On South America’s southern frontier, nature grows wild, barren and beautiful. Spaces are large, as are the silences that fill them. For the newly arrived, such emptiness can be as impressive as the sight of Patagonia’s jagged peaks, pristine rivers and dusty backwater oases. In its enormous scale, Patagonia offers a wealth of potential experiences and landscapes.
Though now mostly paved, lonely RN 40 remains the iconic highway that stirred affection in personalities as disparate as Butch Cassidy and Bruce Chatwin. On the eastern seaboard, paved RN 3 shoots south, connecting oil boomtowns with ancient petrified forests, Welsh settlements and the incredible Península Valdés. Then there is the other, trendy Patagonia where faux-fur hoodies outnumber the guanacos. Don’t miss the spectacular sights of El Calafate and El Chaltén, but remember that they’re a world apart from the whistling solitude of the steppe.
BEST TIME TO VISIT PATAGONIA
The best time to visit Patagonia is November to early March (summertime in the southern hemisphere). Although you'll compete with heavy crowds during this peak season, the weather is ideal for exploring Torres del Paine National Park and Tierra del Fuego. September, October, and November (spring) welcome colorful blooms, while March, April, and May (fall) usher in autumnal hues. Both times of year experience mild temperatures and fewer crowds. Avoid visiting between June and August (winter), when most attractions close and Southern Chielan Patagonia empties out. No matter when you visit, remember to pack layers and a sturdy windbreaker to shield yourself from Patagonia's chilly year-round winds.
Spring is gorgeous. While weather is temperate with daytime highs in the 50s, bring plenty of warm clothing with you. Biting winds and the occasional overcast sky can make it awfully chilly. If you can handle the cool temps, you'll beat the flood of tourists (and pricey accommodation costs) of peak summer months. You'll want to make your reservations at least three months in advance.
With dazzling vantage points from almost every angle—emerald lakes below and azure glaciers above—Patagonia summers are simply showing off. During this sweet season, daily highs rest in the 50s, making this an ideal time to flock to Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales . In the peak months of January and February, visitors arrive in droves to journey to Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. You'll want to make your travel arrangements several months before your trip to beat the rush of tourist groups.
If you don't mind cooler temperatures, this can be a pleasant time to visit. Winds are not as strong as they are in the spring, and both hotel rates and summer crowds begin to wane. Daily highs fall into the 40s and 50s, making comfortable conditions for exploration.
With the snow-capped Andes looming above, Chile's winter season draws skiers eager to hit the slopes in the Lake District (north of Southern Chilean Patagonia). But if you're visiting Chilean Patagonia to experience the most acclaimed sites (like Torres del Paine and Isla Magdalena ), this is not the right time. Many top attractions close, temps drop to the 30s and 40s, and rooms are hard to come by.
GETTING TO PATAGONIA
To reach Patagonia, you'll want to fly through Buenos Aires Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) and then take a hopper flight to your desired Patagonian city. Alternatively, you could fly into Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ), Chilean Patagonia's main airport, and cross the border into El Calafate in Southern Patagonia. You can also rent a car or take a bus from Buenos Aires to Argentine Patagonia, but this will require at least one additional day of travel.
GETTING AROUND PATAGONIA
The best ways to get around Argentine Patagonia are by car or plane due to the region's large size. Argentine Patagonia is divided into three regions: the Lake District, Atlantic Patagonia and Southern Patagonia. You can traverse all three regions by car, but you'll find yourself spending a lot of time on the road. Unless you plan on staying longer than a week, you'll probably have to choose only one or two of these areas to explore. To save time, consider flying between regions. With several airports in all three districts, you can easily hop between cities. Buses are another reliable way to get around.
Car - The best way to reach Argentine Patagonia's top attractions is by car. But keep in mind that not all roads are paved and many stretch for miles' without a single gas station. So, fill up before you hit the road. You'll find familiar rental companies such Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Hertz in every major lakeside village. InterPatagonia.com lists available car services by region. You may prefer to pay for a remis (private car and driver), so you can savor the spectacular scenery without worrying about where you're going. A variety of car services are available throughout all three provinces. Consult the Argentine Patagonia official tourism board website for further details.
Airplane - Flying is another ideal way to get around Argentine Patagonia to explore more than one region. Aerolíneas Argentinas offers daily connections between Buenos Aires and Bariloche in the Lake District , Trelew in Atlantic Patagonia , and El Calafate in Southern Patagonia . Líneas Aéreas del Estado (LADE) provides service between major Argentinean cities such as Trelew and Bariloche, as well as between Bariloche and El Calafate. Consult the Argentine Patagonia tourism board's domestic flight schedule for departure times and distance.
Bus - Argentine Patagonia boasts a variety of bus services operating within its three main districts. Don Otto, a reputable overnight bus company, shuttles passengers from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn, located in Atlantic Patagonia, via a 20 hour bus ride. From Puerto Madryn's small town, you can hop on a Mar y Valle bus to Puerto Piramides on Peninsula Valdes for about $48 ARS (roughly 9.46 EUR) each way. Local bus services also shuttle passengers from Trelew airport to Puerto Madryn.
WHERE TO STAY IN PATAGONIA
Situated in Neuquén, less than 1 km from María Auxiliadora de Almagro Cathedral, Cyan Soho Neuquén Hotel features accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a fitness centre and a bar. The property is located 2.5 km from Balcon del Valle Viewer, 3 km from Limay River and 20 km from Parque Provincia de Neuquén Race Track. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk, airport transfers, luggage storage space and free WiFi throughout the property. At the hotel, rooms are fitted with a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Cyan Soho Neuquén Hotel offers a continental or à la carte breakfast. The nearest airport is Presidente Perón International Airport, 11 km from the accommodation.
Located in Villa La Angostura, 49 km from Paso Cardenal Samore, Hostería Verde Morada provides accommodation with a restaurant, free private parking, a seasonal outdoor swimming pool and a bar. All rooms feature a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom. The accommodation offers room service, a concierge service and currency exchange for guests. At the hotel, each room is equipped with a wardrobe. Guests at Hostería Verde Morada can enjoy a continental breakfast. The accommodation offers 3-star accommodation with a hot tub and terrace. Los Arrayanes National Park is 9 km from Hostería Verde Morada, while Cerro Bayo is 10 km away. The nearest airport is San Carlos De Bariloche, 77 km from the hotel, and the property offers a paid airport shuttle service.
Set in San Martín de los Andes, 12 km from Cerro Chapelco, Paraíso Casa de Montaña offers accommodation with free bikes, free private parking, an outdoor swimming pool and a bar. Among the facilities at this property are room service and a shared lounge, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The property provides an indoor pool, a garden and rooms with lake views. At the hotel all rooms include a wardrobe, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Guests at Paraíso Casa de Montaña can enjoy a buffet breakfast. Guests can enjoy the spa and wellness centre, organise trips at the tour desk, or rent a car to explore the surroundings. You can play billiards at the accommodation, and the area is popular for skiing and cycling. National Park Lanin is 2.8 km from Paraíso Casa de Montaña, while San Martin de los Andes is 1.7 km from the property. The nearest airport is Aviador Carlos Campos Airport, 22 km from the hotel.
Hotel y Casino del Río - Cipolletti offers accommodation in Cipolletti. There is a casino on site and guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. Each room at this hotel is air conditioned and has a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Rooms have a private bathroom with a bidet and shower, with slippers and free toiletries provided. You will find a 24-hour front desk at Hotel y Casino del Río - Cipolletti. Neuquén is 4.4 km from Hotel y Casino del Río - Cipolletti, while General Roca is 39 km away. The nearest airport is Aeropuerto Internacional Presidente Perón Airport, 12 km from the property.
Boasting impressive panoramic views and two swimming pools, Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa offers luxurious rooms with free WiFi access. The property is located in Cerro Alarkén Natural Reserve. Rooms at Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa are spacious and feature a luxurious and comfortable décor. All of them have air conditioning, heating, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. They also have a minibar, a desk and impressive views of the sea or mountains. Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa also has a modern fitness centre, an indoor and an outdoor swimming pool. Guests can enjoy La Cravia, the on site restaurant that serves delicious local and international cuisine, and a lobby bar. Other services offered at the property include ski storage, meeting facilities, laundry service and a concierge. Massage treatments can be requested for an extra fee. Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa offers free parking. It is a 20-minute drive from Cerro Castor Ski Centre and 5 km from Encerrada Bay.
Terra Malal is located in Chos Malal, just 0.5 km from the town's financial area. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi access and a concierge service. Rooms at Terra Malal feature a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and air conditioning. Featuring a shower, private bathrooms also come with a bath and a hairdryer. Plaza San Martín is located 1.3 km from Terra Malal. It is 44 km from Cerro Wayle and the Tromen volcano. At Terra Malal you will find a 24-hour front desk and a garden. The property offers free parking and laundry services.
Comfortable rooms with chic decor and free Wi-Fi are offered in El Chalten, 100 m from the main square. Chalten Suites has a spacious breakfast area with plenty of windows and views of the surrounding mountains and garden. Rooms at Chalten Suites Hotel will provide you with a TV and a minibar. Featuring a shower, private bathrooms also come with a hairdryer. Extras include a desk. Other facilities at Chalten Suites include a tour desk and luggage storage. The property offers free parking and is 200 m from Fitz Roy River and 210 km from El Calafate Airport.
Located 200 m from Libertador Avenue area and 500 m from the Laguna Nimes Reserve, MadreTierra Patagonia is set in a charming Patagonian building. It features a garden and is located in El Calafate's historic and commecial centre. Los Glaciares National Park is 40 km away. Providing a tranquil environment, the rooms in MadreTierra Patagonia feature private bathrooms, spa baths, and flat-screen TVs. Room service is provided. Guests can request luggage storage and laundry services. Excursions to Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and Torres del Paine in Chile can be booked on site. Free Wi-Fi is available in the entire property. MadreTierra Patagonia is 20 km from Calafate Airport.
Casona Del Alto is a mountain-style B&B located on a hill in a rural area surrounded by forests. It offers rooms affording Chapelco Hill views only 5 km from San Martin de los Andes city centre. Free WiFi access is available. Decorated with stylish wooden furnishing, rooms at Casona Del Alto are offer heating and private bathrooms. No TV is offered. A buffet breakfast with homemade ingredients is served daily. Regional and international dishes can be ordered at the property’s restaurant for dinner. Guests can relax by the pool or make use of the sauna and hot tub. A fitness centre is also featured. Free parking is provided. Casona Del Alto is 23 km from Chapelco Ski Centre and 7 km from Aviador Carlos Campos Airport.
Located 250 m from Puerto Madryn beach and next to the city centre, Hotel Tolosa offers free Wi-Fi and buffet breakfast. Computers are available for guest use in the business centre. The rooms in Hotel Tolosa feature private bathrooms, air conditioning, and cable TV. Room service is provided. Guests can order snacks and drinks at the bar or relax in the TV room. Bicycles are available for free and laundry services can be arranged upon request. Hotel Tolosa is 100 m from San Martin park and the supermarket, restaurant, and bar area. Puerto Madryn international airport is 5 km away.
PLACES TO GO & THINGS TO DO IN PATAGONIA
Patagonia is a land of lore and legend. Whether you’re planning on ticking off some of the area’s best - known sights, or prefer to lose yourself in the wilds of the pampa, Patagonia is an unforgettable destination and a must-see for anyone wanting to visit Argentina
The largest national park in Argentina, Los Glaciares was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which feeds an impressive 48 glaciers. One of the most visited areas in Argentina, the biggest draw here is the Perito Moreno glacier, a mammoth ice sheet which covers a staggering 250km2 (96 miles2) and runs for 30km (18.6 miles), making it the third biggest freshwater reserve on the planet. Stick around to hear and see the ear-shattering glacial ruptures and to watch the blues and whites intensify as the daylight changes.
In the land of fire exists the city at the end of the world: Ushuaia. Famous for being the planet’s southernmost city, Ushuaia is often the last port of call for people on their Patagonian mission, whether travelers who have ticked all the boxes or adventurers who have come to discover the secrets of this far-flung corner of the world. Ushuaia encompasses many of the region’s defining traits: remote, enchanting, inimitable. Follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and sail the Beagle Channel, and send your loved ones a postcard from the end of the world.
The Southern Right Whale is one of the most majestic beasts you can see in Argentina, and the ideal place to do this is from the Patagonian town of Puerto Madryn. The sheltered waters of the Golfo Nuevo bay provide the perfect breeding ground for these incredible mammals who come here to mate between June and December, which is the best time to visit. Whale watching tours leave regularly from the town and last about an hour and a half. Bring your camera and catch the whale mid-jump!
Live like a gaucho for five days on this incredible horse trek across a vast Patagonian estancia. Situated inside Los Glaciares National Park and on the shores of Lago Argentino, Nibepo Aike Estancia is every wannabe cowboy/girl’s dream. Founded by a Croatian immigrant in the 1920s, the ranch is still in the family and visitors can partake in a day of country activities or, for those with equestrian abilities, follow the old cattle routes across the incredible landscapes and stay in the gaucho outposts on the way to the hidden glaciers.
The seasons are flipped in Patagonia, being that it is situated in the Southern Hemisphere. The region, known for its amazing mountain ranges, steppes and meadowlands is perhaps best visited in autumn, April – June, when the scenery transforms during the transition between seasons. A symphony of reds, yellows and greens flows over the landscape, and coupled with the unpredictable weather, you can find yourself trekking through a veritable snowglobe of Patagonian beauty during any of the autumn months.
Penguins are some of Argentina’s friendliest inhabitants, and nowhere is it better to see them than on the peninsula of Punta Tombo. This stretch of gravel and sand covered land is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in South America, with over a million and a half of them arriving to breed every year. Coming from Brazil in September, they stay until April and are happy for tourists to walk among them, but remember not to touch them! They are wild, after all.
Bariloche is an Alpine dream located in the breathtaking lake district of Argentine Patagonia. Famous for its chocolate, skiing, and of course, the lakes, Bariloche is a must-visit on any trip to Patagonia. Rent a car and explore the region at your own pace, stopping, if you dare, to swim in any of the glacial lakes that abound. Bariloche is a haven for the outdoorsy, so get ready to be rewarded with some world-class views after hiking or trekking on one of the many trails the area boasts.
One of the best places in all of Patagonia is El Chalten. Whether you are looking to do simple day hikes, longer treks, sample amazing food and beverages or party in an absolutely stunning natural location, the tiny village of El Chalten has something for everyone. Spend a few days and discover the wealth of trails, waterfalls, forests and lakes the area has to offer. You won’t be disappointed.
Connect with your inner hippy in El Bolson, a quaint mountain town 120km (75 miles) south of Bariloche. With a local economy that thrives on tourism but also locally produced foods and artisan crafts, El Bolson is the perfect getaway for anyone looking to escape the city and feel like part of a community for a while. Equipped with hiking trails and picturesque scenery, a trip to El Bolson will introduce you to a different Patagonian way of life.
Argentina doesn’t exactly rival its northern neighbour Brazil when it comes to beaches, but Bahia Bustamante’s coastal offering is something else entirely. Dotted with little coves found in between rock formations that jut into the sea, Bahia Bustamante is also known for being a seaweed village. Previously dubbed ‘Rotten Bay’ due to the amounts of rotting seaweed found there, don’t let its former moniker put you off as this natural plant is now harvested for medicinal purposes. Explore this idyllic marine wildlife sanctuary on bikes or horseback for the authentic experience.
WHERE TO EAT IN PATAGONIA
You may have passed Yenu while walking along the main street in town towards the famous Fitz Roy trail and not noticed the concrete, yurt-style building, but once you open the door it will, more often than not, be packed to the gills. Some of the most elegant and delicious dining available in El Chaltén, Yenu specialities include succulent steaks and ravioli.
The touristic looking interior and the masses of Asian tourists might scare you off. El Viejo Marino is the place to be if you want to try “Centolla” – King Crabs. The most popular dish: an entire King Crab for two with rice and salad. Simply delicious. They do not accept reservations, so you better get here early. Which means, 30 minutes before they open. It is totally worth the wait.
This small restaurant in Ushuaia with Chef Jorge Monopoli combines local ingredients with Peruvian and Mediterranean cooking technics to create a memorable dining experience. His dishes were very tasty, always focusing on the product itself. Kalma is open for dinner only, offering a-la-carte and a tasting menu. Reservations recommended.
Meat, meat and meat – some of the best you'll ever had. This tiny restaurant is located a bit off the beaten tracks and could not be any cozier. They serves Chorizo, Mollejas and Steaks in perfection. The Steaks are huge and you are save to order just one to share, together with some crispy fries and a tasty salad. If you are lucky, you get a table in front of the kitchen to watch the “Asador” do his magic. Alto El Fuego is always busy, so make sure to get a reservation in advance.
This rather casual place is the perfect every day restaurant for your Bariloche vacation. It is known for its fabulous Milanesas. You must try the natural one and the “Milanesa Napolitana” (topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese) – both absolutely delicious. Apart from Milanesas, La Fonda Del Tio also serves homemade pasta, Empanadas and has a daily changing special, which is highly recommended. Try their “Pollo al horno con papas”. Best chicken ever! Like every great restaurant in Argentina, it is busy here. So come early or be prepared to wait for your table.
Lenga Restaurant is the a Chilean Restaurant that has extremely welcoming staff, amazing Calafate Sours and tasty food that made you forget about your aching muscles after your treakking. At Lenga they only use local ingredients, such as Guanaco or the slowly cooked Patagonian Lamb. All perfectly prepared and beautifully presented. By the way: Lenga is one of the only restaurants, that opens on Sundays.
You cannot get the full Argentina and Patagonia experience without indulging in a proper parrilla. An Argentinian pastime, a parrilla, or barbecue, will comprise of an array of perfectly prepared, spiced, and cooked meats, starting with sausages, and ending with ribs and steaks. The restaurant is small, so be sure to come early, or swing by prior to dinner time to see how full it is.
If Parrilla Argentina is packed, or you just happen to pass La Oveja Negra first, you are going to get an equally great experience here, at The Black Sheep. Here you can sample some of the best meat that Patagonia has to offer, grilled to perfection with your choice of sides, and a little Argentine flag in the centre of your meat, just in case you forgot where it came from.
Do not be ashamed if, just because you are in Argentina, you can’t battle away that craving for a big juicy burger, because you are not alone and this is why B&B exists. A speciality burger joint with a variety of fixings, toppings, the best home cut fries in town, chicken tenders for the kids, and a wrap-around patio perfect for a beer and some Patagonian sunshine.
WHERE TO SHOP IN PATAGONIA
Bariloche in Argentina is a wonderland of souvenirs. For tourists looking to bring a taste of Argentine Patagonia home with them, there are countless items to choose from. Here are the best places to pick up some souvenirs in Bariloche.
As soon as you set foot in Bariloche, it will immediately become apparent that this town is built on chocolate. Chocolate shops and cafes line every street, and one of the best is certainly Mamuschka, a local stalwart on the chocolate scene and a favourite with tourists. Fill up a small pack of chocolate goodies that you can nibble at on the go, and for your friends and family, order a selection box with different varieties of chocolate to keep them happy for days.
Following hot on the heels of Mamuschka is Rapa Nui, another legendary chocolate shop just a few doors down. Complete with a chocolate fountain and ice-skating rink, these guys know a thing or two about chocolate, and apart from the traditional selection boxes, you can also pick up some chocolate animals, buildings and pre-packaged chocolate bars to keep you ticking over until next Christmas.
Bariloche’s most popular hike is famous for its world class views once you reach the top of the 30 minute trek. Not only will you be rewarded with panoramic vistas out over the whole lake district, but you can also treat yourself to a coffee and a snack in the cafe on top of the summit. In the cafe you will find lots of Patagonian-themed trinkets, so pick yourself up a baseball cap or a keyring and you’ll never forget that time you conquered Cerro Campanario.
Argentina’s premier manufacturer of alfajores, a local cake-slash-biscuit, Havanna are big on the scene in Bariloche. Not only do they have a number of cafes, but they also have their very own chocolate museum! Check out the museum and the factory, and afterwards grab a box of different flavoured alfajores. Eat them at home with a cup of coffee and the memories of Bariloche will come flooding back.
Argentina’s answer to Switzerland is located on the Circuito Chico in Bariloche. This tiny Alpine enclave has a central square around which are dotted chocolate shops, ice-cream vendors and waffle stands, but you can also pick up local beauty products like face creams and essential oils. Go for the rosehip oil, which is made locally from the bushes that grow in the forests surrounding the lakes.
Beer lovers rejoice, Chilean beer kings Kunstmann have a fully stocked merchandising stand at the back of the Bustillo beer campus. Located within the cavernous Kunstmann beer hall, you can browse their selection of ceramic mugs, t-shirts and caps, and go home with your very own beer mug from which any old beer will taste just as good as a Kunstmann original.
Patagonia beer’s Bariloche HQ has one of the best views in the area, and a merch table to match. If Kunstmann’s offerings didn’t satisfy your thirst for beer souvenirs, head over to Patagonia and pick yourself up some locally-themed sweaters, hoodies and t-shirts. Not to be confused with the Patagonia clothing line, this is purely beer-related.