The vast distances between places of interest in Patagonia makes it a hard region to plan a trip to. This long shard of land in the deep south of South America, divided up between Argentina and Chile, is home to some of the world’s most hike-worthy mountain scenery. After months of deliberation we settled on our two week Patagonia itinerary, which included a cruise through the narrow channels south of Puerto Montt, the W Trek (which makes frequent appearances on travel bucket lists) a day hike to the foot of Mount Fitzroy and a face to face confrontation with Perito Merino Glacier. Are you planning on spending two weeks in Patagonia and want an idea of what you can see (and how much it’s likely to cost)? Keep reading!
Santiago to Puerto Varas (Chile)
Our two week Patagonia trip started in Santiago, where we boarded a night bus to Puerto Varas, a small town with a big German influence. The town centre, with its volcano views and lake-side setting, is a cool place to wander, but you’ll want to go on a day trip to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park to see the best of what this area has to offer. You can get up close to Volcan Osorno, go on a boat trip across Lago Todos Los Santos and see the crisp blue currents of the Petrohué Falls.
The three day cruise from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales (Chile)
Puerto Montt is around 20 minutes from Puerto Varas and from there you can board a boat to Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres Del Paine National Park. It cost us $300 each for the three night trip, which included all meals (it’s more expensive in high season though). It’s good value considering how expensive Patagonia is, and it’s a memorable experience. The boat chugs through narrow channels flanked by snow-capped mountains and rugged, waterfall dotted hills. You’ll see a shipwreck, a tiny cut off (by road) village and maybe some wildlife (sea lions, dolphins, penguins). You’ll also get plenty of time to relax, which is a good thing if you’re about to do the W Trek.
The W Trek: Torres Del Paine National Park (Chile)
Look up any “Best Multi Day Treks in the World” listicle and you’ll see the W Trek mentioned. Of course being popular doesn’t automatically mean it’s good (Ed Sheeran anyone?), but in this case the acclaim is justified. You can do the W Trek in 4-5 tough days, and there are times you’ll curse the moment you ever got inspired to do it. It gets very hard, especially if you’re carrying all your camping supplies. I remember being completely worn out after a particularly grueling 8 hour day — the 10 kg pack on my back made it so much more tiring but if you’re on a budget camping is the only viable way to do it.
I hope I haven’t put you off. The scenery you’ll struggle past is truly the stuff of desktop screen savers and bragging Facebook posts. From Puerto Natales you can take a 4 hour bus ride over the border to Argentina, ending up in El Calafate, the closest town to Perito Moreno Glacier.
FURTHER READING: The W Trek, Torres Del Paine National Park: Trekking in Patagonia
Perito Merino Glacier (Argentina)
Being from New Zealand, I thought I had a pretty good handle on glaciers. You hike to a viewpoint and see it glimmering in the middle distance. Half of it will be covered in sediment from the hills above.
Then I went to Perito Moreno Glacier and forgot everything I thought I knew about glaciers. You can get so close you can almost feel it when a piece splinters off and crashes into the cloudy water below. You can also see it on a boat trip, but the best view has to be from the boardwalk in front of the glacier. The gateway town to Perito Moreno Glacier is El Calafate — it’s a nice enough tourist town and is only a few hours from El Chalten and Mount Fitzroy as well as Puerto Natales in Chile.
FURTHER READING: A Day Trip to Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
El Chalten (Argentina)
El Chalten is the town you’ll want to head to for views of Mount Fitz Roy, one of Patagonia’s most revered mountains. You can see it from the road leading into town, but I’m guessing if you have come this far you’ll want to get as close as possible. The Laguna De Los Tres Track, which takes around 8 hours, brings you close to the base of Mount Fitz Roy via some classic mountain scenery. The final rock scramble is a bit tough, but the sight of Mount Fitz Roy towering above a small frozen lake (depending when you visit) is the kind of experience you go to Patagonia for.
There are several more tracks starting from El Chalten — it’d be easy to spend more time there but if you only have two weeks in Patagonia you’ll likely be in and out.
Two Weeks in Patagonia: Costs
Patagonia isn’t a cheap place to travel, but it doesn’t have to decimate your wallet either. We managed to find decent private rooms in hostels for between 15,000 and 25,000 CLP and meals were generally 5000 – 10,000 CLP each. You could obviously spend a lot more though. The W Trek involves a few costs, including gear hire, transport and camp fees. You can also stay in dorms at several Refugios along the way, but that’ll chew through your funds.
Transport can be expensive in Patagonia. The Navimag Ferry was $300 per person (low season rate), but the equivalent journey by bus would cost well over a hundred dollars and it’d be nowhere near as fun. We travelled overland (and water) all the way down and caught a flight back from El Calafate to Buenos Aires. You could save a bit of money and time flying both ways, but the boat trip is something I really recommend.
When is the best time to travel in Patagonia?
High season is November to March, which is when you’ll get the best weather. We were there in late October, meaning things were a bit cheaper (especially the Navimag ferry) and the trails weren’t too crowded. It was cold at times, so make sure to bring warm clothes (which probably applies to all seasons in Patagonia!).
Are you planning to spend two weeks in Patagonia? Where will you go? Let me know in the comments below!
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