In March, the hubs and I met 2 other couples for a trek through South America. This was only our second time to head South with the first taking us to Macchu Picchu. (go - call us and we'll book that trip today. It's worth it)
We had a few issues setting up flights for this trip as LAN Airlines has a strong monopoly on the region and leaving us with very few options. After hours of research, the hubs found us 4 seats (the third couple would meet us in Mendoza) directly from DFW to Bogota. I have no fun photos to show of that flight as we rode in the "back of the plane" in coach and therefore just wanted to get the flight over with. Side note - I read "What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding" on the ride there and highly recommend it for my traveling buddies.
We found a brand new W Hotel in Bogota and booked with points, a steal for the quality of the hotel. It was modern, clean, and very "W" in every aspect. (the toilet "room" was a glass door so privacy wasn't a priority)
During our 2 day stay in Bogota, we hiked up a "hill" (read: mountain) for a panoramic city view, played Tejo with the locals, gawked at the amazing street art everywhere, pulled strings and got into a speakeasy, and had one of the best ceviche meals we've ever tasted! While traffic was horrible at all times of the day, it allowed us some time to chat with our driver from the hotel on where we should go for the day.
Travel tip: At luxury hotels, skip the concierge's recommendations for dinner or drinks and ask your driver where you should go. It'll be delicious, a quarter of the price, and filled with locals.
We flew overnight on LAN Airlines to Santiago, a 7 hour flight in business, and enjoyed ourselves. Because we had a full day in Mendoza the next morning, we opted out of meals and drinks and just slept the entire time. The seat was comfortable enough to get some much needed shut-eye and we scored Ferragamo amenity kits, which had a face cream in it that I now swear by.
We met up with the rest of our party in Santiago where we all boarded the 32 minute flight over the Andes. What a flight this was! It was hands down the most scenic flight I've ever experienced and it felt like we were just barely missing mountaintops as we flew over. All of the flight crew had to remain seated and we didn't mind at all. :)
We arrived in Mendoza, checked into the Sheraton in downtown, and immediately hit the wineries with our driver for the day. We started at Belasco de Baquedano for a 5-course tasting menu, including wine, and it was divine! Each course paired perfectly with their wine selection and our bottle collection began right then and there.
We followed that up with a trip over to Bodega Norton and had a private tasting of their top of the line wines. That led to the purchase of their nicest sparkling wine, which cost a whopping $21, and some strong buzzes by this point. :) The day ended with a trip to The Vines of Mendoza, a downtown tasting room of all the vineyards in the area. We grabbed dinner after that and headed in after a long day.
The next day I stayed at the hotel for the morning and early afternoon as I was really under the weather, and the group headed out to two wineries and a lunch consisting of all the meats in Argentina. (that's what I was told!) I met everyone at Alta Vista, which meant I arrived on-time and got to partake in the tasting and everyone else was running late from lunch and joined us afterwards. The grounds were so pretty at this vineyard and it was nice to be in the warm sun for the first time in a while! (So much snow in March here in Dallas) Dinner that evening was open air and delicious!
We left bright and early the next morning for El Calafate, a small town that would serve as an anchor for the activities we had planned in that area. Our hotel, Design Suites, was perfectly located on the outskirts of town and gave us the most beautiful views of the Andes in the distance. We spent the evening relaxing as we had two full days ahead of us....
Travel tip: If you have a lot planned for your vacation, keep your travel day activities to a minimum. You're always going to be tired from dealing with an airport and it helps recharge your batteries for activities later on.
The next morning, at 7am, we loaded into a bus and headed into the mountains to Los Glaciares National Park to the Perito Moreno Glacier. We were going hiking on a glacier. It was physically demanding, more so than anything I had ever done, but wow, was it worth it. This is one of the easiest glaciers to get to so we jumped at the opportunity to hike on something we may never hike on again. Pictures simply do no do it justice! And to add to the odd feeling, it was HOT. I packed for glacier weather and we got 65 and sunny. :)
The following day was spent on a 3 hour boat ride to Estancia Cristina, a ranch in the middle of the park. We sailed past glaciers on our way and hiked to see the Upsala glacier from the ranch itself. This was a much easier day than the one before and we all thoroughly enjoyed our time on the water. (we may have brought some wine with us too)
We left El Calafate a little sore but excited to head to our final stop - Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world! We took it easy the day we arrived and the next morning, we headed out on a Beagle Channel tour where we saw sea lions playing in the water and the "lighthouse at the end of the world." That afternoon, we boarded a bus to Haberton Estancia, about 2 hours outside of the city, to then take a bus to Penguin Island! There are penguins EVERYWHERE. We had so much fun snapping pictures and watching them in a natural habitat.
The next day we took it easy and explored Ushuaia town by foot. The next day we boarded our flight to Buenos Aires and then on to DFW. We flew American Airlines 777 on from Buenos Aires to home in first class. It never ceases to amaze me how different first class is on carriers. The seat was comfortable enough but service was extremely lacking and the IFE (in-flight entertainment) was pretty much a joke. The screen was smaller than my iPad and immobile so it was a strain to try and lie back while watching a movie. Overall, it was still better than a coach seat and gave us enough rest to muscle through that day back at work. In true "us" fashion, we arrived at 7am in DFW and went straight to work. Never waste a moment of vacation time. :)
Want to book this trip? Pick your plan on our RATES page and we'll get you on a glacier in no time!