you beat me to it! Our trip was A-mazing, truly the trip of our lifetimes (so far!).
The itinerary you put together for us was exactly what we needed and I wouldn't change a thing. We had a good balance of free days and days with excursions. We had pretty much the right amount of time in each location to do what we wanted to do and we had time to relax and take it easy if we wanted.
I'll give you now a bit more details in the hotels and the excursions so you can use it as feedback.
Hotel Clasico - BA
Very good. Great location, lovely and very helpful staff, nice room, abundant breakfast. We'd give it 4 stars on Tripadvisor.
Hosteria De Leyendas - Ushuaia
Very good. The hosts (Sandra and Seb, the chef) were very friendly, the highlight was the amazing breakfast and the view from the dining room, breathtaking. Location is good and having to get a cab into town is not a big deal. I loved the little notes with facts and history of Ushuaia they left in our room each day and on the breakfast table. On the breakfast table themselves there were artefacts from Yamana (the indigenous people from Ushuaia), old coins and notes and other historic objects. The shower was very powerful and hot, which we loved. We'd give it a 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor.
Esplendor Hotel - El Calafate
Very good location, this was the largest hotel of our trip, and probably the one we felt had a bit less personality. However, the room was comfortable, the views spectacular (from the hotel reception, not our room) and breakfast abundant albeit quite busy being a large hotel. Staff was helpful too. Overall we'd give this 3.5 on Tripadvisor.
Indigo Hotel - Puerto Natales
We liked this hotel very much. The room and the whole interior design of the hotel were fantastic. We liked the almost Scandinavian feel to it. The hot tub on the top floor with the view of fiord at sunset was pretty spectacular. The staff was friendly, although not as helpful in giving us information on excursions but in all honesty we got there quite tired and didn't really plan ahead very much. We went for dinner at their restaurant once, the service was a bit slow and the meat I got was cold, but they were super apologetic and were indeed quite busy that evening, so not a big deal but worth pointing it out to future customers that the experience at the restaurant can be disappointing. In fairness the view and the wine made up for the slow service :) We would give it 4.4 on Tripadvisor
Hosteria La Estepa - El Calafate
The hotel staff were super nice!! The girl at reception (don't remember her name sorry) was brilliant. She was very welcoming and she gave us very helpful directions and recommendations for things to see on our last day at El Calafate, we went to see the Laguna Nimez reserve thanks to her directions. We had a very nice dinner at the restaurante there too, again, with stunning views, this time of Lake Argentino. One thing however ruined a bit the experience. We had left the window open on arrival and we got back to our room we found it full of fliers. There were at least 30 or 40 if not more. So we spent a good 30 minutes to get rid of them. i guess in the summer, guests may need to be made aware of this risk if they open the windows. The hotel's location is a bit far off the town centre; much further then our hotel in Ushuaia, so the taxi ride would have been more expensive. Luckily we still had the hired car. We'd give it 3 on tripadvisor but only for the flies thing, with no flies it would have probably been 4.3 at least! :)
Cantera Hotel - Iguazu'
We liked this hotel very much. It was different from anywhere else we have ever been, for sure! It was nice to have a swimming pool too and air conditioning in the room. The staff were friendly and helpful. The highlight was that on the 2nd night we discovered we had dinner included! :) We'd give it 4.8 on tripadvisor.
we loved the excursions too.
Our favourite ones were the ones in Ushuaia, with Canal fun. The places were beautiful and the whole experience was so well organised. We were surprised by how well organised they were and by the abundant "packed" lunches, which turned out to be proper meals with appetisers, asado and red wine. But most of all, the guides were brilliant! We still talk about how much fun Norbi and Chicha were, our main guides in the two trips respectively :) They are clearly passionate about what they do and the places they took us, they were extremely informative and looked after us very well. In the Isla Gable trip it turned out that the canoeing was included, which we - and others on the trip - didn't expect and were quite nervous about it, but Norbi took it very easy and very calmly said that it was not a big deal if we didn't want to do it, although it was very easy and super safe. In the end, by the time we got to the island, everyone was looking forward to canoeing! ah ah
Chicha was so funny as well. His trip was the 4x4 off road lakes adventure, which again could have been quite stressful but it was great with Chicha at the drive and we were laughing all the time! So we recommended Canal Fun to a few people we met on the road already whose next stop was going to be Ushuaia :) For us definitely a 5 stars experience on Tripadvisor :)
Our excursions with Huellas del Sur in El Calafate were well organised, they managed to get us on to the minitrekking on the Perito Moreno at the last minute, which was great. Our guide for the El Chalten excursion (Belen) was lovely, but not as engaging as the guys at Canal Fun, she pretty much took us to the various destinations and that's it, didn't say much. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable excursion and we'd recommend it. The Perito Moreno excursion was spectacular; the guide who took us there on the bus (Jose Luis) gave us a detailed overview of the glacier and good suggestions regarding photos. The guide for the minitrekking (Tato from Hielo y Adventura) was fantastic. He took very good care of us, the pace was just right, he gave us a lot of information on the ice, its formation, on the glacier and a very useful lecture on how to walk on the glacier. The whole excursion was carried out in total safety.
For Davide the Perito Moreno was the highlight of the whole trip. I am still undecided between Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine :)
We think that the excursions at El Calafate were done in the right order (I'm not sure if it was intentional or not!). Probably seeing the Viedma glacier AFTER Perito Moreno would have been somewhat disappointing, or rather less spectacular.
Our excursions at Iguazu were excellent too! sorry it's getting boring...:) The two excursions here we felt we also timed well. Seeing the Brasilian side after the Argentinian side would not have had the same impact. It's best to keep the best for last :) Both our guides (Ariel for the Brazilian side and Roberto for the Argentinian side) were brilliant, very informative and answering all our questions. With Roberto we had the full day excursion in the Argentinian side and he managed not to lose any of us along the long walk to the falls, he set a good pace and at the same time allowed us to take some time to appreciate the spectacle and take pictures. He was extremely patient :)
Overall, we felt we had a very good balance of free time and excursions. Also all excursions finished relatively early and by 7-8pm the latest we were back at the hotel, which gave us time for ourselves.
Now, the road trip. That was interesting, shall we say. Here we need to point out an issue, which was by no means your fault. It was Google Maps' fault in fact.
The directions suggested by Google maps below are misleading:
It is the shortest way, yes, but there are 65km of rather bad dirt road, with very large stones. In our Renault Sendero we couldn't go faster than 30 km/h, as we couldn't risk to break the car in the middle of the Patagonia steppe.
We feel that the recommended route should be this, more kms but much safer:
I must admit, the drive from El Calafate to Puerto Natales was not a pleasant experience at all. We had some scary moments, in the middle of nowhere, each time we heard a loud bang from underneath the car when a stone hit it. We were so happy to see tarmac road again after more than 2 hours on the dirt road!!
What was even more confusing was that Google maps said that the dirt road we were on was Ruta 40, while the paper map we had in our pack from H&T said that it was provincial road 7....
So we think it is important to highlight this for any future customers who will do a similar trip: regardless of the type of car they get, it's best to go via the longer route as it is all with tarmac so the trip will be quicker and safer.
Aside from this, it was great to have the car, it gave us a lot of freedom to explore Torres Del Paine National Park. Probably we'd recommend people to get a 4WD for this trip as it is easier to use in the park as there are only dirt roads there, but not as bad as the one from El Calafate!
We'd love to send you pictures for the website, we are still going through them! Once we have selected the best ones, we'll send them over to you.
Francesca & Davide