I met someone who took a trip to Patagonia and my first reaction was “HOW FLIPPIN’ COOL!” My second thought was “Tell me how to do it!” Stephanie is a generous soul and took the time to share the details. Look at these photos. Would you be in a funk if you visited Rio de Janeiro, Patagonia, and Buenos Aires for a two week adventure? Doubt it.

My limited knowledge about Patagonia comes from one of my favorite books, “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” by Yvon Chouinard. He is one of the co-founders of the company Patagonia. This isn’t super-relevant to planning your trip to South America but I just wanted to introduce you to Yvon because he is passionate about so many things that he probably doesn’t even know what a funk looks like!

Stephanie started her trip visiting friends in Rio, flew to a small town in Patagonia, then finished in Buenos Aires.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 3 days

  • she stayed with a friend
  • you’ll find beaches, nightlife, futebol, live music and history

El Chalten, Patagonia: 3 days

  • she stayed at the Rancho Grande hostel
  • you’ll find pristine views and challenging hikes along with friendly locals in this sleepy town

Buenos Aires, Argentina: 5 days

  • she stayed at the America del Sur hostel for $20/night (they do free guided tours)
  • you’ll find nightlife (Lapa neighborhood), live music, $6 tango lessons, Evita’s pink house, a botanical garden, Christ the Redeemer statue, and Iguazú Falls

Patagonia hike:

Stephanie originally planned to do the “W trek” (named for the shape), which was 5 days long but she didn’t know if she was physically fit enough for it. In the end she booked a 1 day hike. “It was humbling. I walk a lot around New York but I’m not really in shape. I couldn’t do anything the next day. I could barely walk!” Despite the physical challenge, the hike was still one of her favorite parts of her trip. “I would be walking on the red dirt trail and there would be 15-20 minute stretches when I didn’t see anyone else… just the animals. Then I would worry a bit thinking, ‘I’m alone out here!”

Best memory:

“The full moon tour at Iguazú Falls. The falls are composed of 275 waterfalls between Argentina and Brazil. We walked on this raised path in the moonlight over the water towards the falls. There were no electric lights, just the light from the moon to guide us. The water was so loud and we were covered in mist. It was really mysterious because you couldn’t see the bottom of the falls but the noise was overwhelming. The moon was orange and so low in the sky. I just kept thinking, ‘This is so magical.’

The next day she did a jungle jeep excursion so she could see it in the daylight. In the daytime there are rainbows everywhere you look but at night you can see “moonbows!”


Roundtrip airfare from JFK to Rio/Buenos Aires… $1,200

Airfare from Rio > El Calafate, Patagonia > Buenos Aires… $750

Full moon tour (includes buffet meal)… $75

Jungle jeep excursion with boat ride to Iguazú Falls… $60

Average meal without alcohol… Rio $8-20; Iguazu falls $7-15; El Chalten $7-15; Buenos aires $5-10

Hostels… Rancho Grande in El Chatlen, Patagonia- $17-36/night; America del Sur in Buenos Aires- $20/night

Food for thought:

  • It was her first time traveling alone so she planned everything (hostels, transportation, activities) beforehand.
  • Pack essentials: hiking boots (with good ankle support), going out clothes for nightlife in Rio and Buenos Aires, long johns for Patagonia (wool leggings and long sleeve shirt), muddy belt (to prevent theft), printed reservations in plastic sleeves, flip flops for showering, hat for the sun, sunglasses, sunscreen (can be expensive in small towns), backpack and rolling suitcase, passport, visas
  • Plan a day of rest after a full day of hiking in Patagonia
  • Use common sense: there are some neighborhoods in Rio and Buenos Aires that tourists should not visit at night
  • Timing is everything: the full moon tour obviously doesn’t happen every night. Also, Stephanie went in January, which is summertime south of the equator.

The trip gave her time to mull over LIFE:

  • She had time to think about her job situation (she was starting a new position post-trip)
  • She caught the travel bug
  • She realized she wants to spend more time with friends and family

Where in the world is Stephanie Sandiego? In the future, she plans to visit Isla Magdalena, Chile to spend some quality time with penguins and the Philippines to explore the Palawan underground river.

Feeling adventurous right now? Stephanie recommends “The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann.

Where are you going on your next trip??