How to Plan a Trip to Patagonia: The Most Beautiful Places and How to Get There
Huge glaciers and transparent lakes, granite towers of Torres del Paine, peaks Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre – travelers from all over the world come to see the wonders of Patagonia. Here you can go mountain trekking or cruise on the lakes, walk on glaciers, see penguin colonies, go skiing and even go fishing. We will tell you how to organize a Patagonia vacation and how to plan a trip to Patagonia in our article.
Travel to Patagonia
Patagonia is not just one big national park, it is a huge region in South America, divided between Chile and Argentina. The border runs along with the Andes mountain range, which means the climate in these countries is different: Chilean Patagonia, being on the pacific coast, is cool and humid, while the Argentine part is dry and windy.
Patagonia can be roughly divided into three parts: southern, central, and northern.
Most tourists come to the southern and central parts; it is where the most famous national parks, peaks, and glaciers are located. The northern part is less popular but no less beautiful – it too has many national parks, but is usually visited by much fewer tourists.
You can drive from the north to the south of Patagonia, stopping along the way at the most interesting places for you, but this will take at least a month. If you don’t have that much time, you can explore Patagonia part by part. In any case, you definitely wouldn’t cover everything in one visit, so you can come back here as many times as you want.
When to Travel to Patagonia
Our Patagonia travel guide starts by determining the best time to visit. Winter is considered the high season while the period from December to February sees the most tourists, as well as the best weather. Spring is also suitable for this trip. Some areas are not as hot as in summer,for example the northern part.
At the same time, it is necessary to take into account that the weather in Patagonia is mostly unpredictable. Temperature can change dramatically, especially in the mountains, raging storms may rise from the ocean, and great monsoons might pour down from the sky. Perhaps the only constant in Patagonian weather is the strong wind blowing always and everywhere.
How to Get to Patagonia
To get to Patagonia, you need to fly to Buenos Aires (Argentina) or Santiago (Chile). From Santiago, you can continue to the south of Patagonia by car or fly directly to Punta Arenas. From Buenos Aires usually, fly to the city of El Calafate.
All major attractions can be reached by bus or rental car.
Patagonia Visitors Guide
One of the best ways to see Patagonia is to go to incredibly beautiful national parks. The most popular of these are Torres del Paine (Chile) and Los Glaciares (Argentina). Both parks are located in the southern part of Patagonia, and which one to start with depends on where you arrive.
Argentina Los Glaciares National Park contains the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Fitz Roy, and Cerro Torre peaks, as well as the Viedma and Argentina lakes.
The starting point is the city of El Calafate, which is 435 miles away from the Perito Moreno glacier. You can get there by bus, car or boat. This is a one-day tour and the road takes about 1 hour. Entrance to the territory costs approximately 500 Argentine pesos. You can either walk along the coast or choose a quiet, uncrowded place to sit and watch the glacier. Every now and then the ice breaks, cracks and falls into the water. Beyond a simple walk, you can buy a boat ticket and swim near the glacier.
Those wishing to walk in Perito Moreno can participate in trekking tours, which vary in length and complexity, and have to be booked in advance because demand is very high during the high season. Prices start at 3,000 Argentine pesos and usually include transfers from El Calafate to the glacier and back, special equipment, and a guide.
Trekking to Fitzroy and Cerro Torre
To follow these routes, you first have to move to another part of the park. To do this, you can rent a car or take a bus and get to the city of El Chalten. You have to drive approximately 130 miles along a beautiful road in the Andes which takes about 3. The entrance to Los Glaciares National Park is free, and at the entrance you can get a map and find out all the information you need.
The most popular route is to the foot of Fitz Roy, 6 miles one way. The main part of the route is quite simple,until the last section, in which you start gaining about 500 meters of altitude per half a mile. Afterwards you can either go back or stay overnight in a tent at the campsite to watch the sunrise overlooking Fitz Roy.
Please note that camping in national parks is allowed only in specially organized campsites. This and other rules are strictly monitored here, and you can get a fine for violation.
From Camping Poincenot it is worth making a radial hike to the Piedras Blancas glacier. The journey takes about 1 hour. There is also a route from Camping Poincenot to Camping De Agostini overlooking Cerro Torre. Here you can either go to the Camping De Agostini and come back or even stay overnight. The journey takes about 3-4 hours. With good preparation and special equipment, you can cross the already stretched rope across the Fitz Roy river to Lake Torre and reach the Glaciar Grande. In addition to the main route to Mount Fitz Roy, there is a variant of the surrounding route with access to the glacier, but this will also require more serious equipment and completely different preparation.
All trails on the routes are marked by special signs which tell you how far you are from the endpoint. To find observation decks and campsites you would need a map. The main routes are quite simple – a person of average shape, able to walk with a backpack, can pass them without any problems. Climbers can climb the peaks of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, after obtaining permission from El Chalten. Here you can rent any equipment, buy food and gas. Bonfires in national parks are strictly prohibited.
Torres Del Paine
This is a national park in Chile. Here you can find the famous mountain peaks after which the park is named, as well as the Gray Glacier and many cerulean lakes. To get to the park, you need to come to the town of Puerto Natales, which is located 186 miles off of El Calafate. In Puerto Natales, you can buy all the necessary groceries, rent equipment, and even do your laundry if necessary.
Entrance to Torres del Paine will cost you 21,000 Chilean pesos, which includes a brief about rules and guidelines and a map of the area.
What Else to See in Patagonia
San Carlos De Bariloche
This city is surrounded by many lakes and forests. There is a ski resort nearby, and it is home to several chocolate factories. These features have earned this place the nickname Argentina Switzerland.
This is an active volcano in the Chilean part of the Andes (2652 m), located in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. You can go trekking in the park or climb to the top of the volcano.
Pan American Highway
This scenic road, which is considered the longest in the world, starts in Alaska and ends in the southmost part of South America.
From the city of Punta Arenas, you can get to Magdalena Island, which is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in the world. You can book a boat excursion to the island which lasts about 30 minutes, as it is allowed to stay on the island for no more than an hour.
The capital of Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world. Here you can climb the Martial Glacier and sail on a catamaran to small islands with penguins, sea lions, and cormorants. It is from here they fly away to Antarctica.
Coniglio National Park in Chile
Here you can climb the extinct Sierra Nevada volcano and go trekking routes to lakes, lagoons, and other volcanoes.
The Atacama Desert
Geysers, lagoons, salt marshes, observatories, and ancient settlements – the Atacama is wide and diverse enough for its own separate trip.
Quite expensive and very touristy. The round trip will cost about 600 USD. The island is quite small and is famous for its huge stone moai statues.
What to Take with You
When planning a trip to Patagonia,it is crucial to make sure you have all the equipment you need. The list of items can change depending on the season, the complexity of the routes, and the planned altitude. Lower is always warmer, and higher in the mountains there may even be frost. It is also important to consider whether you would spend your nights in a building or in a tent. In any case, your shoes should be comfortable and well-worn so as not to chafe your feet, and your clothing should be enough to protect you from strong wind, sunlight, and possible precipitation.
To summarize, we covered here how to visit Patagonia and what the beautiful sights you can expect to find here. As for visa, recently, Americans and Canadians do not need one to visit it. The same goes for citizens of the European Union. Therefore, feel free to pack your bags and go on this incredible adventure!
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