"There's no difference between a pessimist who says, 'Oh, it's hopeless, so don't bother doing anything,' and an optimist who says, 'Don't bother doing anything, it's going to turn out fine anyway.' Either way, nothing happens." ---Yvon Chouinard, Founder of Patagonia
I flew from San Francisco to Buenos Aires by way of Miami and spent a few beautiful days in the city.
One of the women I was traveling with received fake money as change from a taxi driver. The small airport outside of BA we went to for our flight to Patagonia had a two hour pilot strike and the crowd almost rioted. It's a colorful place.
From BA we made our way to Helsingfors. A beautiful lodge out in the middle of nowhere.
We went on an amazing hike to Laguna Azul.
We were there for two days and then traveled on to El Calafate. We stayed at Los Notros and visited the glacier, Perito Moreno.
We spent two nights in El Calafate and then we traveled to the granddaddy of Patagonia resorts: Explora.
We hiked everywhere, including French Valley - seemingly always in sight of the Torres del Paine.
We ate amazingly well.
And hiked some more. I even made it to the Torres before Patagonia's notorious micro-climates swept in and made the peaks difficult to see.
A more beautiful place I have never seen.
Some travel tips:
The water is safe to drink from the tap. The water there is amazing. Dollars are accepted most everywhere. El Calafate is really the only touristy place with shopping. The area is about 50-1000m above sea level. There are internet cafes and Explora has Wi-Fi. Finally, pack layers. Patagonia is known for having four seasons in a day!
We returned home via a flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago, Chile.
I didn't get to spend much time in Santiago but here are suggestions for the city:
Cerro Santa Lucia has great views of the city. The Mercado Central is the place to get seafood. The Plaza de Armas is the heart of the city and you can see the Cathedral and Paseo Huerfanos (large avenue full of shops). The Natural History Museum is also in the Plaza de Armas. The presidential palace, La Moneda is also recommended.
As for what to eat - try Chilean empanadas, pastel do choclo (Chilean hot dogs - try Domino on Huerfanos). Also try Cafe Paule on Huerfanos for Once or tea time. Other neighborhoods to check out are Nuñoa and Las Londes.