Patagonia Itinerary: How to See the Best of Patagonia in Just 8 Days

Patagonia Itinerary: How to See the Best of Patagonia in Just 8 Days

If you’re into hiking and nature, there’s a good chance Patagonia is on your bucket list. It’s the ultimate nature lover’s dream. It had been my dream for years and I finally made it a reality with this epic Patagonia itinerary.

But I will be honest, planning a trip to Patagonia was the most complicated and stressful trip I have ever planned. There isn’t a lot of good info on Patagonia and I gave up planning 3 years in a row because it was too much work and extremely time consuming.

I wanted to see as much as possible in a little amount of time, so hopefully this Patagonia itinerary that I tried out will help you plan with a lot less stress.

Where is Patagonia

Patagonia is a sparsely populated region in southern south America that’s between Chile and Argentina. Patagonia contains many gorgeous National Parks, stunning lakes and glaciers, a vast desert, and of course the Andes Mountains.

PATAGONIA MAP

How to Get to Patagonia

Patagonia is HUGE so it depends on where exactly you’re going. But I would say the classic Patagonia trip would most definitely include Torres del Paine National Park, which is located in Chile.

There are 2 options for getting to Torres del Paine National Park. You can fly into Punta Arenas (farther away but many more flights) and then take a bus to Puerto Natales and then another one to the the National Park.

OR you can fly directly into Puerto Natales Airport (airport code PNT), which is what I did (from Santiago). There was a direct flight that took about 2 hours and 40 minutes on Sky Airline. The cost was only $38 with only a personal item. The carry on cost $32, so $70 total to get from Santiago to Puerto Natales. There is only ONE flight per day max during peak season and it’s not every day. I bought my ticket 6 months in advance, so make sure you buy in advance if you want to do this option.

There are taxi stands at the baggage claim at Puerto Natales airport where you pay $8000 CLP (about $10) to go to Puerto Natales city center. It takes about 15 minutes on a scenic drive along the water. You pay and get a voucher and then take it outside to the taxi stand. It’s a fixed price.

My Patagonia Route:

I flew into Puerto Natales and out of El Calafate during my Patagonia trip. I wanted to avoid as much backtracking as possible due to time constraints.

I flew from Santiago to Puerto Natales, then took a bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, then a bus to El Chalten, then a bus back to El Calafate where I flew out from. From El Calafate you can continue on to Buenos Aires directly or to Mendoza with a connection. Flying within the country is pretty cheap but it’s expensive if you want to fly between Chile and Argentina.


8 Day Patagonia Itinerary

Day 1: Fly into Puerto Natales from Santiago

Day 2: Mirador Los Torres all day hike (8-10 hrs)

Day 3: Bus to El Calafate

Day 4: Day trip to Perito Moreno Glacier

Day 5: Bus to El Chaltén + Mirador De Los Condores hike for sunset

Day 6: Mirador De Los Tres (Fitzroy) all day hike (8-10 hrs)

Day 7: Laguna Torre all day hike (5-7 hrs)…I dod NOT get to this hike as the weather was bad and my legs were dead. Instead, I had a spa day at Spa Yaten! (see below)

Day 8: Bus back to El Calafate and fly out from El Calafate airport

Pro Tip: I would highly recommend adding an extra day before or after the 2 big hikes (Mirador Los Torres and Mirador De Los Tres) because sometimes the trails are closed due to high winds or other crazy weather. This DOES happen in Patagonia since the weather is so unpredictable. You wouldn’t want to go all the way to Patagonia and then miss one of these bucket list hikes because you didn’t allow enough time. Take an extra day and relax if you need! I actually did that after the first big hike (and due to the weather the second hike as well). The hikes will drain your energy so having that extra time to recover is key!


What to See in Chilean Patagonia

Ok, now let’s get into that famous Patagonia hiking! I mean, isn’t that why most people come to this region?

Torres Del Paine is said to be the most popular destination in Patagonia so no trip would be complete without a visit to this spectacular natural park in Chile.

Most people opt for the multi day hikes such as the W circuit and O circuit in Torres Del Paine. However, if you don’t have the time or are not into overnight camping, you can easily do a day trip to the best hike in the park! (which is what I did).  If you only do one thing in Torres del Paine National Park, make it a day hike to Mirador las Torres for the best views!

Patagonia Itinerary

Patagonia Hikes: Mirador las Torres 

Distance: 11 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 3000 ft

Time it takes: 7-10 hours (depending how fast/fit you are)

Where to start: Hotel Los Torres

Which park entrance to use: Amarga

Torres Del Paine Entrance Fee is $21,000 CLP (about $26) and it lasts 3 consecutive days (there are other options if you stay longer to do the multi-day treks). You must pay in CASH in Chilean Pesos only. You must also have your passport number for the form but they didn’t actually ask for the passport.

The drive from puerto Natales to the entrance at Amarga was about 2.5 hours with 2 quick stops for viewpoints. Then it’s another 20 minutes on a dirt road to Hotel Los Torres.

Mirador las Torres Hike

The first hour or so of the hike is uphill, then it evens out a little until you get to Refugio Chileno (about 1.5 hours from the start) where you can buy snacks, food, and use the restroom. (They have pizza, burgers, and sandwiches). They accept cash only. The bathroom costs 500 CLP. This is a good stopping place to rest and eat a snack or lunch. I stopped here on the way in and the way out to rest and recharge.

Torres Del Paine

The next part of the hike is through a little forest where there is shade for about another hour and 15 minutes.

The last part of the hike is about 1 hour uphill on steep rocks. Some of the rocks are loose so just be careful. The last hour is brutal and the hardest part of the hike, But the reward at the end is SO worth it!

Tips:

  • start early because technically they close the top at 4:30pm (there are park rangers up there and they will make you to start to go back down).
  • bring plenty of snacks because this is a very tiring hike
  • you can refill your water bottle in any of the natural springs on the way, the water is fresh
  • make sure to bring a hat and gloves because the top is windy and chilly

Where to Stay in Puerto Natales

I don’t know if there is such thing as Patagonia for cheap, but I decided to go cheap with accommodations on this trip since everything else was so expensive. Most the places I stayed were around $40 a night on average and I had my own place (except in El Claltén, where I just rented a room in a nice house and it was great!).

I rented this little cabin in the back of the host’s house on Airbnb and it was pretty good for the price. It had 2 floors and could sleep 3 people. The neighborhood wasn’t my favorite but it was only a 10 minute walk to the center of town. It was basic so don’t expect anything too fancy, but I was happy with it. It was $35/night and this was peak season. If you’re new to Airbnb, use this coupon for $30 OFF your first trip!

PS: while staying in Puerto Natales, make sure to go to Coffee Maker for amazing views of the water and mountains and good coffee (they have soy milk, yay!). It had a cute and cozy interior with faux fur cushions and couches. Great place if you like coffee and views!


What to See in Argentinian Patagonia


El Calafate 

El Calafate is a small touristy town where you will base yourself for the next big attraction in Argentinian Patagonia: Perito Moreno Glacier!
Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Here are 5 interesting Perito Moreno Glacier facts:

  • Perito Moreno Glacier is HUGE, covering 100 square miles (a length of 19 miles and a width of 3 miles). It’s also 560 feet tall! You can’t really appreciate the vast size of it until you see it in person.
  • Perito Moreno glacier is the 3rd largest freshwater reserve on the entire planet!
  • Glaciers help regulate the earth’s temperature as they reflect 45-85% of the earth’s sunlight!
  • Unlike most glaciers which are receding, Perito Moreno is actually advancing! (by 2 meters per day).
  • it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Patagonia Itinerary

How to Get to Perito Moreno Glacier

From El Calafate you can take one of many daily busses that go to the glacier. It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there by bus.

I went with the company Andesmar. The bus costs $1000 ARS ($16) and it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there. I heard it gets super busy in the morning so I decided to go in the afternoon, which was a good call! I liked this company since the bus was more like a mini van and it wasn’t crowded at all.

I took the afternoon bus at 1:30pm and departed the glacier at 6pm so you get about 3 hours which is enough in my opinion if you’re not going on the boat tour (boat tour is $1000 ARS).

Patagonia Itinerary

The entrance fee to Perito Moreno Glacier is $800 ARS ($13). You CAN pay by credit card despite what every blog says that you can’t. However, in my experience the credit card machines in Argentina sometimes don’t work so it’s better to have the cash with you (there are NO ATMs in the park or anywhere around).

I completed the orange, black and the first part of the blue trail in about 2 hours. The green trail was closed. In my opinion, the central trial has the best views (orange) as well as the first part of the blue trail before it wraps around to the other side of the lake.

Tip: Bring some snacks (and some wine) and have a little picnic with great views!

Where to Stay in El Calafate 

I stayed in this studio Airbnb right in the middle of the town and it was great! Super spacious and so close to everything. It had AC and cable TV which was also a plus. My only complaint is the pack of dogs barking outside my window at night, but I think that’s a problem everywhere in the city as I saw stray dogs literally everywhere. It cost $40/night.

El Chaltén

El Chaltén was probably the most charming of the 3 small towns I stayed in around Patagonia. It is located in Los Glaciers National Park. It’s also the perfect location for many hikes as most of them start right from the town! The most famous hike here is the Laguna De Los Tres (aka Mt Fitzroy) hike. This ended up being my favorite hike in ALL of Patagonia!

Patagonia Hikes: Laguna De Los Tres hike (aka Mt Fitzroy hike)

Patagonia Itinerary

Distance: 13 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 3300 ft

Time it takes: 8-10 hours (depending how fast/fit you are)

Where to start: either in El Chalten town or at Hosteria Pilar (my choice)

Laguna De Los Tres hike

This hike is a loop hike so you have the option of going a different way on the way back for different scenery.
What I recommend:

Take a shuttle bus (I used Frontera Sur company) to Hosteria Pilar to start the hike to Mt. Fitzroy. It cuts about 30 minutes off your hike and you get to see Piedras Blancas Glacier on the way (seen in the pic below!).

Patagonia Itinerary

It’s a pretty flat hike most the way through woods except the last hour to the top. This last hour is pretty steep up a hill and kinda like the Mirador Los Torres hike, except I thought this one was a lot easier. The last 20 minutes you will be climbing up a hill with loose rocks so be careful.

There is a campground called Poincenot on the way about 10-15 minutes before you hit the uphill climb. It takes 2 hours to get to Poincenot campground from Hosteria Pilar. There is an outhouse here (there is also another outhouse at the beginning of the steep climb). Bring your own toilet paper because there was none at either!

Patagonia itinerary

Once you reach the top, you can go down towards the lake on the left side and then up the little hill. It takes about 7-8 minutes to get up the hill where there is another glacier thats absolutely gorgeous.

Patagonia itinerary

You can see both lakes from the top and it’s an EPIC panoramic view. This was my favorite view in all of Patagonia!

On the way back from the hike, take the route towards Laguna Capri. Stop at laguna Capri on the way back for a rest and a snack. It’s a peaceful crystal clear lake with Mt. Fitzroy in the background. From there it’s about 1.5 hours back to El Chaltén, mostly downhill.

Patagonia Itinerary

It takes about 4 hours from the top to get back down to El Chaltén. You do go through some wooded areas with mosquitos so bring mosquito bracelets and/or spray (I have mine linked below!).

You can drink all the water in the streams on this hike as they are fresh! Make sure to pack lots of snacks and a lunch as this is going to be a long day. (tip: Circumin vegan restaurant in El Chaltén will pack you a lunch for hiking that’s vegan and gluten free if that’s your thing. Costs is $600 ARS {$10})

Patagonia Hikes: Mirador de los Cóndores

This is more like a little walk than a hike, so it’s super easy to add it onto the end of any day. It takes about 20 minutes one-way from the visitor’s center and about 30 minutes from the town. It’s a super easy hike up to view the whole city and Fitzroy in the backdrop. This hike would be great to do during sunset.

Patagonia itinerary

Tip: Go to Spa Yaten in El Chaltén after all your hikes for a nice massage. It costs $1900 ARS ($30) for 30 minutes. They also have a sauna and personal size jacuzzis if you fancy. It’s the perfect way to relax after all that hiking.

Where to Stay in El Chaltén

I stayed in a room in my host’s house and it was perfect! It was right in the center of town and the shuttle bus to the Mt. Fitzroy hike stopped right in front of it (and the host set it up all for me). The host was super helpful and friendly. I would definitely recommend it! This is the Airbnb link HERE. It was $50 per night.

How to Get in Between Towns in Patagonia

I originally wanted to rent a car for all of Patagonia, but realized most companies will not let you cross over the border (and the few that do charge an arm and a leg to do it). So I decided to rent a car from Puerto Natales just to go to Torres del Paine National Park. Then from Puerto Natales I took a bus to El Calafate, and then eventually to El Chaltén.

For the car rental, I found a local branch of Avis called EMSA Rent a Car. I went through them and it was SO much cheaper than any other company for an automatic car. I ended up paying about $71 a day for an automatic when most other companies online were charging about $200 per day (yes, you heard that right). If you can drive stick shift, consider yourself blessed in Patagonia!

The busses were clean and comfortable and most of them allowed you to pick your seat in advance. Make sure to take the front seat on top for the BEST views! I used 3 different companies and all were pretty similar in terms of quality and price.

Patagonia Itinerary, busses in Patagonia

Views from the top of the double decker bus from El Calafate to El Chaltén

Bus Companies in Patagonia:

Bus-Sur: I took this from Puerto Natales to El Calafate. This trip took about 5 hours and 30 minutes with the border crossing. You get to pick your seat when you book, but it was not a double decker bus. Cost: $20,000 CLP (about $25 at time of this article).

Chaltén travel– I took this from El Calafate to El Chaltén. It’s a a double decker bus and you get to choose your seat when you book. The trip took 3 hours with a stop at the ranger station for orientation and a quick lecture about the rules of Los Glaciers National Park. Cost: $1000 ARS (about $16 at time of this article).

Cal-Tur-I took this double decker bus from El Chaltén to El Calafate. The trip took 2 hours and 40 minutes on the way back (as you don’t need to do the orientation again obviously). This company had free seats so get there early to choose your seat. Cost: $1000 ARS (about $16 at time of this article).

Note: due to the crazy inflation and exchange rates in Argentina, these prices will fluctuate drastically. So it’s hard to predict how much they will cost during your trip. I got lucky and had a very good exchange rate at the time so the prices were very low compared to what I’ve read in other blogs.

What to Pack for Patagonia 

This was tough as I only carried a tiny carry on for my Patagonia trip, and I also went to other areas in Argentina for 9 days after that.  With 2 different climates, I brought only the essentials.

Patagonia itinerary

My foldable backpack really came in handy on my Patagonia hikes! (also pictured: my super comfy leopard leggings, best hiking socks, waterproof hiking boots, and cute baseball cap).

Patagonia is notorious for crazy changing weather and high winds strong enough to blow you down to the ground so you definitely want to be prepared. I went during their summer in December and it was actually a lot warmer than I expected and I hardly got any of the harsh winds. However, I had everything I needed for the crazy weather with me just in case.

The 3 things you absolutely cannot forget to pack for Patagonia are: waterproof hiking boots, rain jacket, and puffer coat.

Here is everything I packed for my Patagonia hikes:

Base layer.-This one from Amazon is a total dupe of Lululemon and such good quality! I loved the thumb holes.
Merino wool hiking socks-hands-down the BEST hiking socks! Expensive but worth it! They don’t absorb sweat so never really smell. You can re-wear them if you don’t have access to a washer. I have 2 pair and recycle them throughout my trips.
Tank tops-a basic tank for when you get hot from hiking is essential. I like the longer ones that cover the bum!
Leopard Leggings-my new favorite Amazon leggings. So comfortable and awesome quality!
Hiking boots-these are my favorite hiking boots! They keep my feet totally dry in wet weather and have good grip.
Waterproof rain pants-I brought these but ended up not needing them, but they were good quality for the price.
Packable puffer jacket-I was amazed at how warm this kept me with how thin it is! Great for traveling light!
Beanie-it gets really cold and windy at the top of the mountains so you definitely want to pack a beanie.
Gloves-again, it gets cold up there so be prepared!
Hiking poles-I didn’t end up buying these but regretted it. They could have saved my knees. These are the ones I had saved to buy on Amazon (so I don’t actually know hoe they perform honestly).
Rain jacket-this is the best lightweight rain jacket! I’ve been using it for years and it keeps me pretty dry.
Hoodie/fleece-you definitely want to bring this for an extra layer.
Sunglasses-my $12 Amazon sunglasses are great! They feel like much better quality and really block the sun.
Packable backpack-this was SO handy for this trip. It was super sturdy quality as well. Was hard to get it to pack into itself the first few tries, but you will get the hang of it after 3-4 times. I’m bringing this on all my trips now!
Baseball cap-I have a blue and black one in this hat and I love it! I always get compliments on it.
All Natural Mosquito bracelets-so glad I brought these because there were more mosquitos than i thought in Patagonia, especially walking through the wooded areas.
Natural Mosquito lotion-I used this in combo with the bracelets and did not get one bite! It does not contain DEET, which is very toxic to breathe in.
Compression socks-these are for all the plane rides to prevent swelling in the legs and possibly a clot. I wear them on any flight over 1 hour!

Electronics

Good power bank-this is the BEST power bank I’ve ever used. It charges your iPhone 3-5 times (Depending on which one you have). It also has 2 plugs so you can plug more than one device into it at once!
Sony Mirrorless Camera with Wide Angle Lens (crucial for getting all those mountains in the shot!)
GoPro Hero 8-also great for that wide angle effect or if you want to make cool videos!
GoPro selfie stick-been using this one for years! It’s so small and compact and you can screw a little trip onto the bottom.
iPhone selfie stick-this one works for your iPhone and your GoPro. It’s lightweight and super easy to carry around everywhere. It also has a remote!
iPhone 10-the camera on the newer iPhones are incredible!
iPhone 10 screen protector-this is the BEST screen protector I’ve found! I actually forgot my hard case in Patagonia and dropped my phone hard and the screen protector totally protected it. The screen protector cracks and it saves your phone!
Outlet converters for Chile and Argentina
Noise cancelling headphones-this is a great alternative to the super expensive Bose headphones. No way I’m paying $300+ for headphones. But i use these and I’m happy with them.

Travel Insurance for Patagonia 

I would never travel without travel insurance anymore. I learned my lesson. Too many bad things can happen (and they have unfortunately). Travel insurance is especially important when traveling to islands or remote places in the mountains, as you may need to be air-lifted in the worst case scenario. Do you know how much air-lifting costs? Think at least 5 digits (I.e. Expensive AF!).

My favorite travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 claims so far and have been fully reimbursed for all 3 without any hassle. I highly recommend them.

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Patagonia itinerary

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