Here is the most popular travel guide of our website. This is THE guide you need to prepare your next trip to Patagonia.
During your journey you will discover the infinite and wild beauty of natural landscapes. You’ll feel like you’re following in the footsteps of explorers who first arrived almost 500 years ago. It is said that it has not changed much since then. Be prepared for a journey to the heart of untouched nature between mountains and fjords, from glaciers to pampa… Thanks to TravelCoachChile you can also meet Patagonian gauchos,South American cow-boys, who have kept a traditional lifestyle.
Patagonia is a land of contrasts,located at the edge of the earth and the gates of Antarctica. It’s an adventure,and a journey of unforgettable memory that awaits you.
To help you getting ready for this trip, we have prepared a detailed map of Patagonia, including a list of the must-see and experiences to do in Patagonia. We have also added a section regarding your trip preparation, where you will discover the best season to visit Patagonia, how to get there, documentaries to watch,.. We also addressed the question of budget for a trip to Patagonia.
Have a good read!
First of all, we wanted to help you put Patagonia back on a map. Indeed, many users want to know“Where is located Patagonia ?”
It is important to understand that Patagonia is located on the extreme south of the South American continent,and is a region that is spread over two countries: Chile and Argentina. Even though Patagonia is not a country in itself, the Chilean part of Patagonia has its own flag.
In addition, Patagonia must be distinguished from Tierra del Fuego,which is a separate region, located even further south of Patagonia, and north of Antarctica.
Below is a detailed map of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego where we have placed the tourist attractions.
Now that you have an idea of the geographical location of Patagonia, you probably wonder “What are the most important Patagonia tours ?”. That’s why we have dedicated an entire section to all the places to see in Patagonia,whether as part of a trip to Chile or Argentina. If you don’t know what to do in Patagonia, this is the perfect travel guide for you!
Although the city of Punta Arenas is not a must,it is still the main access city to Chilean Patagonia. You may not avoid a stop in the capital of the Magallanes Region. Punta Arenas, known as the last city in the south, was once one of the largest ports in the world. Since the opening of the Panama Canal, and the no longer required bypass of Cape Horn, the city has gradually been experiencing an economic decline. The discovery of oil and natural gas in 1945 allowed the city to recover. Today, Punta Arenas is one of the main starting points for expeditions to Antarctica. Must sees of the city are: The Plaza Munoz Gamero,which offers a view of the Cabo Hotel in Hornos, the Palacio Braun-Menéndez and the cathedral.
Magdalena Island is a must-see on your trip to Patagonia, especially if you are travelling with your family. This is one of the major breeding sites for Magellanic penguins. They can be seen from November to April, when they migrate from the Falkland Islands. The penguin colony is estimated at 150,000 pairs.
Puerto Natales, has much more charm than Punta Arenas, especially as it is located in the fjord of the Ultima Esperanza and has a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. It is also considered an essential stop as part of a road trip to Chilean Patagonia because it is the starting point for a visit to Torres del Paine Park. If you have half a day to spend in the city, we would recommend that you enjoy a short walk at Cerro Dorotea to get a splendid view of the seno. As a day tour you should consider a cruise to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers.
These two glaciers are part of Bernardo O Higgins National Park. The glaciers are not as imposing as the Perito Moreno or the Grey Glacier but the landscape you discover during navigation make it an unforgettable experience. Indeed, you will sail on the Ultima Esperanza Fjord watching diverse landscapes alternating with cliffs, waterfalls, forest and snow-capped peaks. Balmaceda glacier is observed from the boat, whereas Serrano glacier can be watched from a view point accessible by a short walk.
Patagonia’s must-see on a trip to Chile: Torres del Paine National Park. About a 3-hour drive from Puerto Natales,you will discover one of the most beautiful national park of Chile: Torres del Paine. It is a natural wonder, classified as a national reserve by Unesco. surrounded by glaciers,wind-whipped trees and lakes, this is a unique park in the world. With a wide variety of landscapes, you will have the opportunity to pass from the patagonian plains, to waterfalls, crossing turquoise lakes and of course cruising to glaciers. The best time to visit the park is from January to April. The trails are well marked, and the campsites are located in very specific areas. You will have the opportunity to watch a lot of animals, such as guanacos, condors and flamingos. There are a lot of opportunities for hikes and trekking, including the “W” trek, which is a 4-day-trek. The big loop, the “O”, is longer and gives you the chance to admire all the nooks and cranies of Torres del PainePark. It takes 9 days to enjoy this beautiful trek.
Grey Glacier is part of the must-sees of Patagonia in Chile, located in Torres del Paine Park. The Glacier is part of the South Icefield (a sea of 16,000 square km of ice). It is the most impressive glacier in the area and is accessible by navigation or hiking (count 1 day one way and 1 day back). Its wall is 20 to 30 meters high, which is quite imposing. Its blue color is dazzling and the icebergs floating around the grey waters of Lago Grey promise a beautiful show.
A road trip on Carretera Austral, is perfect for discovering the fabulous General Carrera Lake, the marble cathedrals and the Laguna San Rafael. Even though is is located on the Chilean Patagonia, we consider it as a region of its own ,which is why we have dedicated a detailed guide to prepare the perfect trip to Carretera Austral.
Although the city of El Calafate doesn’t have much interest, it is still a must-see on your trip to Patagonia Argentina. Indeed, El Calafate, a small pueblo that looks like a mountain village, is the starting point to admire the legendary Perito Moreno. To spend your time while at El Calafate, we recommend visiting the reserve Ñimez or going to the Glaciarium. The Glaciarium is a state-of-the-art museum to learn more about how glaciers work (and to test an Ice Bar at the same time). The Ñimez lagoon is a municipal ecological reserve that runs along the Lago Argentino and is a little paradise for bird watchers.
Los Glaciares National Park is a place of resplendent natural beauty, composed by imposing cut-out peaks and numerous glacial lakes. You will definitely enjoy a navigation on Argentinian Lakes, especially the one that leads to Perito Moreno glacier,which is more than 160 km long. At its end, three glaciers meet, including the unmissable Perito Moreno. Those glaciers pour their effluent into blue and glacial waters, forming large icebergs that float and drift on the surface of the lake.
The famous Perito Moreno,one of the largest glaciers in the world, is part of Los Glaciares National Park and is an hour’s drive from El Calafate. To protect the place, wooden and iron walkways form a pleasant route to admire all the visible faces of this ice giant. It’s just as impressive up close as it is from the sky! Despite global warming, the Perito Moreno is one of the only glaciers in the world to grow and regenerate. It may one day hit the land of earth located in front of its wall. You have to see it to believe it!
At 70 meters high, the north face of the Perito Moreno plunges into a turquoise blue lake. Many icebergs drift to the horizon. The colors of the glacier oscillate between the purest white and a deep, icy blue. These colors vary depending on the thickness of the ice and offer an incredible palette of blue. Perito Moreno glacier is in perpetual motion, the ice breaks, probably for several tens of meters, inside the glacier,causing what appears to be thunderbolts. On a regular basis, a whole section of ice drops and falls into the blue waters of the glacier, becoming in turn more or less imposing icebergs. The second side of the Perito Moreno offers a different view: wilder and less sunny. Sediment dating back millions of years form black streaks on the ice.
El Chalten is a small village and the best place for trekking in Argentina, located only 3 hour drive north of El Calafate. Located at the base of the famous Fitz Roy,the legendary mountain of Patagonia in Argentina,this is the starting point for many hikes or treks.
The weather is often capricious, and an eternal crown of clouds seem to constantly ripple and turn around the Fitz-Roy.
El Chalten is the beginning of many other hikes and treks of several days. Each valley offers very different landscapes and none is alike. The trek of los Huemules is particularly spectacular, but difficult: 4 days of hikings. It allows to admire many glaciers, mountain ridges and eternal snows … Half-day or day hikes are also incredible: El Chalten promises to satisfy everyone’s escape needs! We have also created a tour focused on trekking to Fitz Roy and Patagonia.
It is also possible to rent mountain bikes to climb on the rocky slopes of Patagonia!
The most famous day-hike is the one leading to Los Tres Lagoon, the best place to watch Fitz Roy. You must be prepared for steep paths and flatter hiking trails. The landscapes are typical from Patagonia: streams of pure water descending from glaciers,lagoons of altitude, green forest and high rocky mountains. At the base of the impressive Fitz-Roy, there is a blue lagoon that seems to be frozen. By getting on the left side you will find a path, that gives access to discover a hidden waterfall. It flows a few dozen meters deeper into another lagoon with an even purer blue. Other waterfalls from several small glaciers pour into this small lake wedged between two rocky walls. On the background, the landscape is green and wild, with an infinity of peaks and several lagoons extending to the horizon.
The Tierra del Fuego,shared between Argentina and Chile,is the ultimate part of the South American continent, before Antarctica. Battered by storms, the island attracts curious hikers and nature lovers, looking for new sensations.
Puerto Williams is a Chilean city, located at the South of Ushuaia, on Navarino Island Navarino Island is a naval base accessible from Punta Arenas (by boat or small plane). The island is known for hosting the Beagle, a boat that arrived from England with Yaghan people (natives of isla Navarino) on board, who were supposed to return to their land to convert the inhabitants to Christianity. In the end, one of the Yaghans, named Button, ordered several massacres against the settlers!
Navarino Island is particularly known for offering the most southern trek in the world: Los Dientes de Navarino. Trek takes place in autonomy,for at least 6 days, which promises moments of adventure and reserved for experienced hikers.
Tierra del Fuego is a for most people a dream. And no doubt that your imagination has also been lulled by the image of this mythical land symbol of the end of the world and the end of the American continent… last straight line before the Antarctic. Steppes, lakes and forests make up the landscapes of this region where the Andes mountains end.
Porvenir is the capital of Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Originally populated by a police detachment, a new wave of Croatian immigration, attracted by the search for gold, gave it its first population. Today there is an atmosphere of suspended time that all Patagonian fans love. Don’t miss the museum created in 1980, which presents the culture of the indigenous Selk’nam, the island’s Aboriginal people, and retraces the milestones in the region’s history: gold rush, colonization…
Another must-see is a visit to the royal penguin reserve. Indeed, in recent years, a colony of royal penguins has taken up residence off a beach in the Estancia San Clemente. A real miracle,because in principle these birds live in cold islands of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions! It is the largest species of penguin after the emperor penguin: about 90 cm for an average weight of 13 kg.
Ushuaia prides itself on being “the southernmost city in the world” and yet, as we mentioned, Puerto Williams is even further south. The name of the capital of argentina’s Tierra del Fuego province means, in Yaghan language, “a bay penetrating to the west.” Seen from afar, you’d find a little Scandinavian air in this city cut off from the world and its houses with corrugated and colorful iron roofs. On closer inspection, you don’t find much charm. However, Ushuaia fascinates travelers from all over the world: even if the impression of reaching “the end of the world” fades quickly, once you push around the city, you will discover a region of wild beauty.
Don’t miss this beautiful park! Bordering the Beagle Canal, it allows you to enjoy magnificent panoramas through a canoe descent of the Lapataia River or more or less easy hikes. Besides, there a lot of walks/treks opportunities. Do not miss the hikes to the Laguna Esmeralda or to Martial Glacier.
Meet the penguins and especially the Magellanic penguin, a must-see tour during your visit to Ushuaia! The island allows you to see them very closely (landing on the island). Magellanic penguins are black and white. Their name comes from the one of the first European to travel to the extreme south of the American continent.
If you really want to go further south, you can consider exploring Antarctica and its mythical Cape Horn, accessible only by cruises.
Further north of Patagonia, the Chilean Lake District and the 7 Lakes region around Bariloche in Argentina promises an exceptional combination to travel to the South of the American continent. The Lakes District and the island of Chiloé are ideal destinations to discover with your family.
As usual, we have prepared a selection of favorite tours to live authentic experiences during your trip to Patagonia. These different excursions should be chosen depending on your expectations. Whether you are on a honeymoon, or you want to discover Patagonia with your family,you will inevitably find an unusual experience that suits you: horseback riding, cruising to the glaciers, penguin or whale watching, ice trekking on glaciers… In addition, we have a whole series of hikes for people who wish to take advantage of their holiday in Patagonia to go trekking.
Specially designed for adventurers, this kind of excursion promises an unforgettable memory! Put on your cleats and take your ice axe to discover the glaciers during an ice hiking. Roped with your team, you will have the chance to hike on the glacier and discover ice tunnels, which will undoubtedly leave you dream pictures . The most accessible glacier of its kind is the Perito Moreno.
Patagonia is of course a hiker’s paradise. This area offers endlesshiking opportunities. If the most famous are the Dientes of Navarino, the W, the O in Torres del Paine and the 4-day circuit in El Chalten, there are also many day hikes,ideal for families and those who do not want to embark on big trekking. Our selection:
Your trip to Patagonia will also give you the opportunity to watch and take photos of animals in their natural environment. During your journey, some endemic species will surely come across your way, such as birds, guanacos, foxes, lips, andus, .. and of course the famous Condor!
Magellanic penguins and king penguins are found in CONAF-protected national parks. These include the Isla Magdalena, which is accessible by boat during a 1/2 day tour, and the colony of royal penguins on Tierra del Fuego, accessible by land.
As for the whales,they can be watched from the Francisco Coloane reserve,accessible by a multi-day boat trip. Unforgettable experience, but quite expensive.
We are quite fans of #slowtravel,and for us kayaking activities are a good way to discover spectacular scenery, feel closer to nature,and take the time to enjoy your trip. That’s why we felt it was essential to offer this kind of tour to our travellers. We offer you 4 ways to discover Patagonia thanks to this unusual formula:
Why not embark on a kayaking activity to Puerto Williams Bay and the famous Beagle Canal? You can observe birds, the vistiges of an almost-war, and various views of the city and the mountains of Navarino.
We offer you to discover a place where the nature is queen,free of the hand of man. This is where the road, accessible by car, ends, and where marine animals regain their rights. On the top of that, the experience takes place in a wonderful environment. This day of kayaking (easy level, 5 hours kayaking) gives the opportunity to visit the San Isidro lighthouse, but also to observe the local marine fauna (sea bass, birds, dolphins…. and with luck: whales).
Discover the lago escondido in a fun and sporty way! Let’s get on board of a 2-seater kayaks identical to the kayaks used by indigenous peoples to move between the islands of Patagonia. Walk up to 3 hours to a typical estancia where you will enjoy a traditional lamb barbecue paired with local wine.
On Grey Lake, you will have to row around icebergs,in order to head towards the eastern part of the glacier, arriving as close to the wall as possible. Once you arrive you can enjoy an incredible view and drink a hot drink with a small snack. Weather permitting, you can head to an island called Nunatak on your return to base camp.
If you meet Argentinians and you make friends, they will most certainly share a maté with you. Very popular throughout Argentina, maté is a herb, stronger than tea, served in a wooden container with a straw. It is a moment of sharing : the cup is passed from one hand to another to enjoy some sips of this drink that has a strong and bitter taste.
We also recommend to enjoy a parilla (Argentinian-stylegrilled meat) drizzled with a good Argentinian wine in a typical restaurant. Finish the meal like real locals, with a Fernet as a digestive (a strong Argentinian alcohol, made from several mountain herbs).
Let’s move on to the practical section of this guide on Patagonia. We will answer the questions: “What is the best time to discover Patagonia?” and to deal with the subject of transportation for your journey to the end of the world.
First of all, whatever season you choose, in Patagonia you could experience the 4 seasons in a single day! The weather is fickle and unpredictable.
As for the period, the best season to travel in Patagonia is between November and March, at the time of the southern summer. The month of April is also favourable because much less touristy and also less windy. October is also an option, and is still considered a low season. Travelling in summer in Patagonia will allow you to practice various outdoor activities such as hiking and trekking, kayaking, horseback riding and many others. In winter, Patagonia is covered with snow, daylight only come out few hours a day and the icy wind almost prevents any visit.
Finally, Patagonia remains accessible during the southern winter,even if a large part of our providers close. However, if a stay in Patagonia in June, July and August is a unique and off-the-beaten-track adventure, expect quite extreme temperaturesand a lot of snow. This type of stay must be organized in advance and forsee a guide (Torres del Paine Park requires the presence of a guide for winter hikes).
In summer, temperatures are between 6 and 18°C,while in winter the minimum temperature can drop to -3 °C,and maximum would be around 5 °C. Regarding climate, it is rainy most of the year. Rainy days are evenly distributed over the year.
If all the elements we have brought so far have convinced you to travel to Patagonia, you may be wondering how to get to Patagonia. Let’s look at the different options together.
There are two ways to access El Calafate. By air, the easiest way is to catch a flight from Buenos Aires. One of the companies that connects the two cities several times a day, is Aerolineas Argentinas. We advise you to book this flight as early as possible as the prices are very variable. It takes at least 170 USD per journey.
By road, you can reach El Calafate from Puerto Natales in a 5 hour bus ride or a 4 hour drive. To do this, you’ll have to take into account a border crossing, and have mandatory insurance for your vehicle, whether it’s rented or yours. El Calafate can also be reached from Bariloche, in just over 24 hours by bus, which is quite long.
Ushuaia is also accessible by air,from El Calafate or Buenos Aires. By road, from Punta Arenas, you can take a 10-hour bus that will cross Tierra del Fuego.
The gateway to Chilean Patagonia is Punta Arenas,which can be reached by air from the Chilean capital Santiago as well as from Puerto Montt in the Lake District. The 3 airlines that operate these flights are Latam, Sky Airlines and Jetsmart. From Punta Arenas, you can reach Puerto Natales by 3-hour bus or by car in about 2h30.
Joining Punta Arenas by road,involves crossing Argentina, and is a very long journey. It is also possible to take a 4-day, 3-night ferry from Puerto Montt. This is an amazing experience that we recommend to all fans of #slowtravel. The more adventurous can also consider connecting Carretera Austral with Puerto Natales with a ferry from Tortel. Finally, there is also the option of connecting Carretera Austral (Chile Chico) and El Chalten by bus in a 12-hour-ride.
We strongly recommend car rental to discover Patagonia or camper van rental for those who want to experience a slow travel and adventure trip.
The 4×4 is not 100% mandatory,but is still recommended if you have the budget. Don’t forget to require an insurance that will allow you to cross borders.
Also be aware that renting a car at one place and returning it to another (several hundred, even several thousand kilometers away) is extremely expensive. For example, renting a car in Puerto Montt and getting it to Punta Arenas costs more than 1000 USD just for the drop off fee. That’s why we don’t recommend this option.
That’s it, you know almost everything to organize your trip to Patagonia. Now let’s see together how you can best prepare for your trip. Of course, the best possible preparation is to make an appointment with our team to ask all your questions and receive precise and personalized answers about your travel plan in Patagonia.
Of course choosing a travel agency to arrange your stay in Patagonia will depend on the choices you make.
One of the important criteria is related to transportation. If you choose a group trip, you will have a better chance of lowering prices than a private trip for two. The best pick is to organize a self driving tour with your travel agency. That is the formula we recommend as a priority. This is suitable for families as well as for couples looking for comfort, as well as for retirees that like to travel in an independent manner. Smaller budgets will opt for renting a car for a few days from places that require one. And make other journeys by bus, in order to reduce the budget. An organized trip with a private driver starts at more than 140 USD per day for transportation.
In terms of price, it costs about 20 USD per bus ride (of 3 to 5 hours). Renting a very small car costs 50 USD a day, while a 4×2 crossover is around 75 USD. For a comfortable 4×4 it will take about 120 USD a day.
A second criteria to take into account is of course accommodation. Patagonia has the advantage of offering accommodations of all ranges. The biggest problem with accommodation in Patagonia is the availability in Torres del Paine Park. As Torres del Paine Park is completely saturated with demand,it is essential to book at least 6 months in advance. Hotels in Torres del Paine cost at least 120 USD a night for a single room without breakfast. Comfortable rooms start at $250 per night while luxury accommodations can easily run around $600. Elsewhere in Patagonia, the price of accommodation would be the following (large range):
Finally, the price of a trip to Patagonia depends on the activities chosen. The most economical activities are : trekking and hiking. For glacier cruises, it costs about 130 USD per person. Horseback riding starts at 65 USD per person.
The minimum duration for your trip to Patagonia is 5 days,and you will have to choose between Chilean Patagonia or Argentinian Patagonia, and opt for a car rental. If you opt for Chilean Patagonia, in 5 days you will have just enough time to visit the Isla Magdalena and meet the penguins of Magallanes, as well as spending two days at Torres del PainePark, to visit the Grey Glacier and go hiking. A stopover at Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales will be mandatory during your road trip. It is also possible to consider the W trek to Torres del Paine.
If you have 7 days for your road trip in Chilean Patagonia,then you can add unusual activities to your holidays. For example: an excursion to an Estancia with a horseback ride, or even a day tour at the spectacular Estancia Peninsula. It may also be possible to take a full day cruise to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers.
If you are looking for a 5-day itinerary in Argentine Patagonia,then you can discover the Perito Moreno Glacier, as well as go for easy hikes in the Fitz Roy. Your two stops would be El Calafate and El Chalten. By adding two days, and thus planning 1 week on Argentinian Patagonia, you can consider doing an additional activity such as a hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier, or a navigation on the Lago Argentino to discover the Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers.
In 1 week in Patagonia in Argentina,you might also consider taking a 3 or 4 day tour of Fitz Roy, and then visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier from the footbridges.
If you have 10 days in Patagonia,then we advise you to combine Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia as a road trip. For example, you could arrive at Punta Arenas and make a round trip to El Calafate. In this type of itinerary you could visit the must sees of Chilean Patagonia(Isla Magdalena and Torres del Paine)and the famous Perito Moreno, with one or two unique experience (such as hiking on glaciers or an excursion in Estancia).
On the other hand, for 10 days in Patagonia from El Calafate, you could have a short visit of 2 days into Torres del Paine, after discovering the famous Perito Moreno glacier and hiking several days in the Fitz Roy around El Chalten.
Finally, in 2 weeks you can visiting Patagonia in depth. Indeed, it will be possible to discover Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia by car or even by bus if you have a smaller budget. Indeed, 15 days make it possible to discover the must sees of both Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia: El Chalten, El Calafate, Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. You could also opt for an immersive stay in Chilean Patagonia with a visit to Tierra del Fuego and Navarino Island.
For a 3-week-trip to Patagonia, you can consider Patagonia more extensively. Either combine Carretera Austral with Chilean South Patagonia. Or combine Chilean Patagonia and South Argentina with a stopover in Ushuaia.
Finally, with one month, it is possible to travel to the whole Patagonia or almost.
Among our favorite documentaries about Patagonia, we particularly recommend:
If you are a fan of travel stories,or you like reading blog posts to prepare your itinerary, you will love our travel Blog on Chile. We share lots of recommendations and travel ideas, such as our tips for an unforgettable getaway to Patagonia.