21 Amazing Things to do in Patagonia – Our Patagonia Highlights
Patagonia is one of the most diverse regions in the world and one of my all-time favorite places. The truth is, there are so many incredible things to do in Patagonia!
Spread across two countries, Chile and Argentina, the region that makes up Patagonia is 1,043,076 square kilometers! In the last three years, I’ve spent over 12 weeks exploring the region and have hiked the Torres del Paine Trek two times (completing the Torres del Paine W-Trek on my first visit, and the ‘O’ on my second.)
But what is it about Patagonia that brings people from every corner of the world? Well, aside from the stunning mountain peaks, huge glaciers, unique wildlife, and vast landscapes, it’s all the amazing things to see and do!
You see, Patagonia is a region filled with bucket-list experiences. They’re not just “things to do” but rather experiences you’ll likely never forget!
So in this list, I’ve left out the average things to do and only included the absolute best things to do! It’s an all-star list perfect for those that aren’t quite sure what to do in this amazing place we call Patagonia!
21 BEST Patagonia Bucket-List Experiences!
1. Go Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is the most famous national park in Patagonia. Located in Chile near the town of Puerto Natales, the Torres del Paine NP is home to stunning hiking trails and breathtaking viewpoints.
Within the national park, there are many different day hikes including the most famous Las Torres Viewpoint, but also two very famous multi-day hikes. The longer of the two is the “O-Circuit”. This 7 to 9-day hike circles the park and visits all of the highlights.
The second (and more popular) is the 4 to 5-day “W Trek”. This trail is much more accessible to the average person and visits all the highlights on the front end of the park. Both treks involve camping in the Torres del Paine National Park.
Regardless of which day hike or multi-day hike you choose, a visit to Torres del Paine National Park is one of the best things to do in Patagonia and a must for any visitor to the region!
2. Cruise through the Marble Caves
I started this list with a super popular thing to do in Patagonia, so why not follow it up with an off-the-beaten-path experience that’s not to be missed… the Marble Caves!
The Marble Caves are exactly as the name suggests, caves carved by water made completely of solid marble.
This unique attraction is truly spectacular. Located only a short boat ride from Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile near the larger city of Chile Chico, the caves are a little difficult to get to.
In fact, it’s this that deters most visitors, keeping this amazing thing to do “off-the-beaten-path” in Patagonia.
For those lucky enough to visit, you can take a scenic boat ride to the caves to enjoy their beauty, or if you’re feeling even more adventurous, consider joining a kayaking tour!
If you would like more info on getting to the Marble Caves we wrote a blog on exactly how!
3. Explore Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous glacier out of the 48 that are part of the Patagonia Ice Field – the 3rd largest ice field in the world! This glacier is one of the most unique too because it’s one of the very few in the world that’s actually growing.
Perito Moreno Glacier is located in Glaciares National Park in Argentina near the town of El Calafate. Visiting this glacier is a truly special experience and almost all visitors will get to witness huge chunks of ice crashing into the lake below. This experience on its own makes the glacier worth a visit!
You can visit Perito Moreno Glacier on your own or on a tour. These include scenic tours, glacier trekking tours (which I did), boat cruises, and kayaking tours. If Perito Moreno Glacier isn’t already on your Patagonia bucket-list, then you should add it!
For more information check out our complete guide to visiting Perito Moreno Glacier.
4. Hike to Laguna de Los Tres
Laguna de Los Tres is Argentina’s rival to the Las Torres Viewpoint in Torres del Paine National Park. In fact, I actually believe it’s more impressive and I’ve done it twice now!
The Laguna de Los Tres trail starts in the small town of El Chalten and climbs 800m in elevation to Laguna de Los Tres (the lake) that sits below Cerro Fitz Roy (the impressive mountain peak.)
The 21-kilometer round trip isn’t easy and the last 1 km will have you wishing you never decided to hike the trail at all. But once you reach the top you’ll be blown away by this breathtaking view. This trail is one of the best things to do in El Chalten and Patagonia in general!
5. Hike to Laguna Torre
Another must-do day hike in El Chalten, Argentina is the Laguna Torre trail. This hiking trail runs parallel to the Laguna de Los Tres trail but visits the other side of Cerro Fitzy Roy where you can see Cerro Torre.
The peak of Cerro Torre is famously sharp and this shape makes it one of the hardest to climb in Patagonia. Of course, if you’re not a professional mountain climber then you’ll have to stick to the viewpoint!
The Laguna Torre trail is an 18-kilometer return trip to the lake viewpoint and aside from the distance, is a relatively easy hike. This makes it accessible to more people and a must-do in El Chalten.
6. Visit the King Penguin Colony
The King Penguin is the second-largest penguin in the world and visiting them in Patagonia is a very special experience. In Patagonia, they are extremely rare to see and the only place to see them outside of the subantarctic islands is on Tierra del Fuego Island near Punta Arenas, Chile.
Tierra Del Fuego Island is actually split between Chile and Argentina with the penguin colony on the Chilean side of the island. Here, around 80 King Penguins live and breed.
This is where I visited the King Penguins and what an awesome tour it was! On our tour, we got to explore the island of Tierra del Fuego, see dolphins, foxes, and of course a colony of around 50 King Penguins (not all the penguins were there that day) that included two baby chicks!
It was the first time I’d seen King Penguins and an opportunity not to be missed in Patagonia.
7. See a colony of Magellanic Penguins
Patagonia is a place filled with wildlife so it’s no wonder there’s another species of penguin you simply have to see for yourself in Patagonia.
The Magellanic Penguins are a much smaller penguin than the King Penguin but their colony numbers are so large that it’ll blow you away.
The two best places to see the penguins are on Isla Magdalena just off the coast of Punta Arenas, and Punta Tombo a few hours south of the popular tourist town of Puerto Madryn, Argentina.
On Isla Magdalena, the colony is just over 120,000 penguins and you’re almost guaranteed to see them. They are visited via a short boat ride or tour from Punta Arenas where you can get off and walk around the island.
In Punta Tombo, you can see the Penguins right from the beach and here lives the largest Magellanic Penguin colony in South America. It is estimated that over 1 million Magellanic Penguins visit here over the year! This is truly a once in a lifetime thing to see that’s an experience unique to Patagonia!
8. Spend the night on Cerro Tronador
One of the most off-the-beaten-path hiking trails that I absolutely loved was the hike to Cerro Tronador. This breathtaking trail has you sleeping beside two glaciers at the base of Cerro Tronador with panoramic views of the Andes Mountain Range.
The trail itself starts just a few hours from the popular hiking town of Bariloche in Argentina. From Bariloche, you’ll need to get a shuttle to an area called Pampa Linda. From here, you hike for 14 km up to the Cerro Tronador hut where you can either camp for free or pay a fee to stay in the hut.
At the hut, you can buy food and drinks and they will even let you use the kitchen (for a fee of course). The mountain is very cold and exposed to high winds, so if you don’t have good quality camping gear staying in the hut is a great option.
This is a hike I can’t recommend enough and it’s crazy to me that’s it’s not super popular! For more info check out our Cerro Tornador hiking guide. The prices are a little outdated (with Argentina’s inflation) but it has all the general info you need!
Alternatively, you can visit Cerro Tronador on a day tour from Bariloche!
9. Go Whitewater Rafting in Futaleufu
Futaleufu, Chile is one of the most beautiful regions of Patagonia. It takes you far from the southern low shrublands to the forests and beautiful rivers of Patagonia’s north. This alone makes it worth a visit, but Futaleufu is also home to world-class whitewater rafting.
In fact, it’s ranked the 3rd best place in the world and the rapids here hit class 5! Of course, it is still very safe and tours on the rapids have their own safety boat following the raft. This ensures fast recoveries in case of a flip (which on one particular rapid happens 50% of the time!)
The entire town is based around its river sports and aside from white water rafting, you can also go kayaking. Although, to kayak a class five rapid you need to have a lot of experience!
10. Explore Peninsula Valdes
Peninsula Valdes is another example of Patagonia’s rich wildlife. On this small peninsula near Puerto Madryn, Argentina you can enjoy wildlife tours that’ll take you to see penguins, elephant seals, whales, armadillos, a range of birds, and even killer whales.
On the peninsula, if your extremely lucky you can whiteness the famous beaching of killer whales as they attack seals.
In the attack, the Killer Whale will swim up the shore at a high speed launching itself onto the sand and grabbing the seal before returning to the water. Like I said though, you’ll have to be really lucky to see this!
Peninsula Valdes is just one of the places in Patagonia that’s home to a large and diverse range of wildlife. So it’s no wonder it made my best bucket-list experiences in Patagonia list!
11. Go Whale Watching
Whale watching can be done all over Patagonia in places like Punta Arenas, Francisco Coloane Marine Park, and the Corcovado Gulf. But easily the most unique and craziest place to do it is in Puerto Madryn.
From the shores of the Gulfo Nuevo Bay, you can watch some of the 3,000 whales that come here to breed. From the shores of the Gulf, you can actually see whales playing in the water. There are very few places in the world where you can see whales from such a close distance completely free from the beach.
However, if you want an even better chance of seeing the whales or an even closer look you can join whale watching tours in Puerto Madryn. Many of these tours guarantee you to see whales between certain months of the year!
When to go: The whale watching season in Patagonia runs from between May to December depending on where you are. For example, the best time of the year to see them in Puerto Madryn is June, July, and August. In September, the whales here begin to move towards the nearby Peninsular Valdes.
12. Go Glacier Trekking
Glacier trekking is one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences that you just have to do. For me, on my first visit to Patagonia, I missed this opportunity and regretted it until the day I returned.
Luckily this time I didn’t make the same mistake and actually went glacier trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier!
And wow! What an amazing experience!
On our trekking tour, we wandered the glacier drinking pure glacier water, staring into deep crevasses, and glacier waterfalls. Our tour also finished with a scotch on the rocks from the glacier ice.
Of course, you don’t have to go glacier trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier (but you should) and instead you can do it on a range of glaciers in Patagonia. One other notable place is in Torres del Paine National Park on Glacier Grey.
Grey Glacier is a very impressive glacier to see, so I can only imagine how awesome the glacier trekking would be!
Who we went with: We did our tour with Day Tours 4 U. For pre-booking online we found their price cheaper than other places like TripAdvisor.
13. Stay at a real Estancia
Estancias are Patagonian cattle farms and they have become a part of their culture and economy. On these farms, you can go and stay in beautiful hotels and enjoy being out in the middle of nowhere.
During your stay, you’ll be treated to dog herding demonstrations as well as enjoy horseback riding in breathtaking locations. The best estancias around Patagonia also serve amazing Patagonian food.
There are many places you can stay in an estancia around Patagonia with some of the best being around Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, El Calafate, and my favorite El Chalten. The estancia I personally recommend is Estancia La Estela.
This beautiful estancia is located halfway between El Calafate and El Chalten and has magnificent views of Cerro Fitz Roy and Glaciares National Park.
14. Road Trip along Ruta 40 in Argentina
The most famous stretch of highway in Patagonia is Ruta 40. This massive highway stretches all the way from Cabo Virgenes in the south to the border of Bolivia in the north. But, it’s the section of highway through Patagonia that’s the gateway to so many amazing places to visit in the region.
Along Ruta 40 there’s plenty to see just from the road, however, the highway also connects you to famous places such as Bariloche, El Calafate, El Chalten as well as a huge range of national parks, rivers, and the Andes Mountain Range.
It’s a common route for hitchhikers, bike riders, and road trippers alike and has become a tourist attraction in itself. One of the things I liked to do on Ruta 40 was to stop at the most remote places and roadhouses we could find. It always makes for an interesting coffee and it’s cool to see how these people live.
If you want to road trip through Patagonia, Ruta 40 is the best place to start!
Be sure to read our blog about 13 Things to Know about Renting a Car in Patagonia!
15. Hike to Cerro Campanario in Bariloche
Most hikes in Patagonia involve long days that really put your legs to work, however, there is one amazing hike that’s both short and sweet and it’s done right from Bariloche! The Cerro Campanario in Bariloche is the perfect hike for those who want amazing views without a huge amount of physical effort.
This short hiking trail takes around 2 hours to complete and even has the option to take the chairlift up instead of walking. This makes it accessible to everyone which I love!
Although a very busy trail it’s still a well worthy of a mention. At the top, you can enjoy amazing views of stunning lakes with the Andes mountain Range as the perfect backdrop!
16. Spend the Night in a Hotel in Torres del Paine National Park
Imagine waking up to stunning views of the Torres del Paine National Park from a luxury hotel…what could be better?!
In Torres del Paine National Park there are a few great hotels that range in price and comfort. Of course, you can go there and spend $2000 dollars a night at the Explora all-inclusive luxury hotel. Or, you can opt to stay in a hostel for around $90 a night.
Regardless though, these hotels are all about the location and you are in the perfect place to explore the national park and hike some of the lesser-known, amazing hikes. You’ll also get that famous view of Torres del Paine National Park without leaving your creature comforts behind.
Some of the best hotels in Torres del Paine National Park are:
- Pehoe Hosteria – For the price, this is an awesome choice. The hotel sits on the shores of Lago El Toro and has magnificent views of the national park. A room here will cost around $200 USD per night.
- Pampa Hostel – Pampa Hostel is a hostel that sells dorm beds and is a great budget option. The beds aren’t cheap though at $135 USD per night, but you don’t get much cheaper within the park.
- Pampa Lodge, Quincho & Caballos – This small lodge is located deep in the national park. The views and rooms are spectacular which is exactly what you want in the park. The reviews are also really good and rooms here cost $360 USD per night.
- Hotel Lago Grey – Hotel Lago Grey is a beautiful hotel with views of Torres del Paine that you could stare at for hours. This place has great food, rooms, and service. Rooms here start at $360 USD per night.
- Hotel Las Torres Patagonia – Located at the base of the Las Torres hiking trail, this is the most popular place to stay in the national park. It books up months in advance and doesn’t have the greatest reviews. But if the location is key, then the $415 USD price tag is worth it.
- Explora Patagonia – All Inclusive – This place is unreal! Honestly, if you have the budget for the minimum 3 night that costs $7,000 USD (two people) for an all-inclusive stay, then go check it out for yourself. It’s literally a dream of mine to stay here one day!
17. Swim with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn
Sea Lions are curious animals and off the coast of Puerto Madryn, you can enjoy the freezing cold, crystal clear waters of the Golfo Nuevo with them.
Here the sea lion colony is especially friendly and enjoy swimming with people as they play after their morning feed. The lady at the booking office even said that they are the friendliest in the world. Not sure how true that is though!
Tours run daily from Puerto Madryn depending on the weather. By boat, you’ll be taken to the diving area about 20 minutes away. Here you’ll get suited up (wetsuits are necessary as the water is freezing) before jumping in the water with the wild sea lions!
You’re not allowed to touch the sea lions but occasionally they’ll come and see you all on their own. This is a really unique experience and one to add to your list of things to do and see in Patagonia!
18. Learn about Glaciers at the Glaciarium in El Calafate
The best museum I went to in Patagonia was by far the Glaciarium in El Calafate. Here at the museum, you’ll learn all about the glaciers in the region and the Patagonian ice field. The entire museum is well thought out and very interactive.
During our visit, we watched two videos on the glaciers and learned how glaciers are formed. They also talk about the challenges we face in the future with the melting of glaciers and how it’s affected the region so far.
Overall this is a really amazing museum and one of the best things to do in El Calafate!
19. Eat Lamb al Asador
We couldn’t have a “best things to do in Patagonia list” without mentioning at least one food item. I mean, the food is a huge part of the culture in Patagonia that often gets forgotten about because of the breathtaking views!
Lamb al Asador is a typical Patagonian dish that involves cooking an entire lamb over a hotbed of coals for around 4 hours. This traditional way of cooking is a must-try for any meat-eater. You can find lots of places offering this dish and the easiest way to find them is to look in the restaurant window. Here’s where you’ll usually see the lamb cooking away in front of your eyes.
The dish isn’t specific to Argentina or Chile and is cooked throughout the region.
20. Take a trip to Antarctica
Ok, so this is something I haven’t personally done but it just had to make the list! Antarctica is the most remote continent on the planet and a place I have always wanted to visit for myself.
Unfortunately, tours to Antarctica aren’t cheap so for now, it’ll have to remain at the top of my bucket list. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t go and brag to me later about just how good it was!
If you want to give this amazing experience a go then you’ll first need to make your way to Ushuaia. This small town is the gateway to Antarctica and the place the cruises leave from. From Ushuaia, you’ll cruise the Drake Passage to Antarctica where you’ll be able to do day excursions on the continent.
Cruises to Antarctica range in duration from around 10 days to an entire month and cost between $6,000 and $20,000 USD. Obviously, this is an expensive trip but for such a once in a lifetime experience, I’d say it’s worth it if you have the money!
21. Cruise the Patagonia Fjords
Between the towns of Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales is one of the most scenic ferries you can do. This four-day adventure begins and ends in either town taking a very scenic route through the most remote areas of Patagonia.
From your cruise, you can spot amazing wildlife, enjoy hours of scenic views, and see the stars as you’ve never seen them before!
I should mention though that this is a ferry not a cruise ship and the experience isn’t luxury! The food (although surprisingly good) is basic and the rooms are mostly shared accommodation unless you’re in a group of two (and book the two bunk) or four (and book the four bunk.) There is also a 22 bunk room for those on a budget!
However, the journey isn’t about luxury but more about a comfortable ferry ride through a breathtaking area!
The company that runs the ferry is Navimag and you can read more about their cruise on their website!
Planning your Trip to Patagonia
Accommodation in Patagonia
Booking accommodation is one of the biggest aspects of your trip, and we should know as we stay in a new hotel up to 40 times per year! Funny enough, we make 99% of these bookings on one website and that’s Booking.com – and there are a few reasons why we use this site!
Number one is the website is easy to use and sort accommodation options. That takes the stress out of planning which honestly still affects us and we do it more than not.
And two, is the price guarantee. We have literally booked a hotel months before and then 1 week out found it cheaper (we always do a quick search) and they’ll match that price from anyone’s website including the hotels!
And three, is the Genius loyalty program. If you make a certain amount of bookings per year you get a Genius discount. We are level two geniuses because we make more than 5 a year. At participating hotels, we get things like free breakfast included, early check-in, and up to 15% off.
You can check out all their accommodation options throughout Patagonia!
Renting a car in Patagonia
We enjoyed a rental car for our second trip to Patagonia – and wow, what a way to travel! But the best part was that we only paid $40 USD per day for a 5 person sedan!
But how? Well if you’re renting a car the cheapest company is Rentalcars.com. We often get questions from readers asking us if the website is fake because it seems too cheap!
If you do want to compare prices (and you should) do a quick search on Airport Car Rentals too. They’re another big competitor and each company often has its own deals to offer!
Tours in Patagonia
Tours are a tricky one. We love booking online because we can check reviews of that exact tour but they can be pricier than booking directly in person. So for this, we often do it 50/50 – half of the time in person and the other half of the time we book tours online in advance.
When we do book online we use Get Your Guide and Viator. Both companies offer the same service with different selections of tours and reviews on each tour. In Patagonia though, we did book direct with Day Tours 4 U as well and they were actually cheaper than Viator and Get Your Guide!
Our recommendation for those wanting to book beforehand online is to first check Day Tours 4 U and if they don’t have a tour check the other websites!
We can never recommend traveling without insurance, and we never do. For those on a budget, there’s a great company Bailey uses called SafteyWing that only costs $37 a month and covers all your basic medical emergencies. It’s one of the cheapest policies out there!
For me, I need more coverage. Having $5k worth of camera gear and a $2k laptop means I need full coverage. So I use World Nomads Travel insurance and get a comprehensive cover!
Before you go…
Thanks so much for reading our blog! We really hope you found the information above helpful to your upcoming trip to Patagonia.
If you have any questions at all please leave them in the comments section below and we will get back to you!
If not then check out a few of our other Patagonia blogs below:
January 16, 2020