Argentina and Chile

Patagonia Travel Guide

Read our guide and learn about the best time to visit Patagonia, the must-see attractions and things to do in one of the most adventurous destinations in Argentina and Chile.

When you hear the word “Patagonia” you think of a vast, virgin and distant territory. Patagonia has a unique magic and mystique, which makes it the favorite destination of many travelers. Patagonia was recognized as one of the best destinations to visit during the pandemic. Discover its deserts and its forests, its seas and its lakes, its plains and mountains. Patagonia is a region shared by Argentina and Chile, with the Andes Mountains as its dividing line.

The Argentine side has arid steppes, grasslands, and deserts, while the Chilean side has glacial fjords and temperate rainforests. The famous Argentine highway RN-40 passes near Mount Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. And in Chile, the most iconic attractions are the Torres del Paine and the Carretera Austral.

Attractions

Bariloche

Bariloche is the most important city in Argentine Patagonia. It is the number one destination chosen by Argentine travelers and also from foreigners. Bariloche is a very picturesque city that is close to several beautiful lakes. The most famous is the Nahuel Huapi Lake. In Bariloche you will be able to carry out many activities such as: hiking, horseback riding, visiting chocolate shops, visiting breweries and being amazed by the most beautiful viewpoints. From Bariloche you can also visit Villa La Angostura, El Bolsón and San Martín de los Andes, nearby cities and towns that stand out for their incredible landscapes, and enjoy a self-drive trip to the Seven Lakes Route.

Puerto Madryn

On the shore of the Atlantic sea within Patagonia is Puerto Madryn, a beautiful city full of marine wildlife. Near Puerto Madryn you can visit the Valdés Peninsula, an ecological reserve that contains native fauna and flora of great biological value. In Puerto Madryn you will be able to dive, meet whales and visit some villages of Welsh origin.

 

El Calafate

El Calafate is one of the best known and most prominent destinations in Argentine Patagonia. It is nothing more and nothing less than the closest town to the Perito Moreno Glacier: the only one in the world that is still expanding. Visiting it is a unique experience, since you can not only take incredible photographs, but also trek on the glacier and discover its secret caves.

El Chaltén

Also close to the Perito Moreno Glacier is El Chaltén, the capital of hiking in Argentina. This town offers the possibility of taking different walks with different demands. There are hikes for all levels, from beginners to very advanced. Undoubtedly one of its main attractions is Mount Fitz Roy, which is located a short distance from El Chaltén.

Ushuaia

If we talk about remote places, we have to talk about Ushuaia. It is the southernmost city on the entire planet. It is located in the province of Tierra del Fuego in Argentina and offers the possibility of doing a lot of super entertaining and adventurous activities. Get to know the jail and the lighthouse at the end of the world, ranches and turquoise lagoons, all in the same destination.

Route 40

Inaugurated in 1935, the mythical Route 40 is more than five thousand kilometers long and crosses Argentina from north to south, crossing three tourist regions (Cuyo, Patagonia, and the North) and eleven provinces. It starts in the south of the country, in Cabo Vírgenes, province of Santa Cruz, and ends in the north, in La Quiaca, province of Jujuy. This route follows some sections of the Inca Trail, built in the 15th century by the Inca conquerors to link the southern region of their domains with their capital in Cusco, Peru. Also, in Patagonia, it follows ancestral routes of the Tehuelches, when on foot they wandered in search of their hunting prey (guanacos for example).

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine is located in Chilean Patagonia, exactly 154 kilometers from Puerto Natales, 400 kilometers from Punta Arenas and 270 kilometers from El Calafate, Argentina. This national park is full of beautiful turquoise lakes, large and imposing massifs, forests of varied vegetation, undulating rivers and a great variety of fauna, highlighting the pumas, guanacos and ñandúes. In 2013 it was declared the Eighth Wonder of the World by Unesco.

Puerto Varas

Puerto Varas is a city in the Lake District in southern Chile. It is located on the southwestern shore of the extensive Lake Llanquihue, which offers breathtaking views of the snow-capped and still active Calbuco and Osorno volcanoes. Traditional German-style architecture characterizes the city.

Eating & Drinking

Familia Weiss - Bariloche

Palacios y O’connor. Tel. (0294) 4421998/4435789

Meat

Although the place is a bit noisy, the smokehouse is well deserved for its popularity. The dishes are abundant, smoked meats and the service is quite fast.

Mamuschka - Bariloche

Mitre 298 (corner of Rolando street). Tel. (0294) 4423294.

Chocolates / Ice Cream

In this small place, they make the creamiest chocolates in Bariloche (also the most expensive). They are a great option to take as a gift since they offer beautiful cans and boxes decorated with chocolates and other products inside. It has a cafeteria (small, and always full) where you can taste the best patisserie in the area.

Cervecería Patagonia - Bariloche

Km 24,700, Cto Chico. Tel. 0294 436-8337

Panoramic Brewery

One of the most visited places by travelers in Bariloche isCervecería Patagonia. And it is not precisely because of its beer, which is also very nice. Visitors choose this brewery because it has an enviable view of Lake Moreno and the sunsets are magical. We recommend going before sunset, so you can see the full spectacle.

Cantina El Náutico - Puerto Madryn 

790 Julio Argentino Roca Ave. Phone 0280 447 1404

Seafood / Mediterranean / Spanish 

Dishes for everyone’s taste and budget. It is the most traditional with more than thirty year in town. 

La Tablita - El Calafate

Colonel Rosales 28. Tel. (02902) 49-1065.

Meat / Regionals / Grill

La Tablita is known as the best grill in El Calafate. Roast meats are their specialty and, when compared to other restaurants, it is not expensive. It is very popular, so we always recommend making a reservation before going. It can be crowded with groups, so it is quite noisy at times and can be slow to deliver. However, everything is forgotten when the food is served.

La Cervecería - El Chaltén

San Martín 564, Tel: (02962) 193109.

Brewery

It is the most popular restaurant in the city. It is always packed, not only because of its craft beer, but also because of its wonderful pizza and generous homemade casseroles, just perfect after a long day of walking!

La Tapera - El Chaltén

Antonio Rojo and Cabo García st. Tel: (02962) 493195

Meat / Pasta

Very good dishes, generous portions and good quality. The service is excellent. The atmosphere of the place is very warm and makes you feel at home. The dishes are usually well presented and the desserts are delicious. Advance booking is recommended, if you don’t want to wait for a table the place fills up fast.

 

Coiron Restaurant - Torres del Paine

Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine National Park. Tel: + 56-61-617450

Regional / Vegetarian Friendly

The best time to visit is during the day since the view from its living room, surrounded by mountains and parks, is incredible. There are many options for different tastes and they are all very nice and do not disappoint. There are several vegetarian-friendly dishes.

Quincho Pampa Lodge  - Torres del Paine

Lot 1, Rio Serrano Sector, Torres del Paine National Park. Tel: + 56-53-162911.

International /Southamerican / Chilean

A very quiet restaurant with beautiful views. Its bread basket stands out for its variety of breads, always warm. It offers a good variety of grill and meat. There are those who think that its cuisine is the best in the area!.

Hotel Lago Grey Bar & Restaurant  - Torres del Paine

Lago Grey sector. Tel: + 56-61-2410172

Regional food / Meat / Pasta

This restaurant combines delicious gastronomy with the unique surroundings of Hotel Lago Grey, ensuring a unique experience in each dish. Two menus are offered daily for lunch and dinner. Selected and absolutely natural products are used in its preparation. In addition, its varied wine cellar offers the best of Chilean vines.

The Cravia - Ushuaia

Heroes de Malvinas 2617 – Tel (02901) 442900
Gourmet

There are restaurants that stand out for their dishes, others for their vibe and others for their location. Without a doubt, if we had to choose one feature that stands out from La Cravia it would be its enviable location within the Hotel Arakur. It is 800 meters high and offers incredible views of the city. In addition, its delicious menu maridates with the experience.

Tips & Advice

When to visit Patagonia?

 

The first thing to know when you visit Patagonia is the specific destination you want to go to. It is not the same to plan a trip to Ushuaia as to Puerto Madryn. For example, if you want to see whales in Puerto Madryn you should go between June and December, but if you want to see penguins, it’s better to travel from September until March. However, if you want to visit Ushuaia, Bariloche or El Calafate, it’s easy to travel all year round. But keep in mind that the best time to visit southern Patagonia is summer, when most of the hiking trails and tours are available. 

 

What is the weather like in Patagonia?

 

Patagonia is a region that presents different types of climate. The air masses of the Pacific shoot almost all their humidity to the Chilean side of the Andes, returning to the arid and semi-desert Argentine territory. 

The island of Tierra del Fuego, located close to the South Pole, features up to eighteen hours of light in summer , while only seven to eight during winter . The Cordillera de los Andes, which curves from northwest to east through the archipelago, causes abundant rainfall in the western and southern islands, and less-humid weather in the northeastern plains.

In the northern sector of southern Chile, rains are abundant throughout the year, creating a humid and wooded weather. However, in the extreme south of Chile weather is drier and colder.

 

How to get there?

 

  • Flight: You can take a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, Trelew (to visit Puerto Madryn), El Calafate (and from there visit El Chaltén too) and Ushuaia.  From Buenos Aires to these destinations there are daily flights. There are also flights (but not daily) between these destinations. To Torres del Paine and Puerto Varas it is best to fly from Santiago de Chile. You should fly to Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales to go to Torres del Paine and to Puerto Montt to go to Puerto Varas.
  • Train: There is only one train that goes to Bariloche from Viedma, but we do not recommend it. it is usually rescheduled and is not very fast. In other areas of Patagonia there are no trains.
  • Self-drive:  Patagonia is perfect for self-drive trips. You can rent a car at the airports mentioned above and explore the major attractions on your own and at your own pace.
  • Bus: The bus connection in Patagonia is very good. We recommend buses for short distances or sections for which there is no other alternative. The most common buses are: El Calafate to El Chaltén, El Calafate to Puerto Natales or Torres del Paine, Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas and finally the bus that connects Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. This trip is not short but it is the best option to connect both destinations, as there are no flights connecting these cities.

What to include in your luggage

 

Patagonia’s weather is unpredictable. It may be warm and sunny, and suddenly cloudy and the cold. In addition, Patagonia stands out for having quite interesting gusts of wind.  Taking all this into account, it is recommended to pack all kinds of clothing: T-shirts, thermal shirts,  sweaters, divers, jackets, windbreakers, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen (since the sun beats quite hard in this region), stockings, gloves, trekking boots etc. We highly recommend having water proof clothes. In addition to that, we recommend taking a reusable bottle of water with you and a small backpack for day tour explorations. 

 

Do I need to speak Spanish to travel to Patagonia?

 

You don’t have to speak Spanish to visit Patagonia. Both in Chile and Argentina everything is prepared for tourism, and therefore, guides and people who work in the tourism industry are fluent in English and other languages. Anyway, it is true that not all people speak English and if you want to go to a more remote and non-touristy place we recommend downloading an offline translator, it will always help you.  

 

Security

 

Life in the Patagonian region is very quiet. You always have to pay attention to personal belongings but not like in big cities. 

 

National Parks Entrance Fee

 

Unless otherwise stated, entrance fees to National Parks are not usually included in itineraries. Furthermore, these fees are usually paid in banknotes and in national currency. Therefore, try to have change on hand.

 

Chilean or Argentine Patagonia?

 

Patagonia is a very large region and sometimes, unless you have a lot of time, you will have to choose to visit only a part of it. The choice will depend on your preferences. 

If you are looking for rainforests, fjords and mountains, we recommend you to visit Chile. On the other hand, if you are more inclined to desertic Patagonia, stunning and lonely, and also green and lakeside places, we recommend Argentina.

 

How many days do I need to visit Patagonia?

 

More days will always allow you to do more things, explore more areas and in greater depth. But think of a minimum of 3 nights to visit Patagonia. 

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Sustainability

How to help

 

  • Rewilding Argentina

It is a foundation created to confront and reverse the extinction of species and the resulting environmental degradation, recovering the functionality of ecosystems and promoting the well-being of local communities. You can learn more about Rewild here.

 

  • AMA Torres del Paine

In November 2004, the AMA Torres del Paine Environmental Group was formed, with the aim of supporting and financing research for the development of programs aimed at environmental care and preservation. AMA’s goals include supporting conservation, scientific research, and environmental education. These activities within Torres del Paine National Park and surrounding areas can minimize negative impacts and reduce the risk of future environmental problems, while maintaining the area’s natural and cultural resources. You can learn more about AMA here.

 

  • Torres del Paine Legacy Fund

This project seeks to ensure a sustainable future for Torres del Paine National Park and its surrounding communities. At Torres del Paine Legacy Fund they see the growth of tourism as an opportunity to create a positive impact, uniting travelers, residents, the public and private sectors to carry out local sustainability initiatives that strengthen the long-term health of the region. 100% of all donations go directly to sustainability initiatives that preserve, support and celebrate the park and its surrounding communities. To make a donation, please follow this link.

 

Sustainability tips

 

Useful tips to be a responsible travel:

  • Take your reusable bag with you when you go shopping.
  • Choose to consume local products from artisans and small producers.
  • Travel the city on bike or foot, it is healthy and does not leave a carbon footprint.
  • When you go on an excursion, ask for food without plastic wrap.
  • Don’t leave trash in nature.
  • Take a reusable bottle with you to carry..
  • Don’t feed native wildlife.
  • Use rechargeable batteries..