Argentina

Glaciers in Argentina

The Patagonian ice fields extend for about 16,800 km2, covering part of Chile and part of Argentina’s geography. Even though that more than 80% falls into Chile (such as Glacier Grey, in Torres del Paine and Glaciar Aguila, in Agostini Sound), Argentina offers easy access to some of the most impressive glaciers in the continent (among them, the upmost famous Perito Moreno!).

While in Calafate, we decided to take a boat trip through Los Glaciares National Park – a World Heritage site since 1981. The trip took us along a small part of Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country – coming so close, you could almost touch the ice!

Close Up in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Close Up in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Close Up in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Among all the white icy islands we came across with throughout the tour, there were also a few intense blue bodies of ice. It appears blue because this ice is very compact and so absorbs all colors of the visible light spectrum, except blue – which is transmitted instead. The deeper under the surface of the visible glacier, the more compact the ice becomes and therewith, the bluer it reflects when a piece of it cracks and ends up floating in the water.

Close Up in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Have you ever come up close to a glacier?

Glaciers in Calafate, Argentina

Visiting glaciers is exciting. I study the details of their rips, cracks and holes sharpening my senses in the hope of catching the next slide. I block all distractions – In my head, it’s just me and the glacier. Then I hear a crack. My heart starts racing and my head keeps turning from one side to the other.

Where did it come from?

Nothing seems to move. I continue to examine its rips, trying to guess which parts loose and are highly probable to break off in the next few minutes. I stare at it continuously, as if my glare could burn the last little piece that attaches it to the rest of the block. I hold my camera tight. I’m sure its going to happen any time soon.

I hear another crack. And another one. My head is spinning – I don’t know where to look anymore. And then, I see it – A big piece of blue glacier falls into the water at slow motion.

Not slow enough for me to turn on my camera. I will have to learn to be happy with only a mental picture then.

There’s no doubt that Argentineans are known for their fine wine and rich food – many of them are italian descendants, so a passion for cuisine is in their blood. But you probably already know about their rump steaks and rib-eye steaks. You might have even had an argentinean tenderloin some time (my personal favorite, by the way).

So, instead of walking you through the numerous eatable parts of a cow, I’ll focus on Patagonia in general, covering both, the Argentinean and Chilean sides. Chilean food, although with a more limited international representation, deserves a special mention here. After all, Chile’s long coastline adds a wide range of ocean products to their main ingredients (and hey, sea food is one of my weak points!).

Spider Crab

Spider Crab Ceviche, Ushuaia (Argentina)

Spider crab is a certainly a regional delicacy that you shouldn’t miss out. Restaurants offer them prepared in so many different ways: natural, as a soup, in a salad or even prepared as ceviche (pictured above) where the spider crab is basically cooked by using acidic juice from limes and/or lemons (a must try!).

Although spider crab was on menus all over Patagonia, I believe that one of the top places to go for it was Ushuaia, where it’s freshly brought right from the Beagle Channel. I spotted the above spider crab ceviche above at Restaurante Tante Nina, where they did not only offer a huge variety of fresh sea food, but also a perfect view over the southernmost harbour of the World.

Merluza Negra

The patagonian toothfish is regionally known as merluza negra, which translates literally into black hake. The first time I read it on a menu it caught my attention – I had only known the silver toned hake, how would a black hake look like and most importantly, how does it taste?

The merluza negra can only be found in very cold waters in the southern hemisphere, and can get to become a pretty big lady – up to 2 meters long! I’m no fish expert, but I do recognize a good fish when I try it, and this patagonian treat, in my opinion, is much more savory than other sea products (maybe it’s because of its fat layer between skin and flesh?).

Cordero Fueguino and Cordero Patagónico

Cordero Fueguino, Patagonia

Asadores are everywhere in Patagonia, but instead of highlighting their beef products, they focus on their regional lamb – the cordero fueguino and cordero patagónico. The cordero patagónico has a unique flavor because of the sheeps’ diet of regional mixed herbs and grasses (particularly a type of grass called coirones). This, together with a delicious chimichurri sauce made of hot peppers, garlic, vinegar, oil and mixed herbs makes the perfect meal after a rough day of hiking.

Dulce de Leche

Brownie with Dulce de Leche

Alfajor with Dulce de Leche

Flan with Dulce de Leche

Ok, so before you attack me on this one – yes, Dulce de Leche is not originally from Patagonia. It might not even be Argentinean! But although the origin of Dulce de Leche is uncertain, there’s no doubt about Argentina being the world leader of its production and consumption, and Patagonia was no exception. This sweet paste was a key ingredient to any dessert – it filled home-made alfajores, it topped a chocolate brownie and accompanied a simple flan.

Calafate

Calafate Berry in Patagonia

This was a failed attempt of adjusting my camera’s focus to the calafate berry, manually. Mental Note: Learn how to use DSLR camera before the next big trip.

It’s very easy to come across it when hiking anywhere in Patagonia. When the fruit is mature, it adopts a dark color blue-violet color, similar to the one of blueberries, and can be eaten right away from the bush! In my opinion, they tastes like a mix of blueberries and raspberries and are used to make multiple products: from jams and cakes to beer – yes! there’s a chilean ale called Cerveza Austral that is made with these berries. A must try!

A legend tells that anyone who eats the Calafate berry, will certainly return to Patagonia – I really hope this is true.

Have you ever tried any of these dishes? Which is your favorite?

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The name Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) derives from Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first European to visit the land in 1520. As he approached shore, he was amazed by the size of the fires created by the aborigines to cook and keep warm. I can hardly imagine how anyone could survive to these extreme weather conditions without modern inventions. This shows that the aborigines’ skins, exposed to wind, cold and ice, developed in a completely different way from ours.

As we walked along the shore of Lake Fagnano, admiring the profoundly beautiful and diverse scenery, I couldn’t stop but wonder what else lies behind these high mountains and inside the dark forests. However, from its over 630km2 of land, only a small part of it is open to public.

 

Ushuaia, Argentina

Before visiting Tierra del Fuego, I imagines an isolated and remote scenery with deep beauty – el Fin del Mundo. When I arrived at Ushuaia, I was surprised by the amount of shops and restaurant selection. This is no wonder, given that Ushuaia lives now heavily from tourism – most of them staying only for 2-3 days before embarking in one of the expedition cruises. However, it wasn’t always like this, as Ushuaia started on being Argentina’s penal colony for the most fearsome criminals of Argentina.

Ushuaia declares itself the southernmost city of the World, at 54º 49′ South. When we arrived, summer had just officially started. For me, this meant certain warmth and clear skies. However, locals soon advised us that its location provides Tierra del Fuego with a very diverse weather: one can get snow, rain and sun in one day! Even though summer had just started in the southern hemisphere, the usual weather was chilly mornings and rainy afternoons.

I didn’t really mind – Clouds and rain make for great photo sets!

Cloudy Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Forrest in Ushuaia, Argentina

Despite from what one might think, winter isn’t so much colder. Tierra del Fuego has a mild climate and during winter, temperatures usually don’t drop under -5ºC!

Another fact that caught my attention were the long hours of sun light. During our stay, the sun set at about 23:30 and raised again at about 3:30, which sums up to a 20 hours of light! I took the below picture at about 22:30 at night from a restaurant next to the harbor.

Ushuaia, Argentina

The long hours of light make summer the best time to visit Tierra del Fuego – there is just so much to see that every extra hour is appreciated… I even became an early morning person waking up at 6-7am every day (ok, that’s not super early, but it’s early for being on holidays, isn’t it?).

Have you been to Tierra del Fuego? What surprised you most?