Patagonia is a 260,000-square-mile expanse of land that covers the southern half of both Chile and Argentina, and is ripe for exploration. The Chilean Patagonia is blues and greens while never-ending golden grasslands, called pampas, define the interior of Argentine Patagonia. In between, massive glaciers charge cover the peaks of the Andes before running off into milky-blue alpine lakes. In this blog, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about visiting Patagonia.
The amazing part about visiting Patagonia is that it's a wild and untouched place. The journey here - to the end of the world - isn’t easy, but those who come to Patagonia will be rewarded with a lush adventure.
Before booking your flight to visit Patagonia, think hard about what part of it you want to base your trip out of. There are multiple airports throughout Patagonia, but you can only reach the Chilean airports from Santiago, and you can only reach the Argentine airports from Buenos Aires. One option is to fly through Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) and then take a hopper flight to your desired Patagonian city. Alternatively, you could fly into Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ), Chilean Patagonia's main airport, and cross the border into El Calafate in Southern Patagonia.
After your flight, the best way to then reach Patagonia's top attractions is by car or by bus. But keep in mind that not all roads are paved and many stretch for miles without a single gas station, so make sure to rent a 4x4 vehicle and bring extra gas.
For hiking and climbing, the best times to visit Patagonia are October through November (springtime in the southern hemisphere) and December through February (summertime). Even in the summer, Patagonia temperatures will only peak around 70 degrees, not taking into account wind chill! So make sure to pack plenty of layers. If you’re interested in skiing in Patagonia, the best time to visit will be June - August (wintertime).
Patagonia is big…very big. If you only have a week, intentionally select only one region of Patagonia to spend your time. If you have a few weeks, you can connect the different regions, although keep in mind getting from one area to the other isn’t cheap.
Los Glaciares National Park is in the Austral Andes of southwest Argentina. As the name suggests, this national park is full of incredible glaciers, the most famous being Perito Moreno. Visit by boat or hop in a kayak to get up-close views of the glacier breaking off into Lago Argentino. In the north, Mount Fitz Roy’s jagged peak rises above the mountain town of El Chaltén and Lake Viedma.
Northern Patagonia is home to the Lake District, a region encompassing parts of both Chile and Argentina with a high concentration of ancient forests, blue lakes, volcanoes, and picturesque alpine villages. A network of scenic roads and highways winds through the region, making it a great spot for road tripping, or cycling. On the Argentine side, you have the fly-fishing capital Junín de los Andes and Nahuel Huapi National Park, where there’s great hiking trails around Frey.
Chile’s Torres del Paine is arguably the most popular national park in all of Patagonia, and the one you’ve most likely seen stunning photos of. For “the shot,” head to Base Las Torres Trail for postcard-perfect views of the towers. Of note in Torres del Paine is its backpacking trek the “W,” a 31-mile one-way route that winds past the park’s most iconic features including Grey Glacier, Frances Valley and the Torres. Or, if you have more time, the “O” circuit (74 miles) offers everything that’s included with the “W,” along with some time spent in the park’s deeper backcountry.
Tierra del Fuego, or “Land of Fire,” is the southernmost, smallest, and least populous Argentine province. Known as one of the world’s final frontiers, this breathtaking spot in Patagonia is home to the town of Ushuaia, dubbed ‘the end of the world.” Here you’ll get to experience the ocean and mountains, as well as wildlife. Kayak through the Beagle Channel alongside penguins and sea lions or seek out emerald waters and alpine terrain on a day hike to Laguna Esmeralda.
This massive lake spans the border between Argentina and Chile, and is home to Patagonia’s famous Marble Caves. Dubbed as the most beautiful cave network in the world, Cuevas de Marmol (Marble Caves) is a 6,000-year-old formation carved by the waves of the lake. You can visit the caves by boat or kayak. Morning is the best time to visit, especially between February and September, when peak glacial melt makes conditions ideal for super-saturated colors.
Península Valdés is a Patagonian nature reserve on the coast of Argentina. It’s known for the marine animals inhabiting its surrounding beaches and waters, such as whales, sea lions, and elephant seals. Base your explorations out of Puerto Madryn and take a side trip to nearby Punta Tombo, where there’s one of the world’s largest populations of Magellanic penguins.
When visiting Patagonia, as noted in the above regions, there’s endless activity options in Patagonia! The most prominent are hiking, climbing, and trekking. If those aren’t for you, though, consider fly fishing, cycling, kayaking, and skiing.
If there’s one hike to do when visiting Patagonia, it's Mirador Los Torres. Trekking to the Mirador is one of the most classic routes. Three sharp, spike-like peaks are towering above the green-blue lagoon, and it's incredible when lit up during sunrise. To see the Towers during sunrise, you must make a reservation in Refugio Chileno as soon as the quota is open, as spaces fill up quickly!
The Chaiten Volcano hike is unique because the volcano erupted ten years ago and destroyed the original village sitting underneath it. On this hike, you’ll see vistas of lakes, the sea in the distance, flora, and of course, the multi-colored volcano crater.
Queulat National Park, near a small village called Puyuhuapi hides one of the most photogenic places in Patagonia, the Hanging Glacier. A glacier resides atop a cliff, and melting water runs creates cascading waterfalls, making for a stunning view.
Laguna Torre Hike is one of the most classic treks you can do from El Chalten, the small town that’s been nicknamed the hiking capital of Patagonia. If you only have time for one hike, it will be hard to choose between these two. Cerro Torre ends in a lakeside view of all 4 needles, while Laguna Torre will take you to a site of mountains and glaciers.
This concludes our guide to visiting Patagonia! If you are considering visiting, be sure to check out our trips to this incredible destination! We personally vet local guides and find the best deals, so you can have an incredible trip without breaking the bank.
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