window where the Correntoso River meets Lake Nahuel Huapí, the morning fog dissipated and I watched devoted fly fishermen cast their lines in wide, graceful strokes. Those who prefer sleeping and massages to hiking, riding, fishing and exploring will be glad to know that the rooms are lush and that the full-service spa is a civilized oasis with blue glass tiles, an indoor-outdoor pool overlooking the lake and wonderful locally made organic spa products infused with cypress oil. Double rooms from $250. 4505 Avda. 7 Lagos, Villa La Angostura; 11-4803-0030; correntoso.com.

Estancia Peuma Hue Staying in Evelyn Hoter's twelve-room estancia, on the south shore of Lago Gutierrez, is like enjoying an extended weekend in the country with friends. Hoter's staff will take you riding, hiking, kayaking or rappelling anytime you wish. You can have dinner with the other guests in the dining room or request a private meal prepared by a local chef in a cabin on the property. A gracious and exuberant host, Hoter joins you at the end of the day by the fireplace, where one conversation runs into the next. Double rooms from $280. Ruta 40, km 2,014, Bariloche; 9-2944-501-030; peuma-hue.com.

Outside El Calafate

Eolo El Calafate is a rapidly expanding tourist town, but accommodations there are still somewhat modest. Thirty minutes away, on a 10,000-acre estancia in the middle of windy La Anita valley, is the remote and sophisticated Eolo (appropriately named for Aeolus, the god who stills the winds). Its staff of twenty-eight live on the property, providing world-class service and linens as cushy as they come. Double rooms from $300 a person per night, including all meals and airport transfers. Ruta Provincial 11, km 23, El Calafate; 11-4700-0075; eolo.com.ar.

Buenos Aires

Faena Hotel & Universe For my last night in Argentina, I had asked the Blue Parallel guides to arrange a fantastic blowout evening in Buenos Aires. As soon as I stepped into the Faena, I knew I wouldn't have to leave the hotel. The place throbs with Argentine energy: the eating, drinking and merrymaking go on all day and night. I had cocktails in the oddly named Library Lounge (on a Thursday night, the guides and I had to scream to hear one another), then a spectacularly indulgent dinner in rustic, comfortable El Mercado restaurant. When I returned to my room, I didn't believe what the clock said. I called the front desk, and they assured me that yes, it was 5 a.m. Double rooms from $915. 445 Martha Salotti; 11-4010-9000; faenahotelanduniverse.com.

Where to eat

The finer hotels in Patagonia are situated far from towns. Almost without exception, your number one option is to dine at your hotel. Should you find yourself in transit at midday, I do not advocate an airport lunch. Here are some alternatives.

El Casco Art Hotel Undeniably, the food here is the best to be had in Patagonia. The service is a bit aloof, but one bite of the citrusy Lake Nahuel Huapí salmon on slowly caramelized fennel and you won't care who says hello or whether you ever get to climb up the glacier. Also try the lentil soup topped with light trout foam. In the words of my dining companion, "it's like drinking caviar." The chef's name is Martín Erkekdjian; look for him internationally. Avda. Bustillo, km 11.5, Bariloche; 2944-463-131; hotelelcasco.com.

Isla Victoria Lodge If you're not stuffed with wild apples and blackberries, have a refined after-hike lunch and a bottle from the extensive cellar at the lodge, located on the island it's named for. Order the poached egg with green olives on a baguette or the light cucumber and lake trout salad. Take your wine to the terrace to enjoy the sun and the view. Isla Victoria, Nahuel Huapí National Park; 11-4394-9605; islavictoria.com.

Osaka In Buenos Aires at the end of my trip, after a tango lesson and before my flight home, I had a quick lunch at Osaka, which is known for creative Japanese-Peruvian cuisine. The enticing menu is dizzyingly long, so I asked the chef to just send dishes out. Mercifully, he sent them slowly, and I wasn't overfed. Ask for the sashimi-cut seviche, which has the delicate flavor of the Peruvian guero chili, or the teri maki, white and pink salmon rolled with shrimp and cream cheese and warmed so that both the cheese and the tender fish dissolve on your tongue. 5608 Soler, Buenos Aires; 11-4775-6964; osaka.com.pe.

Where to shop

Shopping in Patagonia is beside the point. If you're going to waste precious ice-trekking time in stores, don't leave Buenos Aires. That said, Villa La Angostura is a rustic little town; its streets are lined with red-berried trees, and its shops are perhaps the nicest I found in southern Argentina.

For exquisite sterling silver maté services, leather and wool, stop at Cardon. The shop assistants may be cool and unresponsive, but riding boots and ponchos don't come more supple or chic. I found a gorgeous pair of horse-bit loafers made from velvetlike leather for about fifty dollars. 51 Avda. Arrayanes; 2944-495-062; cardon.com.ar.

Every Patagonian town is overrun with chocolate shops; Benroth Chocolates is, to my mind, the finest in the country. For subtlety, try the milk chocolate and hazelnuts; for intensity, the many-layered dark chocolate and chewy dulce de leche. Chat up the giggling shopgirls; they're delightful and worth a visit even if you don't buy any chocolate. 171 Avda. Arrayanes; 2944-494-833; benrothchocolates.com.

Click here to see our feature article on traveling in Patagonia.

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