Cities Hiking Itineraries

Patagonia itinerary and travel guide: routes for 1 week – 4 weeks

Patagonia, a labyrinth of towering peaks, shimmering lakes, colossal glaciers, winding fjords and dense forests, is the perfect place for people who love to get outdoors.

Planning a Patagonia itinerary can be a challenging undertaking. Covering an area of over a million square kilometres on the southern tip of South America, it is a place of long distances and extreme climates. As Patagonia encompasses areas of both Chile and Argentina, travelling through it can also involve crossing borders several times.

At the same time, it is one of the most visually rewarding places on earth to explore. People always ask us, “where is your favourite place you’ve been to on your travels?” Our answer to this is always Patagonia.

Based on our own experiences. this guide compiles suggested itineraries for 4 weeks, 2 weeks and 1 week, including everything you need to know about places to go, where to stay and things to see. 

This article contains links to products and services we love, from which we may make commission at no extra cost to you.

The view approaching Lago Gutiérrez near Bariloche, Argentine Patagonia
The view approaching Lago Gutiérrez near Bariloche, Argentine Patagonia

How long should I visit Patagonia for?

To put it plainly, we recommend spending as long as you can in Patagonia. Our own trip was four weeks, and even that didn’t feel like long enough – we could have stayed for many weeks longer. But if you do have just a week or two to spare, then it’s absolutely possible to get around and see the highlights.

This article focuses primarily on our four-week itinerary, and we have included suggestions for additional places if you want to extend your trip. However, we have also put together shorter variations for one-week and two-week Patagonia itinerary routes if you are tight for time and/or budget.

Getting to Patagonia and getting around

Let’s begin with getting to Patagonia. While it’s possible to reach the region by bus from major cities in Chile and Argentina, the journeys are very long and can take several days. The easiest way to reach Patagonia is by flying.

The most popular entry points to Patagonia with international airports are:

  • El Calafate, Argentina (for Perito Moreno Glacier)
  • Ushuaia, Argentina (for Tierra Del Fuego)
  • Bariloche, Argentina (for the Lake District)
  • Punta Arenas, Chile (for Torres Del Paine)
  • Puerto Montt, Chile (for the Carretera Austral)

Internal flights are always cheaper. So, if you begin in Ushuaia, Bariloche or El Calafate, it’s best to fly from Buenos Aires in Argentina. For Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, it’s better to fly from Santiago in Chile. Use Skyscanner to find the best and cheapest flights.

Bus is best for travel within Patagonia

For internal travel in Patagonia, we prefer to travel by bus. There are some airports around the region, but flights tend to be irregular and are often expensive. In our experience, the long-distance buses in Patagonia are comfortable, spacious and reliable.

It’s a good idea to allow plenty of flexibility around your travel between destinations in Patagonia. Bus services don’t always run every day of the week (especially outside of high season), and if booking at short notice you aren’t guaranteed to secure the journey you want. As such, either plan well in advance, or be prepared to adjust your itinerary to fit with what’s available.

Busbud is a great service we’ve used throughout South America for finding the cheapest bus services and booking in advance. For everything you need to know about bus transport in the region, read our guide to getting around Patagonia by bus.

Patagonia road trip?

The landscapes of Patagonia, coupled with its famous highways, such as Argentina’s Ruta 40 and Chile’s Ruta 7, make for an unforgettable road trip adventure.

The snag is that car hire in Patagonia is not cheap, especially if you pick up and drop off at different locations. Check out Rentalcars.com to find the best car hire rates.

The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas is broken up by a ferry transfer across the Beagle Channel
The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas is broken up by a ferry transfer across the Beagle Channel

Should I book guided tours for Patagonia?

All of the Patagonia itineraries we have compiled in this article are possible to do entirely self-guided. That’s usually how we like to do it, with the occasional exception for a special experience or a relaxing treat.

But not everyone likes to make all their own arrangements. If that’s you, then there are a whole range of organised tours you can book to experience Patagonia. Each of our suggested travel routes below includes links to alternative guided tours to give you the option.

It’s also possible to book a full package tour of Patagonia, combining several destinations and including all food, transport and logistical arrangements. For this we recommend G Adventures. We believe they are hands-down the best operator out there for these kind of packages. They’ve been in the game for 30 years and now operate small-group adventure experiences all over the world.

We’ve used their services ourselves and have never been disappointed. For example, you can read about our Inca Trail experience with G Adventures.

The two most popular G Adventures package tours for Patagonia are:

  • Patagonia hiking: features classic outdoor activities from El Chaltén and El Calafate, such as Mount Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Hike Patagonia in depth: similar to the standard hiking tour, but also including the Torres Del Paine W Trek

Each of these begins and ends in Buenos Aires, with flights down to Patagonia included. You can browse more G Adventures Patagonia experiences here.

Tips before you plan your Patagonia itinerary

Before you put pen to paper on your Patagonia itinerary, there are several things you should know about travelling in the region.

We learnt a lot of lessons about Patagonia the hard way, making mistakes as we went. Here are the top tips we’ve picked up from our travels:

  • Wherever possible, book things in advance, especially if your trip is in the high season between November and February. Accommodation spaces, campsite pitches and bus seats get taken up quickly.
  • The wifi in Patagonia is often weak, so be prepared to spend a lot of your time with poor connectivity.
  • The weather is colder and less predictable than other destinations in South America, so be sure to pack appropriately (see section below).
  • Be flexible with your travel dates. As I mentioned above, transport is not always available every day. If you are planning to hike, the weather can also interfere with your plans; you may need to wait for conditions to improve.
  • Patagonia isn’t just for hikers. There is plenty to do and see that doesn’t require physical exertion.
  • It’s extremely useful to learn some basic Spanish. Not everybody in Patagonia speaks English, and a few simple phrases will go a long way in helping you get by.
  • Don’t attempt to go trekking solo unless you’re highly experienced (and even then it’s not always advisable). Hiking with a buddy or a group is best. That way, if someone gets injured or lost in the wilderness, there will be people around to help.
  • When crossing borders between Chile and Argentina, make sure you are not carrying any fresh fruit or vegetables. Chile, in particular, has very strict laws to protect its crops, and any such produce will be confiscated. We discovered this in hilarious style when a sniffer dog detected an orange in Lisa’s bag and jumped on her, oops!
  • The currencies in Patagonia are the Argentine peso and the Chilean peso. ATMs charge withdrawal fees, and in some of the more remote locations are hard to come by. Bring a float of cash in each currency if possible.

When is the best time to visit Patagonia?

The hiking season in Patagonia runs between September and April. While you can expect the best weather in the summer months between December and February, this is also the busiest time to travel.

The ‘shoulder seasons’ in September/October and March/April are a good time to visit Patagonia for mild weather and less crowded trails and attractions.

We spent our time in Patagonia between September and November. We sometimes found we were able to benefit from special deals and make savings because it wasn’t quite peak season yet. For example, in El Calafate, we visited Perito Moreno Glacier at the beginning of November, just a couple of days before the bus prices were raised.

If you visit in winter, between May and August, expect outdoor activities to be inaccessible. Tours generally don’t run during this time, and national parks are often closed due to the frigid temperatures and harsh conditions.

For everything else you need to know about Patagonia’s seasons, climate and optimal timing for a range of activities, check out our article on the best times to visit Patagonia.

For the mildest weather in Patagonia, visit in the hiking season between September and April
For the mildest weather in Patagonia, visit in the hiking season between September and April

What to pack for your Patagonia trip

Patagonia has a reputation for testing weather conditions. Even during the summer season the weather is unpredictable, with heavy rainfall and fierce winds always a possibility. Not to mention that it can get pretty cold at the end of the world.

With this in mind, it’s vital that you have appropriate clothing and gear for your trip. For a peek at everything in our bag, take a look at our complete Patagonia packing list.

These are the absolute essentials for your Patagonia trip:

  • If you are planning any hiking, you’ll need a sturdy pair of boots. Check out our guide to the best hiking boots for the latest options for both men and women.
  • To protect you from the wind and rain, bring a waterproof and windproof jacket. We use North Face Tri-Climate and Jack Wolfskin 3-in-1 jackets.
  • For hiking in Patagonia it’s strongly advisable to use walking poles. We recommend TheFitLife collapsible poles.
  • Invest in a quality backpack to carry your stuff and a smaller day bag for hiking. With the rainy climate in mind, make sure they come with waterproof covers. Our guide to travel backpacks features the best options for large backpacks and smaller daypacks. 
  • If you plan to do any camping, you will need a tent that can withstand Patagonia’s weather conditions. We use an Urberg 3-person tunnel tent. For multi-day hikes like the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, it’s better to stick with 2-person tents (or smaller) due to the restrictive size of pitches. Browse the latest options on Amazon here.
  • For camping you should also take a quality insulating sleeping bag. We use the Vango Ultralite.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget your camera. You’ll need it!

Travel insurance for Patagonia

Wherever you travel in the world we recommend getting insurance, but it’s especially important in a place like Patagonia. While it is a low-crime region and you would be unlucky to get injured, if something does happen then you really need to be covered.

Patagonia is a remote part of the world, and many of its national parks and hiking trails are off the beaten path with sparse access to medical help. The costs for emergency recovery, or even standard treatment, can be very high. Wouldn’t you rather have the peace of mind that everything would be sorted if the unlikely happens?

We recommend World Nomads for travel insurance. They are especially suitable for Patagonia as their tailored hiking insurance has been modelled on trails including the Torres Del Paine W Trek. They provide secure and reliable policies, with excellent customer service – a rare thing when it comes to insurance in our experience!

You can use the quote tool below to get started.

Patagonia itinerary: 4 weeks

This Patagonia itinerary is very similar the actual route we took ourselves. Starting in the south, it includes stops in Ushuaia, Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales (for Torres Del Paine), El Calafate (for Perito Moreno Glacier), El Chaltén, Bariloche and El Bolsón.

There is a fair amount of hiking involved, but also plenty of exploration and sightseeing around the towns and cities along the way.

The route we describe runs from south to north, beginning in Ushuaia and ending in Bariloche. However, it’s just as easy to do it the opposite way using the reverse transport connections.

Stop 1: Ushuaia – end of the world

Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city, and the gateway to the dramatic landscapes of Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Our suggested itinerary for five nights in Ushuaia is below. For further insights and ideas, check out our article on things to do in Ushuaia.

Ushuaia in Argentine Patagonia is the world's southernmost city
Ushuaia in Argentine Patagonia is the world’s southernmost city

Day 1: arrive in Ushuaia from Buenos Aires

Flights from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia run several times a day, with a journey time of around 3.5 hours. Depending on your arrival time, take a few hours to find your feet in the city and explore the main areas.

Avenida San Martin is the main shopping street, and also features a choice of cafés and restaurants.

The coastal avenue along the seafront is beautiful to walk along at sunset, and you can take your picture with the famous ‘end of the world’ sign.

Tip: at the tourist information centre at the main port you can get a funky Ushuaia stamp in your passport!

Day 2: explore the city and its museums

The first full day in Ushuaia is an opportune time to take a look the city and learn about its intriguing history. A great place to start is the Maritime Museum, which is set inside the grounds of the Ushuaia’s famous old prison. One wing of the building is maintained in its original conditions, so you can see how inmates once lived.

You could easily spend a whole day in the Maritime Museum – it’s huge – but if you get time, also take a trip to Museo del Fin del Mundo (End of the World Museum). Here you can discover insights into the region’s indigenous people and the first western expeditions that arrived.

Day 3: take a cruise on the Beagle Channel

Visit the main port on the seafront and choose one of the many Beagle Channel cruises available. On a full-day tour, you can see the famous Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, witness penguins and sea lions frolicking on mini-islands, and visit the historic Estancia Harberton, a farm, ranch and museum that has stood for over a century.

Food is expensive on board the cruises, but it’s fine to bring your own. We kept costs down by picking up some cheap sandwiches and snacks from a shop along Avenida San Martin before setting off.

You can see sea lions and penguins near Ushuaia by taking a cruise on the Beagle Channel
You can see sea lions and penguins near Ushuaia by taking a cruise on the Beagle Channel

Day 4: go hiking in Tierra Del Fuego National Park

Day hikes around Ushuaia are great preparation for some of the more intense trekking later in the itinerary. Today, head out to Tierra Del Fuego National Park, the entrance to which is just a short minibus ride away from the city.

There are several hiking routes open to the public. Our favourite was the trail through the forest from Correo Del Fin Del Mundo (near the entrance) to the Alakush Visitor Center, followed by a combination of short afternoon trails around Bahía Lapataia.

You can take a minibus back to the city from the Alakush Visitor Center at the end of the day.

Day 5: take a day hike to Glaciar Martial

Pull those hiking boots on again and head out to the Glaciar Martial trailhead, around 7km north-west of the city by road. The return hike is not too strenuous and doable in 3–4 hours. Don’t forget your camera – I did, and had to fork out for a return taxi to get it (not wanting to miss out on some great snaps!).

Keep an eye on the weather forecast though, and mind your footing in the snow. We narrowly avoided getting stuck near the top as a big stormcloud swooped in. At the end of the hike, treat yourself to tea and cake at La Cabaña Casa de Té.

Back in Ushuaia at the end of the day, stock up on snacks and drinks – you’re in for a long bus ride tomorrow.

We nearly got caught out by the weather on our day hike to Glaciar Martial
We nearly got caught out by the weather on our day hike to Glaciar Martial

Guided tours in Ushuaia

Many of the activities we suggest are available as guided tours. These are the most popular in Ushuaia:

Where to stay in Ushuaia

Ushuaia has a range of different accommodation options to suit all budgets. We tried three different modes of accommodation: an apartment, a hostel, and Couchsurfing.

It’s one of the few places in Patagonia where you can find a Couchsurfing host relatively easily. This is a great option if you are travelling on a tight budget and want to meet local people. It might mean staying a little way out of town, though – we schlepped a couple of kilometres up a hill with our backpacks to get to our host’s place.

  • Cheap apartments: at Patagonia Austral Apartamentos you’ll get a private apartment for as good a price as pretty much any hostel in the city. It’s basic, but you can’t argue at the rates.
  • Great budget hostel: Hostel Torre Al Sur, run by a local family, is excellent value with good facilities. We found the kitchen space very handy for preparing pack-ups for our day hikes and the bus journey to Punta Arenas.
  • Splurge option: Hotel Canal Beagle is in a superb central location close to tourist information and minivan shuttles, and features luxuries such as a swimming pool, spa, gym and daily buffet breakfast.

Our favourite place to eat in Ushuaia

In Ushuaia we prepared most of our own food, but we did treat ourselves to a pizza one day at BarDpizzas on Avenida San Martin. Nothing fancy, just a good pizza for a reasonable price. The wifi was good too, which is something of a rarity in Patagonia.

Stop 2: Punta Arenas – tax-free shopping

Punta Arenas is the largest city in Chilean Patagonia. It doesn’t quite have the charm and scenic setting of Ushuaia, but it is a launchpad to exploring some of Patagonia’s highlights, like Magdalena Island and the Chilean Fjords.

In this itinerary Punta Arenas is a convenient stop-off location to break the journey between Ushuaia and Puerto Natales, and load up on supplies for the upcoming trekking.

Punta Arenas in Chile isn't as scenic as some Patagonian cities, but it has a tax-free shopping zone
Punta Arenas in Chile isn’t as scenic as some Patagonian cities, but it has a tax-free shopping zone

Day 6: bus from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas is a long one at around 12–13 hours. Luckily, though, there is some very pretty scenery along the way.

It’s also broken up by a ferry transfer over the Magellan Strait, which takes a couple of hours. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate on board – it’ll warm you up a treat.

Day 7: stock up on trekking supplies at Zona Franca

Today is all about getting those last-minutes necessities for the big challenge ahead: the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park. Head to Zona Franca, a large tax-free shopping zone on the outskirts of Punta Arenas.

Zona Franca is where you will find the cheapest prices (by far) in Patagonia for all sorts of goodies, from electronics to clothing to food. We saved a lot of money by stocking up here on trekking snacks and the last few bits of gear we needed.

Top tip: walking along Avenida España on the way to Zona Franca in Punta Arenas, you can get delicious pastries and cakes in local bakeries.

Guided tours in Punta Arenas

We only recommend a short stop-off in Punta Arenas in this itinerary, but if you want to stay longer there are some great tours you can take:

Where to stay in Punta Arenas

As the main purpose of the stopover in Punta Arenas is for shopping, we found Hospedaje Familiar a good budget option, as it’s located midway between the city centre and Zona Franca. It’s a homely place run by a friendly family – everything you need for a short stay. 

For a splurge, Pardo & Shackleton has an excellent central location. Some rooms have sea views, and guests can enjoy free use of bicycles.

Stop 3: Torres Del Paine – the W Trek

The W Trek in Torres Del Paine was the pinnacle of our big trip to Patagonia. It is a truly magical hiking trail that ranks among the greatest multi-day circuits in the world.

It’s not an easy feat though. At the very minimum it involves 70km of trekking, including plenty of scrambling up stony hills and crossing flowing rivers. All of this is worth it for some of the most incredible scenery you will see in your life.

The following section gives an overview of tackling the W Trek. You can also see our guide to the best day hikes in Torres Del Paine if you’re short of time.

G Adventures runs an excellent guided W Trek tour if you are unsure about going self-guided.

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, is a must to include in your Patagonia itinerary
Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile, is a must to include in your Patagonia itinerary

Day 8: take the bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales

Buses travel between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales several times every day, and by Patagonian standards it’s one of the shorter journeys at around three hours.

Take your time and rest up when you get to Puerto Natales – you’ll need to be fresh for the W Trek.

Day 9: preparation day for the W Trek in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is the the closest town to Torres Del Paine, and the hub for transport in and out of the park.

Top tip: you can drink clean, fresh water from natural sources in Torres Del Paine National Park.

Today is your last chance to buy anything you need for the W Trek. Be warned, though – Puerto Natales is expensive!

Also take the opportunity to gather any local information you need for the trek. Speak to the staff in your accommodation and stay abreast of the weather forecast.

With four days and nights of trekking and camping ahead, you’ll need plenty of time to prepare your food and load your backpack. Allow yourself ample time to get this done with some space left in the evening to rest up.

Get an early night – you’ll be up at the break of dawn.

Day 10: W Trek day 1 – Las Torres

The first day involves the biggest climb, but waiting at the top is the famous image of the peaks of Las Torres over a pristine lagoon. Stay for the night at Camping Chileno.

Day 11: W Trek day 2 – Lago Nordenskjöld

Set out early from Chileno and hike along the shores of the stunning Lago Nordenskjöld. There’s less elevation gain than the first day, but more distance to cover. You should reach Camping Frances by late afternoon.

The second day of our W Trek route follows the beautiful shores of Lago Nordenskjöld
The second day of our W Trek route follows the beautiful shores of Lago Nordenskjöld

Day 12: W Trek day 3 – Mirador Británico

Rise early again and walk up to Campamento Italiano, where you can leave your bags with the ranger before tackling the hike up to Mirador Británico. We found this to be the most difficult day of the trek, but at the top, the view of the surrounding granite towers and lakes far below was breathtaking.

After picking up your bags back at the bottom, hike on for a couple of hours to reach Camping Paine Grande for the night.

Day 13: W Trek day 4 – Grey Glacier

The final day culminates in one of the most rewarding sights in Patagonia: the sheer white face of Grey Glacier, part of the South Patagonian Ice Field. At the mirador I got a close-up view by clambering over some rocks, but be careful with your footing if you do this, and don’t go too close to the edge.

The return hike takes around 7–8 hours, so you can take your time leaving the campsite in the morning. Stay once again at Camping Paine Grande.

Day 14: return to Puerto Natales and rest

Now you can relax, although it takes a while to get back to Puerto Natales. The catamaran leaves Paine Grande in the morning at 9:30am or 11:30am. In our case we were delayed because the boat turned around to pick up two girls who’d just missed it!

You can grab the transfer bus back to the town from Pudeto at the other side. It’s unlikely you’ll want to do anything but rest for the remainder of the day.

Grey Glacier awaits at the end of the W Trek on the west side of Torres Del Paine
Grey Glacier awaits at the end of the W Trek on the west side of Torres Del Paine

Guided tours from Puerto Natales

If you have extra time to spend in Puerto Natales or you would prefer to see Torres Del Paine on an organised trip, these are the most popular guided tours:

Where to stay in Puerto Natales

We had one of our best hostel experiences anywhere in the world at Lili Patagonicos in Puerto Natales. The staff were incredibly helpful in providing information and advice about the W Trek. The hostel is super comfy, has a lovely social space and serves an awesome breakfast.

For more help with choosing your base in Puerto Natales for exploring Torres Del Paine, check out our article on the best hostels in Puerto Natales. You can also find the most beautiful premium accommodation inside the park in our guide to stunning places to stay in Torres Del Paine.

Our favourite place to eat in Puerto Natales

After completing the W Trek, we treated ourselves to a special Chilean BBQ lamb meal at El Asador Patagónico. It has an amazing selection of different meat dishes as well as local wines and craft beers. A great way to celebrate conquering the trek!

Stop 4: El Calafate – the Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia is best known for its proximity to Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the most popular tourist attractions in South America. If you search for ‘El Calafate’ in Google images, you have to scroll past a lot of pictures of the glacier before you find any of the town itself.

Despite this, El Calafate is a pretty little place and a very pleasant stop-off for backpackers in Patagonia. See our article on things to do in El Calafate for activity ideas during your trip.

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South America
Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most popular tourist attractions in South America

Day 15: bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate

Buses from Puerto Natales to El Calafate leave the main station at around 7:30am. Including the border crossing into Argentina, the journey takes about five hours.

This should give you a little time to take a look around El Calafate in the afternoon. Avenida Libertador, the main street, has plenty of places to eat, shop and explore.

Day 16: visit Perito Moreno Glacier

Take a trip to one of the world’s greatest spectacles, Perito Moreno Glacier. Standing 74 metres high and 5 kilometres wide, its sheer scale is awe-inspiring. It is also one of only three glaciers in the world that is growing rather than retreating.

The glacier is fairly straightforward to visit independently. You simply need to take a return bus from the town’s main terminal and pay the entry fee to visit on arrival. If you’re up for getting physical and can stretch your budget a little, you can also consider an ice hike on the glacier. This guide to visiting Perito Moreno glacier gives a comprehensive insight into the options.

It’s also possible to book a guided tour to Perito Moreno Glacier in advance (with an optional boat tour), which can be cancelled up to 24 hours before.

Guided tours in El Calafate

If you have any extra time in El Calafate, there are some other tours you can take nearby other than Perito Moreno Glacier:

Where to stay in El Calafate

We had a very pleasant stay in El Calafate at Hostel Cambalache. The hostel has an adjoining bar and restaurant with nice food at reasonable prices. They even let us cook our food in the restaurant kitchen! It’s also one of the cheapest hostels in town.

For a little more money, El Calafate also has one of Patagonia’s nicest hostels. America Del Sur Hostel is set in a Patagonian-style rustic wooden building and has lush lake views of Lago Argentino.

Check out our guide to the best hostels in El Calafate for more budget options.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more for nice accommodation, at Cabañas de Nené Aparts you can get your own fully furnished country-style cottage right next to the Laguna Nimez reserve.

Browse a full range of accommodation options on booking.com.

Our favourite place to eat in El Calafate

Restaurant prices in El Calafate can be pricy with the high volume of tourist trafiic in the town, but we found a great value little gem: La Zorra Taproom on Avenida Libertador. Not only does it have some excellent local beers (as you might gather from the name), the food is also delicious, and very reasonably priced. We had a traditional Patagonian stew, which was superb.

Stop 5: El Chaltén – trekking the lagunas

The picturesque Argentine mountain town of El Chaltén stands on the threshold of Los Glaciares National Park, one of the most beautiful spots in Patagonia for hiking. The imposing peaks of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are among the region’s most iconic postcard images.

The hiking trails around El Chaltén are very well marked and manageable for hikers of all experience levels. The basics of a suggested three-day trekking route are outlined below, but for more detailed information see our guides to El Chaltén trekking and free campsites in the area.

El Chaltén is the gateway to some spectacular hiking trails in Los Glaciares National Park
El Chaltén is the gateway to some spectacular hiking trails in Los Glaciares National Park

Day 17: bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén

The bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén is an easy one at three hours, with several companies offering the service. If you can, stock up on trekking food in El Calafate’s supermarkets – it’s a lot cheaper than leaving it until El Chaltén, which has just a handful of small stores with higher prices.

After you arrive, take some time to get rested up – you’ll be off trekking again tomorrow.

Day 18: El Chaltén trek day 1 – Campamento Poincenot

The first day of this three-day trail is a gentle 10 kilometres with one short steep section at the beginning. Have a big breakfast and take your time before leaving in the morning; it only takes about 3–4 hours to reach Campamento Poincenot, a free campsite close to Laguna de los Tres.

Have an early night, as you’ll be up before dawn tomorrow to ascend for the sunrise view of Mount Fitz Roy.

Day 19: El Chaltén trek day 2 – Fitz Roy sunrise, Cerro Torre sunset

Make sure you’ve checked the sunrise time to time your morning ascent correctly. Allow around 90 minutes to reach Laguna de los Tres from the campsite.

Top tip: keep your eye out for the rare and endangered huemul South Andean deer, which is native to Los Glaciares National Park.

This section is the toughest of the trail, gaining around 400 metres in elevation. Be careful on the gravelly path as it’s easy to slip on loose stones. When you make it to the top, sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular view over the water as the peaks turn orange in the morning sunlight.

From here, it’s a long day’s hike south to Laguna Torre. You should make it in time to see the sun setting behind Cerro Torre over the lake. Set up for the night at Camping de Agostini, another free campsite.

If you’re feeling up to it, it’s well worth hiking on an extra 2.5km to Mirador Maestri for a great view of Torre Glacier. Alternatively, you could leave this until the next morning.

Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise over Laguna de los Tres is one of Patagonia's most famous images
Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise over Laguna de los Tres is one of Patagonia’s most famous images

Day 20: El Chaltén trek day 3 – return hike to town

From Camping de Agostini it’s a straightforward 9-kilometre hike back to El Chaltén on a well-marked path. There is some elevation gain towards the end. Take your time and don’t forget to look back; there are many viewpoints of Cerro Torre along the way.

Guided tours in El Chaltén

If you’re staying longer in El Chaltén or would prefer to take guided tours than hike independently, these are some of the most popular options:

Where to stay in El Chaltén

We tried out two different hostels in El Chaltén and had good experiences in both. Lo De Trivi is a great budget option, while Patagonia Hostel has more of a hotel feel.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, there are some good campsites in the town. Camping El Relincho on the north side of town and Camping La Torcida on the south are conveniently located near the trail start and finish points respectively.

For any other accommodation needs, take a look at the options on booking.com.

Our favourite place to eat in El Chaltén

We went back to basics in El Chaltén and treated ourselves to a stodgy meal at B&B Beers and Burgers. The burgers are great, and a highly satisfying reward after completing a trek.

Stop 6: Bariloche and El Bolsón – the Lake District

San Carlos de Bariloche, or Bariloche as it is more commonly known, is a city at the heart of Argentina’s Lake District on Lago Nahuel Huapi.

Many people overlook the area due to its distance from backpacker hotspots in southern Patagonia. However, with a buzzing social vibe and a tumult of breathtaking scenery to explore nearby, it’s well worth taking time to visit.

A two-hour bus ride from Bariloche is El Bolsón, a chilled out mountain town famed for its hippie vibe and artistic community.

Our suggested itinerary to explore the area is below, but for more ideas check out our article on things to do in Bariloche.

The city of Bariloche perched on Lago Nahuel Huapi is at the heart of Argentina's Lake District
The city of Bariloche perched on Lago Nahuel Huapi is at the heart of Argentina’s Lake District

Day 21: bus to El Calafate and flight to Bariloche

While it is possible to travel to Bariloche by bus from El Chaltén via El Calafate, the journey is a gruelling one of 30+ hours, and it’s not too much more expensive to fly. The journey time is less than two hours, and if you plan well in advance, you can get a flight for around 120 US dollars.

Flights tend to leave around midday, so you will need to take an early morning bus from El Chaltén to El Calafate International Airport. All buses from El Chaltén to El Calafate stop at the airport on the way.

Day 22: take a city walking tour

Spend the day getting to know the city and its surroundings. There is a choice of walking tours operated from the Bariloche Civic Center. Check in advance to see which coincide with your visit. We took the German footprint walking tour, which gave a fascinating influence into European influence on the city’s development.

After your walking tour, take time to explore the city at your own pace. Visit one of Bariloche’s famous chocolate shops, and take a walk down on the waterfront at sunset.

Day 23: hike to Cerro Campanario and Cerro Llao Llao

The number 20 public bus from central Bariloche is your vessel for reaching some of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Lake District. First, stop off at Cerro Campanario, where you can either hike (30 mins approx) or take the chairlift to the summit.

Then, hop back on a bus to Puerto Pañuelo. From here, you can either do a short return hike to Cerro Llao Llao, or combine it with Sendero de los Arrayanes and Villa Tacul to make a 15-kilometre circuit. To find out more, read our guide to the Cerro Llao Llao trail.

The panorama view from Cerro Llao Llao is one of the most breathtaking sights we witnessed in Patagonia
The panorama view from Cerro Llao Llao is one of the most breathtaking sights we witnessed in Patagonia

Day 24: hike to Lago Gutiérrez and Cascada de Los Duendes

Put those hiking boots on once more and grab the number 55 bus to Catedral Alta Patagonia, a large skiing centre at the foot of Cerro Catedral. From here, hike 8 kilometres down the zig-zagging Balcón Gutierrez to the shores of Lago Gutierrez.

After a picnic lunch by the water, follow the 2.5-kilometres path along the lake’s edge to Cascada de los Duendes, a waterfall secluded in the forest. From here you can return to the lunch spot and take the 50 bus back to Bariloche.

Guided tours in Bariloche

If you want to mix up your itinerary, these are some of the best guided tours in Bariloche:

Where to stay in Bariloche

One of our most memorable hostel stays during our travels was at Hospedaje Penthouse 1004 in Bariloche. The 10th-floor penthouse setting offers fabulous views across the city and Lago Nahuel Huapi, especially at sunrise and sunset. The hostel’s facilities were among the best we’ve experienced too. For more budget options, see our guide to the best hostels in Bariloche.

We also did some Couchsurfing in Bariloche; the city is Patagonia’s biggest hub for the travel networking and accommodation community. We went to a weekly meet-up for local Couchsurfing hosts and guest, which was a great way to meet people.

As always, you can find plenty of accommodation options for Bariloche on booking.com.

Our favourite place to eat in Bariloche

Bariloche has a strong Swiss and German influence, which you can see in its alpine-style wooden chalet buildings. The public house Manush is a homely place to soak up this environment. It’s got a massive range of craft beers (try the Porter’s IPA, we loved it), and plenty of hearty pub-style grub to go with it.

Day 25: bus from Bariloche to El Bolsón

The bus journey from Bariloche to El Bolsón takes a little over two hours, with services running several times a day. After arriving, have a wander around the town and soak up its beautiful mountain setting and cherry blossoms. Try one of the famous homemade ice creams from Helados Jauja.

Day 26: hike to hiking Cerro Piltriquitrón and back

One of the best ways to see the landscapes of valleys and Andes mountains around Bariloche is a return hike up to Cerro Piltriquitrón. If you take a taxi to the trailhead, it’s roughly an 11-kilometre return, but the uphill section is tricky so allow plenty of time. 

There are different ways you can tackle the trail – read our guide to hiking Cerro Piltriquitrón for everything you need.

Cerro Piltriquitrón is a great day hike for views of El Bolsón and the surrounding Andean scenery
Cerro Piltriquitrón is a great day hike for views of El Bolsón and the surrounding Andean scenery

Day 27: hike to Cascada Escondida and return to Bariloche

You have plenty of time today for a little more gentle hiking before taking the bus back up to Bariloche. From the north-west side of the town, follow the trail that leads through countryside and farmland to the cascading waterfalls on Río Quemquemtreu.

Where to stay in El Bolsón

El Mirador Hostel in El Bolsón is the perfect place to stay for taking on the Cerro Piltriquitrón day hike. It’s perfectly located between the town and the trailhead, and has excellent facilities on its large, well-kept grounds in the hillside forests. The family that run the hostel are very welcoming and happy to help out with local information.

Our favourite place to eat in El Bolsón

We didn’t have much time to eat out in El Bolsón around our hiking, but we did have a very nice pizza meal at Los Lúpulos. It was a very pleasant spot for lunch on Plaza Pagano in the middle of town.

Day 28: Fly from Bariloche to Buenos Aires

That’s it – you’re all done! Enjoy a relaxing morning in Bariloche before flying back to Buenos Aires. Flight services operate several times a day, and you can do the journey for as little as 55 US dollars.

The chilled-out mountain town of El Bolsón is the final stop in our 28-day Patagonia itinerary
The chilled-out mountain town of El Bolsón is the final stop in our 28-day Patagonia itinerary

4-week Patagonia itinerary at-a-glance

Here is a quick and easy view of our suggested 28-day Patagonia itinerary:

  • Day 1: Ushuaia – arrival from Buenos Aires
  • Day 2: Ushuaia – city and museums exploration day
  • Day 3: Ushuaia – Beagle Channel cruise
  • Day 4: Ushuaia – Tierra Del Fuego National Park day hike
  • Day 5: Ushuaia – Glaciar Martial day hike
  • Day 6: Bus from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas
  • Day 7: Punta Arenas – shopping at Zona Franca
  • Day 8: Bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
  • Day 9: Puerto Natales – preparation for the W Trek
  • Day 10: W Trek day 1 – Las Torres
  • Day 11: W Trek day 2 – Lago Nordenskjöld
  • Day 12: W Trek day 3 – Mirador Británico
  • Day 13: W Trek day 4 – Grey Glacier
  • Day 14: Puerto Natales – rest day
  • Day 15: Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate
  • Day 16: El Calafate – day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Day 17: Bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén
  • Day 18: El Chaltén – trekking day 1
  • Day 19: El Chaltén – trekking day 2
  • Day 20: El Chaltén – trekking day 3
  • Day 21: Bus from El Chaltén to El Calafate and flight to Bariloche
  • Day 22: Bariloche – city walking tour and exploration
  • Day 23: Bariloche – Cerro Campanario and Cerro Llao Llao hikes
  • Day 24: Bariloche – Catedral Alta to Lago Gutiérrez day hike
  • Day 25: Bus from Bariloche to El Bolsón
  • Day 26: El Bolsón – Cerro Piltriquitrón day hike
  • Day 27: El Bolsón – Cascada Escondida day hike and return to Bariloche
  • Day 28: Flight from Bariloche to Buenos Aires

Patagonia itinerary: 1 week

Patagonia is a big place, and if you only have one week it is tough to get around to many different places. We recommend focusing your one-week Patagonia itinerary on one main location within the region.

We’ve compiled the following four itineraries to help you plan a week in Patagonia. Each one focuses on a different location – Torres Del Paine, El Chaltén/El Calafate, Ushuaia and Bariloche.

Route 1: El Calafate and El Chaltén

This itinerary focuses on the most popular area on the Argentina side of Patagonia; the towns of El Calafate and El Chaltén on the doorstep of Los Glaciares National Park.

Days 1–2: El Calafate

Take an early flight to El Calafate from Buenos Aires and spend the first day relaxing and getting to know the town. With spare time in the afternoon, you could:

  • Visit Glaciarium, the Patagonian Ice Museum, where you can learn everything you could possibly want to know about glaciers
  • Walk up to the Laguna Nimez ecological reserve, a 15-minute walk from the town centre on the shores of Lago Argentino
  • Explore the town’s main road, Avenida del Libertador San Martín, and buy some souvenirs
  • Take a guided tour such as a hike in La Leona Petrified Forest or a cruise to Estancia Cristina and nearby glaciers

You can find more ideas in our article on things to do in El Calafate.

On the second day, take a trip to see the might Perito Moreno Glacier. You can either book a guided tour (which includes pick-up, drop-off, transport and entrance fees) or make your own way there by bus from the town’s main terminal.

Where to eat and drink in El Calafate

  • La Zorra Taproom is a great place to hang out for a beer and a bite to eat. We had their delicious Patagonian stew.
  • Librobar Borges y Álvarez is a quirky library-themed bar serving craft beers and authentic coffee
  • Try the Yeti Ice Bar for a novelty experience with traditional liqueurs in temperatures of –10°C
  • Cervecería Artesanal Chopen is a rustic pub run by craft beer lovers

Where to stay in El Calafate

See our article on the best hostels in El Calafate for great budget accommodation options around the town. On booking.com you can find more hostels, hotels, lodges and cabañas.

Days 3–6: El Chaltén

Take a morning bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén, which should take around 3–4 hours, and spend the afternoon exploring the quaint mountain town at your own pace. You could opt to take a walk up to Mirador Los Cóndores (about 6km return / 2 hours) for a gorgeous view of Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and the surrounding scenery.

Over the next three days, head into Los Glaciares National Park, where easy, marked hiking trails lead to some of Patagonia’s most famous natural landmarks. Our El Chaltén trekking guide explains how you can self-guide a three-day, two-night trek (with overnight camping) to see Mount Fitz Roy at sunrise across Laguna de los Tres, and the beautiful vista of Laguna Torre.

Alternatively – if camping isn’t your thing – you could do the trail as two separate return day hikes with a rest day in between. They are easy to do self-guided, or you could take guided small-group day treks to Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre.

Where to eat in El Chaltén

Avenida San Martin, the main road that runs through the spine of El Chaltén, has a vast choice of restaurants and bars. After trekking we enjoyed hanging out at B&B Beers and Burgers, great for craft beer and (you’ve guessed it) a delicious gourmet burger.

La Cervecería is another very popular brewery bar, while La Tapera and Techado Negro are good options for trying the local cuisine.

Where to stay in El Chaltén

Our article on camping in El Chaltén also includes details of the top-rated hostels and refugios around the town. We have stayed in both Patogonia Hostel and Lo De Trivi, which are both very good budget options.

For a little luxury, the wooden alpine-style Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña is perched on the cusp of the national park, with spectacular mountain views.

The spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier in profile
The spectacular Perito Moreno Glacier in profile

Route 2: the Torres Del Paine W Trek

Many hiking enthusiasts visit Patagonia just to take on this behemoth of a trail. The Torres Del Paine W Trek takes 4–5 days to complete, and allowing for preparation before and rest afterwards, it fits perfectly into a one-week itinerary.

To self-guide the trek, check out our ultimate guide to hiking the Torres Del Paine W Trek, which includes all you need to know about training, preparation, accommodation and routes. If you would prefer a guided trek, we recommend going with G Adventures – you can view and book their W Trek package here.

How to get to Puerto Natales and where to stay

The Chilean town of Puerto Natales is the base for visiting Torres Del Paine National Park and hiking the W Trek. There are two typical ways to reach it if visiting for a week on an in-out trip:

  • From Santiago, Chile: fly to Punta Arenas and then take the bus to Puerto Natales
  • From Buenos Aires, Argentina: fly to El Calafate and then take the cross-border bus to Puerto Natales

For accommodation either side of the W Trek, see our articles on the best hostels in Puerto Natales (budget) and stunning places to stay inside the park (luxury).

Mirador Británico
At the highest lookout point in the French Valley, midway through our W Trek in Torres Del Paine

Route 3: Ushuaia and Tierra Del Fuego

This route focuses on the far south of Argentine Patagonia. Ushuaia, the ‘city at the end of the world’, is the gateway to the bleak and beautiful Tierra Del Fuego National Park.

Days 1–2: arrive, relax and explore

Fly to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires and begin exploring the city at a leisurely place. The Maritime Museum of Ushuaia (inside the old prison) and Museo Del Fin Del Mundo (museum at the end of the world) give a great introduction to the city’s history and heritage.

Shop, eat and drink on Avenida San Martin and enjoy a sunset on the waterfront. Check out our post on things to do in Ushuaia for more ideas.

Day 3: hike to Laguna Esmeralda

One of the most popular hikes near Ushuaia, this trail leads to a tranquil green lagoon surrounded by mountains. You can go self-guided or take a guided trek.

Day 4: cruise on the Beagle Channel

The port at the seafront, near the tourist information centre, is the departure point for cruises on the Beagle Channel. On a tour you can see penguins, sea lions and the iconic red-and-white Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse.

We combined our cruise with a drop-off and visit at Estancia Harberton, a historic ranch near Ushuaia (with a minivan transfer back to the city included). You can book this tour in advance or alternatively book a Beagle Channel cruise that returns to the port.

Days 5–6: the national park and end-of-the-world train

The entrance to Tierra Del Fuego National Park and the Southern Fuegian Railway (otherwise known as the Train to the End of the World) are located a few kilometres west of Ushuaia.

You can take a minibus from the city to the park entrance or train departure point (and there are also plans to connect the railway to the city via a tram line).

We recommend spending a day hiking in the national park, and then take the train ride the following day. Alternatively you can combine the experiences in one day with a Tierra Del Fuego National Park tour and End of the World Train package.

Day 7: return to Buenos Aires

Take your departure flight from Ushuaia. If you have time in the morning, Glaciar Martial makes for a great half-day hike. You can do it independently or take a guided trek.

Where to eat and drink in Ushuaia

Unsurprisingly given its nautical location, seafood plays a prominent role in the local cuisine of Ushuaia. These are some of the top spots to eat:

  • Kalma Resto and Kaupé are popular (but expensive) places to try local seafood dishes.
  • Cantina de Freddy is a popular (but a tad touristy) place to try the local king crab. Maria Lola Resto is a more reasonably-priced place to try seafood, with great meat dishes too.
  • We enjoyed BarDpizzas for a casual lunch (and good wifi!).
  • If you do the Glaciar Martial hike, La Cabaña Casa de Té is a lovely, cosy spot by the trailhead for cake, hot drinks and light bites.

Where to stay in Ushuaia

We tried a variety of accommodations during our time in Ushuaia, and found there are options to suit many travel styles.

  • Patagonia Apartments Austral are very cheap apartments not far from the city centre. It’s a good base, but the self-catering facilities are very basic – ideal if you plan to mostly eat out.
  • We loved Hostel Torre Al Sur as a low-cost, family-run hostel with excellent self-catering facilities. A great choice for hikers travelling on a budget.
  • We have also Couchsurfed in Ushuaia – there are quite a few active hosts around the city.
  • Hotel Canal Beagle is a nice option for those with higher budgets. It’s a very pleasant hotel in a superb central location near the tourist information centre, transport links and the seafront.
Tierra Del Fuego National Park trekking
Hiking along the Bahía Lapataia waterfront in Tierra Del Fuego National Park

Route 4: Bariloche and the Lake District

This itinerary focuses on the far north of Patagonia: the Argentine Lake District. The alpine-esque city of Bariloche is the gateway to the lakes and mountains of Nahuel Huapi National Park, the largest area of protected nature in this region.

Days 1–2: arrive, relax and explore

Fly to Bariloche from Buenos Aires and take a day or two to get settled in. If you arrive early enough, on the first day you could take a themed walking tour in the city or tour the cathedral and museum.

On the second day, take the popular Circuito Chico tour in the morning to see the popular spots along the southern shore of Nahuel Huapi lake, including the gorgeous view from Cerro Campanario. If you skip the transfer back to town, you’re in the perfect place to hike the lovely Cerro Llao Llao trail (check out our guide).

Days 3–4: Refugio Frey hike

This is one of the classic trails in the area, and can be done over one or two days. We advocate for an overnight stay at the refugio, mainly because it means you get to see an absolutely stunning starry sky (as long as it’s clear).

To take the trail, hop on the 55 bus to the ski centre Cerro Catedral Alta. This is where the return hike begins and ends. If staying overnight you need to reserve a place at the refugio online.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy a strenuous hike, you could take a guided tour to Cerro Tronador, a scenic boat trip to Victoria Island or ride the legendary seven lakes road trip to San Martin de los Andes.

Days 5–6: El Bolsón

El Bolsón is a small, laidback town renowned for its creative culture. From Bariloche it’s just a couple of hours by bus, with several services running every day.

After taking the bus, spend a day enjoying the town’s atmosphere (visit the craft fair if it’s on). On the second day, hike the scenic trail up to Cerro Piltriquitrón for a fabulous view of the Andean mountains and valleys. Check out our guide to the trail here.

Day 7: return to Bariloche

Take the return bus to Bariloche from El Bolsón and fly back to Buenos Aires.

Where to eat and drink in Bariloche

Bariloche – as you would expect from a place with an adventure culture – has a lively atmosphere, and there are plenty of great places to eat and drink.

  • Our favourite was Manush, a rustic local ale house recommended to us by our tour guide. It’s known for its craft beers but serves tasty homely food too.
  • More from locals: on the recommendation of hostel staff we had a hearty lunch at La Jirafa, ideal for budget travellers. Also, our Couchsurfing host took us to a social event at Cervecería Bachmann, a fun pub with satisfying meals.
  • El Boliche de Alberto is a great place to try traditional Argentine steak (and is reputed for its generous portions!).
  • Bariloche is also famed for its chocolate shops. Rapa Nui is among the most popular – stop by for a mug of hot chocolate and some handmade samples.

Where to stay in Bariloche

You will struggle to find a hostel anywhere in the world with a better view than Hospdaje Penthouse 1004, on the top floor of a Bariloche high-rise. It’s also one of the best hostels we’ve ever stayed in. You can find more budget options in our guide to the best hostels in Bariloche.

For the ski centre at Cerro Catedral and the hiking opportunities around it, Hotel Knapp is conveniently located. For hotel options in the city, browse booking.com.

Cerro Piltriquitrón trekking near El Bolson
Enjoying the views outside the refugio on the hike up to Cerro Piltriquitrón, El Bolsón

Patagonia itinerary: 2 weeks

Two weeks is a common duration for a trip to Patagonia. Although it’s still quite restrictive in terms of getting around, a fortnight does give some flexibility to travel from place to place and see the region’s highlights.

These four itineraries for two weeks in Patagonia are variations of the four-week and one-week itineraries above.

Route 1: the classic

This popular itinerary for experiencing Patagonia’s most famous spots begins and ends in El Calafate. Here it is at-a-glance:

  • Days 1–2: El Calafate (arrival from Buenos Aires by flight)
  • Days 3–6: El Chaltén
  • Day 7: travel by bus from El Chaltén to Puerto Natales
  • Day 8: trekking preparation and relaxation
  • Days 9–13: Torres Del Paine W Trek
  • Day 14: back to El Calafate for return flight to Buenos Aires

Essentially, this route combines the first two one-week itineraries outlined in the section above. For all the details and logistics you can skip up the page here.

The unmistakeable horns of Los Cuernos in Torres Del Paine National Park
The unmistakeable horns of Los Cuernos in Torres Del Paine National Park

Route 2: Ushuaia, W Trek and El Calafate

This two-week Patagonia itinerary also incorporates the W Trek, but instead begins in Ushuaia at the southern end of the region, and ends in El Calafate. It’s quite similar to the first half of our four-week itinerary above. In brief:

  • Days 1–3: Ushuaia (arrival from Buenos Aires by flight)
  • Days 4–5: Punta Arenas
  • Day 6–11: Torres Del Paine W Trek
  • Days 12–14: El Cafalate and return flight to Buenos Aires

Days 1–3: Ushuaia

Arrive in Ushuaia via flight from Buenos Aires. On your arrival day, explore the city; check out the main shopping street Avenida San Martin and take a stroll to the ‘end of the world’ sign on the waterfront.

With two full days in Ushuaia, we recommend taking a full-day penguin-watching cruise on the Beagle Channel to Estancia Harberton followed by a day of hiking in Tierra Del Fuego National Park. The latter could be combined in a tour with the End of the World Train.

For more ideas, read our post on things to do in Ushuaia or skip up to the one-week Ushuaia itinerary above.

Where to eat and drink in Ushuaia

Unsurprisingly given its nautical location, seafood plays a prominent role in the local cuisine of Ushuaia. These are some of the top spots to eat:

  • Kalma Resto and Kaupé are popular (but expensive) places to try local seafood dishes.
  • Cantina de Freddy is a popular (but a tad touristy) place to try the local king crab. Maria Lola Resto is a more reasonably-priced place to try seafood, with great meat dishes too.
  • We enjoyed BarDpizzas for a casual lunch (and good wifi!).
  • If you do the Glaciar Martial hike, La Cabaña Casa de Té is a lovely, cosy spot by the trailhead for cake, hot drinks and light bites.

Where to stay in Ushuaia

We tried a variety of accommodations during our time in Ushuaia, and found there are options to suit many travel styles.

  • Patagonia Apartments Austral are very cheap apartments not far from the city centre. It’s a good base, but the self-catering facilities are very basic – ideal if you plan to mostly eat out.
  • We loved Hostel Torre Al Sur as a low-cost, family-run hostel with excellent self-catering facilities. A great choice for hikers travelling on a budget.
  • We have also Couchsurfed in Ushuaia – there are quite a few active hosts around the city.
  • Hotel Canal Beagle is a nice option for those with higher budgets. It’s a very pleasant hotel in a superb central location near the tourist information centre, transport links and the seafront.

Days 4–5: Punta Arenas

In this itinerary, the Chilean city of Punta Arenas is treated as a stop-off point between Ushuaia and Puerto Natales. The journey from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas takes a full day on a bus. It’s best to book in advance, either online (check Busbud to compare prices) or in one of the bus company offices in Ushuaia.

The next day, if you need any trekking supplies for the W Trek, head to Zona Franca. This is a tax-free shopping area on the outskirts of the city and the cheapest place in Chilean Patagonia to buy food and gear.

If you have any spare time in Punta Arenas, a Magdalena Island penguin tour is a very popular activity and thoroughly worthwhile if you didn’t get the chance to see penguins in Ushuaia.

Once you’re stocked up and refreshed, take the shorter bus journey on up to Puerto Natales for the next leg of your adventure.

Days 6–11: Torres Del Paine W Trek

The crown jewel of hikes in Patagonia typically takes four days, so we allow six in this itinerary for a day of prep beforehand and a rest day afterwards.

Our complete guide to the W Trek explains everything you need to know about the trail, including access, routes, accommodation and training.

Where to stay in Puerto Natales

The town of Puerto Natales is the closest base for trekking in Torres Del Paine. Our guide to the best hostels in Puerto Natales features the top budget accommodation options. If you are happy to splurge on something extra special, read our compilation of stunning places to stay inside the park.

Where to eat in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is well set up for tourism, and so there is no shortage of places to eat and drink around town. We tried two excellent spots:

  • La Mesita Grande is a very good pizzeria that also serves some local craft beers. We had an anniversary lunch here and loved it.
  • El Asador Patagónico is a simply amazing place to try traditional Chilean barbecued lamb. We highly recommend it as a treat after completing a trek (order a bottle of Chilean red!).

Days 12–14: El Calafate

Take the five-hour bus journey from Puerto Natales across the border into Argentina, to the lakeside town of El Calafate. This is the hub for visiting Perito Moreno Glacier, the largest glacier in Patagonia and a spectacular sight to see.

Use a full day in El Calafate to visit the glacier. You can either book a guided tour (which includes pick-up, drop-off, transport and entrance fees) or make your own way there by bus from the town’s main terminal.

With more spare time in El Calafate before flying back to Buenos Aires, try some other activities:

  • Visit Glaciarium, the Patagonian Ice Museum, where you can learn everything you could possibly want to know about glaciers
  • Walk up to the Laguna Nimez ecological reserve, a 15-minute walk from the town centre on the shores of Lago Argentino
  • Explore the town’s main road, Avenida del Libertador San Martín, and buy some souvenirs
  • Take a guided tour such as a hike in La Leona Petrified Forest or a cruise to Estancia Cristina and nearby glaciers

Check out our article on things to do in El Calafate for more options.

Where to eat and drink in El Calafate

  • La Zorra Taproom is a great place to hang out for a beer and a bite to eat. We had their delicious Patagonian stew.
  • Librobar Borges y Álvarez is a quirky library-themed bar serving craft beers and authentic coffee
  • Try the Yeti Ice Bar for a novelty experience with traditional liqueurs in temperatures of –10°C
  • Cervecería Artesanal Chopen is a rustic pub run by craft beer lovers

Where to stay in El Calafate

See our article on the best hostels in El Calafate for great budget accommodation options around the town. On booking.com you can find more hostels, hotels, lodges and cabañas.

Sea lions on Beagle Channel cruise Ushuaia
Spotting sea lions frolicking on a cruise across the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia

Route 3: Bariloche, El Calafate, El Chaltén and Torres Del Paine

This Patagonia itinerary begins in the Argentina Lake District in the north of the region, and ends in El Calafate, mixing in trips to see the classic sights of El Chaltén and Torres Del Paine along the way. In brief:

  • Days 1–4: Bariloche and the Lake District (arrival from Buenos Aires by flight)
  • Days 5–7: El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Day 8–10: El Chaltén
  • Day 11–13: Torres Del Paine
  • Days 12–14: back to El Cafalate and return flight to Buenos Aires

Days 1–4: Bariloche and the Lake District

Fly to Bariloche from Buenos Aires and take a day or two to get settled in. If you arrive early enough, on the first day you could take a themed walking tour in the city or tour the cathedral and museum.

On the second day, take the popular Circuito Chico tour in the morning to see the popular spots along the southern shore of Nahuel Huapi lake, including the gorgeous view from Cerro Campanario. If you skip the transfer back to town, you’re in the perfect place to hike the lovely Cerro Llao Llao trail (check out our guide).

Days 3–4: Refugio Frey hike

This is one of the classic trails in the area, and can be done over one or two days. We advocate for an overnight stay at the refugio, mainly because it means you get to see an absolutely stunning starry sky (as long as it’s clear).

To take the trail, hop on the 55 bus to the ski centre Cerro Catedral Alta. This is where the return hike begins and ends. If staying overnight you need to reserve a place at the refugio online.

Alternatively, if you don’t fancy a strenuous hike, you could take a guided tour to Cerro Tronador, a scenic boat trip to Victoria Island or ride the legendary seven lakes road trip to San Martin de los Andes.

Where to eat and drink in Bariloche

Bariloche – as you would expect from a place with an adventure culture – has a lively atmosphere, and there are plenty of great places to eat and drink.

  • Our favourite was Manush, a rustic local ale house recommended to us by our tour guide. It’s known for its craft beers but serves tasty homely food too.
  • More from locals: on the recommendation of hostel staff we had a hearty lunch at La Jirafa, ideal for budget travellers. Also, our Couchsurfing host took us to a social event at Cervecería Bachmann, a fun pub with satisfying meals.
  • El Boliche de Alberto is a great place to try traditional Argentine steak (and is reputed for its generous portions!).
  • Bariloche is also famed for its chocolate shops. Rapa Nui is among the most popular – stop by for a mug of hot chocolate and some handmade samples.

Where to stay in Bariloche

You will struggle to find a hostel anywhere in the world with a better view than Hospdaje Penthouse 1004, on the top floor of a Bariloche high-rise. It’s also one of the best hostels we’ve ever stayed in. You can find more budget options in our guide to the best hostels in Bariloche.

For the ski centre at Cerro Catedral and the hiking opportunities around it, Hotel Knapp is conveniently located. For hotel options in the city, browse booking.com.

Day 5: flight from Bariloche to El Calafate

This flight takes an hour and 45 minutes. Book as far in advance as you can, as it can be an expensive route.

Days 6–7: El Calafate

On the first full day in El Calafate, take a trip to Perito Moreno Glacier. You can either book a guided tour (which includes pick-up, drop-off, transport and entrance fees) or make your own way there by bus from the town’s main terminal.

Use the second day to take it easy, or try some other activities:

  • Visit Glaciarium, the Patagonian Ice Museum, where you can learn everything you could possibly want to know about glaciers
  • Walk up to the Laguna Nimez ecological reserve, a 15-minute walk from the town centre on the shores of Lago Argentino
  • Explore the town’s main road, Avenida del Libertador San Martín, and buy some souvenirs
  • Take a guided tour such as a hike in La Leona Petrified Forest or a cruise to Estancia Cristina and nearby glaciers

Check out our article on things to do in El Calafate for more options.

Where to eat and drink in El Calafate

  • La Zorra Taproom is a great place to hang out for a beer and a bite to eat. We had their delicious Patagonian stew.
  • Librobar Borges y Álvarez is a quirky library-themed bar serving craft beers and authentic coffee
  • Try the Yeti Ice Bar for a novelty experience with traditional liqueurs in temperatures of –10°C
  • Cervecería Artesanal Chopen is a rustic pub run by craft beer lovers

Where to stay in El Calafate

See our article on the best hostels in El Calafate for great budget accommodation options around the town. On booking.com you can find more hostels, hotels, lodges and cabañas.

Days 8–10: El Chaltén

Take a morning bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén, which should take around 3–4 hours, and spend the afternoon exploring the quaint mountain town at your own pace. You could opt to take a walk up to Mirador Los Cóndores (about 6km return / 2 hours) for a gorgeous view of Mount Fitz Roy, Cerro Torre and the surrounding scenery.

Over the next two days, head into Los Glaciares National Park, where easy, marked hiking trails lead to some of Patagonia’s most famous natural landmarks. We recommend an overnight return hike to Laguna de los Tres for the sunrise view of Mount Fitz Roy. This is a slight variation of the three-day hike we detail in our El Chaltén trekking guide.

Alternatively – if camping isn’t your thing – you could do two separate return day hikes, first to Laguna de los Tres and then to Laguna Torre. They are easy to do self-guided, or you could do guided day treks (view and book them here for Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre).

Where to eat in El Chaltén

Avenida San Martin, the main road that runs through the spine of El Chaltén, has a vast choice of restaurants and bars. After trekking we enjoyed hanging out at B&B Beers and Burgers, great for craft beer and (you’ve guessed it) a delicious gourmet burger.

La Cervecería is another very popular brewery bar, while La Tapera and Techado Negro are good options for trying the local cuisine.

Where to stay in El Chaltén

Our article on camping in El Chaltén also includes details of the top-rated hostels and refugios around the town. We have stayed in both Patogonia Hostel and Lo De Trivi, which are both very good budget options.

For a little luxury, the wooden alpine-style Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña is perched on the cusp of the national park, with spectacular mountain views.

Day 11: bus from El Chaltén to Puerto Natales

This journey will take most of the day and goes via El Calafate, where you will change bus to cross over the border into Chile. After arriving in Puerto Natales, get yourself rested and ready for the following days’ hiking.

Days 12–13: hiking in Torres Del Paine

It’s possible to trek in Torres Del Paine National Park without doing one of the multi-day trails like the W Trek. Check out our article on day hikes in Torres Del Paine for a full range of options.

You will only need to pay the park entrance fee (21,000 Chilean pesos) once – it is valid for three separate entries.

If you would like to take guided day hikes, we suggest doing any two of these three:

Where to stay in Puerto Natales

The town of Puerto Natales is the closest base for trekking in Torres Del Paine. Our guide to the best hostels in Puerto Natales features the top budget accommodation options. If you are willing to splurge on something extra special, read our compilation of stunning places to stay inside the park.

Where to eat in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is well set up for tourism, and so there is no shortage of places to eat and drink around town. We tried two excellent spots:

  • La Mesita Grande is a very good pizzeria that also serves some local craft beers. We had an anniversary lunch here and loved it.
  • El Asador Patagónico is a simply amazing place to try traditional Chilean barbecued lamb. We highly recommend it as a treat after completing a trek (order a bottle of Chilean red!).

Day 14: bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate for onwards flight

Take the bus back across the border to El Calafate to complete your Patagonia adventure.

Sunset views over Nahuel Huapi lake from Bariloche, Argentina
Sunset views over Nahuel Huapi lake from Bariloche, Argentina

Route 4: the O Circuit

For more experienced hikers, the O Circuit is a spectacular alternative to the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park. This extended trail encapsulates the highlights of the W Trek, and continues into the north of the park to complete a full loop.

The O Circuit is a serious undertaking and requires 6–10 days to complete. You would need to prepare well and allow plenty of time flexibility to account for unpredictable weather if going self-guided.

G Adventures offers a guided trek of the O Circuit which covers 11 days, so it’s perfect for a two-week trip to the region.

Either side of the tour you could take a trip across the border to El Calafate to see Perito Moreno Glacier, or try alternative activities in Puerto Natales such as a bike sightseeing tour or a Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers tour.

How to get to Puerto Natales and where to stay

The Chilean town of Puerto Natales is the base for visiting Torres Del Paine National Park and hiking the W Trek. There are two typical ways to reach it if visiting for a week on an in-out trip:

  • From Santiago, Chile: fly to Punta Arenas and then take the bus to Puerto Natales
  • From Buenos Aires, Argentina: fly to El Calafate and then take the cross-border bus to Puerto Natales

For accommodation either side of the W Trek, see our articles on the best hostels in Puerto Natales (budget) and stunning places to stay inside the park (luxury).

The Torres Del Paine W Trek was the highlight of our time in Patagonia
The Torres Del Paine W Trek was the highlight of our time in Patagonia

Other ideas for your Patagonia itinerary

While our Patagonia itineraries feature many of the outstanding locations, there are yet more stunning scenic places, incredible outdoor activities and historic sights to discover.

Here are five extra highlights to consider adding to your Patagonia itinerary:

Take a road trip down Carretera Austral

Carretera Austral is a famous highway that extends over a thousand kilometres through Chilean Patagonia. Beginning at Puerto Montt in the north and stretching down to Villa O’Higgins in the south, it passes through changing landscapes of valleys, glaciers, fjords, mountains and volcanoes.

If you have several weeks to spend in Patagonia and an ample budget (car hire is not cheap), a Carretera Austral road trip would be an awesome way to bridge the gap between El Chaltén and Bariloche.

Compare the best car prices at Rentalcars.com.

Cruise to Antarctica

If travelling to the end of the world is not enough, you can voyage even further by taking a cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica. Cruises last for several days, and offer the chance to see the land of ice that few people on earth will ever witness. Depending on the time during the season, you can see Antarctic wildlife such as whales, penguins and elephant seals.

The Antarctica cruising season runs from the end of October to the end of March. The biggest icebergs are visible early in the season, while the best time to see whales is towards the end. From December to February you can see penguin chicks.

You can book Antarctica cruises with G Adventures.


Cruise through the Chilean fjords

Some of the most impressive scenery in Patagonia can be found in the sprawling fjords of southern Chile. In a five-day cruise between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, you can absorb some of the untouched beauties of the end of the world, including Ainsworth Bay, Pia Glacier, Glacier Alley, Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay.

Discover the ancient Marble Caves

A hidden gem of Patagonia is the Marble Caves, an ancient geological formation situated on a peninsula of marble in the Andes mountains. The caves have distinctive surface patterns formed by the effects of thousands of years of water currents.

Straddling the border of Chile and Argentina, the caves are not easy to reach, though. The quickest way is by flight from Santiago to Balmaceda, followed by a 120-kilometre drive through winding mountain roads and a short ferry ride.

See the penguins at Punta Tombo

Patagonia is full of unique and spellbinding wildlife. One spot where you can witness a once-in-a-lifetime sight is at Punta Tombo, which is home to the world’s largest colony of Magellanic penguins. Over half a million of the adorable birds gather here between September and November.

If you take the bus into Patagonia from Buenos Aires, Puerto Madryn on the east coast is a convenient stop-off within close reach of Punta Tombo for a day trip.

To extend your hiking expedition in Torres Del Paine you can take on the full O Trek circuit
Even when it’s cloudy in Torres Del Paine it’s still beautiful

What is the budget for these itineraries?

Patagonia has an expensive reputation, but there are many ways you can keep costs down during your visit. We detail our full breakdown of spending in this article on Patagonia trip costs.

Over 26 days, we spent $3,091 between two of us in Patagonia. This works out around $60 per day each for accommodation, food and drink, transport, activities and additional costs. We achieved this through various money-saving measures including camping and Couchsurfing when we could, staying in hostels the remainder of the time, and preparing most of our own food. You would need to allow some extra budget if planning to take a lot of guided tours (we did self-guided trekking whenever we could).

The local currencies, in particular the Argentine Peso, are subject to regular fluctuations, so it’s a good idea to monitor the situation and adjust accordingly. Check the latest rates at xe.com.

More South America travel itineraries

If you’re planning an extended travel break in South America, you might find our other itineraries useful:

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Planning a Patagonia itinerary can be challenging. We've compiled amazing routes for 1, 2 or 4 weeks including where to stay, transport, activities & more. #patagonia #patagoniatravel #torresdelpaine #patagoniaitinerary #chile #argentina

49 comments

  1. This whole trip looks like a dream. Hiking in Patagonia is a bucket list item for me. My husband and I considered this for our honeymoon, but ultimately decided on Japan. I hope we can make it to this part of the world one day — the two week itinerary makes it feel more attainable!

  2. Wow, as told you already i really love your blog , your experiences are inspiring! One of my dreams in the next few years is to ride the entire Panamericana by van.
    I’ll keep in mind this itinerary!

  3. Amazing post, so comprehensive, I’m a long-form writer myself so I love it! It has so many similarities to New Zealand, with the having to book way in advance, slow internet and unpredictable weather. Oh and the penguins 🙂

  4. This whole trip looks amazing. Hiking in Patagonia has always been on the top of my bucket list and I hope I finally get the chance to visit next summer. Thank you for sharing, I really enjoyed your post

  5. I don’t think there is a more complete Patagonia Travel Guide out there! Congratulations on leaving nothing out: from planning the trip to inspiration on what to see and do during the trip itself. I especially appreciate the 2-week version, as not all of us are able to take monthly long vacation from work. So thoughtful of you. Once we decide to take this fantastic trip to this part of the world, that’s the one travel guide we’ll be coming back to!

  6. I think this is the best Patagonia itinerary and travel guide I have seen and would be a great idea to just follow what is mentioned here! Liked the tips you have shared and so connect with them as our way of travel too! We have been gearing up and have learnt a bit of the language! Now its just a matter of when we actually get to book our trip! Hopefully soon.

  7. Such a great post! We’ll definitely go hiking in Patagonia some day, especially Torres Del Paine sounds wonderful but there are so many other areas as well. Too bad that it’s bit expensive, but still for sure worth every penny!

  8. I love the detail in this! Most itineraries are just telling you where to go and they dont have any depth but this was awesome! I WILL for sure be coming back to this!

  9. LOVE this post. So detailed and thorough. I will definitely come back to it if I’m ever lucky enough to make it back to Patagonia. Happy to see hiking the W trek made the list… that was the best experience of my life. Great post!

  10. Loved reading your post. Planning a trip this year end and this post was very helpful to understand Patagonia and how much time we need in each National park. Thank you

    1. Thanks Brinda! Glad you found it useful, and exciting to hear about your trip. You’ll have an awesome time. Might even cross paths as we’re considering going again next hiking season 🙂

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