Patagonia is a vast area between the oceans at the bottom of South America, spanning Argentina and Chile. Parts of it are flat and agricultural, but this is also where the Andes Mountains end, offering some dramatic scenery for hikers.
There are great opportunities for hiking on both sides of the border. Here are five of the highlights for trekking in Patagonia, suggestions from Andrew Gilchrist of Lost World Adventures.
Los Glaciares National Park and Perito Moreno Glacier
One of the most popular sites in southern Argentina is the home of the world’s largest advancing glacier: Perito Moreno. You can just go to the observation area and walk along the 4km catwalk to watch pillars of ice calve into the water from a constantly moving wall of ice that’s 20 stories high. Or you can do boat trip: from a one-hour sightseeing trip to a few days on a ship exploring the lake, seeing the seven-mile-wide face of the glacier from various angles.
Los Glaciares National Park is a trekking paradise too though. Weather permitting, you can strap on some crampons and go hiking on the glacier itself, getting a very different view of this powerful moving patch of ice. This area is relatively easy to get to, with domestic flights landing in Calafate.
El Chalten and Fitz Roy, Argentina
Argentina’s prime trekking draw is El Chalten, While the town is not that special, the scenery around it is. You can see a bit of the area on a one-day loop, but it’s worth going on a multi-day adventure. You can see the iconic Fitz Roy massif and a series of clear mountain lakes as you hike through the region.
You can also use Chalten as a base to get to Viedma Glacier. It requires a 35-minute drive and a 1-hour trip on a nice catamaran from El Chalten, so it gets a small fraction of the visitors that Perito Moreno receives. Here you won’t be sharing the views with thousands of other people when you spend time there. Also, if you’re over 65 but in good shape, you’re allowed to go ice trekking here, while Perito Moreno glacier has an age limit.
Hike the Hills of Ushaia
Most people treat the southernmost city in the world as just a stopover on the way to Antarctica or an Australis cruise heading north up the coast of Chile. This port city can be a good base for adventures though, for sea kayaking, for seeing penguins, or for hiking. There are panoramic views from the mountain trails around here, with sea and island vistas in several directions. Trails can take you to the Emerald Lagoon with a snowy mountain backdrop or to a glacier.
You can buy a waterproof trekking map for the area before you go or sign up for a guided trek locally if it’s not included in your tour.
Torres del Paine in Chile
Lakes, rivers, glaciers, and dramatic snow-capped mountains await you along the trails of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Two of the classic treks of Chile are here. The complete trek around the towers takes nine or ten days and hikers come from all over the world to experience it. Then there’s the shorter W Trail that goes through the three main valleys of the area.
If you want to go on shorter excursions and sleep in great comfort at night instead of a tent, base yourself at the explora Patagonia lodge, where you get amazing views from your warm room or the restaurant.
Untouched Aysen in Northern Patagonia
Aysen is Chile’s most sparsely populated region and this is the place to go to get into nature without many other people around. You can explore glaciers, fjords, ice fields, and lakes. Lago General Carrera is the centerpiece, the second largest lake in South America. One highlight is a visit to the marble caves, where you can clearly see the strata of the rock. The lake is surrounded by the Andes Mountains, with miles and miles of hiking trails in different regions, some setting out from the lodges where guests spend the night.
It’s a long flight from the USA, Canada, or Europe to get down to Patagonia and it’s a spread-out area once you arrive. So it’s best to visit this area when you have plenty of time instead of on a quickie vacation.
This is also an area where you will probably have a better experience if you let a professional take care of the details. One of the most experienced tour operators leading trips in this region is Lost World Adventures. Many of the photos here are from their trips in the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile. They will be glad to get on a call for a free consultation and they can set up a custom itinerary that makes your dreams come true.