San Pedro de Atacama (Part 2… Finally!)

On our last few days in San Pedro de Atacama, we booked a couple more tours of the surrounding area. One of the tours we ended up doing was el Valle de la Luna tour, which means valley of the moon. The reason it’s called that? You guessed it, it looks similar to the surface of the moon! It was just a couple kilometers away from town.

The rough terrain, sand dunes and multiple colors of the rock give the impression that you are actually on the moon. The only reason you know you are not on the moon is due to the hoards of people and tour buses all around you. Nonetheless it had some of the most interesting landscapes we had ever seen.

Salt mine equipment

Old salt mine equipment from back in the day

Close up of sand/salt/calcium deposits forming the Valle de la Luna

Close up of sand/salt/calcium deposits forming the Valle de la Luna

Moon valley landscapes

Crazy, cool, funky landscapes

Beautiful moon valley landscape!

Beautiful moon valley landscape!

It’s incredible how the earth almost designs itself over time. What we see now are as a result of earthquakes, volcanoes, shifting plates and even just wind! Check out these formations!

Tres Marias Valle de la Luna

This formation, the Tres Marias, was carved out over time by strong winds

Amphitheater Rock in Valle de la Luna

Amphitheater Rock in Valle de la Luna

largest sand dune in the region

Posing in front of the largest sand dune in the Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna terrain

Martian-like terrain

We stopped at the famous Coyote Rock to watch the sunset and get some great pics. It was both breathtaking and scary sitting on the tip of the rock overlooking the deep gorge below. It was the perfect finish to the day!

Coyote rock

Here we are, teetering on the tip Coyote Rock. Yes, that’s a giant fracture line in the rock.

Valley under Coyote Rock

Valley under Coyote Rock

The next day we had an early morning tour booked. We were told to be outside of our hostel and dressed warmly by 4:30 am. The company didn’t put enough emphasis on “dress warmly” (I’ll get back to that). Our van picked us up and there were a few people inside, half asleep. We eventually picked up a few more people and started the ascent to the Geysers del Tatio.

This geyser field is located at a staggering 4320 meters above sea level, amongst the highest in the world. It also has over 80 active geysers, some just tiny little boiling spurts of water coming from the ground and others up to 18 ft tall. These boiling temperatures can reach up to 185 degrees F – water boils at much lower temperatures at these high altitudes! There were rocks strategically placed around the geysers forming a path that we needed to follow. Around some of the larger geysers, a rock wall had been built for protection of the tourists. Sadly, within the last 6 months, a tourist accidentally fell into one of the larger ones (before the rock wall went up) and didn’t survive.



Tatio geysers

Geysers everywhere

Water spewing from one of the geysers

Water spewing from one of the geysers

We made sure we were really careful walking around the geysers, especially since it was just below freezing and we could not feel our extremities! We were ill prepared in our clothing choice but we had to ignore the cold and enjoy the experience. We were only freezing until the sun came up and when it did, we almost instantly felt better.

Freezing cold geysers

It was so cold, our lips turned blue

Jen warming up her hands over a boiling geyser

Jen warming up her hands over a boiling geyser

Hillside geysers

Hillside geysers

Giant sized geysers!

Giant sized steam towers

Gringo Eater, Tatio Geysers

Posing in front of the “Gringo Eater” geyser – gringos are known to jump in!

Check out the rest of our pics and vids and see the variety of wildlife at these altitudes. There were also some hot springs, which by the way we did not go in… We just couldn’t brave the cold!!

People in the hot springs

People braving the -5 degree celsius weather

Giant coots

Giant coots

Flamingos AND llamas?!

Flamingos AND llamas?!


Vicuñas that we saw along the way

Llama skewers... Delicious!!

Llama skewers… Delicious!! Does this count as wildlife?


Puerto Natales & Torres del Paine, Chile

Hellooooo Chile!

Off to a different part of Patagonia, this time in Chile! The main reason we came to Puerto Natales was to see one of Chiles most famous national parks, Torres del Paine, and Puerto Natales is a good starting point. We took a relatively short bus ride from El Calafate into the small town of Puerto Natales. Our first bus ride crossing international borders was actually pretty uneventful, as it should be. We had to all get off the bus a couple times to get our passports stamped and get luggage scanned but before we knew it, we were pulling into town.

We stayed in a hostel called El Sendero, which was definitely a few notches up from our last one in El Chaltén (as far as looks go). It was really cozy and cabin-like, a stark contrast with the cold weather outside. This will be the closest town to the southern tip of the continent that we will be exploring and we could definitely feel the icy quality of the air. Every morning we had a delicious breakfast waiting for us in the very spacious kitchen. It was a great place to stay!

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

El Sendero Hostel Puerto Natales Chile Patagonia

Our first day we spent wandering around the port town. It was a little overcast but we could still see the dramatic backdrop of the snow peaked Andes – it really felt as if we were nearing the southern tip of the world. There were many boats scattered around the port, all in different states – in and out of the water, some being used for work, some for pleasure and some being refurbished. Many of them were full of color and life and some were just lifeless, shells of what they used to be.

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile

Boats in Puerto Natales Chile


Since we were going to be there for only a day or so, we decided a guided tour through the national park would suffice. They would basically take us through the main points of interest in the park – yes, it was one of those hop on/hop off lazy people tours. We wanted to see the whole park and there was just no way to do it any other way.

The bus picked us up at 8:00 AM and it was a full one! Our guide, Gabriela did an exceptional job of keeping us entertained whilst providing us with pertinent information about the national park.  

The first of many stops was the Cueva de Milodon (Mylodon Cave). This cave was first discovered around 1895 by a German guy who stumbled upon some remains of a giant sloth-like animal called a Mylodon, which in fact had already been discovered earlier by some dude named Darwin. They are said to have lived approx 10,000-13,000 years ago! Pretty neat!

Cueva del Milodón Chile Patagonia

Cueva del Milodón Chile Patagonia


Jen posing with the life-sized milodon

Jen posing with the life-sized milodon

From here, we started heading towards the park and on the way encountered a real gaucho, herding his sheep with the help of his two best friends, a couple of dogs! The bus had to stop because the sheep were strewn all over the road running in different directions. They had lost their way, if you will. Alas they were recovered safely and we were on our way.

Gaucho herding sheep in Chilean Patagonia

Gaucho herding sheep in Chilean Patagonia

A little while later we saw the famous Andean Condor. It is basically a large black vulture with white patches and can have a maximum wingspan of over 3 meters! It was incredible to see them just soaring above us.

Andean Condors in Chile

Andean Condors in Chile

Another interesting animal that was plentiful in the area is the Guanaco, a type of llama native to South America. We were able to catch them from the bus almost the whole way there. The scenery on the way to the park was stunning.

Chilean guanaco

Chilean guanaco

Guanaco on the lookout

Guanaco on the lookout


Vantage point over the valley before entering the eastern entrance to Torres del Paine

Vantage point over the valley before entering the eastern entrance to Torres del Paine

After gaining entry into the park and driving for a bit, we could finally see the famous Torres del Paine (blue towers). They are granite peaks that are approx 2,500 meters above sea level. They were partially covered by clouds at first, but later in the day revealed themselves.

Torres Del Paine Chile

Torres Del Paine Chile

As we continued along the tour, there were many stops to see the beautiful lakes, glaciers, and waterfalls along with the different angles of the mountain range. The weather permitted us to take some great pictures that day. We some how keep getting lucky with the weather!




We stopped here to eat our lunch we packed with us

We stopped here to eat our lunch we packed with us

Suspension bridge on the way to Grey glaciar

Suspension bridge on the way to Grey glaciar

A glacier, just chillin'

A glacier, just chillin’

Granite towers

Granite towers



Salto Grande Waterfall

Salto Grande Waterfall

Oldest hotel in the park, Hostería Pehoé, dating back to 1959

Oldest hotel in the park, Hostería Pehoé, dating back to 1959

Even though we didn’t have time to challenge ourselves with a grueling trek of any sort, we were still able to capture the essence of this grand national park. We would love to return to do the popular 4-5 day “W” trek through the park.

We said goodbye to the town of Puerto Natales, took a bus ride to Punta Arenas where we slept over night at the airport (which, with so many people sleeping in their sleeping bags looked like a hostel by the way). We had an early flight the next morning to Santiago. From there, our friends picked us up and took us to their home just outside of Santiago, Chile, a place where we could hang out and relax for a little while…

Rock climbing like a pro. Nailed it.

Rock climbing like a pro. Nailed it.

El Chaltén, Argentina

Our next stop after the glacier was the trekking capital of El Chaltén which is just a short bus ride north of El Calafate. It’s a haven for backpackers from all over the world who come to see the beautiful sights only accessible by trekking and camping. More than half of the town is made up of hotels and hostels, with the latter making up the majority. The town itself is small and simple. It sits in the shadow of many snow capped mountains and the famous Monte Fitz Roy. There are glaciers, lakes, and rivers of pure, clean, ice cold water that we drank plenty of – without having to sterilize it first. It was the best water we’ve ever tasted.



The day we arrived, the weather was terrible. The winds were so strong we could hardly walk in a straight line from the bus station to our hostel. We couldn’t see a single mountain in the dense cloud cover. The rain was coming down sideways at us and we started to doubt our trekking abilities in those kinds of conditions. We got some groceries and settled into our hostel and prayed for better weather the following day.

Our hostel was, for lack of a better term, hideous. See picture. At $39/night you’d think the accommodations would be a little nicer? We weren’t even sure if was the right place since it looked like an abandoned, dilapidated building. We laughed a little bit about it before we went in. But once inside, we were shown around and it was actually a pretty cool place. The bathrooms were fairly new and clean and our bunk beds in our shared room were cozy. Our roommates were really cool too and we made some good friends out of it. It was just right for us!


We haven’t had the best of luck at times during our trip so we couldn’t believe our eyes the next morning when we woke up to clear blue skies and a perfect view of the Fitz Roy right from our bedroom window! We chose to do the most popular, scenic trail called Laguna de los Tres. It brings you up close and personal to the foot of Fitz Roy, where a beautiful glacier lake sits. It was a 10 km trek to the lake, and very challenging. The last kilometer alone is supposed to take around an hour or more since it is very steep and made up of mostly rocks and boulders. Signs are even posted before the ascent warning hikers against the climb in high winds.



In total, it took us about 5 hours to reach the lake. One of our roommates, C.J. from New York, trekked with us that day and we all took turns keeping each other motivated to keep going. We even found some bracelets along the way that somebody must’ve dropped from their pack on the way up. We each took one and left the rest for the next trekkers to find.




Once we reached the lake, the struggle was worth it. We forgot about our aching muscles and feet once we laid eyes on the bright turquoise glacier lake and the imposing face of Fitz Roy. Check out a quick video from the top!

We spent several hours wandering the area and found rivers, waterfalls and plenty of rocks to climb. Jen enjoys risking life and limb and getting as close as possible to the edges of pretty much anything so she had a good time up there.





We took about a million pictures and soaked it all in as much as we could before starting our descent. Another 4 hours of trekking down the mountain truly tested our limits and our feet so we had to stop for a few happy hour beers before getting back to the hostel. They were probably the best beers we’ve ever had! We agreed that getting lost in Bariloche for those 30 km’s definitely helped us to do the 20 km hike that day.

The next day, the weather had turned back to being windy and rainy. There was a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds so we decided to head out anyways with another friend from the hostel, Elena from Italy. This picture of us looks deceivingly sunny and nice!


We decided on the Laguna del Torre trek, which was a 9 km trek to a different lake. It wasn’t as steep as the previous trail but it still had its challenges. We had strong winds and a bit of rain during our trek but during the last 1 km it started to get much worse.



Trekkers coming in the opposite direction warned us to turn back because of the winds. Naturally, we kept going. We had come so far and wanted to get a peek at that lake with its glacier at its side. As we got closer and closer, the winds were pushing us in all directions and sand and rocks were pelting us. We pulled our jackets over our faces and kept going until we could peek – for just a moment – over the last hill down into the lake. Jen braced herself on a rock to take a short video with the GoPro, check it out!

We checked out of the hostel the next day and said goodbye to friends we had made. The weather once again was terrible, windy and rainy and there were a lot of new people arriving just for a day or two who were seriously bummed out about not being able to do the Fitz Roy trek that we had done a few days before. We still can’t believe our luck and we are so thankful for being able to see such a beautiful place on earth.


That’s it for Argentina!  Next we head into Chile to check out the other side of Patagonia!

El Calafate/Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

We didn’t want to risk another bus catastrophe so we booked a flight to El Calafate. We were there in a snap!

We got lucky yet again with a super awesome AirBnB host named Ezequiel. He’s actually a tour guide and had plenty of good tips for us. We stayed in a guest house on his property on the edge of town, and spent a little time with him and his family talking about our trip over tea. We could see the beautiful turquoise lake (Lago Argentina) from our front window. The lake was dotted with pink flamingos and swans with black necks. There was even a hammock in the living room! It was a lovely, relaxing place.


The main attraction and reason for our visit was to see the spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier. The ice formation is approximately 97 sq miles and where it ends – the part we view – the avg height is about 74 meters (240 ft). That’s a smidge taller than the height of the Drop Tower (formerly Drop Zone) at Great America! It’s also only 1 of 3 glaciers in Patagonia that is continually advancing. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier in our lives so we were pretty excited to see one, especially one so grandiose!


It did not disappoint. We spent hours at the park, first on a boat taking us slowly along the face of the glacier, then afterwards we walked for hours taking in the enormity of it. You could hear the flowing water within the glaciers rivers and waterfalls. We waited patiently for pieces of ice to fall and then listened for the big booming sound each piece made as it hit the water. The pieces falling looked small from where we were standing but in reality, they’re the size of cars, houses, and some even bigger still.







Here’s us having lunch at the park ((CLICK TO WATCH))

You’d think a full day of staring at a block of ice waiting for it to melt would be boring but we could barely take our eyes off of it in time to catch the bus back to our house. It’s not something we will soon forget.

Bariloche, Argentina

In order to get to Bariloche, we decided to take an “easy” 18 hour bus ride from Mendoza. We downloaded a few movies, got to the terminal early and waited to board our 9:30pm bus (scheduled to arrive between 4-5 PM the following day). The following series of events actually happened:
1. Right before going to the bus terminal we were both dealing with “stomach issues”, probably from what we ate the night before.
2. Navigating some of the bus terminals has proven to be somewhat difficult. Most of the time, departure screens are not clear, hundreds of people are going in all directions and a ton of wild dogs roam the terminals. It’s a general state of chaos! Naturally, our bus did not show up until 11 pm. Let me just reiterate: crowds, heat, chaos and thinking you’ve missed your bus do not mix well with having travelers diarrhea! Here’s a pic of what we were dealing with:

3. Just two hours into our ride, the bus breaks down. No notifications or communication from the bus driver whatsoever. We finally learn that we’re waiting for a new bus or someone to fix the motor. While waiting, we fell asleep only to be awoken by angry/hungry mosquitos eating our faces off like zombies!! It’s daylight now and finally leaving. Set back another 4 hours…..perfect. Here’s a pic of Shannon’s face after the carnage:


Once we made it to Bariloche, it was totally worth it.

San Carlos de Bariloche sits at the base of the Andes in the Río Negro Province and is located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park. It’s known for its great skiing, trekking and chocolate! We’ve never seen so many chocolate stores in one area! The architecture of some of the buildings have a European alpine-style to them and at one point was called “Little Switzerland”.




It was such a beautiful place to be, and after all the fun city things we had been doing, we were so excited to get in touch with the nature!

Our plans were to simply get some good hikes in and enjoy the scenery. We were fortunate enough to get an AirBnB host, Carlos, who is really knowledgeable about the area and gave us some tips on what to do and where to go.

Once we figured out the public bus system, we were able to get to some great trail heads. Our first hike was Campanario. It was about an hour straight up. We could have taken the chairlift up but we chose to tough it out. The reward was some of the most beautiful vistas we have ever seen! We were surrounded by the many lakes that make up Bariloche.


The next day we decided to take a day hike. We started a trail head in Parque Municipal Llao Llao. Coincidentally we ran into the same guys that took pictures for us the previous day. We decided to hike together while getting to know each other.


A couple hours into the hike we started to realize that we had somehow veered off course. It was 11:30 PM by the time a bus came by the road that we were walking on. It was dark, we were exhausted AND we had to fight off aggressive stray dogs with our walking sticks! Yes, this actually happened. We walked just over 30 km that day, which was not on the agenda! It was beautiful though…





Because we couldn’t really walk the next day we decided to go kayaking instead of bike riding like we had originally planned. Lago Perito Moreno Oeste was beautiful that day and the water was crystal clear. Just the relaxation we needed. That night we went out with our friends to celebrate one of their birthdays, a nice end to our trip in Bariloche.




Aaaaand…..!!! Lets not forget some of the food we ate in Bariloche…





Next stop, El Calafate!