One of the chief reasons for journeying as far as Patagonia is precisely that it is so far away. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that getting there takes time and effort. Since travel and Argentina often equals a bit of strategy and patience, one must carefully consider the options. There are a variety of them.
From Buenos Aires to Calafate, Patagonia (the central hub of the region, around which all further travel is orientated) there are essentially two: by land or by air. If time is your friend, and the great expanses of the world’s eighth largest country fail to phase you, then a journey by land might be just the thing. There are two land routes from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, Patagonia: one runs along the coast towards Rio Gallegos (the national route 3, also known as the Pan-American Highway, which runs from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego). There are a myriad number of very agreeable places to visit along this way—the Peninsula Valdes and the town of Puerto Madryn, for instance, to take in a beautiful beach and watch for wales. From Rio Gallegos or before that at highway 9, one can cross the roughly 250 kilometers to Calafate. The other possible route is the storied ‘ruta cuarenta’ (route 40), which stretches beside the Andes from the far north of Argentina to the far south. From Buenos Aires to El Calafate,Patagonia, one can begin to access it by crossing the country to Mendoza or Neuquen, continuing to the Alpine town of Bariloche, and finally south to Calafate and the Patagonia. Bear in mind, travel and Argentina by car should be measured in days, not hours. From Bariloche it is a 30 some hour journey alone, and is therefore not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, no journey that involves such distances can be easily summarized and clearly one of the reasons for undertaking such an enormous land journey is to be able to say one did it. No doubt more and more travelers of this sort will grow as South America, and travel and Argentina in particular, continue to modernize.
It should come as no surprise, however, that many opt for the air, and fortunately there are many services from Buenos Aires to Calafate, Patagonia. On a clear day, this can often be one of the most spectacular flights of a lifetime, not least because many services stop first in Ushuaia. With the Atlantic Ocean on the left, the fertile plains of la Pampa and behind them the Andes on the right, one would be foolish not to opt for a window seat. Even the pain of the earliest flight (4.45 from Jorge Newbery) is atoned for when the sun rises crimson in the east and bathes the county in a rosy light. Opting for the air entails taking one of Argentina’s domestic air carriers, and this hearkens back to the days when air travel was a luxurious experience even in coach. For those accustomed to the cheap airlines of Europe orAmerica, there is added joy when the flight attendant places a generous box of chocolates and cookies.
Flying also has the added benefit of underlining the striking differences between Buenos Aires and Calafate. Rising up out of the inner city airport (recall that Jorge Newbery is the Capital’s domestic airport, in stark contrast to Ezeiza many miles away) and landing in the empty hills on the coast of the expansive Lake Argentino makes for a change that is almost dimensional in character, and could not be more different.
Although many things change radically from Buenos Aires to Calafate, Patagonia—like the climate, for instance—many things remain the same, which is one of the consoling factors in travel and Argentina. The wine and beef lose none of their quality, for instance, though the one is infused with the youthful energy of the city and the other enjoyed tranquilly in a pastoral, natural setting. For that very reason, it serves to have the same meal in both places. Other qualities that travels from one place to the other are the people. One of the principle reasons for choosing travel and Argentina, the bustling crowds ofBuenos Aires and the quiet country folk of Patagonia might seem worlds apart in their lifestyles and outlooks. However, both are incredibly approachable and friendly to the visitor, both love drinking maté, staying up late, and criticizing their country whilst being proud of it and its melting pot heritage.