Make your first trip to Patagonia a unique experience
You waited many years to write this chapter in your life, and now little remains to begin this adventure. You have read so many times about travelling to Patagonia as one of those trips that you do once in your lifetime, and you want everything to be perfect.
You'll soon discover one of the most beautiful and wildest places in the world. Get ready for impressive glaciers, green landscapes, and unique wildlife.
How and where to begin touring Patagonia? It's such an extensive, magical and fascinating region that it will never cease to surprise you, we assure you. From every corner, you will marvel at its attractions.
Whether it's navigating across the turquoise waters that bathe the impressive Marble Cathedral, watching the sunset at the foot of the majestic Torres del Paine peaks, or just enjoying the culinary delights of southern Chile; you can live these experiences and more on this trip.
Hence, we tell you everything you need to know if you travel to Patagonia for the first time; the must-see cities, what you need to carry in your backpack, the best accommodations and all you need to make this trip memorable.
If you are travelling to Patagonia, you’d probably like to go everywhere. However, as we told you in our blog How to plan a trip to Patagonia, it is best that you get there with a plan.
Determining first which places you will help you optimize your time and have a memorable journey.
In that pursuit, we have selected for you an array of cities that, for different reasons, stand out in the region; some by their beauty, others by their traditions, while several are strategic points along the main tourist routes.
Make sure you set foot in at least one of them!
According to Condé Nast’s Travelers.es magazine, Frutillar is a “must-see” place to visit in Chile due to its unique combination of arts, culture and natural beauty.
Less than 30 minutes from Puerto Varas, this charming city of German-like architecture - the influence of German settlers who arrived in the 19th century- is located on the shores of Llanquihue Lake, and it has spectacular views of the Osorno volcano.
Besides its beautiful landscapes, you can enjoy its exquisite gastronomy, from which sweet pastries and raft beers stand out.
If you like art, there’s the city’s spectacular Lake Theater off the lake, which hosts several cultural activities throughout the year. In the summer, one of the most important events of the region takes place: The Frutillar Musical Weeks.
This classical music festival began 50 years ago, bringing renowned exponents from all over the world.
It is the starting point to discover the southernmost area of Chile, a place where you can live the country’s southern customs and traditions.
The arrival of German immigrants over two hundred years ago left a mark in the city’s history. In time, Puerto Montt became a strategic point for trade between Patagonia and the rest of the country.
If you want to try its cuisine, give the curanto of Angelmó a try. This delicious preparation can be made in a pot or a ground oven and includes potatoes, chapalele potato bread, seafood and sausages, among other ingredients.
A typical place we recommend you visit is the Copper Cathedral in front of the Plaza de Armas or main square, a structure which stands out because of its impressive copper dome.
Also, the Pelluco boardwalk area offers an ample array of restaurants and bars to enjoy great views of the gulf.
Ninety kilometres from Puerto Montt is the Chiloe Archipelago, surrounded by myths and composed of more than 30 islets, some of which are uninhabited until today. Capital city Castro is one of the oldest and magic-filled cities in Chile.
Forests, the sea, and country fields come together here, with a unique architecture and history full of myths and legends.
Traditional wood-pile constructions known as palafitos, found in the coastline, make houses in Chiloé seem like they are floating on top of the sea.
Moreover, speaking of traditions, make sure to catch the classic “minga”, a celebration in which friends and neighbours help people move their house from one place to another in the island with the help of oxen and wooden wheels placed under the structure, giving way to a traditional party.
Besides its cultural charm, Chiloé also stands out because of the beauty of its churches, which were built with native wood. Its construction technique is unique in the American continent.
Therefore many of them were declared World Heritage landmarks by UNESCO. We recommend you visit the beautiful churches of San Francisco, Our Lady of Sorrows and San Antonio of Vilupulli.
Rivers, mountains, and forests surround this corner of Aysen Region. It is a "young" city, founded in 1929, which over the years has become an excellent operations base from which to explore magical places such as the Marble Cathedral, made of rocky formations in General Carrera Lake.
Close to Coyhaique is the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, where you can take one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Chilean Patagonia. Along with this path, the scenery depicts emerald lagoons, pristine rivers, and glaciers of different hues and dense forests of lenga and coigue trees.
Also, in a little more than an hour, lies Puerto Chacabuco, from where ferries depart towards the San Rafael Lagoon, in the Northern Patagonian Ice Fields.
It is known as the “city of rainbows”. The weather is unpredictable there; the mixture of rain and the sun helping to fill the sky with colour.
The setting surrounding Puerto Natales is wild and imposing. In its vicinities, you will find fjords, glaciers, beautiful valleys, and archipelagos.
Its history is linked to the adventurous Kawéskar and Aónikenk indigenous people, and to the English and German colonists who came to these parts hundred years later, who mainly grew livestock.
It is a strategic point if you are on your way to Torres Del Paine National Park, although the city has reinvented itself with a delicious cuisine, beautiful hotels, and cultural alternatives. Check out these must-see attractions in our "What to see in Puerto Natales” post.
Traveller's Choice Awards 2017 By Tripadvisor chose Punta Arenas among the Top 10 destinations in Chile.
It is one of the southernmost cities of the country, where Mother Nature surprises visitors with winds that can reach 200 kilometres per hour, while natural light can extend to 20 hours.
The initial migration flow to this city took place at the beginning of the 20th century when the Magallanes Strait was a strategic point on the route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Croats, English, and Spanish settlers arrived there, mainly.
Close to Punta Arenas, you can watch penguins in Magdalena Island or spot a humpback whale in the Francisco Coloane Marine Park.
The city is also the gateway to Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica.
Make sure to visit Punta Arena’s attractions like the Sara Braun Municipal Cemetery, the Monument to the Shepherd, and the Nao Victoria Museum.
Remember to define your travel plans and itineraries before you jump into your adventure to Patagonia; this will help your budget and allow you to enjoy an enjoyable experience.
Moreover, make sure you do not miss these cities in Patagonia!
Puerto Natales is no longer a “drive-thru town” for those on their way to visit Torres del Paine National Park. In recent years, the city’s culinary offer has become a must-taste for those who wish to enjoy the flavors of Patagonia.
Today, you can find from sophisticated alternatives to more traditional Patagonia food options.
In case you want to charge your batteries after your adventures outdoors, we recommend some of the best restaurants of Puerto Natales for you to enjoy have a local taste.
They all will make you want to travel to Patagonia.
Preparations at La Aldea restaurant are hustle-free. There, the premise is to enjoy the pleasure of slow cooking and eating. The menu is flexible and it's determined by the seasonality of produce; the reason why it is written in chalk on a blackboard every day. Also, the waiters make sure that diners know the origin of each ingredient.
This is a small and cozy place, where you can taste dishes like the lamb kibbeh, a raw-meat preparation that contains parsley, cilantro, basil and garlic; the oyster ceviche, roast saddle of hare with mustard, mint and rosemary lamb; and, risotto with morel mushrooms.
This restaurant is one of the best rated in the area by TripAdvisor and people’s comments highlight its innovative proposal and excellent service.
Most fruits and vegetables in Puerto Natales are grown in greenhouses or small gardens. Therefore, if you are a vegetarian in Patagonia a good alternative is El Living.
This restaurant has become a classic among restaurants surrounding the Plaza de Armas main square. The meals are home-cooked, and the ambient is comfortable; feels like the living room at home.
On the menu, the three-cheese cappelletti with walnuts and pumpkin sauce are ideal for a cold day. Most of the dishes depict sweet and sour flavors, such as the black bean chili with vegetables, with a hint of grated chocolate, or the blue cheese sandwich with pears and walnuts.
This is one of the best alternatives on vegetarian food.
Cangrejo Rojo is located about 15-minutes from the city's center, and it is one of the most sought-after restaurants, applauded by the local media.
Some of the most requested dishes are the crab chowder, the Magellan octopus and fresh-caught fish like cod, conger eels, salmon, and jack mackerel.
And if you are tempted with trying something sweet, don't forget to look at the dessert display at the entry depicting local kütchen (a type of pastry made with local fruits) with calafate berries and redcurrants.
For rainy afternoons
When it rains in Puerto Natales, you better look for shelter. And La Crepería is the perfect place for you to take refuge and take the opportunity for some delicious eating.
At tea time, the alternatives are mouth-watering: white chocolate crêpe, vanilla ice cream, manjar (a Chilean version of the dulce de leche or cooked sweet milk) and, calafate berries sauce.
If you prefer a salty alternative: crêpe with lamb, sautéed vegetables, and green sauce.
Preparations here are flexible; you can either choose the ingredients or order the crêpes on the menu.
The Singular is one of the best hotels in the region, according to Traveller's Choice Awards by TripAdvisor. It was built on the premises of the former Bories meat processing plant, which is an essential part of the city’s history.
And its restaurant is not far behind. Its sophisticated décor and fantastic landscape view are unique, overlooking the waters of Última Esperanza Bay.
Its menu serves a mix of French and Chilean cuisine; its specialty is to highlight the local produce. Some of its top-rated dishes are the Tierra del Fuego guanaco (a camel native to South America) fillet, the glazed leg of lamb, and the Australis hake.
These five alternatives are an excellent sample of the superb Patagonia cuisine that has evolved and adapted to meet the demand of a growing number of foreign tourists coming from all over the world.
They are options for all tastes, ages, and budgets.
Now you know where to go if you are looking for places to enjoy a delicious meal in Puerto Natales.
If you are backpacker mode, these lodgings are ideal for travelers looking for adventure while enjoying the beauty that the south of Chile has to offer.
This selection of hostels mainly consists of accommodation alternatives that offer you the “warmth of southern Chile” experience. Some stand out for their architecture, while others for the service. All of them are excellent choices.
Five cities, five experiences
1-Chili Kiwi Lakefront/Pucón
This Chilean hostel won the Hoscar Awards 2016 by renowned hosteling site Hostel World. Found right across Villarrica Lake, in Pucón, its fantastic landscape views and convenient location explain the award.
One of its founders, New Zealander James Graham, arrived in Chile a couple of years ago while backpacking Latin America. He fell in love with this city and the nature and landscapes surrounding it.
The hostel has been operating for a little more than 3 years and offers lots of common spaces to promote a sharing environment among travelers. In that spirit, they don’t plan to expand any time soon.
Therefore, if you want to make a reservation, we recommend you schedule in advance. Also, because of its young adult atmosphere, the hostel does not accept children. The idea is to host adventurers and lovers of outdoor activities like rafting or climbing the volcano.
2- The Singing Lamb/ Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales city offers more attractions than just being an entry point into the Torres Del Paine National Park. And The Singing Lamb is an excellent base of operations to discover them all.
This hostel has ranked first place in Puerto Natales for the past five years and qualified as “fantastic” according to tourists in Booking and Tripadvisor.
Why? Its warm atmosphere, superb location -5 minutes from the main square-, top advice for excursions, and a delicious homemade breakfast, are just a few reasons.
This lodging also boasts an “S Seal” (for sustainability), given its efforts to save energy and recycle trash, food and trekking supplies as much as possible. That is why Tripadvisor gave it the eco-friendly Green Leader logo.
The Singing Lamb offers double rooms with private bathroom and shared rooms for between 6 and 9 people.
The moment you set foot on Chiloé island, a classic image will catch your aye: an array of colorful “palafitos” adorning the bay area. These constructions, which seem to be suspended above water, are part of the culture and identity of the place.
Staying at one of these buildings can be quite an experience.
Palafito Waiven is in the heart of the Gamboa borough overlooking the Castro city bay.
Its interiors feature plenty of wood and traditional Chiloé decorations. It is attended by its owners and is well heated to avoid the cold nights typical of southern Chile.
It currently holds a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor. And in 2015, in its first year of operations, it scored 9.2 points in Booking.
4-Entre Vientos/ Punta Arenas
This was the first hostel in Punta Arenas on TripAdvisor.
Located on the banks of the Magellan Strait, this is the favorite place of those who have visited the living room on the second floor, which has a spectacular view of the strait.
It offers several types of rooms, from doubles to shared rooms for 10 people.
The spaces are well lit, and all looks very homey; guests can use the kitchen or end the evening playing taca taca (how Chileans call table football).
5- Galpón Aire Puro/ Puerto Varas
This warehouse was built in 1920 by the Agricultural Society of Osorno, for potato storage. Today, it hosts a boutique guesthouse, craft and local gourmet shops for visitors to take home the flavors of Puerto Varas.
Although it was completely renovated, some details remain like the original facade.
In the interior, almost everything is made of native wood.
Its owner, Vicki Johnson, an American who came to the city more than 30 years ago, takes care of everything.
Besides being a welcoming place, this hostel claims to have the best breakfast in the city. Also, rooms can be shared but a maximum of 4 people.
It is found in a historic area, five minutes from Downtown.
These 5 best hostel alternatives will let you live the local experience and share your experiences with other tourists while backpacking the south of Chile. You just have to decide when to make the journey!
Puerto Natales is known as the gateway to Torres del Paine; a place of passage for attractions that are not necessarily inside the city.
However, in recent years it’s positioned itself as a destination worth stopping by.
Its appetizing gastronomy alternatives, hotels and culture activities have made this area a tourist hub that deserves a slot while touring Patagonia.
These are some of the points that you must visit on your next trip to the southernmost tip of Chile.
Monument to the wind
If you are in the city for a couple of days, sooner or later you will pass by this attraction, a sculpture is located by the waterfront, at Bories street.
Created by artist Marcela Romagnoli, the statue pays homage to the distinctive wind that blows in this city. It’s made up of bronze human figures that seem to be suspended in the air, while hanging from two arches that rise 9 meters up.
If you want a classic postcard from Puerto Natales, this is the place. In addition, if you continue walking the same road, you’ll reach the old pier, another incredible place to take the best pictures of the Última Esperanza bay.
Galpón Patagonia Cultural Center
It is a cozy space for the arts, located in the waterfront. Inaugurated in December 2014, it is one of the most outstanding entertainment places in the city, according to travel guide Lonely Planet.
Here you can engage in different activities, from exhibitions to dance workshops. If you get hungry, you can also enjoy delicious food in its cafeteria.
This is a place of historical relevance also; it hosted some of the first social and political upheavals of the 20th century that emerged within the livestock industry.
Municipal Historical Museum
The Museo Histórico Municipal is a mandatory stop if you want to learn more about the indigenous cultures that lived in this territory.
Here, ancient craft and tools offer testimony and make visitors ponder about what life was like for the first inhabitants of Magallanes region. You will be able to see utensils used by the Kawéskar and Aonikenk kept in perfect condition.
This museum also contains the history of the colonization process of the area, mainly led by the Germans and English. The collection includes personal objects belonging to Captain Hermann Eberhard, responsible for the first settlements in Patagonia.
Cave of the Milodon
This natural monument is located less than 25 kilometres from the centre of Puerto Natales and is a protected area in charge of Chilean forest service CONAF. Hundreds of tourists arrive at the cueva del milodón on a weekly basis, attracted by the myths and legends that surround this cavern.
More than one hundred years ago, Eberhard discovered the skin of a milodon, also known as giant ground sloth (Mylodon darwini) extinct more than 10 thousand years ago. So, it became a site for scientific research. At the entrance there is a replica of the animal, so visitors can gauge how large its size was.
As the Huffington Post states, "no visit to Patagonia is complete without visiting the Cave of the Milodon".
This is just a sample...
These are just few of the must-sees that Puerto Natales offers visitors looking to venture into Patagonia.
If you are planning to travel to Torres del Paine, make sure you take a couple of days to discover this wonderful city, where you will be able to learn about the local culture, arts and history.
The southern tip of Chile hosts some of the best hiking and trekking circuits in the world. This indomitable and unpredictable corner of the world is crossed by trails that outdoor fans from all parts of the world dream of.
The landscapes that this southern region offers are unique and a challenge for those who love hiking and trekking like yourself.
These are some of the trails that you must walk at least once in your lifetime.
1. Cerro Castillo/ XI Region of Aysén
Many people consider this circuit trail as the “new Torres Del Paine”. Indeed, the Cerro Castillo National Reserve depicts some landscapes as impressive as the famous blue peaks.
For this reason, the trail to Cerro Castillo (2,318 meters high) has lately drawn attention from specialised media and tourists alike. However, only a few people know this precious secret.
No wonder Lonely Planet magazine calls it it’s a must-see attraction to explore in the Aysen Region.
The reserve is located just over 60 kilometers from the city of Coyhaique and can be easily accessed from Carretera Austral highway. It covers more than 130 thousand hectares, and it’s not recommended for beginners.
What’s amusing about this circuit is that crosses many different scenarios; from dense forests to large rocks and snow. It is possible to observe rivers, lakes and glaciers in the northern sector of Lake General Carrera, for example.
If you are lucky enough, species in danger of extinction could cross your path, like the huemul and the condor, as well as pumas, guanacos, Patagonian skunks, and foxes.
First, we recommend that you visit between December and March to avoid snow, especially in high areas.
There are different ways to hike this place; it all depends on the physical conditions and the pace of the traveller.
There is a relatively common path that expands or shortens depending on the preferences of each person. The first thing is to pass by the CONAF post at Chiguay Lagoon to pay entry and register; it’s mandatory.
On the first day, the circuit begins in the Las Horquetas Grandes and ends at a camping site by Turbio River. During the hike, the visitor passes through forests of lenga wood, rivers, meadows, and could even have to jump a few wooden gates preventing animals from running off.
This part of the road is a visual delight that lasts between 6 and 7 hours.
The second day is more demanding, as it includes steeper paths. Perhaps its most challenging aspect is walking on loose rocks, so we recommend you always use a cane. Also, you must prepare for strong winds, which sometimes make the stones on the road roll.
The walk on the second day lasts 7 hours approximately. The last part is the most complicated, due to a descending slope and weariness. Probably the best thing at this stage is the landscape views of the Cerro El Peñón glaciers. The day ends at the Estero del Bosque camping site.
The third day starts with a climb of Cerro Castillo hill, followed by a visit to a lookout point from where you have the best view of the Ibañez River valley. Then begins the ascent to the New Zealander Camp where you’ll spend the night.
From this camp, you can also explore other hiking trails to Lake General Carrera, the Hudson Volcano and the basin of the Ibañez River.
The fourth day, generally, is quiet and focused on visiting the Duff Lagoon, a walk that takes no more than half a day.
To complete the circuit, on the last day you walk up to Villa Cerro Castillo through the valley of the Estero, then move south until you find the buses waiting to take you back.
2. Torres Del Paine/ Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica
The Torres del Paine National Park is located about an hour and a half from the city of Puerto Natales. It is perhaps one of the most well-known Chilean landmarks and, as described by travel website Traveler.es, "one of the best natural destinations on the planet."
It’s not just because of its famous and over-photographed blue peaks. Everything here seems to be wild and spectacular; hellish winds, turquoise lakes, glaciers, snow-capped summits, beautiful gorges, waterfalls, crystal waters, and more than 500 animal species.
So much so, that these landscapes attract more than 200,000 tourists per year.
As Lonely Planet explains, many people visit the park mainly because of its blue peaks, but once they arrive there, they realise that there is so much more to the towers.
Do you know how to take the W?
The W is a trekking route named like that because of its shape. It would take you between 4 and 5 days to complete the circuit, crossing a little more than 70 kilometres. There are several strategic resting points designed for a person in reasonable physical conditions to reach them without a problem.
Regarding accommodation, you can book camping sites that are free, or pay for specific camping areas or shelters.
The best time to visit the park is between October and April because shelters are open, days last longer, and the weather tends to be more benevolent. No wonder people say they live through the four seasons in one day.
There are many ways to do the W.
You can do it entirely on your own by riding a bus from Puerto Natales’ Bus Station; buses often leave passengers at three locations: Laguna Amarga, Pudeto, and by the Park Administration’s office.
- Hire a guided tour that takes charge of everything.
- There’s no specific direction in the W; you can start by crossing Pehoé Lake or through Amarga Lagoon.
A typical Itinerary of Torres Del Paine’s W hiking circuit generally considers:
- A 2-hour hike on the first day, approximately, to reach the El Chileno refuge, where travellers can load off heavy gear to ascend to the Mirador Las Torres lookout.
- The second day, the hiking surrounds the Paine massif and attractions like the Nordenskjöld Lake, hanging glaciers and, finally, the peaks, where you can take the best pictures. The walk takes between 4 and 5 hours.
- The third day is often the most tiring, as it consists of 10 hours of walking. You’ll start hiking two hours towards the Campamento Italiano camping site, and then ascend for about an hour and a half through the Valley of the Francés River up to the Francés glacier lookout, then to the Mirador Británico lookout. Here you will find some of the best views of the park: Paine Grande, Catedral, Aleta de Tiburón and Cuerno Norte.
- The return is through the same route, first reaching the Campamento Italiano camping site, and then Pehoé Lake.
- The last day ends with a walk of one hour and a half to the Grey Glacier lookout. However, the mandatory destination is the Principal Mirador viewpoint, from where you can appreciate a better perspective of the Gray, Témpanos, and Cordón Olguín glaciers.
- To complete the circuit, you must ride the ferry in Pehoe Lake to go where the buses wait to take you back to the city.
3. Dientes de Navarino/ Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctica
The heritage trail of Cabo de Hornos-Dientes de Navarino is a stunning journey dotted with archipelagos, channels, fjords and impressive glaciers in the Fuegian Andes.
It is the best example of the untamed nature of Patagonia.
Here the difficulty is medium-high. However, there are no specific sites for camping or taking shelter. It takes between 5 and 6 days and should be done in the summer, ideally.
It is one of the southernmost and pristine trekking trails in the world. Thus, only a few can say they have come to this point.
As it surrounds the mountainous cord, the trail crosses many forests, lagoons, and waterfalls, providing a magnificent scenery.
In addition to the beauty of the place, it’s got a compelling story. For example, the Beagle Channel has been a strategic point for over five centuries as it connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Here some of the most remotes ecosystems of the planet exist, like the miniature forests in Omora Park and its waters, known as the freshest in the world.
Australian voyager Claus Lindenmayer is responsible for finding this route and speaking first about it on Lonely Planet magazine.
The starting point is Puerto Williams, south of Tierra del Fuego. Only 15 minutes from the city lies the first of a total of 38 landmarks paving the way.
These milestones are distributed in five tranches that walk you through the jagged peaks of the Dientes de Navarino massif, bordering 1,200 meters above sea level. From there, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Wollaston Islands, part of the vast archipelago of Tierra del Fuego.
Today, the circuit has been improved to generate the smallest impact on nature.
The first stage goes from Puerto Williams to Laguna El Salto. The second takes you around the lagon. The third takes you from El Salto all the way to the El Martillo lagoon. The fourth trench goes from El Martillo to Los Guanacos lagoon. And, finally, the last stage begins in Los Guanacos and ends in Puerto Williams.
One of the main difficulties of the Dientes de Navarino trekking circuit is that the path is unclear in some parts of the trail. That is why we recommend you study the journey very well beforehand if you plan to do it by yourself or travel with a specialised guide.
Challenging and lonely, a classic nevertheless; hiking and trekking Chilean Patagonia treasures wonders for all tastes; you must choose whichever suits you best and plan your Patagonia adventure.
Some circuits have the necessary structure, and others require more equipment and expertise. Without a doubt, all of them offer a unique life experience.
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.
Now that you know how to plan a trip to Patagonia, now it’s time to organise what to take with you in your luggage.
Weather in Patagonia changes unexpectedly. You should prepare to enjoy this adventure in any context. There are many travel items and clothing that will make your visit pleasanter.
In this blog, we will tell you what to bring to Patagonia to make your trip a memorable one. The idea is that you don't miss a thing because you are not prepared!
The first thing you must do is determine how you’ll carry your items. If you want adventure, you’d better leave the suitcase at home. A backpack is better for these types of routes. In southern Chile, you will find all sorts of accommodation, and we are sure you’ll want to do some hiking. Read here about some of the most amazing hiking trails in Chilean Patagonia.
It is vital that you wear a waterproof jacket, so to stay dry inside even if rain pours down.
Be careful with how much weight you carry, because the idea is that you move around comfortably. We suggest you only take what’s essential; you’ll thank us after hours of walking!
As for clothing, the best thing is to dress in layers. That way, you quickly warm up or can take off pieces of clothing when necessary.
For example, first layers help you conserve heat. Also, don't forget to bring short sleeve t-shirt, in case it starts to get warm. If otherwise, keep a polar jacket, parka, and a wind jacket at hand.
With strong winds and rains being so common in Patagonia, you will appreciate having clothing that dries fast and is waterproof.
Sunlight in Patagonia can also be intense. Some essential items for your backpack are sunscreen, sunglasses with UV filter, and a hat. You'll probably be exposed to the sun for many hours, so avoid sunburns.
We recommend you also carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated at all times.
In case of rain, wear gloves for the cold and water gloves. Also, water layers are useful when there’s not so much wind.
Rain or shine, protect yourself with neck buffs or collars, they make an excellent alternative.
Trekking poles or hiking staffs will help you probe the ground. They also help you keep balance, prevent falls, and care for joints, as they distribute the weight between arms and legs. There are many benefits associated with using these tools while hiking.
Shoes are an essential item in your luggage for Patagonia. If you want to feel comfortable, your hiking shoes must be waterproof.
In case they are new, we recommend you wear them at least one month before you travel, so your feet adjust to them. If you are going to buy them, look at details like toughness and ankle support.
Your feet are your primary support for your adventures, so you must take care of them; here are a few tips for you to choose the right fit.
6- Other essentials
Landscapes in Patagonia are unique, and it would be a pity that you miss out taking pictures on your phone is out of battery.
An external battery is a solution to this problem for trails like Torres del Paine or Dientes de Navarino, where there’s no electricity available nearby.
Other useful items are a tool knife and a first aid kit.
Visiting Patagonia means travelling to adventure, and you should prepare for everything; a lot of rain, high winds, or extreme heat.
At all events, if you gear up properly for all events, you’ll be able to enjoy all the wonders of the south of Chile without problem. So make sure you take note of all the essential items to take to Patagonia!
It is one of those trips you do once in a lifetime. Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most beautiful and challenging destinations in Chile, located in the extreme south, Magallanes Region, close to Chilean Antarctica.
There’s a reason why National Geographic chose it as one of the five most beautiful places in the world. It was also one of the motives why Chile won the World Travel Awards 2016 for World's Leading Adventure Tourism Destination.
However, the landscape is changing because of climate change, so you’d better hurry to you this trip to Patagonia if you want to watch what you’ve only seen in photos. Recently, a giant piece of ice fell off icon Glacier Grey.
But, how to plan a trip to Torres del Paine?
1-Take only what you really need
Weather in Chilean Patagonia is unpredictable, and even hostile sometimes. Therefore, if you think to travel in the summer, make sure to take clothes for rain. Also, protect your backpack from the water with a waterproof cover.
Leave at home all clothes that do not have a practical function; the locals say that you can experience all four seasons in one day.
Most tourists prefer high season because there are more sunlight hours and temperatures fluctuate between 5 and 15 degrees Celsius. But do not forget that the wind usually lowers thermal sensation by a couple degrees, especially in summer time.
On the other hand, bring cash to pay for unexpected expenses or last-minute purchases (not all stores or places offer credit card payment as an option). There are no ATMs inside the park, for example.
Regarding entry, remember that the Park charges different prices to Chilean and foreign tourists. Also, there are price differences between Low season (May 1-September 1) and High season (1 October-30 April). Independently, all visitors are required to register with park authorities.
Read more about what to bring to Patagonia to make this adventure memorable.
2-Learn your do's and don'ts
For a trip like this, we recommend you book well in advance. Travelers from all parts of the world want to know this corner of Chile, just like you.
It is essential that you schedule ahead and make sure to book your place in shelters, hotels or camping sites. There’s high demand and once inside the park it’s difficult to solve lack of accommodation.
Lighting a fire is banned inside Torres del Paine to prevent forest fires like the ones that damaged the park in 2012. If you plan ahead, you can take with you a camping kitchenette to prepare meals.
Keep the park in good condition by taking with you all the trash you generate during your visit. Also, do not feed nor bother the local fauna.
3- Decide how you will tour Torres del Paine
The W hiking circuit known covers more than 50 kilometres. A critical distance considering that you must carry all your things with you always. Therefore, we recommend that your backpack does not weigh more than 10 kilos (a bit over 22 pounds).
Be realistic and do not strain yourself, because the next day you will continue walking. It will be ideal if you prepare physically in advance for you to enjoy the circuit.
Don't forget that there are other alternatives, like “full day” excursions in which you visit main attractions on a tour van.
For those looking for a calmer alternative and are better physically, the O trekking circuit is longer and more demanding.
If you take these considerations into account, you will be able to enjoy one of the most inspiring trips of your life.
Most importantly, when you travel to Patagonia leave nothing to chance, because distances are long; it is an hour and a half between Torres del Paine and Puerto Natales (the closest city). Also, follow instructions by park staff to avoid problems.