THE MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VISITING PATAGONIA.
All the information you need to know, right here in one place! An absolute must read for anybody considering a trip to Patagonia, all based on our first hand experience traveling there.
Los Cuernos in Torres del Paine Chile
WHY SHOULD I GO?
Patagonia has been inspiring visitors for decades. Vivid teal lakes, cloud shrouded granite towers, and notoriously unpredictable winds only add to the allure. If you love the great outdoors, visiting Patagonia is an absolute must.
WHAT IS PATAGONIA?
The Patagonia region of South America encompasses the southernmost region of the Andes Mountains, split vertically into Argentina and Chile. Extending from the northern lakes region of Barloche to the southernmost Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia is vast. The most famous landscapes of Patagonia are concentrated in the middle of the region and easily reached by car or bus… and a great deal of hiking.
Lago de los Tres in El Chalten, Argentina
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
Patagonia’s high season is December through March (summer in South America). We went late December and had weather ranging from 40-60 degrees with 10-40mph sustained winds. Late summer typically sees less wind. In winter many services are unavailable, but winter activities like ice climbing and alpine touring are popular in the offseason.
ARGENTINIAN OR CHILEAN PATAGONIA?
You may feel torn between Chile and Argentina. I am going to settle the debate right now… do both. Separated by a 3 hour drive or bus transfer, there’s really no reason to choose. Both are amazing and had a different feel.
Base of the Towers in Torres Del Paine, Chile
WHERE SHOULD I FLY INTO?
We flew into El Calafate Argentina and visited El Chalten first. Another popular option is to fly into Puerto Arenas and drive north to Puerto Natales to visit Torres del Paine first. If you are not renting your own transportation, you can fly into one airport and out of the other. If you rent a vehicle, you will need to return it in the country you rented it.
Cerro Torre in El Chalten, Argentina
WHAT ARE THE TOP 5 HIKES IN PATAGONIA (in our opinion!)
1. Lago de los Tres (El Chalten, Argentina)
2. Cerro Torre (El Chalten, Argentina)
3. Ice Hike Perito Moreno Glacier (El Calafate, Argentina)
4. Base of the Towers in Torres Del Paine (Torres Del Paine, Chile)
5. Viewpoint of Los Cuernos (Torres Del Paine, Chile)
For more information on these hikes and photos, check out our upcoming post about the 5 best hikes in Patagonia!
SAMPLE ITINERARY BASED ON OUR TRIP:
Duration: 12 days
Timing: End of December
Landed Calafate, Argentina
Rented car and drove 2.5 hours north to El Chalten
Hiked to the base of Fitz Roy
Hiked to the base of Cerro Torre
Drove 2.5 hours back to Calafate
Hiked Perito Moreno Glacier (Big Ice Tour)
Drove 3 hours to Puerto Natales, Chile
Hiked to the Base of the Towers in Torres Del Paine
Hiked to the view point of Los Cuernos and Salto Grande Waterfall
Drove back to Calafate, flew home the next morning
SHOULD I RENT A CAR?
In short, yes. Patagonia is easy to navigate, the distances between hot spots is only a few hours, and the constantly shifting weather is easier to manage when you have your own transportation. Airport car rentals sell out fast, so we reserved from the Avis in downtown Calafate. There are plentiful bus transfers if you prefer not to rent your own car, but we were glad we had our own car.
DO I NEED FOUR WHEEL DRIVE?
Nope! Go ahead and get the cheap compact car. Most roads are paved or graded gravel. Do check to make sure your spare tire is inflated before hitting the road, as sharp rocks can cause flats.
CAN I CROSS THE BORDER WITH A RENTAL CAR?
Yes! If you rent a car, you need to tell the rental agency you will be crossing the border and pay the extra $125USD (approximate) for border crossing paperwork. The paperwork is essential, you need it to leave and enter Argentina and Chile. It cannot be skipped! They will not let you through the border without it.
INSIDER TIP: You might notice Avis/Budget in Calafate have terrible online reviews. The reason? There is seemingly nobody inside the downtown office. No worries! Go snag some wifi two blocks away at the Apart Hotel lobby and call the branch owners cell phone number (+54 2966 50-6020) to let them know you have a reservation. Yes, I saved the owners cell number just for you… seriously.
Preparing for Big Ice Hike Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina
DO I NEED A GUIDE?
Absolutely not necessary! Patagonia and the hiking trails within it are extremely easy to navigate, well marked, and heavily trafficked. If you prefer to travel with a guide, there are a lot of options.
DO I NEED TO SPEAK SPANISH?
Patagonia is easy to navigate if you speak English. A little bit of Spanish can be helpful, but the area as a whole has a high percentage of English speaking tourists and natives.
IS PATAGONIA SAFE?
Patagonia is well developed and well traveled. Of course, precautions should always be taken when traveling. That said, Patagonia has very little crime or theft. The region was very comfortable and easy to travel in. We found taxi fares were metered without asking and people were very friendly. There were no signs of civil unrest or social issues. A matter of fact, we accidentally left a backpack in a restaurant and were immediately chased down the road by our waiter to return it. We found this level of honesty and kindness were common throughout the region.
WHAT ABOUT MONEY WHEN I TRAVEL TO PATAGONIA?
We brought USD cash and changed it over in each country at banks, which were easy to find. Some restaurants do accept USD in new condition, but it was infrequent. Credit cards were also hit or miss. El Chalten in particular is nearly Argentinian pesos only. When in Argentina, change cash over in El Calafate before heading to El Chalten, since the ATM machines in El Chalten have run out of cash in the past.
ARE THE PARKS OPEN ON HOLIDAYS?
Yes! We hiked to the base of the towers in Torres del Paine on Christmas day and shared the view with families and travelers from all over the world. It was the perfect way to spend a holiday!
Lago de los Tres in El Chalten, Argentina
IS PATAGONIA CROWDED?
Yes, but the crowds are entirely avoidable. Trails and hiking destinations in Patagonia can be quite congested in the high season. If you hit the trails by 6:30AM, you will have them (and the alpine lakes they access) almost entirely to yourself. Since daylight hours are long in the Patagonian summer, people are often tempted to start hiking after 7AM. If you get up early to beat the rush, you will experience beautiful long sunrises and capture photos devoid other people. It's worth it, promise!
WHAT SHOULD I PACK TO VISIT PATAGONIA?
What to pack will depend on when you visit. If you are travelling in the high season there are some definite must items. Weather in Patagonia is fickle, it can range from 30-60 degrees Fahrenheit and high winds are inevitable. Clouds and storms roll in quickly. When the clouds clear, it is very easily to get sunburned. Dress in layers and pack wind/waterproof coat and pants. Waterproof hiking boots that are well broken in are pretty much non-negotiable.
-Waterproof jacket (breathable if possible)
-Waterproof rain pants
-Waterproof hiking boots (well broken in)
-Hat with brim
-light wool beanie
-Merino T shirts and base layers
-Down or synthetic packable insulated layer
-Weatherproof packable backpack for hiking (Freerain24 2.0)
-Water bottles/hydration pack
-Camera, of course!
-Download google maps area in advance of the trip so that you can navigate by phone. INSIDER TIP: Supposedly the mountain water in the streams of Patagonia is clean enough to drink without filtration. I cannot vouch for the safety of drinking non-filtered water and opted to use my Sawyer Mini Filter as a precaution. Water born illnesses can be dangerous, so please make good decisions out there. You can also carry enough water for most day hikes, 3 liters was adequate.
Los Cuernos in Torres del Paine Chile
HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
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