Exploring the vast mountains of Patagonia is a once in a lifetime experience. Hiking through the mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, sailing past glaciers in the Beagle Channel and driving along the winding roads of the Carretera Austral.
Although trekking is one of the best ways to get under the skin of this breath-taking landscape, there are so many ways to experience Patagonia to the fullest. Ride horses in the Lake District, go canoeing from Ushuaia and look for whales off the Atlantic coast of Peninsular Valdez.
To explore Patagonia conjures up a wealth of different images - tracking through verdant forests beneath snowy peaks, hiking alongside sparkling rivers and waking up to the sunrise over the mountains. Trekking one of the famous routes through Torres del Paine and catching your first glimpse of the bright blue Puerto Moreno glacier - Patagonia is the stuff of dreams.
It's not just mountains and lakes that await - this region is full of wildlife. Look for pumas prowling the foothills, condors soaring above the mountains and penguins playing in the surf of Peninsula Valdez. Whether you spend your holiday driving across the Argentinian pampas or trekking through the mountains in Chile, your trip to Patagonia is sure to be the trip of a lifetime.
Despite the obvious distinction of being split into two countries, Chile and Argentina, it is actually easier to think of this region in terms of north and south. There are a number of considerations to go through before booking your trip. Do you want to trek? How often are you happy to fly? Where else are you including on this trip? Both Argentina and Chile also have beautiful northern areas that are great to combine with Patagonia, giving you a real contrast of weather, landscape and culture.
The Lake District spans the full width of Patagonia. Snow-capped volcanoes jut into the sky while glacial lakes and alpine-style towns pepper the valleys. In Argentina, you can base yourself in Bariloche, exploring the famous Route of the Seven Lakes and sipping on local craft beers.
Over in Chile, the adventure hubs of Pucon and Puerto Varas make the best bases. To experience more of the local culture, visit indigenous reservations and learn about Mapuche heritage. Drive north to the wilds of Conguilio National Park, or head south along the Carretera Austral for a spectacular road trip.
Head south to explore Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Argentina where you can marvel at the Perito Moreno glacier, as chunks tumble into the water below. Across the border in Chile, the three granite towers of Torres del Paine National Park dominate a landscape of glistening glaciers and blue lakes.
Reaching the end of the world, the Tierra Del Fuego archipelago gazes across the Strait of Magellan towards the distant Antarctic ice sheet. Remote but friendly, the town of Ushuaia makes a welcoming base to explore the Beagle Channel.
Ringed by soaring peaks and brimming with chocolate shops, the riverside town of Bariloche makes an excellent base. The surroundings lake district is full of snow-topped volcanoes and green forests with sparkling lakes dotted in between. It’s adventure heaven, so get stuck into hiking, rafting, horse-riding and skiing.
This breath-taking road winds south from Puerto Montt into the Andes. Driving along you'll visit some of the spectacular parks in the Americas, staying in typical Patagonian inns by the shores of the bluest lakes. Watch the landscapes change between Chilean mountains and Argentinian pampas - it's a wonderful South American road trip.
One of South America’s most astounding national parks, Torres del Paine is crowned with three immense granite towers dominate a landscape of horn-like mountain tops, glistening glaciers and blue lakes. Explore with a multi-day trek, hiking a choice of set circuits and camping out or sleeping in lodges.
The Perito Moreno glacier is one of the most spectacular sights in Patagonia. You might be surprised how close you can get - take a morning boat cruise right up to the edge, where you can watch huge chunks falling away into the lake. This glacier is the world's third-largest reserve of fresh water and one of only a few advancing glaciers that are left in the world.
If you're a fan of trekking, then Patagonia is the place for you. A playground of towering peaks, gentle hills and icy glaciers, you could probably spend a whole season completing different treks. Waking up to the pink sunrise icing the snow-capped mountains and falling asleep under the endless stars, with a cup of cocoa and aching legs - what could be more rewarding.
Here are our favourite treks. If you want to discuss which is best for you, just contact us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote.
If you're looking for something spectacular but not too difficult, then this might be the trek for you. Starting in the little mountain town of El Chalten, the majority of the trek is a long, easy hike with a strenuous end to get to the lagoon. The views of Mount Fitz Roy at the end are worth the extra effort.
Probably the most famous trek in Patagonia, the four-day W-trek gives you the opportunity to discover the raw beauty of Patagonia. It can be broken up into day hikes from a comfortable hotel or tackled as a longer multi-day hike. Experience the purity of nature along this celebrated route but come prepared - the days can be long and challenging, so a certain level of fitness is recommended.
Completing the W-trek is a challenge in itself but if you're looking to make it that little bit harder, why not extend it and complete the O or Q treks. These two extensions add a loop onto the northern part of the route - it's a rougher track, with a lack of refugios that make camping essential but views of the icecap from John Gardner Pass is definitely worth the extra leg ache!
Even further south than Ushuaia, Navarino Island sits at the edge of Cape Horn and is home to the southernmost trek in the world. Hike over the jagged Dientes Mountains, with panoramic views over the Beagle Channel and the town of Ushuaia. If the weather is good you might even spot the islands of Cape Horn - you've truly reached the end of the world.
This one is for the pros! The Huemul Circuit is one of the hardest treks in Patagonia, starting in El Chalten and ending on the banks of Lake Viedma. Hike alongside bays of icebergs and across windy passes for the ultimate achievement. It can only be done as a guided trek, along with your trusty GPS to keep you on course.
As with many mountainous regions, there are several different ways to explore. However, in Patagonia, it is not a question of choosing one - the best trips would usually combine all three types of travel, coming together to create the perfect itinerary.
If you are looking to explore the mountainous regions of Torres del Paine and El Calafate, guided day trips are the best way to do it. These can be private or part of a small group, and will take you to the best spots to soak up the natural beauty of the Andes. This allows you the freedom to explore at your leisure, as guiding is flexible and can be altered specifically to suit what you are looking for, without the responsibility of driving in mountainous and often snowy roads.
Several areas, especially in northern Patagonia, are ideal for a road trip. Exploring the Lake District is even better when done at your own pace, pulling over to capture another perfect vista on camera or stopping for lunch by the lake. If you're looking for something really special, driving the Carretera Austral highway, along the border between Argentina and Chile, is wonderful.
Staying in local inns along the way, you can drop into the Marble Caves close to Puerto Tranquilo and have the road to yourself in the Chacabuco Valley. Crossing the border into Argentina, the vast grasslands of the pampas opens up, with scarlet sunsets across the wide skies. Patagonia can deliver some of the most exciting road trips in the world.
Many areas, especially in the far south of Patagonia, are best explored from a cruise ship. The Chilean coastline is particularly difficult to access, with deep coves and wild shores making landings too risky to attempt. If you want to explore the southern fjords, or journey to Cape Horn, then a cruise is the perfect solution.
Known as "Glacier Alley", this stretch of water in the Beagle Channel is lined with tidewater glaciers. They are a spectacular sight - the glaciers are fed by the Darwin Mountains, whose peaks grace the horizon. They can only be viewed from the water, which is a great excuse to include a cruise on your Patagonia holiday.
Australis, run 4-day cruises between Puerto Natales and Ushuaia - ideal to enjoy before or after a visit to Torres del Paine. The west coast route from Puerto Montt is also covered by Skorpios cruises. This is a unique opportunity for an up-close encounter with the northern Patagonian ice field, its wildlife, people and natural wonders – many of which are accessible only by boat.
This region has a plethora of accommodation options, from tiny homestays and basic lodges whilst on treks, to luxurious and modern hotels. We believe the best trips have a mix of everything, and on a trip to Argentina and Chile, that is easy to achieve. However, if you're looking for something really special, perhaps as part of a birthday or anniversary celebration, or even as your ultimate honeymoon adventure, here are a few of our favourite hotels and lodges.
Explora Patagonia aims to offer journeys in remote areas of South America that provide up-close interaction with nature and local culture. It was the very first hotel in Torres del Paine and enjoys the most beautiful position, anchored like a ship by Lake Pehoé with unparalleled views.
Expect meals accompanied by superb Chilean wines before relaxing in open-air Jacuzzis with outstanding views of the Paine River.
Set along the shores of Liucura River in the Pucón region of the Chilean Lake District, Vira Vira Hacienda Hotel has raised the bar in luxury accommodation. It offers an idyllic retreat amidst the dream-like green vistas and snow-capped volcanoes of this beautiful area of Chile.
Pucón has been attracting visitors seeking full immersion in nature for years and, now, Vira Vira perfectly blends adventure with luxury.
Exploring Torres del Paine is about connecting with nature and exploring the beauty of the mountains. That’s where the EcoCamp comes in.
It is a unique property - the world’s first geodesic dome hotel. You'll sleep in eco-friendly domes, with windows to the stars above your bed. Meals are served in community domes with views of the majestic horizon. It's a wonderful place to wake up and watch the sunrise over the mountains.
As you can imagine, any trip to Patagonia is massively affected by the season. The southern hemisphere summer begins in late November and stretches to early march, with blue skies, sparkling lakes and something. Spring and autumn are colourful and quiet - think blooming lupins and golden leaves. Winter brings heavy snow to souther Patagonia but the pretty towns of the Lake District are chocolate-box beautiful and have great ski slopes to enjoy.
Peak hiking season runs throughout the summer, with hotels and trekking routes booking out well in advance. However, in such a remote region, not even the busy season brings particularly heavy traffic with routes clear and enjoyable in the sunshine. It's a great time to take a road trip down the Carretera Austral or go cycling in the Lake District.
Autumn marks the end of the peak trekking season. The fall colours are glorious - red and gold leaves cloak the hills with autumnal atmosphere, perfectly contrasting with the bright blue lakes and sky. Driving through the forests around Puerto Montt is breath-taking. Temperatures are falling but if you wrap up warm, this can be one of the best times to visit.
Winter brings snow and ice to Patagonia, particularly in the southernmost parks. Services are greatly reduced during this period but trekking is still possible, with routes adjusted according to the weather and extra equipment, like crampons, necessary. Further north, it can be a great time to go skiing in Bariloche.
Spring in Patagonia is pretty spectacular. It's a good time to explore both the Lake District and to trek in El Chalten. If you can cope with the cooler temperatures (and bring lots of layers) then you'll be rewarded with quiet treks and peaceful days. Humpbacks and killer whales are abundant of the coast of Peninsula Valdes.
We have 20 years of experience planning Patagonia holidays. We know that this is a trip of a lifetime and it's important to get it right. If you're looking for the ultimate Patagonia holiday exploring Argentina and Chile or want to include a Patagonia cruise as part of a larger round the world holiday, we would love to help!
Whether you have a list of everything you want to experience or don't really know where to begin, just get in touch on +44 1273320580 and we can help you plan your Patagonia trip today.