Luis Piedra Buena – An Unexpected Visit Along Patagonian Route 3

If, like us, you unexpectedly find yourself traveling north from Patagonia on the eastern Route 3 instead of the scenic, quaint, loved by everyone, filled with puppies, rainbows and marble caves Caretera Austral that you had dreamed of traveling for months, don’t fear! You will be pleased to know that there are a few places of interest along the way for you to continue your patagonian adventuring. One example of this is a town called Luis Piedra Buena.

When we initially stopped in Piedra Buena we were not impressed right away. Regular town, nothing special. Needing to spend the night there we were happy to have met a few motorcycle travelers who recommended a comfortable city camping location. What was meant to be a one day stop turned into a week long stay filled with epic sunsets, penguins and lots of Swiss people.

Despite what its name might imply, Vial Camping was an excellent homestead. For 40 pesos ($4) per person per night we were one of the only guests at this quiet, riverside, grassy campsite (with hot showers and wifi!). In typical Argentinian fashion the campsite had enough parillas (BBQs) to grill a small herd of cows. As the sun went down that first night, Piedra Buena got its first hooks into us with the most incredible sunset. The unending patagonian steppe surrounding the town gives the sky an ominous perspective that is both vast and surreal. The cloud cover felt like a low ceiling but the vastness of the terrain meant there was always sunny sky in sight. The intensity of the colors in the sunset were staggering.

Just down the street is a small island (Isla Pavona) in the river where you can also camp, picnic, hike around and enjoy the epic sunsets. We found it so relaxing that we stayed a week since we didn’t want to be on the move for Jordan’s birthday. Stopping in Piedra Buena helped us realize that as long term travelers we don’t always need to be on the move in search of the next high octane adventure. We are enjoying life and sometimes it is nice to slow down in a small town to simply enjoy the pleasures of beautiful cheap accommodation and sunsets.

We spent the first few days with a retired Swiss man who enjoyed taking dips in the river and letting the current drag him around for a while. Once he left, another Swiss family arrived. Two professors on sabbatical with their sons. After chatting over dinner the family generously offered to squish us in their car the next day to explore Parque de Monte León. This coastal dessert park is home to all sorts of animals including sea lions, penguins and cormorants (whose droppings used to be quite in demand for their fertilizer magic apparently). Standing surrounded by penguins about 3 inches from my feet was quite a special experience and made Jordan and I want to reneg on our previous post in which we implied that penguin watching as an activity isn’t that cool.

We eventually left Piedra Buena, but will never forget our week long excursion at Vial Camping, and the nature surrounding it. We wouldn’t recommend that you plan to stay there for as long as we did, but if you are making your way on Route 3 and need a stop, consider Piedra Buena!


Day Hike to Laguna Fitz Roy – El Chalten

El Chalten – great little town for the budget traveler inside Parque Nacional de los Glaciares. Home to the Cerro Fitz Roy and located within the pristine patagonian wilderness of Argentina. You can do multi-day trekking here or you can take day hikes, leaving your heavy pack behind.  Our favorite day hike was the sendero Fitz Roy.

Daylight lasts for a long time during the patagonian summer so we were able to start this hike at close to noon. After our leisurely morning, we donned our day packs (carrying only a bit of water as you can fill up from any stream!) and hit the trail. Starting from town, we did the whole hike in around 7 hours returning to our campground in town just as the sun was starting to set. The trail is incredibly well marked. The toughest parts of the hike are the initial ascent from town and then the final ascent to the laguna. The rest of the time its pretty flat. The scenery is stunning as it winds through forest, meadows and rivers and it offers several sneak peaks at Cerro Fitz Roy along the way. When we finally reached the laguna at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy, panting from the very difficult final incline, we were blown away by the beautiful turquoise color of the water. Fitz Roy looms behind the lake. A beautiful behemoth, it appears to have been punched up out of the ground suddenly, giving it a unique look from any of the other mountains we have seen. Such a great day in Patagonia, only made better by eating an Asado around the campfire that night!