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Trekking in Patagonia

Patagonia, shaped by the Andes mountain range and the Patagonian 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.

First, consider what type of hiking you are looking for:

Day Hikes      |      'Hut-to-Hut' Hikes (daypack only)      |  Multi-Day Treks      |      Off the Beaten Track Expeditions

Also see: our Q&A guide to trekking in the region & info on the different national parks.

Day Hikes in Patagonia

On a day hike you can head out for 3-8 hours for a wonderful hike to some of the best viewpoints in the Andes with just a small daypack containing your waterproofs, camera and a snack, and return to the comfort of a private bedroom in a hotel, lodge or private eco camp each night.

Torres del Paine, from an eco-camp, estancia or hotel (Chile)

The Torres from AfarIt's fair to say that the most dramatic views in Torres del Paine (like the mile-high towers ('torres') themselves) all involve a hike of 6-8 hours however you can do these hikes and return to a comfortable private bed each night.  If you prefer shorter and easier hikes then you can still see the Paine Massif and its glorious lakes and glaciers.

Accommodation in the national park is limited and therefore expensive, however check out:

- Torres del Paine day hikes returning to a hotel each night

- Easier hikes from an Eco Camp

- Luxury lodges offer excellent day hikes

Mount FitzRoy, from El Chalten (Argentina)

Mt FitzRoyThere are three great day hikes that you can do from the lovely little mountain town of El Chalten.  With hikes of 4-8 hours you can get to the best viewpoints of Cerro FitzRoy and Cerro Torre, and come back to town to a relatively well-priced hotel, and enjoy Chalten's bars and restaurants.  These can be combined with a day of ice-hiking and a visit to the Perito Moreno glacier.

 

Tierra del Fuego Day Hikes

Trekking in Tierra del FuegoFrom the port town of Ushuaia (the major hub of Tierra del Fuego), there ar several great day hikes.  Some from the town itself, others in the national park, and some further afield.  These can be combined with some kayaking, or 4WD excursions across the island.

There's also a wonderful luxuryou hotel situated up in the mountains above Ushuaia which has its own nature reserve.  You can hike straight from the hotel into beautiful Andean mountains.

If you have 2-5 days in Ushuaia and want some suggestions for day hikes, then please get in touch.

You can also enjoy some great day hikes from this lodge on the Chilean island of Isla Navarino.

Chilean Lake District

Castro ChiloeFor those flying into Puerto Montt, or crossing the Andes from Bariloche, there are several great day hikes for exploring the volcanoes, fjords, and coastline.  A 4-6 day hike around Volcano Osorno near Puerto Varas, or along the Pacific coast of the island of Chiloe will offer a very different perspective of Patagonia from what you might have seen down in the south of Patagonia.

This area can either be explored with a self-drive trip (please get in touch to talk about routes) or you could base yourself out of a Lake District lodge.

 

Hut-to-Hut Hikes

These hikes allow you to head on an 'A to B' hiking route, deeper into the Andes, sleeping in the shared rooms of a mountain hut (or Refugio) each night.  Many of the Refugios provide food and bedding, so all you need to carry is your change of clothese, waterproofs and camera.  On most hut-to-hut hikes a 30-50 litre pack will suffice (as long as you pack fairly lightly).

There are surprisingly few huts in good working order that provide beds and food, but those that do are very popular and help you access Patagonia's most iconic views.

'W' Trek, Torres del Paine (Chile)

The Torres Up Close, basking in the sunsetProbably Patagonia's most famous hiking route and for good reason.  This is a 4-5 day route taking in the three main highlights of the national park:  the mile-high granite towers (the Torres), the hanging glacier in the Valle Frances and the iceberg-filled Lago Grey.  The route takes its name from the shape on the map.

The huts are large and have lots of rooms for up to 6 people, hot showers, provide breakfast and dinner and a boxed lunche, and even a bar.

There are lots of different ways to dqo this route, and things you can do before and after.  Find out more about W Trek Torres del Paine.

Swoop Says:

  • Of all the treks in Patagonia, this is probably one that is best suited to more independent hiking, as the trails aer well-marked and there are plenty of people around to support should you need.
  • Watch out:  this route can be very busy over December and January, worth mixig in some of the off-the-beaten-track days if you can.
  • Possible add-ons:  a great kayak route out of the national park and back to civilisation, ice hiking, horse riding or mountain biking.

 

Hut-to-Hut, Nahuel Huapi National Park (Bariloche, Argentina)

Up in the Argentine Lake District, accessed from San Carlos de Bariloche, lies patagonia's oldest national park:  Nahuel Huapi.  The landscapes feel more Alpinwe and the 4 day hut-to-hut route here has a couple of quite challenging days on more rugged terrain.  The Refugios are more traditional and basic, and warm, friendly and convivial places to take shelter at the end of each day.

The other hut in the region, famous for its food amongst other things, is the wonderful Otto Meilling hut on the side of Mount Tronador.

Swoop Says:  combine with kayaking (or rafting) the beautiful lakes and rivers of this region;  or fly-fishing and horse-riding from and authentic Patagonian estancia.

Piedra del Fraile, FitzRoy area (Argentina)

This is a charming spot to the north of FitzRoy and El Chalten and a good base for hikes into a remote glaciated valley.  A 2 day trek staying here overnight is a great complement to soe of the day hikes mentioned above and giving you the chance to explore the area with no one else around.

Swoop Says:  combine this with day hikes or independent treks.  Find out more about trekking around Mt FitzRoy.

Multi-Day Treks

Those with good experience of hiking for several days and prepared to camp out can access the more remote glaciers, valley and mountain passes that show off Patagonia's most dramatic landscapes.

A guide will not only provide safety and navigation if conditions or visibility deteriorate, but you'll also have full support at each camp so that you can sit back and relax at the end of a long day of hiking.  Generally speaking guides and their assistan will carry group equipment (tents, food, fuel and safety equipment) so that you hike with your personal clothing, sleeping bags and sleeping mats.

Torres del Paine Full Circuit (Chile)

Trekking towards the Paine MassifThe Full Circuit or O Circuit Torres del Paine is a 7-9 day route, where you'll need to camp for at least three of the nights.  The rewards are spectacular.  You cover the 'W' route but also get to more remote parts of the national park where fewer people get to tread, and it includes the notoriously windy but truly awe-inspiring John Garner Pass with its views out towards the South Patagonian Ice Field.

 

Multi-Day Treks around Mount FitzRoy (Argentina)

Laguna de los TresIf you're prepared for a few nights of camping then you can get to see much more of the FitzRoy massif, including a mountain pass that overlooks the ice cap 'Paso del Viento' and some of the more remote valleys.

Find out more about multi-day treks around FitzRoy.

 

Tierra del Fuego Treks

From Ushuaia in Argentine Tierra del Fuego there's a dramatic and fairly challenging three day route called the Montes Martial Circuit.

Over on the Chilean side (from Puerto Willieams on the southern side of the Beagle Channel) then the dramatic 3-4 day Dientes de Navarino circuit.

 

Cochamo and the Chilean Lake District

Cochamo is sometimes described as Patagonia's answer to Yosemite;  that intense combination of granite mountains and lush forest.  A great option for those wanting to combine the famous hikes of southern Patagonia with trails where you're likely to see few other hikers.

Do get in touch if you'd like to plan a 3-7 day hike up here, especially if you'd like to combine it with a multi-day kayaking adventure.

Patagonia Trekking Expeditions:  Off the Beaten Track

These routes are definitely for those people who not only have plenty of experience but also want to add a bit of an edge to their 'holiday'.  Some people describe it as 'Type 2' fun - the kind of experience that might well be a little too challenging physically ad mentally at the time but you know you'll look back on with glee and satisfaction.

Patagonia Ice Cap

Arguably the most quintessential of Patagonian experiences.  This is the third largest mass of ice on the planet and, bordered by Cerro FitzRoy and the Andes, the landscapes are truly unique.  The ascent is a long challenging day and conditions on the ice cap itself can be very tough indeed;  but when the skies are clear you'll have a view like no other.

Find out more about Patagonia Ice Cap expeditions.

Off the Beaten Track Routes in Torres del Paine

The main trails of the 'W' and the 'Full Circuit' have been on the map for decades now and they are well-marked.  If you want to get unique views of the Pain]e massif, explore mountain passes, valleys and glaciers that no one else knows about then you'll need to head out with a local mountaineering guide that has been exploring the area for decades himself.

Find out more about off the beaten track treks in Torres del Paine.

Crossing Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego remains more wild and remote than many of the national parks to the north.  Trails are not maintained and terrain is tough whether on the lower ground or up through the mountain passes.  This 7 day crossing of Tierra del Fuego is a real wilderness experience.

There are also opportunities, for larger groups with more time, to trek through the seldom explored Darwin mountain range in Chilean Tierra del Fuego.

Trekking in Patagonia:  Questions & Answers

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 relatively unpopulated and unexplored.

You can hike to (and even over) glaciers, witness some of the world's most dramatic peaks, and experience some of the world's most remote and wild landscapes; all without any altitude sickness (it's rare that someone hikes above 2,000m / 6,000 ft.).

Who's it for?

In Patagonia, there's something for everyone who loves walking in the mountains.

-  if you want to hike for 2-3 hours to see the wildlife, glaciers and mountains then you certainly can.  Those that want to do some longer hikes by day and then return to comfort and luxury by night can also enjoy day-hikes.

-  if you're up for a longer hike and want to tackle a couple of big hills but hike with just a day-pack of waterproofs and spare clothes, you can.  For those who are in good shape and wanting to really make the most of their first trekking holiday, see hut-to-hut.

-  if you've done some multi-day hikes in the US or Europe and want to set out on a multi-day trek in a more wild and remote landscape, and camp out under the stars deep in the Andes, then you can: multi-day treks

- Patagonia offers those looking for a challenge, and to walk routes that few have experienced have plenty of extraordinary options in Patagonia: off the beaten track.

When to go:

The main trekking season runs from mid-September to mid-April in most destinations.  For hiking more remote routes, those closer to the snowline and those down in Tierra del Fuego, the best time is from November to February.

March and April last year were superb months in Torres del Paine for weather conditions and visibility.

Watch-out:  Patagonia is a popular destination, and especially so mid-December to mid-January, so if you want to hike the most famous routes then try to visit outside the busiest period, or consider the more off-the beaten-track roues at this time of the year

Winter in Patagonia (May-August) offers less daylight and colder temperatures.  In the Chilean Lake Disstrict and Tierra del Fuego there's a lot of rain, however in the south and east of Patagonia there's generally less rain and visibiilty can be better than the peak of summer.

Winter in Torres del Paine offers hardier hikers the chance to see the national park with no one else around. 

How long do I need?

For most people, the flights to Chile and Argentina are long and so it's rare that customers come to us with only a week; however if you wanted to hike the most famous trails of Patagonia in a week, you could.

Most people have 2 to 3 weeks and we typically advise allowing one week per destination / national park.

See below for ideas and inspiration for a 2-3 week trekking holiday.

How to get there:

You'll need to fly into Santiago (for Chilean National Parks) and Buenos Aires (for the Argentine National Parks).  Here you can read more about Travel to Patagonia.

What to expect from the weather:

In short, "four seasons in one day" and lots of wind.  The most important bit of kit to take to Patagonia is the Goretex jacket.  You'll certainly have some clear blue days but you'll need to be ready for snow (on higher ground), rain and wind.

Here you can find out more about Patagonia weather.

Where to go - which national parks?

The national parks of Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares are famous for a reason and naturally have the best logistics, but the lesser known destinations like Cochamo and Cerro Castillo will definitlely reward those that go the lengths to get there.

Do I need a guide?

The famous trails of Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares are well-marked and well-suited to independent hiking for those with experience.  Guides can help you access the more remote and lesser knwon spots that in many case are equally dramatic.

Having spoken to over a thousand people who have visited the region, our view is that guides bring so much more than safety and navigation - a richer awareness of the region's wildlife, ecology history and cultural identity.

For those on a tight budget, self-guided hikes on the main trails of Torres del Paine and FitzRoy will be a tremendous experience.  Thos who are experienced and fiercely independent might do well to mix some guided days with some independent days.

What can I do before my hike?

Besides the dramatic mountains and glaciers, patagonia is blessed with friendly people and more gentle and beautiful landscapes.  Furthermore, Patagonian tourism has developed significantly over the last 15 years that we've been exploring it.  So this means that there's plenty to see and do, and some pretty spectactular hotels;

- horse-riding Patagonia

- kayaking Patagonia

- fly-fishing Patagonia

- our favourite Patagonia hotels

And let's not forget the cultural and culinary delights of Santiago and Buenos Aires.

Trekking Patagonia:  the National Parks, and map

Trekking in PatagoniaOur interactive map shows the main trekking regions and national parks, and you can zoom in to see some of the must-see landmarks in each destination.

 

 

 

For further information, see:

- Torres del Paine, Chile

- Los Glaciares, Argentina (FitzRoy and El Chalten)

- Tierra del Fuego

 

Patagonia Trekking Tours

Swoop Patagonia can help hikers in a few different ways:

1.  We work with our trekking guides and operators in Chile and Argentina to run small group (max 8 people) hikes on all of the routes above.  Please get in touch to help us understand which treks you might like to join.

2.  Solo travellers looking to join a hiking group can get in touch with the routes they are interested in and their preferred dates and we'll talk with our networkn of local trekking guides and operators, and other hikers, to find a like-minded group to join.

3.  We can arrange fully packaged trekking holidays for couple and groups of friends to visit two or more national parks for couples and groups of friends;  either privately or joining groups for selected parts of the trip.

4.  We also work with the larger global trekking companies who run trips down in Patagonia.  So if you'd like to join one of their larger groups, then we can advise on the most sutiable tours.

About Swoop Patagonia

We've spent 15 years exploring Patagonia, and 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.

More About Us >

Questions? Need help?

Ask a question on our Adventure Planner

Call us on: +44 (0) 117 369 0196 (we're open 9am to 6pm, 7 days a week)

Email us at: advice@swooptravel.co.uk

Contact us on Skype: swoop_in

Twitter: @SwoopPatagonia

Get in Touch >>

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:

 

Read our Patagonia Guide >

 

About Swoop

We've spent 15 years exploring Patagonia, and 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.

More About Us >

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 >>

When are you
thinking of going?

January

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

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

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!

April

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 >>

May

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 >>

June

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 >>

July

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 >>

August

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 >>

September

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 >>

October

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

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!

December

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.