Southern Patagonia Self-Drive

In just 18 days your drive takes you through Torres del Paine National Park, the Los Glacaires National Park and through the wilds of Tierra del Fuego to Ushuaia. You will have time to hike the most iconic trails, see king penguins, stay on traditional estancias (ranches) and get right to the heart of Patagonia.

18 Days

$3,725

Southern Patagonia Self-Drive - 18 - $3,725

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

  • Extraordinarily diverse scenery from jagged granite needles, to sheer wall-like glaciers rising out of aqua blue lakes, vast Patagonian steppe and the wildlife rich Beagle Channel
  • You will be self-driving and self-guiding (with driver notes) so enjoy total flexibility on the pace of your day and the activities you do
  • Pick up and drop off in the same place to avoid a hefty drop off fee 
  • A mix of accommodation from basic home-stays to more comfortable lodge type stays

Start from El Calafate and end at El Calafate

Landmarks visited on Southern Patagonia Self-Drive

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1 - El Calafate to El Chaltén

On arrival in El Calafate, take receipt of your hire car and drive along the legendary Ruta 40, northwards through the vastness of the Patagonian steppe. You will then make your way along Viedma lake towards the mountains and up to El Chaltén, the town which is the starting point for all expeditions to the renowned peaks of Fitz Roy and Torre.

Driving distance: 200km paved including 15km gravel

Accommodation: Hosteria El Pilar, El Chaltén


Day 2 - El Chaltén 

A self-guided hike to Laguna de los Tres, at the foot of Cerro Fitz Roy, the most famous peak of the southern Patagonian Andes. For three hours you will wander through wonderful forest and mountain landscapes until reaching the base camp at Rio Blanco, with Cerro Fitz Roy and neighboring granite peaks always in sight. Then set out on a continuous and steep one-hour climb up the moraine until you reach Laguna de los Tres, directly in front of Cerro Fitz Roy, a fantastic observation point for the impressive Fitz Roy. 

Hike: Easy 6-7 hour hiking with an option for a shorter route if desired.

Accommodation: Hosteria El Pilar, El Chaltén


Day 3 - El Chaltén 

Hike to Laguna Torre, at the foot of legendary Cerro Torre, one of the most demanding mountaineering targets worldwide. Its 1400m high steep walls of flat granite are proof of this. Climate also plays a dramatic part in climbs here - mountaineers can often wait for months before the final ascent can be made. The suggested hike extends only to Lagna Torre which lies directly at the foot of the mountain. From here one has breathtaking views of a series of windswept granite needles and huge glaciers. 

Easy 5-6 hour hike, with an option for a shorter route if desired.

Accommodation: Hosteria El Pilar, El Chaltén


Day 4 - El Chaltén to El Calafate 

In the morning, we recommend a drive along the beautiful Río de las Vueltas valley, to Lago del Desierto, a glacial lake on the border with Chile. Here you can take a short hike to the Huemul Glacier or a boat ride to the north end of the lake, with wonderful views of a number of hanging glaciers, which flow directly from the Southern Ice Field of Patagonia into the valley. In the afternoon drive back to El Calafate and check in to your hotel, with beautiful views of Lago Argentino and the mountains.

Driving distance: 220km paved, including 15km gravel

Accommodation: Hotel Los Hielos, El Calafate


Day 5 - Perito Moreno Glacier 

The world famous Perito Moreno glacier lies a 90km drive from El Calafate and is one of the great attractions of Southern Patagonia. From terrace vantage points directly opposite the glacier face, one can observe the thundering breaking off of ice blocks which go crashing down into the waters of the vast Lago Argentino below. The glacier has a width of 5km and from the front, rises to more than 60m. It is surrounded by a forest of lenga and coihue (southern beech), flowers of local ‘fire bushes’ (proteaceae) and calafate berries (Barberry).

Accommodation: Hotel Los Hielos, El Calafate


Day 6 - El Calafate

An optional drive to the port of Puerto Bandera for a boat excursion to the Upsala & Spegazzini glaciers. Book locally on arrival - approx US$120 per person.

Accommodation: Hotel Los Hielos, El Calafate


Day 7 - El Calafate to Cerro Sombrero 

Drive from El Calafate to Río Gallegos, and from here, head south to Punta Delgada, where you take the ferry (cost not included) to Bahia Azul. You will arrive on the island of Tierra del Fuego and continue southwards to Cerro Sombrero. 

Driving distance: 450km on asphalt (approx 7 hours including border crossing)

Accommodation: The best local option is the very simple Hosteria Tunkelén


Day 8 - Cerro Sombrero – Onaisin – Estancia Rolito 

Drive to Estancia Onaisín, located on Inútil Bay. Here you will find the only colony of king penguins outside of Antarctica, and they can be observed at close range. Continue across the border to San Sebastian, Argentina and on to Ruta 3 to Estancia Rolito. In the afternoon it is worth a trip to the nearby coast, to Cabo San Pablo, where a wide variety of birds and marine animals can be observed.

Driving distance: 120km gravel and 140km paved (approx 8 hours)

Accommodation: Half-board at Estancia Rolito


Day 9 - Estancia Rolito to Ushuaia 

In the morning drive across the beautiful Garibaldi Pass to Ushuaia. The afternoon is free for you to explore Ushuaia at your leisure - perhaps take an excursion to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where several hiking options can be made. 

Driving distance: 150km asphalt and 15km of gravel (approx 3 hours)

Accommodation:  B&B Cabañas del Martial, Ushuaia


Day 10 - Ushuaia

Optional: Take a boat trip along the Beagle Channel to the islands of Isla de los Pájaros (cormorants) and Isla de Lobos (sea lions). 

Accommodation:  B&B Cabañas del Martial, Ushuaia


Day 11 -Ushuaia - Tolhuin - Lago Blanco 

Drive through the secluded and pristine southern beech forests of Tierra del Fuego back to Río Grande, then westwards over the Bellavista Pass to Chile until you reach Lago Blanco.

Driving distance: 235km asphalt and 175km gravel (approx 7 hours including border crossing) 

Accommodation: Hostería Las Lengas, Lago Blanco


Day 12 - Lago Blanco

A free day for you to explore the area. There are several hiking options available at Lago Blanco and Karukinka Park, plus wildlife watching, and fly fishing.

Accommodation: Hostería Las Lengas, Lago Blanco


Day 13 - Lago Blanco to Porvenir 

Continue northwest on Tierra del Fuego to Camerón, and from here along the Strait of Magellan to Porvenir.

Driving distance: 270km gravel (approx 4 hours) 

Accommodation: Hotel Barlovento, Porvenir


Day 14 - Porvenir to Puerto Natales 

Following the Strait of Magellan you reach Bahía Azul. Take a 20 minute ferry ride to Punta Delgada and continue along the Magellan Strait to Puerto Natales. 

Driving distance: 140km gravel and 320km asphalt (approx 7 hours)

Accommodation: Weskar Lodge, Puerto Natales


Day 15 - Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine 

Drive the recently opened gravel road directly to the south entrance of Torres del Paine National Park. This area is the absolute culmination of what Patagonia has to offer mountain-loving visitors. Beautiful mountain massifs, huge glaciers, innumerable glacier lakes in a wide variety of colours and a rich in wildlife. It’s a landscape that leaves deep impressions. Wildlife you are likely to see includes guanaco (of the llama family), grey fox, ñandú (small ostrich), black-necked swan, armadillo, skunk and throughout the mountains various native birds, including condor and eagle.

Driving distance: 20km asphalt and 70km gravel (approx 2 hours) 

Accommodation: Hotel Patagonia Pampa Lodge, Torres del Paine


Day 16 -Torres del Paine

Take a tour in the park to Lago Grey. Here we recommend a 2 hour hike on peninsula to the viewpoint of the Grey Glacier. Hundreds of icebergs flow in the bay in front of the hotel that is located here.

Accommodation: Hotel Patagonia Pampa Lodge, Torres del Paine


Day 17 Torres del Paine

Take a self-guided excursion to Lago Pehoe & Salto Grande where you’ll enjoy the best views of Los Cuernos. Then a walk along the beautiful Rio Paine to the Laguna Azul for the best views of the towers looking out for herds of guanaco along the way. 

Alternatively, take a longer hike to the base of the towers, following the Ascencio river valley to base camp, and then hike a last section upwards until you reach the lagoon located at the foot of the towers. This is a  6-8 hour walk of intermediate level, on well marked and frequented footpaths.

Accommodation:Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine


Day 18 - Torres del Paine to Calafate 

Drive to the border at Cerro Castillo and cross to Cancha Carreras, Argentina. Return to El Calafate and in the afternoon, return your hire car to the airport.

Driving distance: 280km paved and 50km gravel (approx 7 hours including border crossing) 

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

Price based on 2 people sharing and car hire for the duration of the trip.

This trip can run as a group trip, with prices starting from $3,725 per person for a complete group. If you are looking to join a group or you are a solo traveller we will help to form likeminded groups of travellers. Please let us know your travel plans.

The trip can also run on a private basis to fit around your plans. Departures may be tailored and can be set up on a date of your choice. Please note that there is a higher price for smaller groups. Please enquire for further details.

Additional Notes

Please note that the vehicle category can be confirmed only when booked (additional vehicle categories can be provided on request).


Includes

  • All accommodation mentioned in the itinerary (in a double room including breakfast)
  • Half board at Estancia Rolito
  • Car hire: a Ford Ecosport 4x2 or similar, with free mileage
  • Permit to cross Chile
  • Full car insurance with excess in minor damage or accident up to U$D 750 or rollover up to U$D 2000
  • Permission for second driver

Excludes

  • Gasoline
  • Highway and parking fees
  • Cautionary fines
  • Optional excursions
  • Eentrance/park fees
  • Ferry fares for the Magellan Strait

Questions about this Trip?