Renowned travel guide Lonely Planet recently chose the top ten countries to visit in 2018. Chile is among them, ranking first place and the only country to tour in South America.
Its diversity of landscapes and contrast between locations like the desert and the "wild" Patagonia, are some of the reasons that placed Chile in this privileged position.
In 2016, Travel and Leisure magazine said that few bucket lists don't include a "life-changing" hiking experience in this remote part of the world.
What is it about this place that appeals so much? Pristine landscapes, wildlife, and majestic beauty.
Without a doubt, more and more travelers want to venture into this southern corner of the world. However, where to begin? Here are five tips to start planning your trip to Patagonia.
1.-Decide how much time you want to invest in this journey
How many days do you need to know the area? The answer depends on how many days you want to spend in each city.
The region expands from the Los Lagos Region in southern Chile to Ushuaia in southern Argentina. That is the reason why landscapes vary dramatically, and it is likely that you will want to visit them all.
Unfortunately, holidays are not infinite :(
The first thing to do is to determine the places you want to know and how profoundly you wish to know them, to design the best route.
For example, you can go trekking in Torres del Paine on a full-day excursion or complete the 5-day circuit through the W circuit. Also, the O circuit would take you between seven and eight days.
There are many alternatives, but to organize a proper itinerary you must determine what type of experience you want to live; if you are interested in gastronomy, outdoor activities or culture. Perhaps, to optimize time, you can choose a city easy to access and close to several tourist attractions.
2.- Define which places you want to visit
What do you want to see? Glaciers, lakes, and wildlife? As we mentioned before, this is a vast territory; covering more than a million square kilometers.
Before departing, we recommend you determine which will be your points of significant interest.
Los Lagos region, Chile: In here you will find volcanoes, lakes, and rivers. Major cities like Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, Osorno, and Chiloé concentrate in this area.
Aysén region, Chile: One of the most significant tourist attractions in this area is the Marble Cathedral, an impressive marble rock formation located on the shores of General Carrera Lake.
Argentina: El Calafate is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, which houses the spectacular Perito Moreno glacier. Meanwhile, the El Chaltén features the famous Fitz Roy mountain and its photographed summits.
Torres Del Paine: If yoou like hiking, this is the place where you must go at least once in your lifetime. Here you can take different routes and marvel at its imposing nature. It is an hour and a half from the city of Puerto Natales.
Tierra del Fuego: It is the most significant island in Chile. Here you can do trekking through the Dientes de Navarino massif, the southernmost trek circuit in the world, or just navigate through the Beagle Channel observing the incredible fauna.
Make sure to visit one (or all!) of our favorites top 5 destinations in Patagonia.
3.- Choose the right time for each destination
At this point, both the destination and the activities that interest you are essential. If you want to go skiing, for example, the snow season usually runs between mid-June to October.
On the other hand, the ideal season for hiking and trekking in Patagonia is between October and April.
Remember that the climate is hostile during winter in the extreme south. Moreover, even if you are an adventurer who is not afraid of the inclement weather, consider that many routes and attractions could be closed or offseason.
4.- Keep distances in mind and know for how long you will travel
Consider the distance and how you want to move. For example, traveling there by bus, car or ferry can take longer, but you will have more time to appreciate the landscape and engage with other travelers. On the other hand, flying a plane is comfortable and fast, but you miss out all the details.
You may want to visit many of the key tourist attractions. However, distances there are large and given your time and budget, you must take a decision.
For example, traveling Patagonia by bus takes several hours, usually. The same applies to trips by car and ferry. Nonetheless, these transportation alternatives let you move at a rhythm that helps you to appreciate the landscape.
Also, having your means of transport offers more flexibility.
For example, visiting the Marble Chapel in Coyhaique and then going to Puerto Natales by road takes about 15 hours if you travel through the Argentinean side.
On the other hand, the airplane is a faster alternative, but more restricted regarding schedules. In this case, you may want to rent a car or book excursions ahead of time.
5.- Prepare the necessary luggage
The climate in the south of Chile is unpredictable. Cities like Punta Arenas have recorded winds of up to 196 kilometers per hour. Moreover, in Puerto Natales, the average temperature is 6ºC, with abundant rain. However, there’ll also be sunshine, for which you will need sunglasses.
Be sure to wear comfortable clothing that conserves heat and dry fast. This trip is synonym of adventure and outdoor experiences. Essential wardrobe includes sun blockers, trekking shoes, waterproof jackets first layers, a coat, a hat, and earmuffs.
For example, if you want to take the W trek circuit in Torres del Paine, it is best to leave at home everything that is not strictly necessary. Remember that you will spend several hours walking, carrying your luggage the entire time.
After you outline how many days you plan to dedicate to your visit, places, season, routes and baggage, you will be all set to plan your trip.
There’s a reason why they say this is a trip of a lifetime. It is best that you study this trip in advance, so everything goes as you expect.