Getting to El Calafate from New Jersey took a full 24 hours.
We had an overnight flight (about 11 hours) from NY JFK to Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE).
Then we took an hour and a half bus ride (we took the Manuel Tienda Leon bus) to another airport in Buenos Aires (the city is commonly referred to as ‘BA’) Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Using the airline Aerolineas Argentinas we flew 2 and a half hours to El Calafate. From there we shuttled about 30 minutes to our hotel. Along with waiting times and drives, we spent a full day traveling.
The line on the map shows a general idea of our journey. But instead of flying through Chile we flew to Buenos Areas, which is on the east coast of Argentina, close to Uruguay.
Our flight to El Calafate was going all the way to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the whole world. That’s when the geographical impact of the trip hit me. I was on my way to Patagonia, the very edge of the world.
While we’re on the topic of location, let’s pause for a minute to clear some things up. Every time I told someone I was going to Patagonia I’d usually get “Huh? Ohhhhhh, okay. Yea, cool” as a response. You could see in the person’s face that they kind of knew what I was talking about but really, they didn’t have any idea.
While I was at Sports Authority trying on snow boots an employee even said to me, “Can’t you just go to Vegas for Spring Break?” But I’ll have to admit, when I first found out about the trip I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant either. Sure, I knew about the mythical reputation, jagged peaks and wide open spaces, but I didn’t fully understand the depth of the place. This confusion boils down to two main questions: What exactly is Patagonia? Where exactly is Patagonia?
Roughly occupying a combined surface area of Texas and California, Patagonia is not precisely marked by borders. The name generally refers to the area of land hugging southern Argentina and southern Chile. Patagonia takes up 1/3 of Argentina but only 5% of the population (around 2 million) lives there.
Different stories circulate about its name, but legend has it that when explorer Ferdinand Magellan passed through Patagonia in the 1500s he saw giants. Patagon means large foot in Portuguese, and so the name Patagonia was born.
Patagonia is a land known for its remoteness, for its unparalleled beauty, for its loneliness, for its possibility, for its appeal to the wanderer, the drifter, the adventurer. Untouched land, wild, free.
As we flew over El Calafate I jotted this down in my journal:
“Flying over Patagonia I can’t help but wonder, ‘Where are we? Am I living in a dream?’ Barren, vast emptiness stretches out in all directions. Nothingness as far as the eye can see. Yet there’s something so appealing in this emptiness. Brown dirt formations. It almost reminds me of a desert, of flying to Phoenix, but it looks like it’s never going to end. You can’t see an airport. You can’t see anything. As the plane descends it still looks as though we’ll be dropped off on a mountain with nothing but mountains and sky surrounding us. We have arrived at the edge of the world.”
Useful Information if traveling to Argentina:
Because we’re United States citizens we had to pay a reciprocity fee of $150 U.S. dollars once we got to EZE. In 2009 the Argentine Government set an entrance fee for US citizens, Canadians and Australians. The fee is the same amount Argentine citizens must pay when requesting a Visa to travel to these countries. This fee lets US citizens travel to and from Argentina for ten years.
We paid the fee, went to another line for questioning, got our passports stamped, got our luggage and put our luggage through security. Then we entered the airport at the American Airlines terminal.
If you’re unsure of how you’ll get to your next destination, don’t worry at all. Right away there are information booths for taxis and the Manuel Tienda Leon bus.
Don’t rely on the first money exchange company you see. The company, Global Exchange or something like that, offered 3.7 pesos for $1. I walked by them, turned the corner and saw Banco De La Nacion Argentina which offered around 4.3 pesos for $1.
Most of the signs list the word in English right after the Spanish word so even if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s easy enough to get by.
Recommended airline: Lan Chile.