One of the best parts about venturing around the world is soaking up our world’s natural beauty. It is the reason why I enjoy trekking so much – you can get to more remote places on your two feet and really appreciate the allure first hand. While in South America we knew that we were ready to get off the beaten path and put some miles into our hiking boots. I had the perfect place – Patagonia.
The region has been on my travel bucket list for years; so to say that I was excited about venturing through it is an understatement. People are almost always aware of the clothing brand named after this beautiful place but can’t really place where it is on a map. Patagonia takes up almost half of both Chile and Argentina and boasts some of the most picturesque wilderness you will ever see. The region has 6 very unique National Parks offering you jagged mountain peaks, dramatic ice fields, brutal glaciers, unpredictable weather and some of the best hiking spots in the world.
Due to its remoteness you’ll find pockets of established tourism throughout Patagonia. Anything outside of that you are on your own. Typically I would find this a fun challenge and begin mapping out an itinerary. Train, planes, local busses, boats, border crossings, trails, trail guides, etc. To ensure that we maximized our time (and limited the number of travel mishaps) we relinquished control and got local expertise involved. With an idea of what we wanted to experience in this vast land, we found and booked the perfect three-week trip for us. There are a lot of tour companies that specialize in this region. Find the one that ticks your boxes and be prepared to have the trip of a lifetime.
We started in the northern lake district of Argentina and worked our way down to the southern most city in the world – crossing the border in and out of Chile a couple times along the way. It was a comprehensive journey that combined all of our Patagonia highlights (and then some), 100% of the logistics, a fun group of likeminded adventurers, and loads of free time to pick and choose the activities along the way.
The next series of posts will feature the nuances of this beautiful place. Here is a snapshot of our adventure:
// BARILOCHE, ARGENTINA
After a long weekend in beautiful Buenos Aires, we put on our backpacks and took a short flight to Bariloche, the entrance to northern Patagonia and the Andean Lake District. We had a couple days to explore this alpine ski town, which gave us the opportunity to hike up to Cerro Llao Llao – the highest point in Bariloche’s Llao Llao Park. We also took advantage of the nice weather and made our way out to the Manso River in the Nahuel Huapi National Park for some kick-ass white water rafting.
During our stay in Bariloche we were at the Soft Hotel. Simple, ski lodge-type of accommodation but was within walking distance of tons of shops and restaurants.
Check out Destinations// Bariloche, Argentina for a closer look at this pit stop.
// PUERTO VARAS, CHILE
We then hopped onto a local bus and made our way across the Chilean border to Puerto Varas. Border crossings on land are quite the experience in South America, especially into Chile. The trip itself took about six hours and meandered across the Andes through more of the beautiful Lake District. We stayed a couple nights at the Hotel Park Inn which overlooked the views of Lake Llanquihue and the Osorno Volcano. Our mission- to get up close and personal to the Volcano. We spent a day trekking up and around the ice-clad Orsono volcano. After our big trek we also made our way along the six kilometer Sondero El Solitario into the Petrohue River Valley, where we were met by a local fisherman prepared a lovely trout lunch for us.
Check out Destinations// Puerto Varas, Chile for a closer look at this pit stop.
// PUNTA ARENAS, CHILE
We drove to Puerto Montt to catch an early flight which took us to the end of the Chilean mainland to Punta Arenas. It is considered the furthest southern continental city in South America. While there is not too much to do here, it is a standard port of call for travelers who are making their way through Patagonia due to its location. We opted to take a long walk alongside the Straight of Magellan (this may ring a bell if you paid attention to your high school history teacher) as well as visited the Punta Arenas Cemetery. It’s less commercial than the Recoletta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, (Destinations // Buenos Aires) but definitely rivals it in terms of uniqueness and beauty.
During our time in Punta Arenas we stayed at the no-frills Hotel Patagonia Bed & Breakfast.
Check out Destinations// Punta Arenas for a closer look at this pit stop.
// PUERTO NATALES, CHILE
After our short stay in Punta Arenas, we hopped on a local bus and made our way to Puerto Natales – the entranceway to Torres del Paine National Park. We stayed at the cute Hotel Capitan Eberhard, which sits on the shores of the beautiful Seno Última Esperanza. Not much was done here except getting all the necessary preparations for our upcoming 4 day W-Trek. The W-Trek is one of the most beautiful in South America and was definitely what drew me to come to Patagonia. We traded our mattresses for sleeping bags and hit the trails for an adventure I will never forget. Jagged mountain peaks, glacial lakes, suspension bridges, and teahouses stocked with craft beer – what more can a guy ask for?
After our trek we hopped on a ferry and crossed Lake Pehoé for one of the most picturesque boat rides I’ve ever taken. With a sense of accomplishment, we headed back to Puerto Natales to get some much-needed rest.
Check out Destinations // Puerto Natales for a closer look at this pit stop.
// EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA
In the morning we hopped on a local bus and made our way back across the Andes into Argentina to a town called El Calafate. We stayed here a few nights and based ourselves at the new Hosteria Posta Sur. Another one of the stops many make as they transit through the region BUT around the corner from the beautiful Glacier National Park. In the park we spent the morning visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. We hopped on a boat to marvel at the size of it and watched the calvins break off into the water. There are also a series of walkways that allow you to get different vantage points of this beauty.
Check out Destinations// El Calafate for a closer look at this pit stop.
// EL CHALTÉN, ARGENTINA
After our visit to Perito Moreno Glacier, we continued further north in Glacier National Park to the town of El Chaltén. Only founded in 1985, this little town sprouted up for the pure purpose of the love of the mountains and trekking. We only stayed here for two nights (at the Hosteria El Paradiso) but I could have easily stayed much longer. I loved the bohemian, trekking vibe that pulsed through this place. We spent a full day hiking in Glacier National Park made our way to Laguna de Los Tres (Destinations // Laguna De Los Tres) on the Fitzroy Trek.
It was amazing having a picnic lunch under the Cerro FitzRoy/Chaltén. If you are a fan of the Patgonia clothing brand, then you will very quickly recognize the mountain range used as part of the logo. The impressive granite pinnacles spiral upward from the third largest ice filed on the planet. Keen to push myself to the limits, I also opted to go ice climbing for the first time on the amazing Viedma Glacier (Destinations // Viedma Glacier). With ice picks, crampons, a harness, and meters upon meters of rope I tested some of my fears. I leaned backwards over and abseiled into some of the gnarliest ice crevasses I have even seen. It’s definitely a game of mind over matter when you know you are twenty meters down a crevasse but unable to see the bottom. Amazing. Video coming soon.
Check out Destinations// El Chaltén for a closer look at this pit stop.
// USHUAIA, ARGENTINA
Our last stop on our Patagonian adventure was to the southern-most city in the world – Ushuaia. This busy port and adventure hub is best known for being the departure point for expeditions to Antarctica. While another bucket list destination of mine, it was not a part of our trip this time. We did however take a Helicopter Flight over the city and through the valleys where the Andes Mountains meet the ocean. It was my first helicopter ride and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
We skipped the much visited Harberton Ranch Penguin Colony Visit and opted to take a cruise on the Beagle Channel instead. We took one last trip to enjoy the panoramic views of this beautiful region and wanted to spot more marine animals and birds resting and nesting on cliffs.
While simple, our accommodation Hotel Ushuaia was quite central and was a great base for exploring the rest of the town.
Check out Destinations// Ushuaia for a closer look at this pit stop.
You only have to look at some of the snaps to see how beautiful this region of the world is. It was nice to get off the beaten path and explore the great outdoors. While not a cheap trip in any way, shape or form it was one that lived up to my expectations. If you find yourself exploring your own trip to this part of the world be sure to do your research. The upcoming posts will be comprehensive of my experience but are in no way full of all the amazing things you can do here. Be sure to watch this space for updates, deep-dives and videos in to each of the amazing locations we visited.