10 questions to help you plan your trip to Patagonia
Patagonia is most famous for its mountains and glaciers, but there’s so much more to see. Don't forget to consider:
- The volcanoes, lakes and rivers of the northern lake districts
- The steppe with its vast canyons and amazing rock formations
- The wilds of Tierra del Fuego
- The Chilean fjords for spotting whales and dolphins
- The rugged Atlantic coastline with its abundant wildlife
- The less travelled and Jurassic region of Aysen
Patagonia offers some extraordinary opportunities to witness sea-life, birds, and mammals up close. The magellan straits and Atlantic coast offer the perfect conditions for whales and penguins; the dramatic escarpments of the Andean foothills provide nesting sites for the condor, and the guanacos of the Patagonian plains are prey for the puma.
Some trips are designed specifically around these wildlife and photography opportunities, and others can include additional days to enjoy this wildlife for yourself.
Discover where and when to see Patagonia's wildlife.
'Adventure' comes in many forms in Patagonia: a road-trip through a remote region where no-one speaks English, or a 6 day kayak expedition to a place that precious few humans have laid their eyes on, or a mountaineering expedition onto the Patagonian Ice Cap. Whatever your definition of adventure, you can find it all in Patagonia.
However, there are also more comfortable, more convenient and easier ways to adventure in Patagonia. How about exploring Tierra del Fuego and the fjords on a boat trip? Photographing the pumas, penguins or whales? Or 'glamping' in heated yurts?
A key question to ask yourself early on in your planning is whether you're prepared to camp for a few nights. Some people are desperate to sleep out under the stars; for others, it's a means of getting to the best spots to photograph sunrise or sunset. For some, it's to be avoided on any holiday. Have a think and let us know - we'll be able to help you either way.
One word of advice (originating from several of our customers rather than ourselves directly)... Patagonia is a place where humankind has always been pushed out of its comfort zone. Why don't you take the opportunity to push yourself a bit, try something new, immerse yourself in all that mother nature has to offer.
The Patagonian Andes are renowned for offering some of the most dramatic hiking anywhere on this planet. There are a dozen different national parks, each offers day hikes where you return to a comfortable hotel each night, and multi-day treks in the remote wilderness.
Some customers visit Patagonia for just a four-day trek, others hike several different national parks over the course of four weeks. You can read our guide to gather some ideas for trekking in Patagonia.
However, there’s so much more to Patagonia than just the hiking trails, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore these unique and wonderful landscapes in other ways...
Of course, Patagonia has its iconic "must-see’s" and quite right too. The Perito Moreno glacier is a wonderful and hypnotic spectacle (in spite of the fact that it now has a car park). The towers of Torres del Paine will inspire awe in even the most seasoned of world travellers (despite the fact that you might share that view with a hundred or more other hikers).
You can’t go to Patagonia and miss these spectacles, but you can combine them with some more off-the-beaten track corners of these national parks, or with some lesser known regions of Patagonia.
More about Places to go in Patagonia.
Would you enjoy a few days on the open road, with the freedom to stop off as and where you choose?
There are some epic journeys on each of the Carretera Austral in Chile and the Ruta 40 in Argentina. These trips are at their best when they connect you from one major destination to another, so ask us how to weave a road trip into yourwider itinerary.
More about Road trips in Patagonia.
When you see these landscapes with your own eyes you realise quickly why horses are so fundamental to Patagonian life and why the gaucho culture is so strong. You don’t need to be an experienced rider to enjoy a day or two of exhilarating horseback riding (our own founder Luke had never ridden a horse before his first visit to Patagonia) but it does give you a completely different perspective of Patagonia's vast foothills, plains, and steppe.
Gaucho-life is about so much more than just the riding itself… camp out under the stars, enjoy an asado, hang out in the quincho and drink mate with the locals.
More about horse riding in Patagonia.
Yes, we know, the dreaded ‘C’ word. Cruises in Patagonia are different! They can get you to remote places that are simply inaccessible by any other means. Furthermore, the ships are smaller (capacity for around two hundred people) and it’s more about what happens off the boat than on it, with zodiac excursions to landing sites, glaciers, and even Cape Horn. It’s also one of the best ways to see the wildlife of the Magellan Straits up close.
Whilst theses cruises are not cheap they do offer a unique perspective on the fjords, straits and islands of Chile and Argentina.
More about adventure cruises.
Patagonia is big…very big. Distances are vast, and flights wearisome and expensive. So as a rule of thumb we normally recommend a week for each of Patagonia’s different regions; much less than that and you end up spending more time travelling than actually enjoying these great vistas.
So, how long have you got for this trip? If you’ve got just a week then think carefully about what you’d most like to see, do or experience, and we can help you choose the place that’s going to tick all the right boxes for you.
Bear in mind that, unless you're in backpacker-mode with complete freedom and flexibility of time, then a trip to Patagonia can be expensive, and sure enough the longer you're here the more expensive it gets. Most trips with good accommodation and great guides tend to cost around USD $300 per person per day excluding flights; they broadly range from around $180 to $500 per day. Some places (like Torres del Paine) and activities (like horse riding and cruises) are more expensive than others.
If you can manage two or three weeks then you’ll have the opportunity to combine some quite different experiences and landscapes. We’ll help you put your itinerary together to make the most of every day you have.
Patagonia has so much to offer that many people spend up to four weeks in Patagonia alone, however, Chile and Argentina are blessed with several other extraordinary regions.
In the North, you could enjoy 3 or more days exploring The Atacama Desert on the Chilean side, or the region of Salta on the Argentinian side; lunar landscapes offering a fantastic contrast of colours and shapes against the mountains and glaciers of the south.
Chile’s Easter Island, a five hour out across the Pacific Ocean, is extraordinary for both its coastline and its enigmatic cultural history. For wine-lovers, there are the vineyards of the central valley and Mendoza to enjoy. In northern Argentina, and deep in the jungle, there’s the Iguazu Falls.
If you’d like to combine your Patagonia visit with some of these other destinations then let us know and we’ll help you work out the best way to combine it into one trip.
Highlights of Chile and Argentina
Patagonia history & culture
Patagonia is more notable for its geography than its history, but its heritage is rich, varied and sometimes unexpected. It has been influenced by an extraordinary range of events and people: its Indigenous tribes, Magellan, Darwin, the Welsh, 19th-century Argentine scientists, Bruce Chatwin, Pinochet and even Butch Cassidy.
Nowadays, Patagonian culture is as strong as ever, with populations deeply proud of their history and traditions. Horse riding with gauchos across the steppe or staying at a working estancia are some of the easiest ways to connect with the land and the culture here, but you'll feel it in subtler ways too, such as the names of your surroundings.
Francisco 'Perito' Moreno now lends his name to a glacier, a national park and a town, and Fitz Roy's namesake is Patagonia's most famous mountain. Not to mention the Beagle Channel, Magellan Straits, and 'Welsh Patagonia'. The 'Paine' of Torres del Paine even comes from the indigenous word for the colour blue. Nods to history are everywhere here, if you know where to look.
Do I need to learn Spanish?
The professional guides speak excellent English and if you're travelling in an escorted group you'll have no problem at all.
Most restaurants, bus drivers, refugio owners and even hoteliers speak very little English but they do respond very well to attempts to speak Spanish. Learning some Spanish before you go is a great idea - bear in mind the Chilean and Argentinian pronunciation is very different to that of mainland Spain!
Plan your trip to Patagonia
Things to do in Patagonia
Patagonia is shaped by some of the world's greatest geographical influences: the Andes, the fault line that lies beneath them, the Patagonian Ice Cap and the confluence of the …
How to get to Patagonia
Patagonia is over 5,000 miles from the USA and 8,000 miles from the UK, and getting to somewhere this remote isn't easy. But it is worth it! We help our clients plan their …
Patagonia is a vast region - spanning two different countries and over 1,000 miles north to south. You could spend years exploring the region's varied landscapes.
When is the best time to visit Patagonia?
Find the best month to go trekking in Patagonia and understand regional differences and variation.
What our customers think
Patagonia is absolutely FANTASTIC. Such an amazing wild place, totally different from anything we have ever seen in other parts of the planet.
Peter Australia October 2017
Patagonia is still a wild and romantic place, with a rawness to its scenery like nowhere else. We had a wonderful time both on and off the beaten track, trekking and kayaking (paddling moonlit fjords at 2am is a must!) and a bit of biking too.
Chris & Alison January 2016
The landscapes of Patagonia are literally other-worldly. When we left the park, my nephew said it was like leaving Jurassic Park - it was so unreal... The people we met along the way were diverse and friendly. If we said "hola" one time a day, we said it fifty. it was truly a spirit-lifting trip!
Julie Emery United States Of America January 2017
Patagonia was full of the most gorgeous landscapes, wildness, and authentic people. We had adventures, ate amazing foods, and made friends that we still keep in touch with. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.
Betsy Wack United States Of America December 2018
I truly felt like I was on another planet. I've never seen landscapes like those of Patagonia, and it's so vast that there were times every day that not another person was in sight, nor roads, nor telephone wires, nor airplanes flying overhead.
Katherine December 2016
I had for many decades dreamt of travelling to Patagonia. Our five days hiking in Torres del Paine with Mauricio are five days that I will never forget.
Eric October 2015
The glacial lakes are amazing, the snow covered peaks are awesome, and the magnificence of the environment is remarkable.
David Washington, D.C. USA October 2017
Patagonia was exactly what I needed to get reconnected with the outdoors. You are surrounded by unique beauty everywhere you look and it's vastness reminds you how big this world is.
Sarah Tocco United States Of America December 2018
We absolutely loved our guides, and found them to be a range of famous climbers, passionate researchers, and fun outdoorsmen. I’ll tell my grandchildren about the grand landscapes, the granite that rises out of never-ending plains of the Patagonian steppe, and the weather.
Cate Hefele USA January 2018
How Swoop can help you
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.
Arranging a trip with Swoop
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Tailor-made tours to Patagonia
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Booking Directly With Our Partners
Booking directly with our partners in Patagonia is perfect for more independent travellers who want to arrange most of their trip themselves. We’ll talk to you about your dreams …