Patagonia is a region full of lush forests, mesmerizing mountain ranges, volcanoes, grasslands and more. The area has been relatively unsettled by humans, which has helped to preserve its mysticism and extravagance. Travelers come to Patagonia from around the world to explore some of the most dramatic, stark environments on the planet.
Patagonia is shared by Chile and Argentina, and the fact that this area is so diverse geographically adds to the travel possibilities available here. The 400,000 square miles that comprise Patagonia are your playground, so it's important to take stock of your priorities before heading to this vast area. Biking through the Andes, trekking along glaciers, or exploring the vast wildlife of the southern regions; there is no doubt that you'l find something to keep you occupied in Patagonia.
Just two hours from El Calafate in Argentina, Perito Moreno glacier is a bit of an anomoly because it is actually advancing, whereas most other glaciers are retreating. You can witness large pieces of ice break and collapse into the frigid waters, use crampons (metal spikes fitted onto your shoes for glacier walking) to trek across the ice, and check out the interior lagoons.
Tour companies run buses from El Calafate daily, and you can choose to view the glacier from a boat if you'd rather not take your chances on the ice. Some tours even include whisky, so make sure you choose wisely!
Being one of the longest mountain ranges in the world, the Andes actually spread throughout seven different countries and down into Patagonia. The Lakes District is a stunning area with lakes, forests, and volcanoes, and is a great place to explore by bike. Located in the north of Patagonia, the weather here is typically better than in the south. After getting your heart-rate up while coasting through dramatic terrain, it is sometimes possible to end the day relaxing in a well-deserved hot spring.
There are plenty of trails to suit your needs and abilities. From scenic and well-kept gravel roads to technical single-track mountain biking, there are options for all levels. You can even embark on multi-day supported trips to make the most of your experience while covering a lot of ground throughout Patagonia.
This southernmost point of Patagonia offers some seriously dramatic scenery, flora, and fauna. The coarse granite towers looming over a vast landscape attract climbers and trekkers from all around the world, while the mellow crystallized lakes offer a retreat. From Ushuaia, known as "The City at the End of the World", you have access to this diverse region. The Beagle Channel gives you a chance to see flamingos, penguins, and the rare Darwin's Rhea. Tierra del Fuego National Park is an area renowned for its 6 kilometres of forested sea-shore dotted with coves and cliffs, which give it's visitors great opportunities to experience the vast wildlife first-hand. Organized tours normally involve taking a 4X4 vehicle to the lakes.
Best Time to Visit Patagonia
Generally, the climate in Patagonia is cool and dry. High season is usually December through March, with the low season May through September. June and July tend to be the wettest months. When you figure out what your priorities are while in Patagonia, it's a good idea to look into weather conditions for the area and time of your visit.
Tour packages are readily available around Patagonia, especially from the cities, and you're likely to find something that suits your budget. It's also possible to travel Patagonia independently, as hostels and campsites are plentiful, and public transportation easy to navigate.
What to Look for in a Tour
Patagonia encompasses a very large area in two countries. Public transportation in the area can be difficult to come by in some parts, so it's important to check whether the tour you're considering provides transfers between major cities, if you need them. Some of the more expensive tours start and end in the capital or major cities, but others would expect you to get yourself to the start point, which could be you're renting a car or relying on buses.
Other than that, your major concern will be narrowing down the activities and landscapes that interest you the most, as there's so much variety!
Average Tour Costs
Argentina and Chile are moderately priced countries. Patagonia is quite remote, but traveling there doesn't have to be expensive, and can be done on a budget.
Costs of organized tours vary depending on where they go and how long for. A day trip to the lakes in the Fuegian Andes, for instance, will cost around US$75. On the other end of the scale, a 15 day trekking trip through both Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia could cost as much as US$4000. There are plenty of options in between, too.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
If embarking on adventure activities with an organized tour, all necessary equipment will be provided.
The weather in Patagonia can be changeable and cool, so come prepared with warm layers, waterproofs, and clothing appropriate for outdoor adventures. Bug spray and sunscreen is a must, and better to bring from home.
Chile and Argentina are among the safest countries in South America. If you're sightseeing in the cities and towns throughout Patagonia, be aware of your surroundings and keep important personal belongings under a close eye -- as you would in any city.
Since so much travel in Patagonia is adventure travel, be sure to check in with your own physical fitness and health before you set out. The remoteness of Patagonia makes it difficult to receive healthcare if you need it, so it may be advisable to check with your doctor if you are unsure if you're physically capable of a certain tour or activity.
No vaccinations are required to travel to Patagonia, although it is recommended that your general immunizations (Hep A & B, diphtheria, tetanus, MMR and typhoid) are up-to-date.