Argentina - peso 5.5 - £1
Chile - peso 725
to £1 or 518 for $1 Tour Guides
Our land tour was booked through Protours
Chile and our agent, Rudyard was extremely
helpful. The only hiccup we had in the arrangements
was that no vouchers had been left for us
at the Hostel Lago Grey and no-one knew about
our boat trip to see the glacier, nor what
time we were departing to go to Puerto Natales.
Overall our tour guides were excellent and
provided us with lots of interesting information.
We were amused by our guide on Easter Island
who had learnt all the information ‘parrot
fashion’ and so it had to be relayed
in the right order otherwise she got confused
and had to check her head! Our thanks to
Sebastian in El Calafate, the very knowledgable,
Mateus, who drove us to Torres del Paine,
and took us on the tour of the many interesting
angles of the peaks and lakes. We drove from
Peurto Natales to Punta Arenas with Mario,
our guide and driver, Isaac. In Santiago
we had a wonderfully enthusiastic, young
guide Alihandra, who is getting married in
April. We wish her every happiness. Weather
Patagonia has a very cold wind so wrap up
warm with layers – take hat, gloves
& scarf and very warm jacket.
Easter Island - The weather is very variable
from sun, wind, raindrops and cloud. Watch
out for getting sunburnt – this can
even happen if you have applied sun cream!
Food & Drink
Not being into enchiladas and pastry type
food, the Argentinian food was not particularly
appealing to me. However they are known for
their tasty steaks and lamb was the favourite
in the Patagonia region. The lamb skins are
opened up and cooked over an open fire.
The calafate berry is made into all sorts
of produce, jam, sweets, liqueur. According
to tradition, whoever eats the ‘calafate’
berry will return for more. In contrast
the locals drank something called mate, which
is a drink prepared from steeping dried leaves
of yerba mate. It is particularly bitter.
We enjoyed the fresh fish in both Patagonia
and Easter Island, although you have to ensure
that it’s not overcooked. South Patagonia
has some very large, succulent king crab.
A tasty regional drink is the cocktail, pisco
sour made from pisco, lime juice, egg whites,
simple syrup and regional bitters.
Of course, one can’t forget to mention
the wines. We found the Chilean carmeniere
|lamb in El Calafate|
|King crab in Punta Arenas|Restaurants
We enjoyed the following restaurants:
Pascasio – Gourmet food, well presented
and very tasty. The wines are expensive.
Hotel Kosten Aike - excellent cuisine at
a reasonable cost. We stayed here and the
scrambled egg for breakfast was the best
we had the whole trip.
La Tablita - recommended by our guide as
the best lamb in town, we were not disappointed.
We enjoyed the patagonia lamb, sirloin and
tenderloin for 2 people costing 115pesos.
We also enjoyed the fries with garlic and
wine. You do need to book. We couldn’t
get in for the first 2 nights requested.
Torres del Paine, Hotel Lago Grey –
Lunch and dinner is a set menu (dinner is
35,000 pesos), however, you can have one
or two of the courses at a reduced price.
The service was excellent
Puerto Natales, Hotel Indigo – Excellent
food at a very reasonable cost – beef
carpaccio, king crab, salmon, Perez
Cruz limited edition Carmeniere wine, all
for just 52,000 pesos.
Punta Arenas, Sotito’s – excellent
fish restaurant with specialty of king crab,
wild salmon and eel. but you must pre book.
The plate of crab is massive!
The restaurants are all pretty expensive,
but most of the food does have to be shipped
in. The menu for fish is either raw or cooked
- but we found the cooked fish to be overcooked
and so it is very dry. We learnt to ask for
fish to be medium rare so that it retained
its moisture. Wine is 9500 pesos for half
bottle and 15000pesos for a bottle.
Main course meals are between 10,000 and
20,000 irrespective of quality. Don’t
expect gourmet food, it’s all pretty
basic. They have a tasty Rape Rape which
is a small lobster.
We enjoyed these restaurants - Kanahua, Hotu
Matua, Port restaurant, Hotel Iorana and
Heu’u, which was definately the best
with excellent food and very friendly service.
It was the best cooked fish we had.
Hotel San Francisco – Hidden in the
back of the menu is a sheet about the gourmet
taster menu for 18800 pesos. It is excellent
and fully recommended. The basil ice-cream
Opera/Cathedral – excellent food and
service from the only waitress who was able
to speak a little English'
Profondo (deep blue) in Bellevue. Excellent
Patagonia restaurant. Good menu.
Alto Bellavista – excellent food &
very friendly service with excellent English
Vina del Mar – Reinata fish. Excellent
lunch, view of beach, very reasonable cost.
El Calafate, Hotel Kosten Aike – excellent
hotel, centrally located, gym and Jacuzzi
(if you have the time to enjoy them)
Torres del Paine, Hosteliera Lago Grey –
room 701 is best one – panoramic windows
providing an excellent view of the lake.
Lots of wildlife -foxes, parrots, eagles.
Some interesting local walks.
Puerto Natales, Hotel Indigo – excellent
hotel. Very modern with a really interesting
interior. As it was a very special occasion
we had a suite with bathtub in the room.
There are 3 large outdoor Jacuzzis, a sauna
and spa facilities on the top floor. Fully
recommend this hotel and its restaurant.
Punta Arenas, Hotel Jose Nogueira- excellent,
old colonial style hotel just off the central
Santiago, Hotel San Francisco. They seem
to be money opportunists! In the room
are notices next to the water for $10, use
of coffee machine $11, and a box of 2 wines
for $39 (US dollars not pesos) There is a
even a notice about taking accessories from
the bathroom, ie soap, shampoos, etc. It
says to ask reception for a price!
In most hotels on the trip the internet has
been free, however there is a charge here
for 5000 pesos for 2 hours. Have a back room
so you don’t have the street noise.
The hotel does not sell stamps so I couldn’t
post my postcards.
Easter Island, Hotel Iorana – a very
comfortable hotel on the clifftop with views
over the sea. Close to the airport and about
30 mins walk from the centre of the town.
A taxi ride is only US$3. Wireless internet
in the reception lounge. Lovely gardens with
wild chickens, which you hear in the morning!
In Patagonia and Santiago they speak Chilean
Spanish – some areas don’t
speak much English and we were surprised
that a café near to the main square
in Santiago has no English speaking staff.
In Easter Island they have their own Rapa
Nui language. We didn’t see many European
tourists. They are mainly American.
The Wailucho caves were interesting but there
are not many original rock paintings. The
caves are more like rock shelters.
En route to Torres del Paine – we saw
lots of wild Guanaco and Rhea. TheSteppe
was a vast, relatively flat expanse.
If you are taking the boat from Torres del
Paine to Peurto Natales wrap up warm. You
are given warm long waterproof overcoats
for the trip on the zodiac boats. We then
stopped late morning for a hot coffee, bread
and scrambled egg. We visited the Serrano
glacier before boarding the 21st May III boat which is very comfortable –
the upstairs cabin has bench seats on either
side and a high window so not much chance
of a good view. It’s best to go downstairs.
All travellers were given lunch of soup and
BBQ lamb at the Estancia Perales. It was
very windy so wrap up warm. When we arrived
at our hotel, we were disappointed that our
suitcases arrived 30 minutes after us which
was annoying as we wanted to enjoy the outside
Jacuzzi whilst it was still sunny.
You soon become aware of the many stray dogs.
They chase the cars down the street. However
they do stop at traffic lights to cross the
road! The number of pharmacies is also noticeable
with one of practically every street corner!
The taxis are cheap and the friendly natives
will offer you a lift if you are off the
beaten track. Apparently only Rapa Nui natives
can only buy land. However, there are ‘Chilean
girls’ who go to Easter Island and
get pregnant so their children can buy land.
All children are regarded as legitimate even
if the Mother is not married.
The roads are in a poor condition with only
2 tarmac roads on the island. The buildings
are rather tatty and old – mainly wooden
shacks with tin roofs. The roads are very
dusty and your feet get filthy. Even your
tee-shirts get dirty quickly. Horses are
a major form of transport. They roam freely
around the streets.
Unfortunately, we had problems with our flights!
Aerolineas Argentias - We departed from Buenos
Aires towards El Calafate stopping at Trelew,
a town in the middle of nowhere! At
Trelew we were told that El Calafate airport
was closed due to a problem with the radar.
An interesting dispute ensued between the
‘hot blooded’ Argentinians and
the airline staff as they argued about flying
to Rio Gallegos and being bused some 5 hours
to El Calafate or staying at Trelew or being
taken back to Buenos Aires for the night,
with no promise of when we would be taken
to El Calafate. The latter was the case but
then there were arguments at Buenos Aires
airport for several hours until the locals
got the commitment of Aerolineas Argentias
to lay on another plane the following day,
(which departed at 12.10). We were all provided
accommodation at the Presidente Hotel with
a mass catered dinner of enchaladas and spaghetti
bolognaise washed down with a jug of cola.
It looked terrible so we passed on that and
ate in the main restaurant. There was further
chaos at breakfast as some people were told
their flight was going earlier than planned.
We eventually got to El Calafate and our
tour guide did manage to take us to the caves,
albeit later than planned. To their credit,
the airline staff were very friendly and
We were given a voucher for the difference
in the cost of our flight. Upon our return
to the UK this was quickly refunded to us.
Excellent customer service.
LAN chile flights – despite reserving
our seats three times we still had problems.
Whilst in Punta Arenas we were advised to
go online and print out a boarding pass –
apparently, the airline has a reputation
for bumping you off a flight. We went online
and discovered that there were only 2 middle
seats available, far away from each other.
So we reserved those and printed out the
boarding pass. We also reserved our seats
together for the flight to Easter Island.
We then got to the airport early and were
able to change our seats so that we could
sit together with a window seat on both the
flights to Santiago and Easter Island. However,
we then had problems on the return flight
from Easter Island. Despite having reserved
them again online when we got to the airport
we were told that there was only one business
class seat available and that one of us had
to travel economy. We were forced to sign
an agreement form before we could get on
the flight. We noted that one of the seats
in business class was occupied for only part
of the flight by a member of the crew. Apparently,
it is quite a frequent occurrence that they
overbook the business class and downgrade
people. You have to wonder why – surely
tourists travelling to Easter Island are
not going to miss their flight off the island
as there is no other way home and the airport
is a maximum 20 minutes from any hotel on
the island! The staff were most unhelpful
and it was a case of you have what you are
We were given a travel voucher for $500 only,
which is far less than the difference of
an economy and business class fare. However,
upon our return to the UK we tried to redeem
the voucher and requested the compensation
money. Despite many emails and phone calls
it was not forthcoming. There was one excuse
after another. We had confirmation from Customer
Relations on 15th April that it had been
approved and we just had to give our credit
card number for the refund, which we did.
More chasing.. On 19th May we had an
email stating that it was being processed
and would be paid that month. The payment
was still not made so more chasing.... On
26th July, I am given a case number!
Still no sight of the money. Still I continue
to call but there comes a time when I feel
that I must lodge a complaint with ABTA and
also post on various travel websites to warn
other travelers. LAN Chile has very,
very bad customer service!!!