Why visit Patagonia?
Patagonia, quite simply, will take your breath away.
Nestled neatly in amongst the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern Oceans, Patagonia straddles the Southern Andes of Chile and Argentina.
It is a hidden gem in South America with so much to offer. This is not your destination to visit endless museums because there are very few to see.
Settlement of Patagonia only occured in the early 1900s so the history is in the landscape and the magnificent stories it tells.
Whether it is the dramatic and impressive Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia or El Chalten, the hiking capital of Argentine Patagonia, a Patagonia trip is about breathtaking wonders, picturesque natural beauty and rugged wilderness.
Patagonia is a land of serene lakes, mammoth glaciers and magnificent fjords. Whatever it is you are looking for, you will find in this place of unparalleled natural beauty.
Escaping the tourist trail in Patagonia
At Forward Travel we are all about escaping the tourist trail and getting off the beaten track. We know that’s where the best adventures begin. The beauty of Patagonia is that so much of it is still relatively undiscovered and untouched by tourists.
When it comes to hiking, unlike the Patagonia W Trek tours which see 4000 people hiking in Torres del Paine each day, trekking in Parque Patagonia can see you not bump into another hiker for a whole day.
If hiking isn’t your thing, Patagonia still has so much to offer. A cruise through the fjords across both Chile and Argentina will simply blow your mind. Patagonia without hiking offers equally magical experiences for the non-hikers. Our client Suzanne travelled to Patagonia on her last trip to South America and was blown away by the sheer magnificence of the region.
“Rose had told us that we would love Torres del Paine but it totally exceeded expectations – it was absolutely amazing. We stayed at The Singular Hotel and enjoyed a picnic overlooking the massif with a delicious spread of picnic food. It was just amazing.”
When to visit Patagonia
The most popular time to visit Patagonia is during the spring and summer (October to March). The weather during this time is perfectly suited to trekking and the outdoor adventures that Patagonia offers.
However, Patagonia has something to offer travellers all year round, depending on what you are looking for in your Patagonian journey.
Spring (Sep - Nov)
Spring in Patagonia sees the clouds disappear revealing the sun behind them.
The flowers are blooming and the animals are breeding.
This is a quieter season in Patagonia so you can enjoy the wonders without the crowds… and the prices are also lower than the popular summer season.
Summer (Dec - Feb)
Without a doubt, Patagonia in the summer has the most to offer. During this time you can expect temperatures of between 14°C to 19°C. Obviously this isn’t a tropical summer so you will still need to pack your warm clothing, but this time of year is when you can make the most of the Patagonia wilderness and wildlife, whether that is from the peak of a glacier, the view from your hotel room or from the hull of a cruise ship.
Autumn (Mar - May)
Autumn in Patagonia is a photographer’s dream. The landscape takes on a warm hue as the plants and trees change colour… and the rising and setting of the sun is a sight to behold.
There are still plenty of daylight hours for hiking and exploring but you can go at your own pace as you are out of the peak summer season.
Winter (Jun - Aug)
Much of the Patagonia shuts down in Winter due to the cold and unpredictable weather. Although with the calm and clear days with almost no visitors, some say it is the perfect time to enjoy the magic of Patagonia.
Skiing is also possible in some parts during winter, especially in the northern areas around Bariloche and Pucon.
Must see Patagonia
It’s hard to narrow such a stunning destination down into just a few must see places… but if we must these are the nine “must sees” if you are planning a Patagonia trip. Better yet, give us a call and we can build a personalised itinerary to take you on your dream Patagonia adventure.
Torres del Paine
In 2013 Torres del Paine was named the eighth wonder of the world. And it is no wonder why this piece of Chilean Patagonia has been recognised. The standalone massif that seems to rise out of the country around it is a spectacular sight to see.
You could easily spend 3-4 days in the Torres del Paine National Park horse riding, cruising the lakes and losing yourself in the wonder of this magical place.
You may have also heard of Patagonia W trek tours and you will find the W at Torres del Paine. This four day hike is very popular as it is not as physically challenging as other South American hikes but certainly delivers on the views.
The Singular Patagonia
The Singular is one hotel we recommend all of our travellers stay at when they visit Patagonia. Located just outside Puerto Natales – roughly 100km from Torres del Paine National Park – The Singular is not just a hotel, it is an experience.
Built inside a 100-year-old former cold storage plant, everything about The Singular adds to the luxury of your stay.
From the furniture design to the views – seriously, you’ve never seen anything quite like the views from The Singular – to the dining, the excursions and the service, this is a treat for all your senses that you will never forget.
In Southern Argentine Patagonia, El Calafate is a charming, Alpine-like village surrounded by impressive snow-capped peaks.
El Calafate is the gateway to the incredible Perito Moreno glacier – one of the most active and accessible glaciers in the world.
Listen closely as it creaks and groans pushing further down from the Southern Patagonian Icefield toward you.
There are spectacular day trips from El Calafate if you want to base yourself in this beautiful village. You could also stay on Estancias, ride horses across open plains and live the Gaucho life with amazing barbeques, and the warmth of local wines. You can also easily travel from El Calafate to Torres del Paine by local bus or in a day trip.
This is the hiking capital of Argentina. El Chalten hiking tours are available for a range of abilities and durations. We like to organise a personal guide for our travellers so they can tailor make their own path based on the weather and what they want to see in the area.
Lago Del Desierto is one of the amazing day trips from El Chalten where you can catch a ferry across the lake to walk through the remote forest.
The more active travellers can tackle the Laguna de Los Tres 17km hike through spectacular forests and mountain scenery.
The Carretera Austral
It’s a big call but we think that The Carretera Austral is the world’s best road trip. It is the epitome of escaping the tourist trail, what we are all about at Forward Travel.
The Carretera Austral stretches 1200km from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins. It is mainly gravel with winding curves and unpredictable weather.
But it is possibly the most beautiful road you will ever travel along and a highly rewarding experience.
We recommend you hire a car and travel The Carretera Austral at your own pace. You will be able to see the backroads Patagonia has to offer with every bend and turn revealing yet another stunning vista.
The remote and wild Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia is where you can enjoy the best of Patagonia without the hordes of tourists.
The region has a diverse offering of landscapes with evergreen forests, sparking emerald rivers and lakes, crystal blue glaciers, hidden valleys and the ever present Andean Mountain range.
While you are in Aysen you can trek to Cerro Castillo, a hill resembling a castle made of rock and ice; sail Lake General Carrera with its marble etched cavities and caves; go fly-fishing on Chile’s fast flowing river – the Baker River or simply sit back and enjoy the breathtaking landscape of Villa O’Higgins at the end of The Carretera Austral.
Patagonian Lakes Crossing
The spectacular Lakes Crossing is one of the most beautiful ways to cross between Chile and Argentina. Via a series of boats and buses you will sail across Andean lakes surrounded by snow covered peaks and drive through thick forests offering superb views.
Much of the wilderness that you will see as you cruise through the fjords can’t be accessed by road.
The journey takes 12 hours between Puerto Varas in Chile to Bariloche in Argentina, or you can break the journey and stay in a remote lodge along the way.
Parque Patagonia is the world’s newest national park, it was once an overgrazed sheep and cattle ranch. Now it is really the new gem of Patagonia – undiscovered and untouched.
Across 650,000 acres, the park is home to some of the threatened and endangered species native to Patagonia as well as stunning glaciated peaks and Patagonian steppe grasslands.
We recommend staying a few days in The Lodge at Valle Chacabuco in Parque Patagonia to truly soak up the beauty and wonder of this phenomenal place.
The Marble Caves
A peninsula of solid marble, slowly eroded by the waves around them over 6,000 years now form this labyrinth of marble caves.
The Marble Caves are not easily accessible but they are 100% worth the effort to visit. The best way to access the caves is to take a boat from Puerto Tranquilo then sail through the caves that sparkle with the reflections of the water, changing colour as the light dances around the walls.
Puerto Sanchez offers a similar, but even more remote experience just across the lake.
Patagonia tours for seniors
One of the reasons that we recommend Patagonia for older travellers is that it is truly a bucket list destination that caters to all interests and abilities.
For the more active, Patagonia tours for seniors can include hikes across Torres del Paine and El Chalten which offer some of the best Patagonia trekking tours, or even some of the best in South America!
For the older traveller wanting to enjoy a more relaxing and luxurious time in Patagonia while taking in the breathtaking scenery around them, there are many all-inclusive lodges. The Singular, Rio Serrano and explora are Forward Travel favourites. There are also various Patagonia cruise tours that give you the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the glaciers, lakes, wildlife and the finest of what Mother Nature has to offer in the region.
The best way to explore Patagonia
Patagonia is not a one size fits all destination. Some parts of the area are so remote they are inaccessible by car or bus.
For others, you are best to hire a car and hit the road solo to explore the wonders at your own pace. The best way to explore Patagonia is really the way that gets you to where you want to go!
Driving The Carretera Austral is one way to see a large stretch of backroads Patagonia.
Whatever you plan to do on your Patagonia trip, it’s best to pack your hiking boots and prepare to board buses, sail on boats and get behind the steering wheel. It’s not just the places you see but the experiences along the way that make for memorable journeys.
When we build tailor-made itineraries for our travellers we build the transport into the plan. We take into account your preferences – there is no point building in a Lakes Crossing if you suffer terrible sea sickness – and what you want to see and find the best way to get you from A to B. Simple!
The lakes and volcanoes area of Chile is such a wonderful place to start your Patagonia holidays.
The Mapuche culture is strong in this region so you can taste the local dishes or hear the local people share their folk stories at a local farm. While in this area you can also walk on the active Osorno volcano – she hasn’t blown her top, yet – or explore the stunning lakeside Puerto Varas.
Of course, there is so much more to offer in the world’s longest country.
The Atacama Desert to the north; the multi-faceted Chilean capital of Santiago, a foodies dream or Easter Island – the most isolated inhabited place on earth with pink-sand beaches and the mysterious Moai statues.
Tours of Chile and Patagonia are the perfect pairing for the adventure traveller.
To the other side of Patagonia is Argentina, with its diverse landscapes and rich culture – anyone for a Tango?
Much like the lakes and volcanoes region of Chile, tours of Argentina and Patagonia can begin in Bariloche – the Argentine gateway to Patagonia.
Take the chairlift to the top of Campanero Hill for unrivalled views over the Nahuel Huapi and Moreno lakes, and of course the magnificent Andes. The nearby Peuma Hue Lodge is nestled within 500 acres of Nahuel Huapi National Park wilderness.
The enchanting lodge is the perfect place to stay before you begin your Patagonia adventure.
For the ultimate Chile – Argentina – Patagonia tours, crossing the Andes is an absolute must. Drive yourself to have freedom and flexibility or sit back and relax and let the buses and boats do all the work.
At the southern tip of Patagonia you will find Ushuaia. In addition to claiming the title of the most southerly city in the world, Ushuaia is the stepping stone to Antarctica.
As you zig zag your way through Chile, Argentina and Patagonia you can then cruise from Patagonia to Antarctica for another magical experience on your journey.
If you’ve seen images or video of Antarctica, trust us when we say that nothing compares to the actual experience of visiting the most remote continent on the planet.
The stillness of the waters enclosed by towering snow-covered peaks is contrasted with the thunderous crash of calving glaciers, rolling icebergs and passing whales. It all opens up to a wondrous treat of both wilderness and wildlife.
A combined Patagonia and Antarctica tour will truly be the cherry on the top of a South American adventure.