Torres del Paine National Park

After visiting the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, it was time to drive back to Chile – but this time we were heading to Puerto Natales, a port city in Chile’s southern Patagonia and also the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.

We stayed in a fairly residential neighborhood, at Hospedaje Costanera, which is a hostel with private single rooms as well as more dorm-style rooms. We all had our own single rooms per couple, which was really nice! Since we were in a more residential neighborhood, walking to the main part of town took about 20-25 minutes, which wasn’t hard.

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Our trip to Torres del Paine started super early in the morning. It was a typical Patagonian day – it rained on and off and the wind was out of this world. The road you’d normally take was closed for repairs, so we ended up taking the long way to Lago Grey.

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Lago Grey, or Grey Lake, is a glacially fed lake from the Grey Glacier. We didn’t end up going to the glacier, but we did walk across the dried part of the lake and up to the lookout point. It takes about 2 hour’s total, so make sure you give yourself ample time.

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After Lago Grey, we filed back into the van to drive to Salto Grande. Salto Grande is a waterfall on the Paine River, after the Nordenskjöld Lake.

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On the road to the waterfall, we ran into some wild guanaco’s!

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The lookout point past the waterfall, Mirador Cuernos, offered up some truly beautiful views of the Torres del Paine towers.

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We opted to go for the “see more things” option instead of hiking to the base of the Torres del Paine towers. The hike to the base from the parking lot takes (according to them) about 6 hours one way. A part of our larger group opted to hike to the base and they took over 10 hours to get back. It also snowed and hailed during their hike – in the middle of the summer!

During our time there, I definitely felt like we didn’t even scratch the surface of everything that the Torres del Paine National Park had to offer. Perhaps one day, we’ll be back to see more of the park!

El Calafate/Los Glaciares National Park

After spending Christmas in Punta Arenas, we all piled into the van for our grand road trip adventure. The first leg of our trip involved driving from Punta Arenas to El Calafate, crossing the Chile-Argentinian border. We started driving at about 8am and arrived at the border about 4 hours later. After another 3 hours, we finally reached the town of El Calafate.
El Calafate is a town near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice field and is primarily known for being the gateway to the Los Glaciares National Park, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
We stayed at Cabanas Nievas, which is located on the end of the main tourist street in the town. We had an entire cabin to ourselves – two couples to each side of the cabin. The location was great because we were able to walk up and down the main street to purchase groceries, souvenirs, and snacks. It was also super easy to find the bank and numerous restaurants.
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The main reason for staying in El Calafate was to visit the Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1981). The Park’s name comes from the giant ice cap in the Andres, which is the largest outside of Antarctica and Greenland. It contains 47 large glaciers, some of which melt and flow into the Atlantic, while the others flow towards the Pacific.
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We spent the majority of our time visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is one of the most important tourist attractions in Argentinian Patagonia. The glacier is special because it is advancing, instead of retreating like most of the other glaciers in the world. The ice field around the glacier is the world’s 3rd largest reserve of fresh water.
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The Park is great because there are many paths that lead from the parking/entrance towards the Perito Moreno Glacier. Each path (color coded) takes a varying length of time, has a different difficulty level, and offers a slightly different view of the Glacier.
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To reward ourselves for a long day spent at the Park, we had dinner at La Tablita, one of the best restaurants in town. They specialize on meat, meat and more meat! X and I opted to split a steak and a single portion of their spit-roasted Patagonian lamb. The steak was good, but the lamb was phenomenal! The meat literally fell right off the bone!
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El Calafate was one of my favorite parts of the trip because the town was so charming and visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier was an experience of a lifetime. I loved just strolling through the town at night (Remember, it’s still light out at 10pm!) and ducking in and out of all the shops.

Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas (or historically known as Sandy Point in English) is the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. It lies atop rolling hills that look over the Strait of Magellan and acts as the gateway to Chilean Patagonia.
We arrived at the Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport very early in the morning after a short 3.5 hour flight from Santiago. The airport is fairly small, with only 3 gates in the terminal. But it handles a very large number of passengers per year due to high amounts of tourism in Chilean Patagonia.
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We spent about 8 days total in Punta Arenas – most of them relaxing and stuffing our faces with some quality home-cooked Chilean food. In between the great food, awesome wine, and even better beer (shout out to Austral’s Calafate Ale and Hernando de Magallanes Brewery’s Golden Ale), we did manage to see a few things in town.
Nao Victoria Museum
This museum exhibits a full-size replica of the first ship ever to circumnavigate the world – Ferdinand Magellan’s Nao Victoria. The Nao Victoria was the first boat to explore the region of Chile in 1520 and is considered one of the most famous ships in the history of navigation.
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The museum also exhibits a replica of the James Caird, a lifeboat from the Endurance, a ship that was stranded on Elephant Island during the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1917. The lifeboat was used by 6 members of the Endurance to sail over 800 nautical miles in order to find help for the other members of the stranded Endurance. The total voyage lasted 16 days!
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It was really interesting to see the replicas of the ships. It’s amazing that people used to sail in these wooden boats in such cramped conditions. I can’t even imagine doing it.
Magallanes National Reserve
The Magallanes National Reserve is a national reserve of the Magallanes and Antartica Chilena Region. It is located just outside of downtown Punta Arenas and offers beautiful hikes and walks. The park charges an entry fee, but it is well worth it because you can spend hours hiking in the park.
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There are several hikes to choose from, so we opted to go for something that was not too long or strenuous. We hiked up to the Mirador Zapador Austral, which takes about 2.5 hours. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of Punta Arenas with the Strait of Magellan.
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The path we took was not paved, but it was marked. Definitely bring your hiking shoes or else you’re going to end up sliding around in the mud!
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1 Day in Santiago, Chile

Since X and I were headed to the end of the world, AKA Punta Arenas, for the Christmas holiday, we had to fly into Santiago, Chile’s capital and largest city. After 10.5 hours on a plane (Side note: Flying non-stop with LATAM was easy breezy), we landed at about 8am to sunshine and 80 degree weather. It’s the middle of the winter in NYC and Detroit, so we were both super happy to shed some layers.
We were flying out again the next morning at 6am, so we only really had less than 24 hours in Santiago. X’s step-dad has a house in Lampa, so we made a quick stop there first for a shower and a nap. It was wonderful lying in a hammock outside of the house just enjoying the summer breeze.
Refreshed, we headed over to Mercado Central de Santiago, the central market of Santiago. The market is actually a fish market that is known for seafood lunches. Apparently, coming here for lunch is a “must” for all visitors to Santiago!
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We had lunch at Donde Augusto. While we all ordered our own dishes, appetizers were ordered for the table. Words cannot describe how delicious it was. Behold – pink mussels baked with parmesan cheese!
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I, of course, had to go with the Chilean Sea Bass – when in Chile! It was stuffed with king crab meat, which is more abundant down below than it is here in NYC. Delish!
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After lunch, we drove over to Teleferico Santiago, a newly reopened cable car system that brings you up to the San Cristobal Hill (Cerro San Cristóbal).
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The cable cars stop at three stations: Oasis, Tupahue, and Cumbre. The last station connects with the summit of the Hill, where there is a sanctuary that is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception with a 22-meter statue of the Virgin Mary. Within the pedestal of the statue is a small chapel.
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The view at the top is truly breathtaking and you can just see how big the city of Santiago is!
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I’d love to come back to Santiago another time to really get to explore what the city has to offer. But for now, onwards to the end of the world!

Hakata Tonton

Hakata Tonton has been on my list for a very, very long time. I’m pretty sure I bookmarked it on Yelp years ago. When I asked my sister where she wanted to go for her birthday dinner this year and she said Hakata Tonton, I quickly made a reservation. No questions asked!

We arrived at 8pm for our reservation and waited a bit for a booth table to clear up. It was about 30 degrees that night, so it was perfect for hot pot.

We started off the night with a ton of appetizers, because we’re giant piggies and cannot just have a main dish! First to arrive was perhaps my favorite appetizer of the night – the Seared Scallop and Sea Urchin. The dish comes with 6 scallops, each topped with some glorious uni. The uni was fresh and super sweet, which actually, could be said for the scallops as well. I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely trip to the ocean.

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Another standout appetizer was the Egg Omelet with Pork tonsoku and Scallion. Tonsoku, or pig’s feet, is their specialty after all, so this appetizer was stellar. The tonsoku melted into the omelet and the entire dish was just soft and melty.

We also ordered their TONTON Famous Homemade Gyoza, which is wrapped flat and seared on a hot plate instead of your typical dumpling-style gyoza. We were all “meh” about this dish. It didn’t blow our minds, but it wasn’t bad either.

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Our last appetizer was the Garlic Fried Rice with pork tonsoku and egg. Again, the pig’s feet were incorporated perfectly with the fried rice. This dish was fragrant and flavorful – I could eat this all day!

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For the hotpot, we had ordered 2 different ones and split both of them. We ordered –

Their signature HAKATA TONTON Hot Pot with Collagen broth, Tofu, Chicken, Dumplings, Vegetables (cabbage, chives, and spinach), Berkshire pork belly and Tonsoku, or pig’s feet.

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Their Shabu Shabu Hot Pot with Collagen broth, vegetables, thin slices of Berkshire pork sirloin & pork belly.

I enjoyed both of them and I think they both had their merits. At the end of the day, it’s more up to personal preference. The Shabu Shabu hot pot takes a bit more work as you have to cook the meat yourself. But it is the lighter option in terms of taste and flavor profile. The Hakata Tonton hot pot is prepared and served by the waiters, so you do absolutely zero work. It is more flavorful and even a little bit spicy.

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We were completely stuffed, but since it was my sister’s birthday, we had to get dessert. If you let them know ahead of ordering, they will close all the lights and bring out your desert with a candle and sing to you. I love that!

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We ordered the Dessert Tasting Plate, which included their Cheese Mousse, Crème Brulee, Black sesame ice cream, and Mochi cake. My sister liked the cheese mousse the most, but I definitely thought the buckwheat Crème Brulee paired with the black sesame ice cream was the best. The buckwheat helped cut the usual super sweetness of the Crème Brulee.

Service was attentive enough – we did wish they were a little more attentive. Our dinner ended up being well over 3 hours, which I thought was insane.

Tomiño Taberna Gallega

I noticed Tomiño while walking from Soho to Chinatown one day and made a small mental bookmark. I tried to come in on a Saturday night twice but they were unfortunately full – even the bar was full! But third time’s a charm because we finally managed to snag some empty seats at the bar.

Tomiño is a Galician tapas bar serving food from the Northwestern part of the Spain. I absolutely adore Spanish food – especially tapas style dishes – so I was especially excited. We started off with drinks – I had a whiskey sour and my mom had a glass of rose. After I had ordered, the waiter had come back to confirm with me that their way of making the drink would be acceptable. Basically, they do not use any sort of juice or mix-in that contains preservatives so they would be subbing in fresh lemon juice instead. I was A-OK with this! My drink was delicious and reasonably priced too!

We started off with an order of their Croquetas, which come with 4 pieces per serving – 2 pieces of ham + aioli and 2 pieces of seafood + aioli ($8). Both croquetas were delicious, but I definitely liked the ham better. It was certainly tastier.

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We split a salad, which was the recommendation of our waiter – and coincidentally, it was also the first night they were offering it on the menu. It was basically a white bean salad with anchovies, roasted red pepper, and sherry wine vinaigrette. I absolutely loved this salad. The beans were crisp and the anchovies were not too fishy or overpowering. Great call from our waiter!

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Next to arrive was the La Española, which is a large platter featuring tortilla española, pan con tomate, and jambon serrano ($17). The pan con tomate was flavorful and exactly the way I remembered having it in Spain last summer. I was not too wow-ed by the tortilla española, which I thought was a bit dry and tasteless.

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Our last dish of the night was the Pulpo á feira, or octopus boiled and dusted with sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, and paprika ($12). Pulpo á feira is a traditional Spanish Galician dish and is perhaps one of my favorite Spanish tapas dishes. The octopus is super tender from the boiling that happens in the beginning of the cooking process. It practically melts in your mouth!

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For dessert, we went with their special dessert for the holiday season. It featured Cañas, or a traditional Galician dessert that sort of resembles an Italian cannoli. It’s basically a roll of fried dough that’s filled with a custard filling. It was paired with ice cream made from Turrón, a nougat that is typically made of honey, sugar, and egg white, with some kind of toasted nuts. Our waiter told us that it is considered a traditional Christmas dessert in Spain. I thought the dessert was very good and I enjoyed getting to try a traditional Christmas dessert from Spain – even if it was in a slightly modified form!

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I cannot rave enough about the service at Tomiño. Every single waiter we encountered was attentive, helpful, and absolutely amazing. They were so friendly and really made us feel like we were being taken care of. I highly recommend Tomiño!

Where and What I ate in Iceland

When most people hear the word Iceland, they think ice, glaciers, Northern Lights, puffins, and probably expensive. And they’re all right. Iceland is perhaps the most expensive country that I’ve ever visited – and I live in New York City so I know expensive cities.

I think the majority of our budget was spent on eating out. Sure, since we had an AirBnB, we could’ve cooked our meals and saved a lot of money. But as a self-proclaimed foodie, I also absolutely love eating out and trying out the food in all the places that I visit. So, we ate out a lot. And my wallet is now sad. But, my stomach was super happy!

Iceland, believe it or not, has a lot of amazing food. They have a lot of really great seafood available to them since they are an island. They also have really, really good dairy products like Skyr (their own special yogurt-like cheese), quality cheeses, and delicious ice cream. They also have some really “exotic” food items like fermented shark, grilled whale, and puffin.

So did I eat all of that? What did I eat? Read on to find out!

The Expensive

One night, we went all out. We went to Fish Market, or Fiskmarkaðurinn. I chose Fish Market because their menu looked captivating and interesting. They pride themselves in sourcing the freshest ingredients and cooking it with a modern twist.

We had the Volcano Langoustine Maki, featuring langoustine tartar with sesame oil, 7 spice, and chili on top of a maki roll filled with salmon and cucumber. This roll was very busy and really exploded with flavor in your mouth.

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We also split the Hosomaki, which featured king crab with spicy fly fish roe. This roll was very simple, yet the sweetness of the king crab contrasted very nicely against the spice and saltiness of the fly fish roe. Highly recommend both of them!

I had the Pan-fried Atlantic Catfish with herb pesto, creamy potato salad, grilled corn, and sugar snaps. It was, to put it simply, bomb. The catfish was moist and flakey and the grilled corn and potato salad really mixed things up on the plate.

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For dessert, we ordered the Sorbet Selection since it was the lightest dessert on the menu. It came out on a foot long plate with an assortment of exotic fruits. This was … a very Instagramable dessert.

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The Best of the Best

Best Breakfast –

My best breakfast choice goes to Sandholt. Sandholt, located on Laugavegur, the main shopping street in Reykjavik, was our first stop after arriving at our hotel. They sell all sorts of goodies – sandwiches, bread sliced to order, pastries, desserts, etc. They also have a little “deli” section in the front with cured meats, cheeses, jams, and skyr.

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On our first morning in the city, we stopped in for breakfast at about 9am. We were seated right away and service was prompt and attentive. Everyone had a breakfast plate with sausages, eggs, salad, and sourdough. I opted for their smoked salmon on a soft pretzel, which was yummy but a bit hard to eat. I also had an oat milk latte, which was my first. It was surprisingly good!

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Best Lunch –

My best lunch option is also one of the cheapest meals in the city. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, which basically translates to, “The Town’s Best Sausages”, is a small chain of hot dog stands located in Reykjavik.

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The sausages are made with lamb, pork, and beef. It’s served in a bun and if you order it with everything, it comes topped with ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade. Under the sausage is a layer of crispy fried onions and raw onions.

I think we ended up going about 4 times during our week in Iceland. On our first day, it was the best midday snack after our afternoon naps (we had arrived at 6am and didn’t get rooms until about 1pm). I really liked the crispy fried onions on the bottom of the sausage since it gives it more texture with every bite. Icelandic mustard is also super delicious, I love that it’s slightly sweet and contrasts with the salty hot dog.

Best Dinner –

For my best dinner in Iceland, I would have to pick Salka Valka, or Fish & More. Fish & More is definitely a very affordable option in the Reykjavik area and has a very homey, comforting vibe. We all opted to have their Traditional Fish Stew, or Plokkfiskur. Plokkfiskur is a traditional oven-baked fish stew made with haddock, cod, potatoes, onions, and spices in a casserole-like fashion. I am a HUGE fan of Plokkfiskur because it just feels so warm and homey every single time I eat it.

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We finished our meal by splitting their Warm Apple Pie and Icelandic Rhubarb Cake. I think I liked the rhubarb cake more since it was very subtly sweet and just a little tart. I highly recommend the rhubarb cake!

Best Cafes –

Honestly, it is really hard to decide which café is my favorite. We went to quite a lot. I’d like to highlight a few of them –

Reykjavik Roasters is probably my favorite café based on just coffee alone. Their coffee was probably the best that I had in the city. Pop in for a morning or mid-day pick up and you won’t be disappointed!

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Café Loki was one of my favorite café stops during our trip because they have a really interesting food menu. You can try fermented shark here and they have delicious smashed fish sandwiches and rye bread ice cream!

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Te & Kaffi is a local coffee chain in Reykjavik and we stopped in here several times during our stay. They serve very good coffee and are a solid choice if you’re looking for a coffee fix.

Honorable Mentions –

Saegreifinn, or Sea Baron, serves the “World’s Best Lobster Soup” and has a really great selection of grilled fish kebabs.

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