If you’re traveling to South America in summer you should have #Patagonia high up on your list of things to do. The destination is remote and because it’s likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there’s more urgency to make sure you see and do everything on your Patagonia trip. It’s a fabulous destination full of interesting places, a vibrant culture, varied attractions and delicious food and wine. Here is our list of 10 experiences you cannot afford to miss in Patagonia.
1. Start out in Bariloche, Argentina
The fact that Bariloche is well connected (airport, direct bus to and from Buenos Aires) makes it to the perfect starting point of a roundtrip through Patagonia. But more than that: the combination of mountains, lakes and green forests result in a beautiful scenery. The largest ski resort of South America transforms into a paradise for hikers and climbers (mountains around “Cerro Catedral”) in summer. The lake region around Bariloche calls for a roadtrip to explore all 7 lakes in 1-2 days.
2. Go river-rafting in Futaleufú, Chile
Further down south and a bit harder to access is the small Chilean village Futaleufú which is located at the border to Argentina. The easiest way to get there is to use a gravel road from Esquel up there. This is why it is totally of the beaten path! The reason which makes it worth it: the Futaleufu river which is often referred to as one of the best white water rafting spots in the world. The landscape along the river is unique and due to its location still pretty much untouched.
3. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
El Calafate is located just a few hours from El Chaltén by bus and the base for excursions to the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Nowhere else in the world you are able to come up as close to a glacier as here. The view from the several platforms is extraordinary as you can see ice collapsing in front of you without being in danger (the platforms are located on a peninsula facing the glacier). Beside that you can also opt-in to do a boat tour or even an ice trek on the glacier!
4. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
The national park Torres del Paine is many people’s number 1 attraction in Patagonia – you should take some time and do a multi day trek to experience as much of it as possible: glaciers, forests, impressive mountain ranges, lagoons and rivers.
5. Puerto Natales, Chile
Puerto Natales is a port town nestled among the fjords of southern Chile. You can take a cruise through the waterways to see the surrounding glaciers and mountains. The city is also not far from Torres del Paine National Park, making it a popular place to stay or prepare for a park visit.
6. Take a cruise from Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, nicknamed “El Fin del Mundo,” Ushuaia, is on the very southern tip of Argentina. It’s part of the Tierra del Fuego. It’s also the gateway to Antarctica, with many Antarctic cruises leaving from the port of Ushuaia. The city clings to a small swath of land between the ocean and snow-capped mountains behind.
7. Go whale watching in Puerto Madryn
Watching Southern Right Whales off the coast of Puerto Madryn is one of the most amazing things you will get to do. These magnificent creatures are unreal and its hard to imagine what it’s like to have a whale breaching right next to you until you experience it. This is a definite thing to see in Patagonia.
8. Drink chili beer in El Bolson
There is not much to this little village known for its hippy population a couple of hours from Bariloche. It attracts people who want go hiking and enjoy excellent food and beer. If you want a unique experience, try out their chili beer.
9. La Cueva de las Manos, Argentina
La Cueva de las Manos (or the Cave of Hands) is a remarkable, 13,000-9,500 year old set of cave paintings close to the town (not the glacier) of Perito Moreno, Argentina. The stone walls of the main, and several, smaller caves are littered with inverse hand prints: paint made from natural minerals is believed to have been blown through hollow animal bones to create the effect of spray-paint. There are literally thousands of ancient hand prints and whose changing styles and forms mark the varying artistic tastes of the different tribes who over the course of almost 4,000 years made this, presumably, sacred place their home.
10. Climbing Volcán Villarica in Pucón, Chile
Visiting Patagonia – or South America – perhaps wouldn’t be complete without scaling one of its many impressive, and often active volcanoes. If you’re in Chile and this is likely one of the only chances you’ll have to climb an active volcano, it’s probably worth it. Although be aware that even towards the end of the season, there are still hordes of people climbing this mountain, and the queue of bodies snaking their way up the volcano makes the walking slow and frustrating at times.