Going to Argentina and Antarctica was our last trip of 2017. It was a definite bucket list item for us! This trip marked Continent #6 (Antarctica). In 2018 we will step foot in Continent #7 (when we go to New Zealand) and will have visited every continent on the planet.
How do I get to Antarctica?
After lots of research on what points we could use for this trip, we booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Our Chase Sapphire Preferred card gets us a 25% bonus on a booking. If we had not been 5/24 and had gotten the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, we would’ve gotten a whopping 50% bonus on booking! Regardless, we were able to cash in 196,072 points for two round trip tickets. Our routing took us from JFK through Santiago and Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, back to Buenos Aires for a few days, and then back to New York.
We booked this ticket about six months in advance. LATAM ended up changing some flights. This required overnighting in Buenos Aires on the way to Ushuaia. They paid for our hotel and car (more on that later) but it was a mess to sort through with the agents, some who did not speak English.
Trip Planning Notes
- We were the only people on our expedition trip not to book the charter flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. We wanted to save the $900 per person for the flight and visit Buenos Aires on our own. That led to some confusion about where and when to meet us. We ended up missing the catamaran cruise because the charter flight came in early. On the plus side, we also boarded and explored the ship early.
- It was warm in Buneos Aires, temperate in Ushuaia, and fairly cold in Antarctica. Also, we had quite a large packing list for Antarctica. So it was a bit of a puzzle packing efficiently.
- We were very careful to avoid exceeding the 17kg carry on limit on LATAM. They only weighed our bags once but we read stories online of multiple bag weighings. Our scale broke the night before we left, so everything was guesstimation! Pro tip — bring an extra small packable bag or backpack that is your “laptop bag.” Everything heavy like laptops and cameras can go into that bag, lightening the load on the bag that will be weighed. Rob brought our packable backpack and Jess brought her Lo & Sons OG.
- A tip for speaking in Buenos Aires: We typically pronounce double-l (ll) in Spanish as “y.” In Argentina, you pronounce it as a “sh.” So “me llamo” is pronounced “me sha-mo.” Learning this saved us a lot of headache in finding the parilla (“pari-sha”).
- Ushuaia is a port city, but the seafood is actually not that great there. They also need to “import” all their ingredients from far away. So be prepared to be disappointed for the most part in your eating adventures while staying there.
- Thanks to our Ritz Carlton credit card, we made most our reservations in Buenos Aires through the J.P. Morgan Premier Concierge. This was well worth it, because they were able to make reservations even when there was no online availability.
Day 1 / NYC
- Departed JFK at 7:00pm
Day 2 / Santiago + Buenos Aires
- Arrived Santiago at 5:40am
- Went to the the Avianca Sala VIP lounge, thanks to Priority Pass. For the first hour, we were the only people in the lounge. Also, they have hundreds of Micro-USB chargers but no iPhone chargers, thanks to a partnership with Samsung. The food was just okay.
- Departed SCL @ 11:15AM
- Arrived EZE @ 1:25PM
- EZE is the larger airport, but is further from the city. If you can, fly into AEP — it will save you a lot of time.
- Stayed at the Reconquista Garden, thanks to LATAM for messing up our flights. DO NOT STAY HERE. The location is good and the staff is nice. But it is pretty run down and the bed is lumpy. Our sheets also smelt fine but were stained with a questionable substance. The bathroom is the nicest part of the hotel. I would avoid staying there!
- Lunch/Early dinner @ Parrilla Pena: If you like the meat medium rare, order your steak jugoso. They give you empanadas before your food, which are pretty tasty.
- Walked around Buenos Aires – it was super HOT and all the air conditioners were dripping down on us.
Day 3 / Buenos Aires + Ushuaia
- Departed AEP at 5:35AM
- Arrived USH at 9:20AM.
- Breakfast @ Ramos Generales: Vibe (old general store) is very cool, but the pastries were just so-so. Before noon, they don’t offer hot food other than sandwiches.
- Walked around Ushuaia downtown, which is very small.
- If you have time, you can head to the tourist office and get free wi-fi and a passport stamp.
- Visited Galeria Tomataka History Fuego. It’s a little kitschy with the wax dioramas but still pretty educational. You follow a line and pause at each scene to listen to the recording they provide. At many of the scenes, you can jump in to take photos. I was a little confused by the timeline — they started talking about the natives and quickly jumped to the adventurers. But overall, it was a pretty good museum to visit.
- Lunch @ Freddie’s. Came right at the end of lunch hour and they wouldn’t let anyone else in after us. We split the crab a la Freddie, which was creamy and came with rice and vegetables. We wouldn’t go there twice, but the crab tasted fresh and it was fairly tasty.
- Dinner @ Restaurant Kaupé. We made reservations six months ago – but when we got there, there were only three other tables being served that night. I think availability is hit or miss based on ships coming in/out of port. We were turned down by a restaurant after coming back to Ushuaia because we didn’t have reservations, so I would recommend making a reservation regardless. Get the sea bass and the octopus.
- Stayed @ Cabanas Utaka.
- They have apartments in the main building or three cabins behind the apartments that overlook the Beagle Channel.
- The view is nice — but it is about a 10-15 minute walk up a steep-ish hill from town. If you’re looking for something in the “middle of the action,” this might not be the place to stay.
- Get the cabins! We stayed in an apartment when we came back from the ship, but it was just not as nice. The two cabins on the left (facing the building) are both two-bedroom cabins. The one on the right is the one-bedroom cabin (the one we stayed in). They each have a kitchen, dining table, sofa, and bathroom. The two-bedroom cabins have the superior view that no one can walk in front. We did have a few people coming from the pizza place next door coming in front of our giant windows to take photos!
- Guadalupe, the manager, is also amazing and very responsive on Whatsapp.
- The apartments were $1518 Argentine Pesos a night and the cabins were $1715 Argentine Pesos a night.
Day 4 / Ushuaia
- Spent the day @ Tierra del Fuego National Park
- Went back to Ramos Generales to see whether their hot food was any good. We had empanadas, steak, and rabbit for dinner. It was okay, but not awesome. There are better places to eat in Ushuaia.
- Stayed again @ Cabanas Utaka.
Day 5 / Ushuaia
- Missed the Lindblad Expeditions group because they arrived early and no one notified us. This caused us to miss the Beagle Channel cruise that many people take in Ushuaia. On the plus side, we boarded the ship early.
Days 6 – 14 / Antarctica + Drake Passage
- We did our expedition on the National Geographic Explorer through Lindblad Expeditions.
Day 15 / Ushauia
- Went to the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia courtesy of our ship — feel free to skip this museum. It’s rather boring and a little depressing.
- Dinner @ Paso Garibaldi RestoBar. Would definitely recommend. It was very crowded but we got a table even though we didn’t have a reservation. Portions were really big. We had the octopus appetizer, toothfish, and king crab ravioli. The octopus was good, but may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it’s smaller octopus in a thin soy sauce-like stew.
- Stayed again @ Cabanas Utaka but in an apartment. Would recommend the cabins over the apartments.
Day 16 / Ushauia + Buenos Aires
- Depart USH @ 10:20am
- Arrive AEP @ 1:50pm
- Lunch @ Bacan down the street from our hotel. They have a pretty well-priced three-course lunch special that we took advantage of. No English menu, but the waitress tried her best.
- Walked around San Telmo, including the San Telmo market and surrounding streets.
- Dinner @ La Carniceria. Portions were REALLY big. We ordered some apps and three of us each ordered entrees — there were definitely leftovers. The smoked steak was our favorite, and the sweetbread appetizers were delicious. Make a reservation! We saw people get turned away at the door.
- Stayed @ L’Adresse Hotel Boutique. We booked on Airbnb. We originally had 3 nights, but when LATAM changed our flights, we needed to shorten our stay here. They kindly changed the dates, but the price per night went up substantially. Not really sure what happened there. The hotel was okay – the room was nice but the shutter doors lack a bit of privacy. We also missed the free breakfast every day, so not sure whether it was good or not.
Day 17 / Buenos Aires
- Coffee @ Daily Coffee. Pretty local place, good espresso/cappuccino. Served with little pastries that were tasty.
- Lunch @ El Sanjuanino. Empanada heaven! We got there right as it opened and scored a table. It filled up very quickly. Make sure to get their fried empanadas — they are delicious.
- Walked around Buenos Aires: La Recoleta cemetery (where Eva Peron is buried), El Ateneo Grand Splendid (a former bookstore turned theatre), San Telmo
- Pit stop @ Rapanui for gelato. We liked the fruit flavored gelato flavors the best.
- Another pit stop @ Zavalía for coffee (the coffee shop we visited in Buenos Aires that was most reminiscent of Brooklyn)
- Dinner @ Roux.
- We made a reservation, which was needed since the space was pretty small.
- The service was hit-or-miss — there was one woman who didn’t speak English who pawned us off on a lovely waitress who did. The non-English-speaking waitress refused to talk to us or smile for the rest of the service.
- We ordered several dishes which they were kind enough to split and course out. Some highlights: sweetbreads, morel mushrooms, fish. For the food, I would definitely go back.
- They were also very generous with their wine pours.
- Stayed @ L’Adresse Hotel Boutique.
Day 18 / Buenos Aires
- Coffee @ Coffee Town in San Telmo market. It was okay — if you’re in the area, Zavalía is much better.
- Walked around the San Telmo Fair, which is open every Sunday. We were told it was not as crowded today because of New Years.
- Lunch @ Parilla Don Julio. Portions are huge here! We could’ve split one speak. The skirt steak (off menu) was the best thing we ate. Reservations are highly recommended.
- New Years’ Dinner @ Cenas Pasionarias. Secret suppers are a big thing in Buenos Aires, and this place came highly recommended from L’Adresse Hotel Boutique. It’s run by a family that also owns an antiques shop — so all the furniture you sit on can be purchased! We seemed like the only non-Argentines that night, which made for an interesting atmosphere. Old vintage movies projected on the walls, and for an hour before midnight, a jazz band came in and played. Overall, the food was good but stay away from the sushi (the rice was far too hard). A great way to spend new years!
- Stayed @ CasaSur Bellini Hotel. This hotel was really nice and a step up from Roux. There was also a gym across a courtyard that had a barbell AND stall bars.
Day 19 / Buenos Aires
- Had lunch at a place that was completely forgettable, where the waiter seemed to forget we existed.
- Departed EZE @ 6:20pm
Day 20 / New York
- Arrived JFK @ 7:45AM
- Whew! We’re home!