Patagonia Highlights: Some of the most beautiful places on earth
March 30, 2018
Few places in the world are so diverse and beautiful as Patagonia. Located in the south of South America and shared by both Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is among the most spectacular regions in the world. With a large chunk of the Andes mountain range, desserts, grasslands and two coastlines, Patagonia spans over 1,000,000 square kilometers. The region is famous for having some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and as such there are so many Patagonia Highlights!
There are endless amounts of outdoor activities to do in Patagonia with one of the most famous being, hiking. During the summer months, thousands of people travel from all corners of the world to hike these pristine trails and climb beautiful mountain peaks. Other activities include exploring glaciers, kayaking, fishing, animal watching, and just taking in breathtaking views.
As far as amazing places on earth go, Patagonia just about tops the charts. With so much to see and do I have comprised my very own “Patagonia Highlights” after spending over 10 weeks exploring the region. Check them out and add them to your Patagonia itinerary!
Hiking the Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine is likely the most popular hike in Patagonia. The 1 to 8-day hike through the Torres del Paine national park is breathtaking and my overall highlight of the region. With Patagonia’s low altitudes and well-maintained hiking trails, almost anyone can explore this magical place. The trails take you to some pretty amazing spots including lakes, glaciers, and mountain peaks.
Two of the most popular routes to hike is called the “W trek” or the “O circuit”. The “W” is a 5-day hike that hits many of the park’s highlights on the front section of the park. This is the hike I completed and for those not game for a longer stay, it really is an amazing option! The “O” is actually just the “W trek” with some extra days of hiking on the back end of the park. Totalling 8 to 9 days the “O” hike is definitely for the more experienced!
The Torres del Paine does attract its fair share of visitors, however with limited camping areas and over 180km of trails it’s easy to find some peace. Often during my trip, I sat back and enjoyed spectacular views without a whisper of sound. If your planning on only spending a day in the park then booking is not required. However, if you too want to spend a few nights under the stars hiking either the “W” or “O” you must book in advance or risk missing out!
For all the information on booking your stay, including a complete guide to the campsites, getting to and from the park and how much it all costs. Check out my two Torres del Paine guides in the links below.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Patagonia is filled with impressive glaciers, but none compare to the Perito Moreno Glacier. The 250 square kilometer glacier is the 3rd largest freshwater reserve in the world and is 39km in length. What makes Perito Moreno so unique is the fact the glacier is actually advancing while almost all other glaciers around the world are retreating. The reason why is debated by scientists but regardless of the reason, it gives visitors the show of a lifetime.
That show involves huge chunks of ice exploding from the outer areas of the glacier during the summer months as newly formed ice can no longer support its own weight. For hours just before sunset, I sat with Bailey almost alone on the viewing deck watching this magnificent show while in awe.
Avoiding the huge crowds that head to the glaciers viewing deck every day is the only way to truly enjoy the show. This can be done by sharing a private taxi or car to and from the glacier in the late afternoon a few hours before sunset. By doing so you will just about be alone and have the best seat in the house, just as I did.
Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier is done from the town of El Calafate in the south-west of Argentina near the Chilean border. Tours run to and from the glacier daily, however, as mentioned above a private tour is the only way to enjoy the glacier in peace!
Trekking Cerro Tronador in Bariloche
The town of Bariloche is located in the northern region of a Patagonia and is surrounded by spectacular hikes. To me, one of the most beautiful was the hike up to Cerro Tronador. The 36km round trip hike takes you to a small hut at the base camp of Cerro Tronador. From there you are welcomed with a 180-degree view of the Andes mountain range, the Cerro Tronador Mountain, and its two glaciers.
One of those glaciers is known as the Hanging Glacier. This glacier hangs over the edge of a steep cliff that can be viewed on the way up or down. In the summer months, this glacier becomes a waterfall as the summer heat melts the glacier’s ice. The views from the bottom are spectacular and is where Bailey and I enjoyed lunch on day two!
Although the hike is long, the trail is not overly hard and most fit people could complete the hike up in half a day. Another great thing about the hike is that you don’t need a tent! With the option to stay in the hut at base camp you can head off with just your daypack making the trip up a little easier.
Explore Peninsula Valdes in Puerto Madryn
The town of Puerto Madryn is a nature lover’s paradise and is the only east coast spot on my Patagonia Highlights list. The area around the town include the Peninsula Valdes and the adjacent bay is home to many different species of animals including seals, whales, walruses, penguins, and even orcas. Puerto Madryn is one of the best places in the world to view these spectacular creatures.
During the months of May to September, the Golfo Nuevo Bay becomes home to thousands of humpback whales who come to the area to give birth. During these months it is common the sea humpback whales only meters from the shore.
In the later months, the Peninsula Valdes is home to walruses and penguins during mating season. This is when you get the chance to see both baby penguins and fully grown 3-ton male walruses. Also possible )but less common) during walrus mating season is seeing orcas as they attempt to hunt baby walruses from the shore.
In the bay, it is also possible to swim with sea lions that are known to be the friendliest in the world. With all of this and much more, it’s no wonder Puerto Madryn was one of my Patagonia highlights.
Exploring the Marble Caves
The Marble caves are located in the south of Chile near the town of Rio Tranquillo. The Marble Caves were formed over thousands of years by erosion from the sea. The caves now have a beautifully smooth finish that shines different colors depending on weather conditions and water level.
From Rio Tranquilo, you can head off by boat to explore this natural phenomenon. Tours run in small groups and involve an hour-long journey by boat around the different areas of the caves. The tours also give you the chance to enter some of the caves, however, the best views are from the outside in.
The Marble caves are definitely the most off the beaten track experience on our Patagonia highlights list. The town itself is extremely small and hard to get to. For this reason, many people miss this magnificent experience, however, I highly suggest you don’t!
Exploring the beautiful landscapes of El Chalten
Hiking around El Chalten in Argentina’s south is one of the most memorable experiences of my trip. Pristine trails, turquoise lakes, and magnificent mountain peaks make it a must see and a well-deserved spot on our Patagonia Highlights list.
One of the most popular hikes (and most beautiful) is the Mount Fitz Roy hike up to Laguna de Los Tres. This amazing one day hike is of medium difficulty until the last kilometer. At this point, the trail takes a steep ascent up to the Laguna. Once there, however, you are well rewarded with fantastic views and one of the bluest lakes I have ever seen!
Another popular (but much longer) hike is the Hummel Circuit. This 5-day hike is not for the faint-hearted and is for more experienced hikers. With hard mountain passes and unpredictable weather conditions, it is both beautiful and dangerous! The list of hikes around El Chalten is endless and for this reason, it deserves a top spot as one of my Patagonia highlights!
Adventure sports in Futaleufu
The Futaleufu River is famous among kayakers as one of the best rivers for the sport in the world. With class 5 rapids and some breathtaking scenery, it is both popular with pros and armatures alike. I kayaked for the first time ever in Futaleufu and loved it! Although a little daunting at first, with a little training I was having a great time.
The Futaleufu River is not only for kayakers as the area attracts thousands of visitors every year who want to white water raft! The rafting in the Futaleufu River is said to be the 3rd best in the world, and after personally tackling the rapids, I agree!
Also famous for fly fishing, Futaleufu is a great place for experienced anglers to test their skills and beginners to learn. Unfortunately it was far too windy when I visited the town, however, it’s something I would love to try!
Whether you want an adrenaline fix or just want to enjoy some breathtaking views then Futaleufu is a great place to visit and well deserves this final spot on our Patagonia highlights blog!
Patagonia is truly a magical place that needs to be explored by every outdoor enthusiast. The mountains, lakes, and rivers will take your breath away and create amazing memories that will last a lifetime. Although my time in Patagonia has come to an end, I am already planning my next adventure there to explore even more of this beautiful place on earth and add more places to my Patagonia highlights blog!