Written by: Jose Ramon
Item reviewed: Trip to Chile and Argentina
Review of SouthAmerica.travel: We got a very good support from the travel agency to organize the tour. Changing the itinerary to accommodate our travel changes, and adapting it to meet our budget was appreciated. It was no surprise, everything came as expected. All the internal transportations, by airplane or bus, were well organized. We got all the information and documents needed for our travel. During our travel we got updates on travel changes. We had a list of local phones to call in case of problem. All the selected sites to visit were very interesting. All the local travel agencies were very professional, and provided comfortable transportation.
Review of the local travel agencies: All travel agencies were very professional. Somebody was waiting for us at expected time on every location. The guides were very knowledgeable, and spoke fluent English. We even found 2 speaking French.
Review of the hotels:
Buenos Aires : Ayres de Recoleta - The hotel is very well located, next to Recoleta cemetery, which deserves a visit, and it is where is buried Evita Peron. There are many good restaurants next to the hotel. The hotel facility is average. The in room breakfast is marginal. The service is good.
El Calafate : Hotel Xelena - Nice hotel. But noise insulation is poor. Good breakfast and restaurant. The hotel is far from the downtown, but an hourly free shuttle is available.
Salta : Hotel Ayres de Salta - Good hotel, close to downtown and many restaurants. Good breakfast.
Atacama : Hotel Terrantai - Very nice hotel. Next to the main street of Atacama. Very good breakfast and restaurant (by with limited selection).
Valparaiso : Hotel Gervasoni - Very nice old and charming hotel. Close to the elevator which takes you downtown. Located close to some of the best restaurants of Valparaiso. Very good breakfast. The restaurant was closed due to renovation. Review of the tours: We felt very safe in both Argentina and Chile. In Argentina, there is a very high inflation. In January it was about 6 pesos for one dollar. In March it went to 8 pesos for one dollar. But on the black market, shops, hotels, restaurants, we could exchange at 10 pesos for one dollar. Don't change your dollars in advance. In Chile there is only one exchange rate, and dollars can be exchanged on any bank.
Buenos Aires: It is a very nice, and clean city. The center was designed by French and Italian architects, and looks very European. Beautiful parks. The most interesting part is the Boca neighborhood, where immigrants arrived and lived on small corrugated iron houses of different colors. They have been preserved and host bars, restaurant and craftsmen. Here is the place where Tango was born. The Tango show is very good.
El Calafate: The tour to Perito Moreno glacier is fantastic. The view of the glacier from the boat or from the path in front of the glacier is very impressive. Specially if you see big blocks of ice falling down. Salta: The city has a lot of historic monuments, very well preserved. The excursion to Cafayate stops on very nice views of the mountains.
Atacama: The travel by bus from Salta to Atacama takes 8 to 10 hours. Even if the bus is comfortable, it only stops to clear the customs, which are located at 4000m of altitude. The views to the Andes are spectacular, and you cross very large Salinas, which are very large areas covered by white salt. From Atacama which is a very small town, you have very nice tours. The geysers tour that we did by ourselves is worthy. The geysers are not as spectaculars as in Yellowstone, but being high on the mountains, they provide steam in spite of freezing temperature, and many people were swinging on the outside pool. On inconvenient is that the maximum steam is seen before sun rise, so the pickup on the hotel is at 4:30 AM. During the stay in Atacama and during the tours you climb at more than 5000 meters, and it is difficult to breeze if you do any effort.
Valparaiso: Valparaiso is a very nice city located on the sea side, in the middle of hills. Very colorful houses in the old city have very beautiful paintings on the front walls, done by artists. You can use old elevators to go from the sea side to the hills, and enjoy very good views.There are plenty of restaurants. The tour outside of Valparaiso will show old fishermen villages, along with cormorants, sea lions, and even penguins. In conclusion, it was a very nice tour, and I took a lot of pictures. I recommend the tour and thanks Gretchen for having organized it.
Editor's Note -- Read more about Jose's trip and view pictures
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