Sunday, December 14, 2014





A Special Journey to the Edge of the Earth

A2A Safaris Co-Founder Jose Cortes ventured into the heart of Argentina's Los Glaciares and Chile's Torres del Paine for the quintessential Patagonian experience.  

He reckons the trip changed his life.  Read on to find out why.

Dear friends of A2A Safaris,

Last month my wife and I traveled to a continent that I've always had a huge affinity for (this was my fifth trip to Latin America) to tick off a major item on my bucket list - PATAGONIA.

Steph Wetherell, A2A's Latin America expert suggested that we spend the majority of the 3 week trip in Argentina and so we immersed ourselves in Buenos Aires' proud heritage, visited its charming estancias in the Pampas, its world renowned Mendoza wine region and for the coup de grace - Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina and Torres del Paine in Chile, both in the heartland of mystical Patagonia.

Buenos Aires and The Pampas

Afters spending only 5 days in Buenos Aires, it definitely earned a place on my top 5 favourite cities list. Made famous by iconic characters such as Eva Peron, Diego Maradona, Che Guevara and most recently Pope Francis, Buenos Aires felt like a European city in South America - a cross between Paris and Barcelona, with a population of ‘Portenos’ who reminded me more of Italians who spoke a wonderful kind of Spanish.

The city is packed with significant historical sites such as Casa Rosada made famous by 'Evita'; the cemetery at Recoleta which felt like an open air museum; and the colourful and bohemian neighbourhood of La Boca. We spent an afternoon on the Tigre Delta where some Portenos have their weekend homes, visited the legendary Boca Juniors and River Plate football stadiums and enjoyed an evening at Rojo Tango (arguably the best Tango show in the city) which was sublime.

Argentina's beef had a big reputation to live up to and I have to say that its grain fed, perfectly aged/cooked steaks exceeded all my expectations and I was able to slice their thick juicy steaks with my spoon with no effort at all so a definite 10/10. 

We also learned how to make Argentinian dishes such as empanadas and alfajores and even how to concoct a cup of yerba mate (a traditional herbal tea sipped from a metal straw called a bombilla). I also learned that 'dulce de leche' was invented in Argentina and it is now a big part of their heritage.

We stayed at some of the most impressive city hotels I have been to around the world - in vastly different but equally interesting neighborhoods such as Recoleta which is very similar to Barcelona's Eixample, Palermo which reminded me of the Marais in Paris and Porto Madeira felt like being in Marina Bay in Singapore.

Outside the city, the Pampas is home to charming estancias (traditional Argentine ranches) such as Estancia La Bamba de Areco where one can learn about 'gauchos' or South American cowboys' way of life and Estancia La Aguada which is home to one of the country's premier polo teams.

Mendoza Winelands

Flanked by a gorgeous snow-capped section of the Andes mountains, Argentina's Mendoza is arguably the world's most picturesque wine region. Technically a desert and irrigated by a complex network of canals fed by melting snow from the peaks of the Andes, Mendoza Valley and its neighbouring Uco Valley are home to the most delicious Malbecs on the planet.  

Aside from tasting some superb wines, my most memorable experience in Mendoza was climbing one of the Andes peaks on horseback in total darkness with some gauchos and their pack of dogs and reaching the summit as the sun rose above the expansive Uco Valley.  A sight I will never forget.

Mendoza is more than just mountains and Malbec and it has evolved into a world-class destination for wine tourism. Gorgeous wine estates and resorts in stunning settings, wineries which are architectural marvels and of course its amazing  'asados' and cutting edge gastronomy to go with its excellent wines.

Mendoza is a must do for wine enthusiasts and I will be back.

Parque Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine, Patagonia

The definite highlight of this trip... Advancing and retreating glaciers, otherworldly cloud formations, turquoise lakes and milky glacial rivers, unbelievable sunrises and sunsets, star studded skies and the best hiking activities.

We started near El Calafate in Argentina Patagonia. Using Relais & Chateaux's Eolo Lodge and the remote Estancia Cristina as our bases to explore the region, we trekked on the only advancing glacier in the world, Perito Moreno; we sailed among magical icebergs on Lago Argentino into the vast Upsala glacier; did some amazing hikes along ancient fossil canyons with Patagonia's condors hovering above; and explored on horseback some of the most remote and uninhabited corners of Patagonia.

Wildlife in Patagonia was also a revelation with a robust population of guanacos, rheas, foxes, armadillos, skunks, indigenous and feral hares and an amazing array of birds including an impressive line-up of raptors.  We did not have any puma sightings but with some luck and patience they can be seen in and around Patagonia.

For the finale, we spent our final 4 days in Chilean Patagonia at another Relais & Chateaux property: Awasi Patagonia. The Torres del Paine complex is by far and away the most beautiful mountain formation I have ever seen. Imagine a perfect massif with its gorgeous set of horns, rugged towers and other stunning formations mixed with blue glaciers, green lakes and rivers and ancient forests in one living eco-system. It is mind boggling to think that this masterpiece was shaped by erosion from ancient glaciers.

Hiking in Patagonia indeed feels like being at the edge of the earth!

Energized by the great hikes in Patagonia, I looked at the map of Argentina and realized that during those 3 wonderful weeks we only managed to visit at best half of what Argentina has to offer and missed out on places like Bariloche in northern Patagonia, Peninsula Valdes which is famous for its orcas hunting seals on the beach, the mighty Iguazu Falls, Salta and the rugged Northwest with its psychedelic mountains and Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of the world.  

We would also like to explore Chile and get to know Santiago and the Chilean winelands better and set foot on the Atacama Desert and do more hikes in Torres del Paine enroute to Antarctica.  

I have been going on safari in Africa for almost 20 years (and have been living in Africa since 2010) and have done many life-changing safaris during this time, but I have to say that just like my first African safari back in the 1990's this trip to Patagonia has changed my life.

We are very excited to share Patagonia and all of Latin America's special places with our clients and friends and we look forward to arranging your trip to Argentina or Chile.  I will definitely be back for more!

Happy travels.

Jose Cortes

Come visit us at A2A Journeys or contact Steph at  

* All images courtesy of Jose Cortes, A2A Journeys and A2A Safaris
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