Visiting Chilean Patagonia
- Currency: The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso. In Chile everything is official so you can simply pay by card or withdraw cash from an ATM
- People/Language: Most of Chile speak Spanish. The biggest indigenous community is Mapuche and their language, Mapudungun is spoken by around one or two hundred thousand people
- Landscape: Lakes, Wilderness, Forests, Mountains, Fjords
- Weather: In the North, there's the dry Atacama desert. Central Chile has a Mediterranean feel and the South is usually damp and cool
What are the highlights of Chile?
Places to go in Chilean Patagonia
Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park, with its iconic granite towers, is one of the most popular destinations in Patagonia. Most famous for the W Trek, it also offers a lot of wilder hiking, horseback riding on remote estancias, ice hiking on glaciers, kayaking among icebergs and biking on tough mountain trails.
Chilean Lake District
A stunning mix of glistening lakes, smoldering volcanoes, temperate rain forests and meandering rivers rich in fish and bird life. The most culturally interesting part of Chile, a true boiling pot of intriguing cultures with indigenous Mapuche communities, traditional fishing villages and German settlers from the 1850s.
Aysen is a land of three contrasting landscapes: the steppe, the glaciated Andes and the coastal temperate rainforest. Until relatively recently this region was untamed and untouched and it continues to have a pioneering feel being much less frequently visited than other regions of Patagonia. The Carretera Austral weaves its way through the region and giving access to some true wilderness and isolated communities.
Access areas of Patagonia's rugged, ragged landscape that even the hardiest hiker can't reach. Voyages to the depths of the Chilean fjords run on a range of vessels from four berth yachts to larger liners, with excursions and guides bringing you close to the scenery and wildlife of the region.
What our customers think
The landscapes were stunning, wildlife aplenty and the Chilean people were so welcoming.
Peter Australia October 2017
We were connected with the right people in Chile and our itinerary was extremely helpful and informative.
Jesse and Kevin January 2017
This was an amazing experience - we pushed our bodies to the limit, and together as newlyweds. We also learned so much more about tires than we ever thought we would know about. If anything, I personally learned more patience and problem-solving. The amount of nature and scenery was absolutely what we were looking for in a holiday. And improving on our Spanish knowledge was a plus.
Victoria Vuong United States Of America February 2019
The whole W-circuit in Chilean Patagonia was beautiful. Just stunning. We had refugios and full board booked which made everything very easy and pleasant. All we had to do was enjoy the hiking, views and take photos. The glacier hike on glacier grey was the stand out highlight for us.
Paulette Australia December 2017
Swoop were excellent. When we first decided to visit Chile we had no thought as to some of the things we could do or see. Swoop guided us in this regard, gave us inspiration and arranged all that was required in Patagonia. It is difficult to know if anything different could have been done, other than extend our time in Southern Chile
David Cook United Kingdom January 2019
The Chilean fjords had just about everything: humpbacks, penguins, sealions; remote location; great scenery; glaciers; boat trip; small group, no crowds.
Stephen UK December 2016
After spending five weeks traveling in Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, we saw and did a lot in the area. But, this avid hiker's circuit in Torres del Paine was the highlight of our trip! From the beauty of the park to the company of our guide, it was memorable and life-changing on so many levels.
Molly McWhinnie United States Of America February 2018
Things to do in Chilean Patagonia
Torres del Paine National Park contains some wild trekking in lesser known areas like the Baguales range, as well as the extremely popular 'W' and Full Circuit treks. There are several national parks and reserves in the Aysen region, which offer lovely trekking routes for the avid hiker visiting this rarely visited area of Patagonia. In the Chilean Lake District hike up smoking volcanoes, climb granite peaks, trek past cascading emerald waterfalls or along forested trails.
The vast and rugged landscapes of Patagonia have been explored on horseback for hundreds of years, and horses are still preferred by the gauchos today. Visitors to Patagonia, both novices and experienced riders, can also feel the thrill and excitement of riding through the Andes or across the Steppe.
Patagonia is surrounded by fjords and divided by rivers...what better way to explore the region than from the water. Kayak amongst icebergs in glacial lagoons, through fjords inaccessible by other means, across pristine lakes surrounded by lush forest or Andean peaks, or even take on the white water of some of the world's biggest rivers.
Patagonia boasts some of the most adventurous landscapes in all of South America for mountaineering. The jagged peaks of the Andes and the remote pitches of the Patagonian Ice Cap have attracted budding mountaineers for over a century.
Patagonia is fast becoming a top destination for skiers of all abilities with its snow-covered volcanoes, vast ice caps, undiscovered backcountry and reliable snowfall. Stop off at mountain villages, hot springs, and secluded huts along the way for a truly unique alpine experience.
Patagonia offers anglers some of the world's best fly fishing, and some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes in which to do so. The water ranges from tranquil lakes and streams to whitewater rivers. Patagonia is most famous for its Trout (mainly Brown Trout), but there's also opportunity to fish Salmon, Carp and the native Perca. Generally the season runs from mid-November to mid-April.
Cycling can take you to places inaccessible by car, and enables you to cover larger distances than by foot. Plus, for those of you that aren't horse-lovers, you can still cover a large distance in a reasonably short space of time and it means you're still being active rather than just seeing the scenery from a bus.
A road trip is possibly the only way to fully appreciate the size of Patagonia. The Carretera Austral in the western mountains and Ruta 40, that runs through the central plains, are most famous, but there are some shorter routes that link the region's volcanoes or lakes, as well as stunning drives across the Andes.
Chilean Patagonia Weather
The vastness of Chilean Patagonia, covering almost half of the country, means there is a huge variation in climate. Across the region, Patagonia is famous for its changeable weather - during any season you could stop for lunch in the midst of extreme winds, go on to experience a rain storm, and then finish lunch in settled, brilliant sunshine. This makes packing for your trip even more of a strategic endeavour.
If you're visiting the Lake District region, you'll find a mild climate year-round. In Torres del Paine, summer daytime temperatures range from 7–19 degrees and winter from -3–5 degrees, while rainfall is highest is spring and lowest in winter. Closer to the tip of South America, in Punta Arenas, year-round temperatures tend to sit below double digits, with winter temperatures around freezing.
Getting to Chilean Patagonia
From the UK
All flights from the UK to Patagonia Chile go via Santiago. Once you've arrived in Santiago, the nearby town of Valparaiso is definitely worth a visit.
Within Patagonia Chile there are several airports you can use. The ones with a decent number of daily flights from Santiago are: Punta Arenas, PUQ, (for Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego), Puerto Montt. PMT, (for Cochamo, the Lake District and Chiloe), and Balmaceda, BBA, (for Aisen, the North Patagonian Ice Cap and the Carretera Austral).
As mentioned above many people chose to fly into Argentina and then cross into Chile by land. The most popular crossing points are:
- The Dorotea Pass from Rio Turbio to Puerto Natales gets people from El Calafate in Argentina (which has an airport) to Torres del Paine. It's a five hour bus trip from Calafate to Puerto Natales. A common trip for people wanting to trek around El Chalten and Torres del Paine)
- The Cruce Andino provides a great option for connecting from Bariloche in Argentina (which has an airport) to Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas, using the Perez Rosales pass
- The River Jeinemeni Pass (from Los Antiguos to Chile Chico in the Aisen region)
- Futaleufu Pass (connecting from Esquel (which has an airport) and Trevelin, to Futaleufu in the Los Lagos region)
- The Hua Hum Pass (connecting from San Martin de Los Andes to Panguipulli and the chosen pass for a number of mountain biking and horse-riding trips that take people into both Chile and Argentina.
Travel within Chilean Patagonia
Whilst the Andes and Ice Cap present a near impenetrable barrier to ground travel in central Chilean Patagonia it is possible to get from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas by boat, and likewise Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego.
LAN operate 1 to 3 flights per day between Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, and there are regular buses between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales which is a 3 hour journey and very reasonably priced.
Where to stay
Chile Patagonia Hotels & Camping
There are a range of luxury hotels throughout the region showcasing stunning architecture which complements and showcases the beautiful surroundings. Multi-activity hotels, specialising in excursions from helicopter flights to fishing and horse-riding, are dotted around the Lake District and Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Family-run estancias, organic vineyards, authentic lodges and lakeside cabins across Aysen, Valparaíso and beyond are also on offer; in addition to several campsites and refugios in Torres del Paine.
To get more of a feel for the types of accommodation explore our Hotels in Patagonia page. If you've decided where you're going, see specific options for Torres del Paine, Punta Arenas, Valparaíso, the Lake District, Santiago and Aysen.
Arranging a trip
Whether you're interested in booking a single hike or the holiday of a lifetime, we'll first spend some time talking about your ideas for your trip. We love helping people plan adventures to Patagonia, and with over 15 year's experience we can help you decide when to travel, where to go and what to see. We'll provide advice and inspiration and together, we'll help you choose the perfect trip or craft your dream itinerary.
Our Best Tours in Chilean Patagonia
More about Chilean Patagonia
Chilean Lake District
A stunning mix of glistening lakes, smouldering volcanoes, temperate rain forests and meandering rivers rich in fish and bird life. The most culturally interesting part of Chile, a…
Remote, diverse, and stunningly beautiful, Aysen is a destination for those seeking the best of Patagonia without the crowds. With glaciers, mountains, rivers and rainforest, and …
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park, with its iconic granite towers, is one of the most popular destinations in Patagonia. It is most famous for the W Trek, but dig deeper and you'll …
Adventure Cruises in Patagonia
Access areas of Patagonia's rugged landscape that even the hardiest hiker can't reach. Patagonia cruises take you to remote corners of the Chilean fjords teeming with marine life, …