At the southern tip of South America, Patagonia is one of the world's last great wildernesses; it is remote and its landscapes are dramatic, varied and on an almost Himalayan scale. Few places offer such variety: from riding or kayaking in the volcano and canyon country of the north, hiking to the glaciers of Torres del Paine and around Mt. Fitz Roy, to a boat trip through the wilds of Tierra del Fuego.
Where to Go and What to Do
Places to visit in Patagonia
Patagonia is a vast region - spanning two different countries and over 1,000 miles north to south. You could spend years exploring the region's varied landscapes.
Things to do in Patagonia
Patagonia is shaped by some of the world's greatest geographical influences - this makes for a vast playground for a range of different adventure activities.
Swoop's guide to Patagonia
The Patagonian IceCap or Hielo Continental is the 3rd largest mass of ice on the planet and it feeds dozens of glaciers in the region. The most famous, and most accessible, of these is the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate in Argentina. Others remain a reward for adventurous hikers or kayakers who spend several days crossing the wilderness to reach them; and a few climb up these glaciers to get onto the Ice Cap itself.
For more info on which glaciers you might want to see check out our guide to Patagonia's glaciers.
Places to visit
The most popular destinations in Patagonia are Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, and the Perito Moreno Glacier and Mt FitzRoy near El Calafate. However Patagonia has so much more to offer: the volcano region of the north, the Chilean and Argentinian Lake Districts, areas with a rich Welsh cultural heritage, the glaciers and Carretera Austral of the Aysen region.
Adventure Activities in Patagonia
As you'd expect with all this natural beauty the Chileans and Argentinians are great lovers of the outdoors and there are lots of different adventure travel opportunities. Patagonia is probably most famous for its trekking (especially at Torres del Paine National Park), and of course Horseriding. However there are lots of opportunities for kayaking, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, mountaineering, mountain biking, glacier trekking and more. In fact, to visit certain spots you'll have to try out new means of travel! Adventure Cruises also offer a great way to see Patagonia's fjords and glaciers.
There are many organised trips that allow you to try out a few different activities, and provide all the gear and training you'll need. Typically you don't need experience to enjoy these things, but a good level of fitness and a willingness to endure the weather that Patagonia will undoubtedly throw at you is important.
See our guide to Things to Do in Patagonia
Getting to Patagonia
Patagonia has at least 10 major airports across the region, and these are accessed via either Santiago or Buenos Aires. For Buenos Aires there is now a direct British Airways flight from London Heathrow taking 13-14 hours. Sometimes a cheaper option is to fly via Madrid or the US. As always there are ways of saving money but if you book a decent way in advance you should be able to get to / from Patagonia for around 800-1200 pounds.
See our info sheet on Flights to Patagonia, with all the airports in the region.
In Patagonia a 'tour' doesn't mean sitting on a bus day-in-day-out! It's a good way to go hiking in, and experience, a few of the region's different National Parks with all the transport and logistics arranged for you, and guide to ensure you make the most of your time there. This is often a good option for people with limited time or limited Spanish, or those who don't relish the day to day realities of independent travel in Latin America.
If you've got 10-14 days then you might choose to go hiking in both Torres del Paine in Chile and around FitzRoy in Argentina. Longer tours might include Tierra del Fuego or the Lake District. If you want to include Patagonia as part of a wider visit then tours of Chile might take you to the Atacama desert and the wine region, and tours of Argentina might take in the Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires.
Road Trips in Patagonia
Would you enjoy a few days on the open road, with the freedom to stop off as and where you choose? Staying in a different place each night, and enjoying dramatically different landscapes and colours every day. There are some epic journeys on each of the Carretera Austral in Chile and the Ruta 40 in Argentina. These trips are at their best when they connect you from one major destination to another and we'd be happy to help you consider how to weave either a self-drive or guided road trip into your itinerary.
Luxury Holidays to Patagonia
Whether it's your honeymoon, a once in a lifetime trip, or you simply want to see Patagonia's wilderness in style there are plenty of options. When it comes to accommodation there are some wonderful Estancias, Eco Camps and Luxury Lodges situated in the heart of the National Parks that can act as a great base for day hikes and other activities. Or maybe you deserve a luxury Spa after a few days hiking. Cruises offer a great way to get amongst Patagonia's glaciers and wildlife in comfort and style. And if you want to get into the mountains and sleep under the stars then fully service camping with a guide and porters is probably the answer.
See some options for Luxury Holidays in Patagonia.
Patagonia's remoteness has helped to ensure that it's wildlife remains rich and varied. From the world renowned birdlife of the Falkland Islands, to pumas and guanacos in Torres del Paine, penguin colonies in the south and the whales off Peninsula Valdes. There's plenty of opportunity to enjoy Patagonia's wildlife whilst trekking in the mountains or on trips that are specially designed wildlife trips.
Patagonia History & Culture
Patagonia is more notable for its geography than its history but its heritage is rich, varied and unexpected. It has been influenced by, and itself influenced an extraordinary range of events and people: its Indigenous tribes, Magellan, Darwin, the Welsh, 19th century Argentine scientists, Bruce Chatwin, Pinochet and even Butch Cassidy.
Francisco 'Perito' Moreno is one of Argentina's heroes who passionate about the region. Find out more about Perito Moreno.
With the Pacific Ocean and the Andes dominating the environment the Patagonian wind is notorious and its weather unpredictable. The comparison we often draw is with Scotland although most areas of Patagonia are actually dryer. We've analysed data from the Chilean and Argentinian meteorological offices to give you an idea of wind and rainfall in different months and regions - it's a brighter picture than its reputation would suggest.
Read our guide to the weather in Patagonia.
When to Visit
The main season runs from September through to March as the days are longer, and temperatures kinder to outdoor pursuits. However there are some excellent winter tour options when you're likely to enjoy some of the world's finest National Parks without anyone else around. In late December and early January lots of Argentinian and Chilean tourists descend on the region and certain places can get very busy. Springtime (Sep-Nov) provides hikers and flora-lovers with a beautiful variety of flowers, for example in the valleys of Torres del Paine National Park.
The professional guides speak excellent English and if you travelling in an escorted group you'll have no problem at all. However most restaurants, bus drivers, refugio owners and even hoteliers speak very little English. However, they do respond very well to attempts to speak Spanish. Learning some Spanish before you is a great idea - bear in mind the Chilean and Argentinian pronunciation is very different to that of mainland Spain.
Patagonia is at the southern tip of South America and the Andes mountains, shared between Chile and Argentina. It stretches over 1,100 miles from the volcanic region south of Santiago down to Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, and covers over a million square kilometres. Its most famous landmarks are the Patagonian IceCap, the National Parks of Torres del Paine in Chile and Los Glaciares in Argentina, Bariloche at the heart of the Lake District in the North and, of course, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.
See our summary of maps of Patagonia for insight into the towns, regions and geographical landmarks of Patagonia.
About Swoop Patagonia
We've spent 15 years exploring Patagonia, and we've arranged holidays for over a thousand customers. We have a network of trusted guides, lodges, and local operators across the region and delight in helping people plan and arrange a great holiday.
You can book directly with our local partners in Chile and Argentina, or with our ATOL certified company here in the UK.