The sky-piercing peaks of Torres del Paine National Park; the dense, milky blue hue of Glacier Perito Moreno; the huge wingspan of an Andean condor sailing through in the skies of Tierra del Fuego; every moment traveling through Patagonia is one of utter magic. There are few other places on earth where nature and vast, hostile wilderness are so easily accessible. But, thanks to the region’s huge size and its dazzling array of unmissable sights, it’s never an easy task designing a Patagonia itinerary, particularly if you’ve only got one or two weeks to travel.
Why use these Patagonia itineraries?
Patagonia covers an area over 402,000 square miles, making it two-thirds of the size of Alaska. What’s more, this region crosses into not one but two countries, meaning travel here can be more complicated as a result. Finally, it’s a notoriously expensive part of the continent to visit, so a comprehensive Patagonia travel itinerary can help those planning a trip to Patagonia to know how to stretch their holiday – and their budget – as far as possible.
These itineraries focus slightly more on Chilean Patagonia as, from my own travels around the region, I personally feel that the area is less developed in terms of tourism and, as a result, it’s a world away from the hordes of tourists that you now find across the border in Argentina. There are a lot more off-the-beaten-trail adventures to be had in Chilean Patagonia. It’s also – contrary to what most believe – cheaper to travel in Chilean Patagonia due to the huge rates of inflation currently affecting the Argentine economy.*
*As of mid-2018, Argentina has dramatically dropped in price due to soaring inflation and economic problems, making it actually quite a good time to visit. Make sure you bring dollars as it’s often hard to get cash out of ATMs.
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One week Patagonia travel itineraries:
- Hike the W in Torres del Paine National Park
- Perito Moreno and hiking in Los Glaciares National Park
Two week Patagonia travel itineraries:
My recommendations for planning a Patagonia travel itinerary
I’ve spent around four months altogether in Patagonia in the past year and have written pretty extensively about the region as part of my day job (as well as here on the blog, so check out my Patagonia archives).
I can’t count how many people I’ve recommended travel routes to and all have included the following pieces advice about planning a Patagonia itinerary:
- Patagonia is huge. Slim down your Patagonia travel itinerary, make the most of some of the lesser visited parts (we’ll go into that shortly) and just enjoy the region.
- Don’t try and fly from Chile to Argentina. It’s horribly expensive. Always fly internally from Santiago or Buenos Aires and then use one of the long-distance (and generally comfortable) buses to cross the border. You will save a lot of cash.
- LATAM and Sky are the main airlines in Chile. Be aware that if you book through LATAM’s US site, you will pay a whopping four times the price than if you buy it via their Chilean site. Unfortunately, the latter is in Spanish – so find someone who can help with the translation!
- Be aware that booking flights, buses and car rental in advance during peak season (December through March) is generally necessary. The same goes for accommodation in places such as Ushuaia, El Calafate, El Chaltén and Puerto Natales, as well as Torres del Paine National Park.
- Patagonia is probably the safest part of South America. I’ve hitchhiked in Patagonia without problems and met some of the world’s nicest people.
- The shoulder seasons, October-November and March-April are far quieter for travelling in Patagonia and, in most cases, a lot cheaper. Be aware that accommodation in smaller towns and some tourism agencies may not be operating in October or April.
- Bus timings can and do vary depending on the season, so never trust 100% what is written on the internet. Always make the bus station your first port of call when you get to a new place to confirm timings and buy your tickets for the next leg of your journey. Bus Chile and Recorrido are good for finding bus timetables in Chile; in Argentina, Omnilineas does the same job.
Patagonia itineraries for one week of travel
A one week Patagonia itinerary isn’t the longest, but if you’ve got a reasonable budget for transport around the region, then you can still cram plenty into just seven days of travel.
These two Patagonia travel itineraries for one week include hiking Patagonia’s most famous trails, such as the W trek in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile and around El Chaltén, Argentina, as well as a visit to the mesmerizing Perito Moreno Glacier.
Patagonia itinerary for one week of travel: Hike the W in Torres del Paine National Park
If you’ve only got a week to travel to Patagonia, chances are you’ll be starting from the Chilean capital Santiago. Chile has one of the most extensive selections of internal flights of all countries in South America, meaning that you can fly to Patagonia quickly and affordably.
Day One: Santiago to Puerto Natales
Fly to Patagonia with LATAM or Sky Airline (the latter is a lot cheaper) from Santiago to Punta Arenas (three hours 35 minutes, four flights per day). If you’re planning a trip to Patagonia, Chile between December and February, LATAM offers flights directly to Puerto Natales from Santiago (twice weekly, three hours 10 minutes).
Get a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales (three hours 30 mins, check out Bus-Sur, Buses Pacheco and Buses Fernandez as buses leave from their offices in Punta Arenas). Buy return tickets to Torres del Paine National Park from the bus station when you arrive.
Puerto Natales is the town closest to Torres del Paine National Park, where the question of where to hike in Patagonia is easily answered in the form of the popular and rewarding five-day W trek.
Use the afternoon in Puerto Natales to buy food and organise your hiking gear (visit my complete and 2018 updated guide to trekking the W in Torres del Paine National Park for all the information you need, including routes and packing lists).
Spend the night at Hostal Lili-Patagonico’s (dorm $14,000 CLP/$21 USD), double $28,000 CLP/$42 USD). Have a hearty dinner (you’ll need it!) at Cerveza Baguales (Calle Carlos Bories 430) for delicious burgers and locally brewed beer or at La Guanaca Pizzeria (Calle Magallanes 167).
Days Two-Six: Hike the W in Torres del Paine National Park
At 7:30am take the bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park and start the W.
Expect to stare across huge, sparkling glaciers, catch a glimpse of condors floating on thermals above and see in the light of dawn the rearing silhouettes of the granite needles that give the park its name.
Day Seven: Punta Arenas to Santiago
Take the bus back to Punta Arenas and your flight back to Santiago.
Patagonia itinerary for one week of travel: Perito Moreno and hiking in Los Glaciares National Park
Many of those travelling in Patagonia will be flying directly into the region from Buenos Aires.
Again, a one week Patagonia travel itinerary isn’t a huge amount of time for visiting, but you still have the chance to appreciate Argentine Patagonia’s absolute highlights.
Day One: Buenos Aires to El Calafate
Fly to Patagonia on an early morning flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate with Aerolineas Argentinas (two flights per day, three hours 15 minutes).
There’s not much to do in town (except for shopping in overpriced hiking gear shops), so in the afternoon, rent a bike and cycle to Punta Walichu, an archaeological site that’s home to 7,000-year-old cave paintings.
Stay overnight at the spacious and comfortable Albergue & Hostal del Glaciar Libertador (dorm $509 ARS/$30 USD, double $1,810 ARS/$106 USD) and feast on Patagonian roast lamb at the unrivalled Parrilla Don Pichon (Calle Puerto Deseado 242).
Day Two: Glacier Perito Moreno
At dawn, take a walk over to Reserva Laguna Nimez, where flocks of flamingos, black-necked swans and over 70 species of birds nest and are most active in the early morning.
Today’s the day for appreciating one of Patagonia’s greatest highlights: Glacier Perito Moreno. To get to Los Glaciares National Park and the glacier, if there’s more than two of you, rent a taxi for the day for an agreed fee or take the bus from the main bus terminal.
Entry into the park is around $500 ARS/$30 USD, but worth the expense, as you can walk up to the snout of this huge glacier thanks to a boardwalk that sits only a few hundred metres away.
Days Three-Six: El Chaltén
Board an early bus to El Chaltén (four hours, buses leave from the bus station). Buy your bus ticket back to El Calafate if travelling in Patagonia in high season.
Spend the next three days of your one week Patagonia itinerary in El Chaltén, Argentina’s self-designated hiking capital. Sat on the northern edge of Los Glaciares National Park, this town is within striking distances of plenty of Patagonia’s most famous hikes.
These include to the bewitching Laguna de los Tres and the flatter and less challenging routes to Laguna Torre, both of which give astounding views of the iconic Cerro Torre (the inspiration for the clothing brand, Patagonia’s, logo). For full information about the trails you should check out, visit this website entirely dedicated to self-guided hikes from El Chaltén.
Stay at Pioneros del Valle Hostel (dorm $350 ARS/$20 USD, double $1,300 ARS/$77 USD) or one of the various campgrounds in town such as El Relincho and eat a big, juicy steak at La Tapera (Calle Jose Antonio), drink beer at Don Guerra (Calle San Martin) and get your sweet fix at La Wafleria (Calle San Martin 640), the best waffles (probably) in Argentina.
Day Seven: Return to El Calafate
Take the bus back to El Calafate and use any time before your flight for a local bus to the Glaciarium, where the Museo del Hielo Patagónico (a museum about ice, glaciers and climate change) and Argentina’s first ice bar are located.
Fly back to Buenos Aires.
Changes you can make to this one week Patagonia itinerary:
- If you’d rather visit Torres del Paine National Park rather than El Chaltén, swap the time in the latter town for a day trip or two from Puerto Natales instead. Buses leave in the morning and afternoon from the bus station in El Calafate and arrive in Puerto Natales around five hours later.
Patagonia itinerary for two weeks of travel
Two weeks is a more viable amount of time for a Patagonia travel itinerary and gives you a chance to explore the Carretera Austral – aka Chilean Patagonia’s ultimate road trip – hike the O Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park and even cross into Argentina for trekking and to visit Glacier Perito Moreno.
Patagonia itinerary for two weeks of travel: The Carretera Austral
This two-week itinerary covers a lot of ground; almost the entire length of the Carretera Austral, a 1,240km/770-mile road that slices through the heart of northern Chilean Patagonia. Although two weeks is a little on the short side for seeing this part of Patagonia (I would recommend three weeks if you don’t want to feel rushed), it is possible to see the highlights in this period of time.
For more information about the highlights of this Patagonia itinerary, check out my guide to visiting the Carretera Austral.
Required equipment for this two-week Patagonia itinerary
To get the most out of this two-week Patagonia travel itinerary, I would recommend bringing camping equipment with you to give the extra freedom that this backpacking route offers. If you’re not sure what equipment is necessary or where to get hold of it from, read this article which includes my full packing list for Patagonia.
Day One: Santiago to Puerto Montt
Fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt (11 flights per day, one hour 45 minutes).
From the airport, take the bus right outside the terminal ($2,500 CLP/$4 USD, every 30 minutes) to the bus station in the centre of Puerto Montt. From here, a 20-minute local minibus ride gets you to Puerto Varas – one of Chile’s most picturesque towns. Spend an afternoon soaking up its lakeside vantage point and – if the weather’s sunny – the views across the water to Volcán Osorno.
If you’ve got time in the afternoon, take a minibus (ask at your hostel for instructions) to visit Saltas de Petrohué, a set of dazzling waterfalls set in the shadow of the volcano.
Stay overnight in Compass del Sur (dorm $9,500 CLP/$14 USD, double room $24,000 CLP/$36 USD), possibly my favourite hostel in Patagonia thanks to its huge rooms, kitchen and delicious, home-made breakfast. Eat at Mesa Tropera (Calle Santa Rosa 161) at their pizzeria located on a promenade over the lake (and serving up locally brewed craft beer) or at La Olla (Calle Ruta 22) for traditional Chilean seafood.
Days Two-Three: Navimag or Naviera Austral
Take a bus back to Puerto Montt and board the Navimag to Puerto Chacabuco*. Be aware that the boats don’t necessarily leave at the time they ought to (the Navimag left 12 hours late when I sailed in April 2016) so leave room in your Patagonia itinerary for this eventuality.
Boats theoretically should leave at 8am (requiring you to be at the port around 6am in the morning, so double check this the day before in case you need to stay the night in Puerto Montt instead).
Sail along the coastline of Chile, catching glimpses of sea lions, dolphins, penguins and even southern right whales if you’re lucky. If the weather’s in your favour, you can watch Chile’s incredible shoreline of dense Valdivian temperate rainforest scattered with volcanoes and glaciers as you pass.
Dock at Puerto Chacabuco, where you’ll find a local minibus that can drop you off at one of the bus companies in Puerto Aysén. Board a bus to Coyhaique (one hour 30 mins) and buy tickets to Río Tranquilo for tomorrow.
There’s not a whole lot to do in Coyhaique, but if your boat arrives in the morning as it should, you’ll have time to head out to Reserva Nacional Coyhaique, 5km/3-miles away from the centre of town by taxi or hitchhiking. There are a number of short walks (from 30-minutes to a couple of hours) with views across the town and the region.
Stay overnight at Patagonia Hostel (dorm $18,000 CLP/$27 USD, double $40,000 CLP/$60 USD – high season prices) and eat at Mamma Gaucha (Calle Horn 47) (the original restaurant that preceded Mesa Tropera in Puerto Varas) or for burgers, lamb and home-brewed beer at Casa Tropera (Calle Camino Aeródromo Teniente Vidal – check out their Facebook page for a map).
Day Four: Río Tranquilo and the marble caves
From the bus terminal in Coyhaique, hop on a bus in the morning to Río Tranquilo (four hours) and organise a tour from one of the agencies along the lakefront to visit the marble caves. These rock formations contain marble in all colours of the rainbow and are made even more picturesque thanks to the turquoise of the waters of Lago General Carrera.
There are plenty of campgrounds in town, including my favourite, Camping Bellavista (who also have a small number of rooms with kitchen access) and a handful of restaurants. If you’ve got cooking gear and are on a budget, you’re better off buying food from the Unimarc supermarket in Coyhaique, where it’s cheaper and there’s more choice.
Days Five-Six: Parque Patagonia
Take the bus to Cochrane in the early afternoon and get out at the turning point to enter Parque Patagonia, El Cruce Entrada Baker (three-four hours from Río Tranquilo), 17km/10.5-miles before you reach Cochrane. From here, you’re 11km from the entrance to the park, so either hitchhike (particularly during summer when there should be more traffic) or walk. Find out more about getting to Parque Patagonia here.
Spend the afternoon and the following day hiking one of the parks six trails.
Bring camping gear for one of the campgrounds or stay overnight at their lodge (from $350 USD in high season and you will need to book in advance).
Day Seven: Parque Patagonia to Coyhaique
You’ll need to find out when the bus leaves from Cochrane from the park rangers at Parque Patagonia and flag it down on the main road or hitchhike back to Coyhaique (nine hours). Buy tickets to go to Puyuhuapi the next morning.
Day Eight: Coyhaique to Puyuhuapi
Board the bus in the morning to Puyuhuapi from Coyhaique (around six hours).
If you’ve got camping, cooking gear and food (you can buy the latter from the Unimarc supermarket in Coyhaique), get the bus to drop you off at the entrance Parque Nacional Queulat and camp overnight in the campground (around $5.000 CLP/$7.5 USD). Or, continue onto Puyuhuapi and spend the night at Casa Ludwig. There aren’t many options for dining here and only a handful of tiny shops, so you’re better off stocking up in Coyhaique.
Day Nine: Parque Nacional Queulat
Hitchhike or jump on a local bus to visit Parque Nacional Queulat and the incredible Ventisquero Colgante (possibly the most beautiful glacier I’ve ever seen).
There are a few short hikes in the park to keep you busy for a day. Get the bus back in the afternoon to Puyuhuapi or, in the shoulder or high season, it shouldn’t be a problem hitchhiking (get some tips on how to hitchhike in South America safely).
Days Ten-Twelve: Puyuhuapi to Chaitén
Take the morning bus from Puyuhuapi to Chaitén (around four hours), stock up on cooking supplies in one of the small shops and hitchhike to Parque Pumalín.
If you’ve not got camping gear, there are lodgings in the park but camping is the better option (see the full list here).
There are twelve trails in the park, most of which do require you to pack up camp and move around a bit, however, it’s fairly easy to hitchhike between campgrounds with the cars travelling along the main road that cuts through the park.
Hitchhike back to the park and book tickets to catch the bus in the morning back to Puerto Montt.
Day Thirteen: Chaitén To Puerto Montt
Hop on an early bus as it’s a long ten-hour journey back to Puerto Montt, but luckily the scenery as you pass through Valdivian Temperate Rainforest and take ferry crossings through silent Patagonia fjords, more than makes up for the time.
I would recommend spending the night in Puerto Varas again (Puerto Montt isn’t a pretty place and some parts of it can be quite dangerous at night).
Day Fourteen: Back to Santiago
Take the bus to Puerto Montt bus terminal and then onwards to the airport for your return flight. Alternatively take a taxi directly from Puerto Varas – a much more expensive option.
Changes you could make to this Patagonia itinerary for two weeks of travel:
- *If you’ve got more time, it’s worth considering the Naviera Austral rather than the Navimag Ferry – read this article discussing whether the Navimag Ferry or the Naviera Austral is the better option.
- If you want to visit San Rafael, a hanging glacier that is receding so quickly that experts are concerned it’ll soon disappear completely, spend an extra day in Río Tranquilo and organise a tour from an agency located there. These tours are very expensive – but reportedly worth it.
- If you’re really into long-distance hiking, there’s a 50km/31-mile hike that starts in Parque Patagonia and crosses into Argentina.
- If you have more time, consider travelling the Carretera Austral from north to south and crossing into Argentina from Cochrane.
Patagonia itinerary for two weeks of travel: The O Circuit, Torres del Paine National Park
If you want to spend less time on buses and more time trekking in the Patagonian Andes, this travel itinerary is likely more your style.
Although plenty of visitors to the region trek the five-day W, far fewer attempt the O Circuit, a nine- or ten-day trek that winds through wilder parts of the national park and gives a better sense of what Patagonia once was before tourism arrived.
Although it is challenging if you’ve not tried multi-day hiking before, there are ways that you can prepare for the experience: read about 14 essential things to know before you hike the O Circuit.
Required equipment for this two-week Patagonia itinerary
Although camping equipment isn’t entirely necessary for this two-week itinerary, it can work out cheaper than renting all of your gear in Puerto Natales. You will also need a cooking stove, plus pots and pans. Read my packing list for Torres del Paine National Park to give you some ideas of the equipment that you will need.
Day One: Santiago to Punta Arenas
Fly with LATAM or Sky Airline (the latter is a lot cheaper) to Punta Arenas (three hours 35 minutes, four flights per day) or if planning a trip to Chilean Patagonia between December and February, LATAM offers flights directly to Puerto Natales from Santiago (twice weekly, three hours 10 minutes).
Sort out your shopping for hiking the O Circuit in nearby Torres del Paine National Park in the supermarkets in Punta Arenas. They’re far bigger, cheaper and have more selection than those in Puerto Natales where most hikers stock up. Buy tickets from the offices of Bus-Sur, Buses Pacheco or Buses Fernandez for your bus tickets to Puerto Natales the next day.
With any free time, check out the Museo Regional de Magallanes to learn more about the indigenous people of Patagonia and the region’s wool trade as well as a wander up to Mirador Cerro La Cruz for panoramic views of the Strait of Magellan.
Get an exceptional steak or some Patagonian lamb at El Fogon De Lalo Limitada (Calle 21 de Mayo 1650) and stay overnight at the large and very comfortable Hospedaje Costanera (dorm $13,000 CLP/$20 USD, double $35,000 CLP/$52 USD).
Day Two: Puerto Natales
Get a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales (three hours 30 mins) and spend the afternoon getting your hiking gear sorted if you’ve not brought camping equipment for the O Circuit with you. If you’ve got a bit more time to spare, consider heading out horseriding on the outskirts of the national park.
Spend the night at Hostal Lili-Patagonico’s (dorm $14,000 CLP/$21 USD, double $28,000 CLP/$42 USD). Have a hearty dinner (you’ll need it!) at Cerveza Baguales (Calle Carlos Bories 430) for delicious burgers and locally brewed beer or at La Guanaca Pizzeria (Calle Magallanes 167).
Days Three-Eleven: Hiking the O Circuit in Torres del Paine National Park
If you’re wondering where to hike in Patagonia, look no further than the O Circuit, a nine-day trek through the pristine scenery of Torres del Paine National Park.
Although the W is a good route if you want to see the park, the only real way to avoid the ever-increasing crowds is to hike around the back of the Cordillera Paine.
Days Twelve-Fourteen: Cabo Froward
Head back to Punta Arenas and hire a car for the next three days. Stock up on food and water in one of the supermarkets in the city.
From Punta Arenas, it’s only an hour’s drive to the end of the road near Cabo Froward (the southernmost point of the Americas) and while the trek to reach the cross that marks this point is a five-day round trip, you can wander along the beach and stare across the Strait of Magellan at the looming peaks of Isla Dawson and Tierra del Fuego Beyond.
There’s also plenty of wild camping spots (unfortunately most covered in rubbish) and a beautiful little campsite “A Las Perras” that you’ll find signposted a short distance before you pass through San Juan. Alternatively, if you haven’t got camping gear, return to Punta Arenas for the night.
The next morning, drive back along the road towards Punta Arenas and visit Pali Aike, a barely-known national park that is home to strange volcanic landforms, plenty of guanaco and rheas and the possibility of seeing Chilean flamingos and even pumas.
There are a number of hikes around the park and you can stay overnight in the cabañas (cabins) found at Hostal San Gregorio ($15,000 CLP/$22 USD p/p) in Punta Delgada. They also serve a tasty and inexpensive dinner menu and breakfast (both of which are enormous).
Changes you could make to this Patagonia itinerary for two weeks of travel:
- If you like penguins, swap the visit to Cabo Froward for a drive over to Tierra del Fuego to visit the king penguin colony at Parque Pinguino Rey, Bahía Inútil. It’s open from 11am-6pm with last entry at 5pm and entry is $12,000 CLP/$18 USD. Tour groups arrive normally at around 1pm and 2pm so try and avoid these times.
- If you’ve a couple more days to add to the trip, miss out Cabo Froward and drive directly to the penguin colony and continue onwards to Lago Blanco, where you can stay overnight in the extremely comfortable cabañas at Hosteria Las Lengas (four-person cabin $83,300 CLP/$125 USD, double room $134,470 CLP/$202 USD). They do offer food, but your best bet is to bring food with you as they have fully-equipped kitchens and BBQs.
- If you want to visit El Calafate and El Chaltén, swap the O Circuit for hiking the W and use the additional four days to visit these two towns.
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