Patagonia

Patagonia Travel Guide: The What, Where, When & How!

Laura Pattara

Laura Pattara  |  21 February 2020

This is your exclusive Patagonia Travel Guide: The What, Where, When & How!

The best things to see and do, the best time to travel and the inimitable experience that makes this one of South America's most rewarding destinations - read on to learn all about Patagonia travel! An outdoor adventurer’s ultimate playground, Patagonia is one of South America’s most outstanding destinations. A household name among avid hikers the world over, this southernmost region of South America, shared between Chile and Argentina, is a mountainous haven where snow-capped peaks, startling lakes, raging rivers and spectacular valleys dot the landscape. Inhabited by a flurry of unique wildlife and visited, along the coast, by migrating whales, sea lions and dolphins, Patagonia is a place that’s been abundantly blessed by the hand of Mother Nature. This Patagonia travel guide aims to answer the most commonly asked questions, guiding you to and through the best highlights, the most convenient entry points, must-do activities and even the most delectable local specialities you should try.

All about Patagonia – your guide to the wild south of Latin America!

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Click the links below to skip through the article:

1. Best reasons for visiting Patagonia
2. What to do in Patagonia
3. Where to stay in Patagonia
4. Local culinary specialities
5. Where to start
6. Best time to travel
7. Explore Patagonia with Viva

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia tours

What to see in Patagonia – Best reasons for visiting 

National Parks

Patagonia is a region that is literally defined by its protected national parks, each one offering its own unique slant on the flora and fauna that make the region a standout in the continent. Rather than choose a specific activity, for example, many first-time visitors will simply choose which national park to visit. The top 3 most popular parks are Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego, the latter making up a great portion of the southernmost island of the same name. You can learn more about Patagonia’s Best National Parks and understand how they differ – and you’ll soon also understand why most visitors will ultimately choose to visit all three. The tallest peaks, coupled with the most arresting glaciers, and the most incredible marine life – an unrivalled 3-in-1 adventure.

The Best Tours in Patagonia, especially for first-time visitors, include the parks’ top highlights, namely hiking trails in Torres del Paine, glacier-treks in Los Glaciares and wildlife-watching in Tierra del Fuego.

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Click HERE to see our tours to Torres del Paine 

Wildlife

The wildlife of Patagonia is extraordinary, especially given the harsh and inhospitable climate. The most prolific species is the adorable guanaco, a close relative of the llama that is a true regional icon. On land, you can spot Patagonian maras, two species of fox, armadillos, Huemul deer and, if you win the wildlife-spotting lotto, even shy and elusive pumas. The majestic Andean condor, southern-crested caracara and albatross soar the Patagonian skies whilst, on expedition cruises and seaside adventures in the Valdes Peninsula, you can marvel at migrating orcas, whales, penguins and huge colonies of elephant seals. For wildlife lovers, Patagonia tours are simply unmissable.

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Glaciers 

Perito Moreno may well be the pin-up star of Patagonia’s glacial world yet it’s only one of more than 300 separate glaciers found in the aptly-named Los Glaciares National Park. Part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares covers thousands of square kilometres, hosts a multitude of drop-dead-gorgeous highlights (like the sky-reaching peaks of Mt FitzRoy) and is a phenomenal adventure capital. Here, you can hike (almost) endlessly, head off on horseback riding adventures, boat sightseeing tours and glacier tours that get you up close (and right on top) of the icy tops. Pure magic!

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What to do in Patagonia – The most iconic experiences 

Hiking 

More than anything else, Patagonia is renowned as Latin America’s hiking capital, one that stands apart from the Central Andes of Peru and Bolivia for its extremely dramatic landscapes. It is right here that you’ll find some of the world’s most astonishing and highly-coveted trails, most especially since Chile unveiled Patagonia’s Route of Parks. Do you need to be a hard-core trekker to enjoy the mountainous exploits here? Not at all. Patagonia offers options for experienced trekkers and casual walkers alike and is as revered for its variety as it is about its eye-popping landscapes. From the world-famous W-Walk in Torres del Paine to the lesser-known but equally rewarding Laguna Torres Trek in Los Glaciares, the top 6 Greatest Hiking Trails in Patagonia to be immensely inspiring.

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Expedition cruises

Being such an expansive, remote and rugged region, Patagonia boasts many exceptional destinations that can only be reached by expedition shit. Patagonia cruises, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill trips offered elsewhere, are more about exploration and adventure than they are about sundowner cocktails and nightly cabaret shows. When you take sightseeing cruises through the Lakes Region and the breath-taking Chilean fjords of the far south, you’ll visit some of the most unspoilt and uncrowded pockets of the continent, where prominent wild and marine life nesting sites abound, remote communities thrive and where options for both land and sea-based adventures are offered daily. Learn more about Patagonia Expedition Cruises, perhaps the region’s least-known highlights.

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia cruises

Overland journeys 

Home to two of the world’s most famous overland routes, Route 40 and the Carretera Austral, Patagonia is a slow-travel destination like no other. It seems a little crazy, right? That such an expansive and isolated region be awesome to explore by road, but it’s true. Both historic roads traverse some of the most fascinating landscapes in the region, passing caves littered with ancient cave paintings, glacial rivers, communities seemingly forgotten by time and incredible natural highlights – like the hanging glacier and enchanted forests of Queulat – that are positively off the well-trodden path. We call these the most unplugged destinations in Patagonia and, whether you’re here for the first or 10th time, you’ll find overland tours of Patagonia offer incomparable experiences.

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia tours

Where to stay in Patagonia – Accommodation options for all budgets 

Campsites 

Unsurprisingly, Patagonia is home to a flurry of campsites given that hard-core trekkers head here in their thousands during the summer. Some campsites offer excellent services (like those in Torres del Paine) whilst others are simply designated tent areas, with a BBQ facility and freshwater source thrown in for good measure. Are you an avid camper? Head to Patagonia and you can be an awe-inspired camper indeed!

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Click HERE to see our tours to Torres del Paine

Refugios 

Rustic and authentic huts designed to shelter hikers when on multi-day trails, Patagonia’s refugios usually have limited capacity and spots must be booked weeks (and in the case of Torres del Paine, even months) in advance. Offering a dry bed and warm meal for the night, refugios are the comfortable option when camping is out of the question. If you’d love to take a dedicated hiking tour of Patagonia which included a multi-day trek, we can organise overnight stays in these remote and immensely charming huts.

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia tours

Traditional estancia 

More than simply a place to lay your head, a traditional farmhouse is a bonafide cultural experience in Patagonia and a stay offers guests a glimpse into the local way of life. We love staying in estancias when we travel here, as they offer traditional home-cooked meals and either a tour of the farm (if it’s still operational) or horseback excursions to explore the surrounding wilderness. Luckily, traditional estancias are found in almost every corner of Patagonia – let us know where in the region you wish to explore and we can easily find a gorgeous property to include in your Patagonia travels. Not every family-run lodge need be 5* either – we find smaller and more rustic lodges and farms to be excellent ways to totally transform the way you experience South America.

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Wilderness lodges 

The most unique and luxurious accommodation choice in Patagonia, wilderness lodges are set amidst spectacular surroundings, usually right in the heart (or on the border) of the most famous national parks. Offering a mind-boggling array of indulgent treats like spa services, all-inclusive gourmet dining and private excursions, Patagonia’s best lodges are absolute highlights of their own accord, like the 5* Singular Patagonia Hotel that we use for our 8-day Pure Patagonia luxury tour. Architecturally-designed and built to blend in with their surroundings, these are some of the most celebrated unique hotels in the world.

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What to eat in Patagonia – Local culinary specialities you need to try 

Patagonia’s amazing cuisine is a stunning recap of its tumultuous history – indigenous ingredients and cooking methods are still used and combined with a handful of foreign cuisine styles imported here from migrants. As such, you’ll find regional specialties here that you won’t find anywhere else – like king crab pies, char-grilled guanaco and Patagonia lamb on the spit. Scour restaurant menus and you’ll find just about everything: from Japanese-inspired sushi to Italian pasta and pizza, German raclette and even British-inspired scones and crustless sandwiches served for afternoon tea. Patagonian food experiences are always a huge component of all our Patagonia tours as we find this one of the most mouth-watering regions in all of Latin America.

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Click HERE to see our Food and Wine Tours

Where to start – When you're overwhelmed by choice! 

Aside from the obvious feasting of spit-roast lamb (really), Patagonia offers a multitude of unique experiences which you’ll find nowhere else. From rafting the world-class Futaleufú to ice-hiking in Los Glaciares and hiking to Torres’ most sparkling lagoons, these 10 Patagonia Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss are amazing itinerary springboards if you’re overwhelmed with the sheer choice and don’t know where to start.

How about here?

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia tours

When to visit Patagonia – Best time to travel 

As much summer hiking mecca as winter skiing one, Patagonia offers striking highlights no matter what time of year you visit. We’ve compiled this month-by-month guide to visiting Patagonia which we’ll think you’ll find useful.

For the great majority of visitors, Patagonia is best visited between October and April, when temps are manageable, daylight abundant and hiking trails accessible. December and January are by far the busiest months but that just means you’ll need to book your tours and accommodation ahead of time. Only in very few places, at the height of tourist season, does Patagonia ever feel ‘crowded’.

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Click HERE to see our Patagonia tours

Explore Patagonia with Viva Expeditions – The best way to experience it all 

Our escorted small group tours capture the essence of Patagonia, from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, mixing and matching the top destinations within each tour. Launching in October 2020, our newest Patagonia expedition tours encompass varied itineraries that will have something for all travellers.

Those who prefer to travel at a relaxed pace will enjoy our Chiloe and the Patagonian Lakes tour, discovering the unique history and cuisine of Chiloe Island and beauty of the Argentinian and Chilean Lakes Districts. Travellers who love a challenge can opt for our Patagonia in Depth tour and take on the three world-class hikes of Torres del Paine as well as stunning hikes around Mt Fitzroy in El Chalten. Or choose to experience Patagonia in all its grandeur in our Patagonia Encompassed tour – from tango nights in Buenos Aires to cruising the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego and everything in between!

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Click HERE to see our Torres del Paine tours

The best tours in Patagonia? Yep. You’ve just found them!

Head on over to our Patagonia Tours page for a detailed list of all the outstanding tours and contact us when you’re ready to start planning your once-in-a-lifetime trip to South America’s adventure capital.

 

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