Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

Planning for Patagonia: finding lodging

February 16, 2012

Update: We're back! Read about our adventure here.

Only two weeks until we leave for Patagonia, which means I've been doing a lot of logistical planning (the last time Ben was supposed to find us accommodations, he ended up on Facebook sans lodging options). It seems that most of our vacations turn out to be rather hectic. Last June, we visited five countries and took eight planes to visit Europe and Israel. In November, we traveled 4,000 kilometers over eight days on our motorcycle trip to northwest Argentina, and rode into the night to be able to get the bike back on time.

One day, I'd like a take a nice slow vacation. I don't mean I want to sit on the beach the whole time (though I wouldn't object to that either). I mean that I want to take a vacation where we just go, and figure it out as we're traveling. With 16 days to travel, I had been hoping that maybe Patagonia could be that kind of trip.

But it's not shaping up that way, for a variety of reasons: 1) Buenos Aires and Patagonia are not at all close. We're flying down, which means we have to catch a plane back at the end, from a pre-determined location. That means we can't decide to extend our trip, and we can't venture too far. 2) The things we want to do there are mostly multi-day affairs (hiking near Mount Fitz Roy and in Torres del Paine). The buses don't run that often and frequently sell out, so deciding by the seat of our pants might mean we miss out on the main highlights. 3) Hiking in Patagonia isn't the kind of thing you do on a whim. You need gear, maps, and all sorts of things to ensure you're safe. Arriving in Patagonia and then deciding to hike would be unfeasible. 4) Patagonia is expensive and we're traveling near the peak season. We don't want to pay $100/night for a room (and we would like at least a couple of hot showers while we're there), so we need to book in advance.

Which explains why I've spent much of the last week evaluating lodging options online. So for the curious, here's how I narrow down where to stay:
  • TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is invaluable in amassing enough reviews that I feel I can trust it. Plenty of companies hire people to shill for them on TripAdvisor or other similar forums, so I'm never sure whether to trust a place with only a couple of reviews. I generally skim the latest reviews, seeing if they're particularly positive, or just lukewarm. With enough positive input, I then specifically look at the one- and two-star reviews to see the worst things that have been said about a place. If someone has complained about bedbugs, I won't stay there (even if it's only one person, I don't want to risk ruining the trip). I'm also wary about too many noise complaints. But I try not to give too much credence to perennial gripers (like this person, who reviewed the hotel across the street from us and complained about having to "taxi it" to Plaza Serrano, a 10-minute walk away).
  • HostelWorld, Hostelling International, and HostelBookers: All cater to travelers looking to stay in hostels, which is great for us. We're usually just looking for a clean and quiet room with a comfortable bed. Among the three, I can usually find a pretty comprehensive list of lodging options, since TripAdvisor doesn't always have everything. They provide a detailed list of amenities (on our motorcycle, parking was important) and offer a straightforward rating system. Overall, I've had great experiences with hostels in Latin America, and it's great to able to read reviews from similar travelers (if you're looking for luxury, you're not going to accidentally book a room on one of these sites, avoiding the potential disparity between expectation and actuality that can occur with sites like booking.com).
So far, I've nailed down lodging in one town for our trip, need to confirm a second and make up our mind about a third. Hopefully I'll post more in the coming days as we figure out more details.

As for that vacation where we decide as we go, I guess that's for next time.

- Steph

Ben adds: Truly, if Steph weren't such a logistical genius, we'd never leave the apartment.

Continue to our next post on planning for Patagonia


  1. Do you know the exact names of the places you stayed? I'm trying to book places for this December. thanks!

    1. In El Chalten, we stayed at Latitud 49.
      In Calafate, we stayed at Hospedaje Lautaro.
      In Puerto Natales, we stayed at one horrible place (whose name I don't remember) and then in the cave room at Erratic Rock, which was so-so.

      If you click through our posts from the trip, we talk about most of the lodging in greater detail.

  2. Hi Stephanie, I love reading your posts since they give such incredible insight! I have a couple of questions for you, as a couple friends and I prepare for our trip to Torres del Paine in November.

    How often did you wash your clothes during the Patagonia trek (O or W trek)?
    Which part of the trek was the hardest in terms of hiking / elevation / uneven ground?
    Are there preventive measures in place (i.e. tree marks, distinguishable pathways, etc...) that help keep you on the path and ensure you're going in the right direction?
    How often were you able to charge your camera or iphone?
    Do you have to pay to trek the W or O? Or can you just go out for free?

    1. Hi Zach, Thanks for the kind words! A number of those questions are answered in this post and in the comments: http://www.stephandben.com/2012/04/map-how-to-hike-w-in-torres-del-paine.html


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