Patagonia Overview

A Patagonia vacation stirs the heart of every red-blooded adventurer. The promise of calving glaciers, of penguin-peppered ice fields and noble volcanoes lures down the wild at heart, while the hospitality and cosy lodges, the grilled meats and full-bodied wines make you want to stay. And stay you should. Patagonia is not a destination to rush through; its wilderness is best explored on foot rather than through the window of a plane or a car. Hiking and adventure vacations will help you appreciate the scale and power of this epic wilderness. Read our Patagonia travel guide.

Our top Patagonia vacations

Chile and Argentina tour

From £2595
14 days ex flights
Santiago, Lake District, Patagonia, Glaciers & Buenos Aires

Small group adventure vacation to Patagonia

From £4042
20 days ex flights
Explore the spectacular wilderness and mountains of Patagonia
Small group2020: 1 Nov, 22 Nov, 13 Dec

Best time to go to Patagonia

Patagonia’s weather is characterised by unpredictability but it’s also known for its relentless wind, which races across the steppe and makes you feel very glad to be cosied in your estancia. December to February, the southern summer, is peak tourist season, and you can make the most of the long days. Mid-November populates Patagonia with spring flowers rather than tourists and mid-March to May are also less busy, the beech forests putting on beautiful autumnal displays. Ice blocks the trails in the cold winter months, rendering them inaccessible to visitors in June, July and August. Decide when to visit Patagonia.
Patagonia temperature and rainfall chart

Map & highlights

Patagonia is not a country, but a large region straddling Chile and Argentina. In the north, Bariloche town is the gateway to the pleasant vistas of the Lake District. Pass down through the windy steppe and you’ll finally get to a spine of sights in the south. El Chalten is a tiny hiking town, whilst El Calafate is a great base for seeing Glacier Perito Moreno, and both sit next to Los Glaciares National Park. Over in Chile, Torres del Paine has the famous multi-day W trek. Furthest south is the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, and Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city.
Bariloche

1. Bariloche

You’ll wonder if you’re still in South America when you arrive in this postcard-pretty alpine town, built by the original German and Swiss inhabitants. Chocolate shops line the streets, so you can get your sugar fix before heading into the mountains for biking, hiking, or horseback rides. Keep an eye out for the mythical Nahuelito – a strange creature which the Mapuches believe inhabits the lake.
El Calafate

2. El Calafate

This is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, which can be visited on a daytrip by bus or boat. Visit the nearby Glaciarum Museum to better understand these icy giants, or go hiking or cycling around the ice blue Lago Argentino. Alternatively, stay at a nearby ranch – where you can hang with the cowboys and ride horses. Over 40 species of migratory birds can be spotted in the region.
Lake District

3. Lake District

Chile’s answer to the Swiss Alps is chocolate-box beautiful, with slivers of lake between snow-tipped volcanoes and verdant valleys. The German settlers brought their beer and bakeries, but this is also the center of native Mapuche culture, adding a whiff of magic and mystery to this idyllic region. Head out of the cities for outstanding outdoor pursuits, including kayaking, whitewater rafting, volcano hikes and hot springs.
Los Glaciares National Park

4. Los Glaciares National Park

Over a third of this immense park is covered in ice, which slides down into more than 40 glaciers. The most famous is, of course, Perito Moreno, which towers up to 60m in a sheer wall of blue ice, 5km long. It is one of the world’s few advancing glaciers, and the loud creaking is constant. Full glacier cruises on Lake Argentino take in four glaciers – giving a true sense of the scale and importance of the park.
Tierra del Fuego

5. Tierra del Fuego

The island at the end of the world, reaching Tierra del Fuego is a highlight for any traveler, though it’s not as harsh and uninviting as its reputation as the “Land of Fire” may suggest. Its marine climate tempers the cold, and the walking trails through the forests of its national park are easy-going and scenic. You can paddle inflatable canes on its lagoons and rivers, and look out for seabirds.
Torres del Paine National Park

6. Torres del Paine National Park

Hiking here is a highlight of any Patagonia itinerary, with its backdrop of glaciers, snow-capped mountains and lakes, along with foxes, skunks, flamingos, condors and guanacos. A demanding trek/scramble takes you to the base of the immense granite towers that give park its name. You can also take boat rides past Grey Glacier, and camping expeditions give you chance to get deeper into the pristine terrain.

Wilderness experiences

For all its dramatic highlights – and the scenery here really is extraordinary – at its heart, Patagonia is actually very empty. Mountain ranges cast vast rain shadows, and wildlife is shy and hard to spot among the echoing valleys and wind-blighted pampas. On the Argentine side, there are swathes of estancia-dotted ranching territory, whilst in Chile, thousands of islands exist untroubled by visitors. It’s the perfect place for those who want a wilderness experience, whether that’s hut to hut hikes between simple refugios, horse riding along glaciated valleys, or really epic drives, spotting high-soaring condors through the sun roof.

Torres del Paine

The sight of rose-hued sunlight striking the three granite towers that give Torres del Paine National Park its name is reserved for those who get up early and hike to Mirador Base las Torres. This is just one of the scenic marvels in this Chilean national park, which also hosts Lago Grey, Grey Glacier and the tri-spiked crown of Cuernos del Paine. The park is home of the famous W trek, a five-day hike, and is accessed from Puerto Natales, a small town where tourists pick up provisions before setting out into the beautiful wilderness.

Los Glaciares National Park

Los Glaciares National Park is aptly named, home to 40 glaciers that cling to the side of its mountains like diamonds sticking out of bedrock. The most famous is Glacier Perito Moreno, a wall of ice that calves into the water beneath to the stunned murmurs of the assembled crowd. El Calafate, a pleasant settlement just outside the park, makes the best base for your glacier visit. A little further north is the town of El Chalten. You can hike straight from town into the Fitz Roy Range, a series of granite fingers with frozen lakes in the palms of their hands.

More vacation ideas

Patagonia luxury adventure vacation

From US $4327 to US $4887
11 days ex flights
Luxury hotels and adventure in Patagonia
Small groupDaily departures 01 October to 25 April.

Patagonia self drive vacation

From £5192
20 days ex flights
Showcases three contrasting regions of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile

Patagonia trekking tour

From US $4315 to US $4445
10 days ex flights
Natural beauty, dramatic vistas and cosmopolitan cities.
Small group2021: 14 Feb, 14 Mar, 11 Apr, 3 Oct, 17 Oct, 24 Oct, 7 Nov, 21 Nov, 28 Nov, 12 Dec, 19 Dec, 26 Dec, 2022: 9 Jan, 30 Jan, 13 Feb, 13 Mar, 10 Apr, 2 Oct, 16 Oct, 23 Oct, 6 Nov, 20 Nov, 27 Nov, 11 Dec, 18 Dec, 25 Dec

Chile highlights tour, 10 days

From £2795
10 days ex flights
10-days: Santiago, Atacama, Patagonia & Torres del Paine

Paine and Fitz Roy trek, trekking vacation

From US $5990
13 days ex flights
Spectacular Andes scenery from glacial lakes to towering granite peaks
Small group2020: 22 Nov, 6 Dec, 2021: 28 Jan, 24 Feb

Patagonia tailor made vacation, 14 days

From £3079
14 days ex flights
Be awed by beautiful Patagonian wilderness on this trip
Quote. The secret to a great holiday is that it's great for everyone - you, local communities and nature.
Tourist and Masai

More about Patagonia

Family vacations

Young children won’t get much out of Patagonia’s long hikes, but adventurous teenagers will be able to appreciate the moody weather and brooding peaks. Patagonia is a safe and friendly destination for family vacations, but the big distances present a challenge. To minimise the amount of walking, you can tour the Patagonia steppe in a 4WD vehicle, and little ones will love looking out for cuddly alpaca-like guanaco on the drive to Torres del Paine. Jaws will drop at the sight of glaciers. Children can even walk on Glacier Perito Moreno once fitted with a set of kiddie-sized crampons.

Types of vacations

Patagonia is synonymous with adventure vacations. Skirt glaciers on boat trips, scramble up scree-littered slopes to reach windswept viewpoints, and just relish the sheer remoteness of it all. A hiking fanatic could live in Patagonia for years and still never complete more than a small portion of its walks – there are just too many – but a walking vacation is a good start. Torres del Paine is a great place for long distance trails, but there are also plenty of day walks. Small group tours make vacations where you’re planning lots of hiking a breeze, as there’s always a new person to chat to on the trail.
[Wilderness experiences : Marcelo Vaz] [Torres del Paine : Kurt Cotoaga] [Los Glaciares National Park : John Weinhardt] [Family vacations : The Travelista] [Types of vacations : Luis Miguel Munoz]
Photo credits: [Page banner: Justin Vidamo] [Wilderness experiences : Marcelo Vaz] [Torres del Paine : Kurt Cotoaga] [Los Glaciares National Park : John Weinhardt] [Family vacations : The Travelista] [Types of vacations : Luis Miguel Munoz]
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