It’s difficult to think of a better destination than Patagonia if you enjoy the outdoors and rugged nature. Split between Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is home to the most scenic hikes in the world. It is actually the mecca for rock climbers and is even the jumping-off point for Antarctica. It can be overwhelming to find out when to go, where to start, and which activities to pack in, given it’s a fairly large area. We put together a detailed guide, to give you an idea of what is a must-see, how to plan, and when to go. Without further ado, here is my complete guide to Patagonia.
WHEN TO GO TO PATAGONIA
Tourist season in Patagonia runs between the months of October and April. For obvious reasons, the weeks around the end-of-year holiday time are the busiest of all. In Patagonia, the start of the travel season is blissfully quiet. The calm, some may say, before the hurricane. You can experience about 12 hours of sunshine and daytime temps up to 18 ° C (5 ° C at night) as the area starts to defrost and you can anticipate cloud cover about one-third of the time.
Getting to the Patagonia
The quickest and easiest way to get to Patagonia depends on the place you want to reach. There are different ways to get to Patagonia because Patagonia is not a country, but a region divided between Argentina and Chile. We will go through exactly how you can do this below.
FLYING TO PATAGONIA
In our experience, flying to this region is generally the cheapest way that you can reach the region. One of the key reasons for this is that both Santiago and Buenos Aires, both of which are international airports and thus receive daily flights from the US, Europe, and elsewhere, are a long way from reaching Patagonia.
HOW FLY INTO CHILEAN PATAGONIA
To travel to Chilean Patagonia, you will need to fly from Santiago. In some cases, there are also flights from Puerto Montt (northern Chilean Patagonia) to Punta Arenas (southern Chilean Patagonia).
Aeropuerto Internacional El Tepual (also known as Aeropuerto de Puerto Montt) is located a one-hour 40-minute flight from Santiago; flights depart at more or less hourly. This airport is situated at the very top of the Carretera Austral. Flights here generally start from $15,000 CLP ($23 USD) one-way.
Onward transport from Puerto Montt airport
It’s easy enough to get into Puerto Montt from the airport thanks to Andrés Tour. They offer mostly hourly buses ($2,500 CLP ($3.5 USD)), which match up with flight arrival times.
FERRY DEPARTURES FOR PATAGONIA FROM PUERTO MONTT
Puerto Montt in Chile is the departure point for ferries heading south into Patagonia. From here, there are two different companies that operate ferries and a handful of different routes to choose from.
Ferries from Puerto Montt to Chaitén
The ferry journey from Puerto Montt to Chaitén is similar in duration to the long bus trip mentioned above, but has the benefit of allowing you to stretch your legs.
DRIVING TO ARGENTINE PATAGONIA
We have less experience of driving in Argentina than in Chile for one main reason: rental prices are generally considerably higher in Argentina than in Chile.
Given the current state of the economy, with the peso at an all-time low against the dollar, this may no longer be the case.
The main destinations for renting a car are:
- El Calafate
All have international rental companies offering vehicles and you can opt to pick up and drop off the car in different cities, although expect to pay a hefty one-way fee. You also need to organize insurance to cover the vehicle if you choose to cross the border into Chile.
The rental company should be able to organize this for you; it needs to be organized at least ten days in advance of your trip and should cost around $120 USD.
Must-do things in Patagonia
Some of the must-do things in Patagonia are
1) Visit Torres Del Paine
Patagonia’s most iconic backdrop is the jewel in its crown. No matter how many images you have pored over, in real life, the enormous granite towers are breathtaking. The classic “W” circuit takes you past the bright turquoise Nordenskjöld Lake to the base of the towers and into the stunning French Valley, with well-equipped shelters along the way, or campsites for the truly rough.
2) Enjoy Patagonian cities
Larger towns such as Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, and Ushuaia are included in itineraries to break up journeys and sometimes reduce costs – but as port cities, they have little to add to your Patagonia holiday. Don’t forget to visit small villages and wake up the next morning in the wilderness.
3) Calving glaciers
The ultimate experience during any Patagonia holiday is to witness a glacier “calving” – when a colossal block of ice crashes from its face into the lake below. Perito Moreno only calves once every few years, but there are some of the lesser-known glaciers, whose continuous creaking and groaning generate anticipation at intolerable levels, you can get lucky.
4) Adventures in El Chaltén (Argentina)
The surrounding mountains of El Chaltén’s are prime hiking, rock climbing, and horseback riding territory, so this is the location for you if you are into an outdoor adventure. You can go horse-riding in the beautiful Río de las Vueltas valley, or take a more demanding trip up Vizcacha Hill, followed by a traditional ranch barbecue.
5) Whale-watch in Puerto Madryn (Argentina)
cPatagonia offers some of the best whale-watching in the world and the place to glimpse them is Puerto Madryn. Between June and mid December, the hotter, more enclosed waters along the Golfo Nuevo, Golfo San José, and the coastline near Caleta Valdés are prime breeding zones for southern right whales.
6) Enjoy the ride on the Train at the end of the world
The southernmost train in the world steams its way into Tierra del Fuego National Park from the “End of the World” station but stops a long way short of the main attractions of the park. Therefore, to get to the station from Ushuaia and into the park at the other end, you’ll need a car, making the 40-minute ride seem very overpriced and gimmicky.
7) Watersports in Patagonia
Península Valdés have become Argentina’s diving capitals, with interesting shipwrecks and sea life nearby. Newcomer’s baptism’ dives cost around AR$800; classes, night dives, and multiday excursions are also provided by some companies.
Where to Stay in Patagonia
You can stay in Patagonia in some of these places
- Room service
Starting from from 79 USD per night.
- Free Wifi
Starting from from 100 USD per night.
3) Villa Panil
- Free Wifi
- Free parking
Starting from from 43 USD per night.
- Free Wifi
- Free parking
Starting from from 40 USD per night.
- Free Wifi
- Free parking
Starting from from 14 USD per night.
- Free Wifi
- Free parking
Starting from from 11 USD per night.
What to eat in Patagonia
1) Cordero al Palo (Spit Roast Lamb)
This is Patagonia’s most popular meal, a must-have when you visit this area for any meat-lover. A Spit Roast Lamb, cooked over an open log fire for several hours, is the ‘Cordero al Palo’ recipe until the outside is crisp and the meat falls off the bone. Cooking it in this way gives way to a smoky-perfumed, mouth-watering dish that you can’t forget if you eat once in life.
2) Chupe de Centolla (Patagonian King Crab Pie):
You definitely want to try the Patagonian King Crab ‘Chupe’ if you’re not in the mood for meat, a typical Chilean dish in which seafood is cooked in a stew with breadcrumbs to create a rich, creamy, chowder-like dish. Usually, it is topped with gratin cheese that brings out the rich flavor of the crab. This is another food and cuisine from Patagonia that is a favorite for all tourists!
3) Calafate Sour
This traditional Patagonian drink, but with a local twist, is much like the popular Pisco Sour. This local version, prepared much like a Pisco Sour with sugar, lemon juice, and Chilean Pisco from confectioners, contains a generous portion of Calafate berry juice, offering a slightly sweeter taste to the drink. With its distinctive sweet-and-sour flavor, the Calafate berry is the emblem of Patagonia when it comes to fruit. The perfect ingredient to add to the typical Pisco Sour in it to enjoy it to it’s fullest.
4) Empanadas de Cordero (Lamb Empanadas)
Empanada is a very traditional Chilean and Argentinean dish served in both countries with Patagonian cuisine, and it’s one of the few things you can’t miss while visiting this part of the world. In Patagonia, in lieu of the regular ‘pino’ meat or cheese, locals have applied their own touch to this popular snack by filling the baked dough with a very thick roasted lamb stew. Again, in a traditional local dish, the amazing Magellanic lamb does its magic, so that visitors can enjoy Pata.
5) Filete de Guanaco (Guanaco Filet)
‘Filete de Guanaco’ is a dish for you if you like beef. It is not possible to equate this juicy, tender and very lean meat with any other Patagonia food. Guanacos are camelids, similar to the Andean Llama, native to South America. In Patagonia, the population of guanacos is so high that they can be hunted for human consumption in a controlled manner. For the Patagonian Puma, as well as for many travellers looking to try local Patagonia food dishes in the area, Guanaco’s are the preferred prey.
We hope you enjoyed our Travel guide. Please do add your opinion in the comment section.
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