Trekking in Patagonia
Patagonia, shaped by the Andes mountain range and the Ice Cap, offers some of the best trekking in the world. From the Lake District in the North, to the iconic Torres del Paine National Park, to the wilds of Tierra del Fuego. To find out more read our guide or take a look at some popular treks.
Main regions for trekking in Patagonia
Torres del Paine is one of the world's most famous trekking destinations - you can see snow covered mountains, trek on glaciers, walk through beautiful valleys, and have lunch by ...
The IceCap is the world's 3rd largest mass of ice and trekking and living on it is a truly unique, and at times bleak, experience. Whilst you don't need technical ...
El Chalten is the epicentre of Los Glaciares National Park, a winter wonderland of glaciers (some of which are still advancing), and home to the granite spires of Mount Fitz ...
Tierra del Fuego is perhaps the most remote and wild place in Patagonia and is the last piece of land before Antarctica. Tierra del Fuego has a national park and ...
The Original Torres del Paine W Trek
Swoop's no.1 recommendation for Patagonia's top trek, Paine's 'W': small groups, highly rated guides, a great itinerary, excellent value for money, and full support ...More details
Complete Chalten Trek
THE all-encompassing trek of El Chalten, you’ll be guided in small groups to the best sights, climbs and lagoons of the área. With all ...More details
Southern Patagonian Ice Cap Expedition via Paso Marconi
Trek across the Southern Patagonian Ice Cap over 6-9 days with a local mountaineering operator based in El Chalten. You'll be supported and lead ...More details
So, what's so special?
Patagonia is shaped by huge forces of nature: the Patagonian Ice Cap, the Andes, a fault line, the confluence of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the bottom of the Americas. This makes for both dramatic and varied scenery in a part of the world that is relative unpopulated and unexplored.
You can hike through mountainous passes, get up close to glaciers (and even trek over them), and enjoy beautiful rivers and lakes. And, there's plenty of opportunity to combine your trekking with extra days of horse-riding, kayaking and mountaineering.
Who's it for?
There's no doubt that most of this terrain is rugged, steep and rough, but there are trekking opportunities for people of all ages, degrees of fitness and levels of experience. In some areas, notably Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park, the paths are well marked, and there are many Refugios around the park so that you needn't carry camping equipment.
Where to go? What are the main regions, and how are they different?
The most famous, and most visited, trekking destinations are in Southern Patagonia: Torres del Paine National Park (in Chile), with its famous 'W Circuit' (but also consider the more extensive Full Circuit) and Los Glaciares National Park (in Argentina). The latter includes some spectacular hikes around Cerro Fitz Roy.
But don't ignore some of the other options:
- The volcano region of the North - Araucania
- The Lake District
- The area around the Northern IceCap
- The Southern Ice Cap (mainly around Cerro Fitz Roy, and accessible from El Chalten)
- Tierra del Fuego
Do I need a guide?
Trekking in Patagonia is clearly not to be taken lightly though; Patagonian weather is notorious and many of the best treks are remote and a long way from assistance. If in doubt you'd be best to take a guide - which brings all sorts of additional benefits including help with the logistics of travel and accommodation (especially helpful if you don't speak good Spanish), and taking you to those special places that the guidebooks have overlooked.
When's the best time to visit? And how long should I go for?
Patagonian winter is cold and hard. On good days it brings wonderful rewards to the hardiest of travellers, and there some trekking routes that are possible in th winter months, but almost everyone visits between October and April.
It's a long way from the UK (in terms of time, cost and jetlag) so very few people would visit for less than 2 weeks, and in fact many of the people we speak to are planning trips of around 4 weeks, or incorporating a Patagonian trek into a wider visit to South America or Antarctica.
That said, in 2 weeks you could either see the very best of Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares, or see the highlights of Southern Patagonia and then spend a week exploring the Lake District in the North. See our guide for further guidance on travelling around Patagonia for 2 or more weeks.
Can I combine trekking in Patagonia with something else?
Definitely. There are lots of ways to combine trekking with something else to make the perfect holiday. There are many other adventure travel activities to enjoy in Patagonia: multi activity trips in Torres del Paine and things to do in Patagonia.
Alternatively you could stop over in Buenos Aires or Santiago to enjoy some more urban adventures, or go wine tasting in the Casblanca region near Santiago, or around Mendoza in Argentina (which also happens to be the base for climbing expeditions up Mount Aconcagua).
When are you
thinking of going?
See Patagonia at the height of the season, when you'll have 18 hours of daylight and feel Patagonia's infamous wind at its strongest. There are just so many options open to you in addition to hiking, why not try glacier trekking, mountain biking and white water rafting on the rapids of the Futaleufu River?
If you want to visit last minute, the key is moving quickly and booking your flights. Availability in Chalten shouldn't be too difficult but in Torres del Paine it's likely that refugios will be fully booked. Don't worry though, it's warm enough to camp under the stars. If you're still in the planning stages of your trip but hope to go this season, it's a good idea to get flights booked as early as possible and make the most of Patagonia's summer before autumn sets in April.
February is a great time to trek Patagonia's national parks, in particular Torres del Paine quietens down as Chilean visitors head back to their cities. In Feb you can expect temperatures of between 5 and 19 degrees in Torres del Paine, and this could be a good time to trek the W Circuit independently if you want to save some money to go kayaking for example.
If you want to go in February but you've left it last minute, you may be able to find a late deal on our Exclusive Deals page. Your best bet is finding a Patagonia Tours which tend to have lots of departure dates to join during February.
If you're considering visiting next season, (starting in October), why not getting your flights booked good and early? If you're lucky you may be able to get flights from London to Punta Arenas for £850.
March is the tail end of the season for adventure in Patagonia so the infamous Patagonian wind will be on its way out, there'll be fewer people in the national parks so generally quieter on the trails. This is great as you may find prices come down slightly as the locals and tourists leave, but it's more difficult to get a group together, so could be harder if you're travelling alone (although we'll strive to pair you up with someone). However, most longer, multi-location trips run by our global operator partners still run in March and they tend to have bigger groups, but prepare for rain if your trip visits the lake district!
In April the season is coming to an end, so try to get there in the first half of the month for more availability and better weather conditions. If you're hoping to stay in the Eco Camp in Torres del Paine or do an adventure cruise round Cape Horn, they finish for the season in early April, so get going! Luckily it's about this time that skiing in Bariloche becomes available in the Argentinian Lake District. Remember that many mountain lodges and estancias close around this time making it hard to do the W or Full Circuit for example. Plus certain services become unavailable such as the catamaran across Lago Pehoe in Torres del Paine and glacier hiking, so it may be a good idea to go earlier in the season if these are on your list of things to do.
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
Winter is getting into full swing now so you may want to try out volcano skiing in the Patagonian Lake District or tailor made tours that take into account the potentially difficult weather conditions. As many operators and lodges wind down for the winter, fewer travellers visit the trails and parks so private departures on most trips are likely. The weather will be a bit like trekking in wales in Dec, are you up for that challenge?
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
At this time of year, the snow is starting to settle in Torres del Paine National Park and the trees are brown and orange, a very beautiful time to see the highlights. June is also when operators launch their Winter W Circuit and Fitz Roy trips, which vary from the usual itineraries as many refugios are closed and van transfers are required because the catamaran across Lago Pehoe stops. Although days are short and weather temperamental, if you can see Patagonia in winter, it will be serene and picturesque.
Find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
Mid winter, July is equivalent to our January in terms of weather. This is a great time to take advantage of the skiing Patagonia has to offer, particularly in the Chilean and Argentinian Lake Districts. Araucania offers off piste skiing, whereas Bariloche is home to the popular Cerro Catedral Resort but also caters for off piste skiing. For adrenaline junkies, you can ski down the slopes of several volcanoes on certain trips. If you're planning a trip for next season, start looking at flights as the sooner you book them, the cheaper they are.
If you hope to visit Torres del Paine this month, find out more about visiting Torres del Paine in winter >>
This is a great time for snow shoeing in Bariloche, or skiing in the Patagonian Lake District. There are also some winter trips in the Torres del Paine & Fitz Roy areas. Come prepared - cold temperatures, snow and short days means that your trip may not go 100% according to plan, Chalten is known for snow blocking the roads for a day or 2. Alternatively, August is a great time to plan and book trips for the early part of the season ahead, at this time operators will be starting to release availability and rates to help with that.
August is the last month to take advantage of specially designed winter trips in Torres del Paine. If you're keen to see the park covered in snow, find out more about hiking in Torres del Paine in winter >>
In September, it's still pretty chilly in Patagonia, with snow and temperatures of 5 degrees in El Calafate for example. If you're hoping to trek the main national parks, you may find that operators don't have any groups heading out, so you may have to go on a private trip with just your guide. The season really kicks off at the end of September/beginning of October with W Circuit and Full Circuit trips as well as estancias and lodges opening their doors to clients.
However, winter trips are still running in Torres del Paine. Find out more here >>
Get in before the crowds - you won't see many people on the W Circuit and you'll have the northern part of the park pretty much to yourself on the Full Circuit (you may even come face to face with the endangered Huemul deer). It's still a bit too early for horse riding and rafting trips, you're best off doing these from November onwards. So if you're thinking about visiting Patagonia this season, get your flights and trips booked, as availability really starts to tighten up over October/November.
November is a good time to visit: late spring/early summer. Not too busy but a full range of trips and itineraries to choose from. If you want to visit this month, you need to move fast. Refugios are getting booked up until January, but the operator will work hard to fit you in. Don't forget it takes at least a week to organise a tour, so don't leave it too late!
Mid summer, 18 hours of daylight and there will probably be days when you're hiking in shorts and t-shirt. Many Chileans and Argentinians will come down to Patagonia for their Christmas break so availability may be tight and you should expect the National Parks to be busier.
It's essential that you get your flights and tours booked asap, as flight prices are also increasing.
Guide to Patagonia
Patagonia spans over 1,000 miles north to south and landscapes ranging from forests, to glaciers, to volcanoes and deserts. Read our Patagonia Guide to find out: how to get there, when to go, what to see and how to find the best trip. Or find out about:
How can we help you?
We are Patagonian specialists, and have helped all sorts of different people arrange their perfect adventure holiday in Patagonia. Whatever your budget, group size, length of stay, preferred activity or appetite for adventure we're here to help you.
- Join a group trek or tour
- Plan an independent day by day itinerary
- Organise your group's trek, expedition or multi-sport adventure
- Tailor-made luxury holidays
Find out how we can help you >>
We help people organise adventure travel holidays in Patagonia, just Patagonia. Our exclusive focus on this incredible corner of world means that we've got the knowledge and the relationships to find just the right trip for everyone that we speak to. Patagonia is a vast region with all sorts of possibilities and we take real pleasure in helping people find the best adventure for their experience, dates, budget and appetite for adventure.