9 Things to Do in Patagonia
Featured destinations: Patagonia
Published 31 May 2017
Patagonia: that mysterious region that includes parts of Chile and Argentina; an icy, wild place home to penguins and whales, where the towering peaks of the southern Andes preside over end-of-the-world towns and villages. Indeed, if you’re off on an Antarctic cruise, chances are you’ll start here, just 700 miles from the southernmost point on our planet. There’s plenty to see and do, but do remember that distances are huge, so don’t try to cram too much into one trip.
Here are our top 9 things to do in Patagonia:
Hike the W Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is a spectacular collection of jagged rocks, lakes and glaciers found on the Chilean side of Patagonia. An outdoor-lover’s paradise, there’s no better way to see the park's famous torres (towers), after which it is named, than to hike, either as a short walk from your hotel or as part of the five-day W Circuit, a W-shaped route which takes in the Grey Glacier and the French Valley. Choose to camp or stay in the many refugios along the way.
Ice trek on the Perito Moreno Glacier
Deep in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, you’ll find the creeping icy face of the Perito Moreno Glacier. This is one of Patagonia’s top attractions, and rightly so. Choose from relaxing cruises to the terminal face, walk along the boardwalks and viewing platforms or, for the ultimate thrill, don your crampons and set off on a hike across the ice, stopping to view the waterfalls and frozen pools you’ll pass along the way.
Feast on king crab in Ushuaia
Ushuaia is often known as El Fin Del Mundo, which translates to End of the World, as it is the last city you pass before reaching Antarctica, some 700 miles further south. Just a stone’s throw from the Tierra del Fuego National Park, Ushuaia is often used as a base for exploring the archipelago, but there’s a handful of museums to browse in town too. When you’re not chowing down on freshly caught king crab that is! Served in almost every restaurant, you can pick your crustacean from the display tanks, and even choose how it’s cooked. Delicious!
Hike the trails of the Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego National Park is like another world. Just its name is enough to conjure up images of iceberg filled waters and snow-capped peaks. There’s plenty of wildlife here too, including foxes, kingfishers, king penguins and whales, and somewhat unexpectedly, a colony of beavers. The thing to do here is to explore on foot; hike the trails, climb the peaks and walk along the coastline to soak up the pristine senery. Just make sure you have plenty of space on your memory card.
Look out for penguins
Universally adored, penguins are a real highlight of Patagonia, and the good news is, they’re pretty easy to find. To see them, you can cruise the coastline, or take part in a penguin-spotting tour, with Ushuaia being a popular base for trips to see Gentoo penguins. Peninsula Valdes offers a good chance of seeing the Magellanic variety, while Humboldt penguins reside in Chiloe. If you are really lucky you might spot a king penguin or two in the Tierra del Fuego, but for Emperor penguins, you’ll have to go to Antarctica.
Gaze upon the summit of Mount Fitz Roy
The 3,405m peak of Mount Fitz Roy towers above the Patagonian Icefield near El Chalten in Argentina. Its sheer, jagged sides make for a dramatic sight, although they pose a considerable challenge if you're heading for the summit. You don’t need to climb Fitz Roy to appreciate it though; instead, set off on one of the well-signposted hikes from El Chalten, and soak up the views. A good bet is the Laguna de los Tres, a 6-8 hour return hike from town that offers outstanding Fitz Roy vistas as well as passing some gorgeously blue lakes.
Look for whales in Peninsula Valdes
If it’s wildlife you’re after then Peninsula Valdes is the place to come. Accessed from the nearby city of Puerto Madryn on Patagonia’s northeast coast, Peninsula Valdes is blessed with hugely diverse flora and fauna, including Magellanic penguins, dusky dolphins, sea lions, seals, armadillos and whales. Head there between June and December to spot southern right whales and between November and April to see orcas.
Stay on an estancia
Argentina is home to many estancias. Like ranches, these are where gauchos (cowboys) herd their cattle and sheep and craft their horsemanship skills. Often in remote locations, they make a wonderful place to stay if you want to get away from it all. Patagonia has many estancias to choose from, most of which offer horseriding, trekking and herding activities; while the food is delicious. Think barbecued meats served with local wines. Yum.
Cruise the Beagle Channel
A body of water that running 130 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Altlatic Ocean in Patagonia, the Beagle Channel passes right by Ushuua and separates the main Tierra del Fuego Island from the smaller southern Patagonian Islands. Choose to sail the channel on a catamaran, kayak it (if it’s warm enough!) or cruise it on a boat trip. Look out for sea lions, whales and dolphins, plus beautiful views of the mountains and the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, a famous local landmark (pictured).
Visit Patagonia with Round the World Experts' Patagonia holidays.