I backpacked through South America for 5 months and unexpectedly one of my favorite parts was Patagonia. I knew it was going to be beautiful, but I’m not exactly a lover of the cold weather. Patagonia is a trip on its own. If you want it see the best that Patagonia has to offer, don’t miss out on these 5 extraordinary places.
Bariloche is really just the tip of the iceberg. Some say it’s too touristy, but I loved this little holiday town. I’d love to return one day when I’m not on a backpacker budget to rent one of the gorgeous vacation homes I saw as I entered the town by bus. There’s so much to do in and around Bariloche. I opted to bicycle around the Circuito Chico loop that took me around the lakes and through some of the other small towns and hills. At the end of the bike ride, I hiked to the top of Cerro Campanario to see the stunning view of the mountains and lakes. It was my first glance at Patagonia. Even when I just stayed in town, the sunrises and sunsets on the lake took my breath away.
El Chaltén, Argentina
The coolest thing about El Chaltén is that the town is tiny. There are very few year-round residents and even during the peak season, El Chaltén is still probably one of the smallest villages I’ve ever been to. The WiFi barely works and honestly, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
On a clear day, you can see Mount Fitz Roy towering above the town like it’s watching over El Chaltén. After days of snowstorms and fog, I was legitimately surprised when I saw how massive Mount Fitz Roy looked even from far away.
There are various hikes to go on in El Chaltén to see Cerro Torre, Fitz Roy, and other parts of the surrounding mountains and lagunas. I was lucky enough to see Cerro Torre on the day I arrived in El Chaltén, but unfortunately had to turn around after hiking over halfway to Fitz Roy because it was snowing too hard and we wouldn’t be able to see anything from the viewpoint. Still, seeing Fitz Roy from town when I left was worth the visit.
El Calafate & Perito Moreno, Argentina
I’d never seen a glacier before visiting Perito Moreno outside El Calafate. While El Calafate itself isn’t really anything to write home about, it is worth it to stay for a day or to see one of the few glaciers in the world that is actually growing in size. And because it is growing, it wasn’t irresponsible to do go ice trekking on it! I donned my crampons and trekked on parts of Perito Moreno while learning about this beautiful natural fixture. Looking at the stretch of ice that went on as far as the eye could see was really mind-blowing.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
As if Mount Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno weren’t enough, Torres del Paine was a dream come true. To be honest, I didn’t even know it was physically possible for me to carry a nearly 40lb backpack with all my camping and hiking gear and be able to rely on myself while trekking the mountains of Patagonia. I couldn’t believe I completed the W trek in 5 days on my own.
I learned more about myself than I expected to in Torres del Paine while hiking to see some of the most breathtaking views in all of South America. There’s a lot to know before going on this trek, but it is a lifetime achievement, or was for me at least!
Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Some say that Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world (others say it’s a place in Chile), but Ushuaia is nicknamed “The End of the World”. Here is where you can take a boat ride through the Beagle Channel to see the sea lions and to the Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, the “Lighthouse at the End of the World”.
Hiking in Tierra del Fuego is also beautiful and a good alternative if you’re unable to trek in Torres del Paine. It was deathly cold at the end of April (winter in Patagonia) when I was in Ushuaia and I opted for an easier hike in Tierra del Fuego instead of trekking up to some of the now muddier (but apparently sometimes more beautiful) parts of the park such as Laguna Esmeralda.
Is Patagonia on your bucket list yet?