Argentine Trekking Destinations
Hugo Lesser is an Anglo-South American based in Salta in north west Argentina. As an outdoor enthusiast, it seems only fitting that he would share his favourite places to trek in Argentina.
Fitz Roy, Patagonia
Named after the captain of Darwin's ship the Beagle, Fitz Roy arguably offers more impressive vistas than the famous Torres del Paine in neighbouring Chile. Base yourself at the small but civilised, fun town of El Calafate in south-western Argentine Patagonia (only a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires), from where you can also visit the awesome Perito Moreno glacier (for ice trekking), a highlight of the country and a significant natural wonder. Trekking on and around Fitz Roy is not overly challenging, and so open to walkers of all abilities, with or without a guide. It's at relatively low altitude for the Andes, and there is plenty of fresh, clean drinking water around, allowing trekkers to carry less. The climate is perhaps the most challenging aspect, as strong Patagonian winds sweep the region throughout the summer months. Wrap up warmly though, and you'll be rewarded with some of the most interesting scenery and wildlife (including condors, ostriches, and guanacos) in the world.
Tempted? Here are a few options of how to do it:
There are numerous treks available around Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, at the very tip of America, where the Andes end. The whole area is a national park, and breath-taking views abound. One interesting day trek starts 25km from the city and takes you through ancient Lengua tree forests, up above the tree line and to the blue ice caves of the Alvear Glacier. Another option is to climb Monte Susana, again a day trek there and back, the summit of which offers astounding panoramic views of Ushuaia, the Beagle channel, the national park, and various islands. The area also offers some very good longer (4 - 6 day) hikes, taking in Paso Beban, Paso de las 5 Lagunas and Lago Alto Bahia Grande.
Take a look at:
The trekking season in the north west is during winter, as during summer the heat in the mountains is too fierce. Trekking is generally at high altitude, for at least part of the way, so caution is recommended for elderly or unfit hikers. One trek starts from the village of Iruya, 300km north of Salta and at 10,000 feet above sea level, from where you follow the valleys and the Iruya river along the former Inca trails and through the villages to the north, San Isidro, San Juan, Tacupampa, and San Pedro, with their adobe houses and whitewashed colonial churches. You'll definitely need a guide though, and a hat, as well as warm clothes for the evenings. Lots of other treks are available starting out from Purmamarca, taking in the Hill of Seven Colours and the Paseo de los Colorados, a valley filled with bright red skyscraper-impersonating rock formations.
Iguazú National Park, Missiones
The several hundred waterfalls at Iguazú in the furthest north east corner of the country are collectively an undisputed natural wonder of the world. As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, poor Niagara! The enormous thundering waterfalls are set in the Iguazú National Park on the Argentine side (Brazil is on the other side of the river), a huge, beautifully mapped and managed, subtropical wildlife reserve. You can stay either at the Sheraton in the park (one guide book described the buffet lunch there as a site comparable in majesty to the falls themselves), or in the nearby town of Puerto Iguazú. When you enter the park, you receive a map, and you can spend a day exploring the falls (many of which you can walk out over and in front of on suspended walkways), and several more days enjoying the extensive flora and fauna along the park's jungle trails.
How to do it:
The Argentine Lake District contains five national parks and arguably the most incredible scenery in the country, with its combination of clear, calm lakes and the Andean peaks both behind and reflected in them. A network of refugios (refuges) offering basic accommodation and food during the summer months in what would otherwise be the middle of nowhere allows for easier trekking to remoter places. More information and maps are available in Bariloche. Two popular destinations are the Refugio Frey, accessible in a day from the Cerro Catedral ski resort, where several other days can be spent exploring, returning to the refugio each night, and the Refugio Cerro Otto Meiling, perched in an unlikely, awe inspiring position on Mt. Tronador.
Hugo Lesser is the founder of Estados, which sells beautiful Argentine handmade luxury leather goods.