Patagonia lying in between Argentina and Chile, offers double the package- twice the attractions, tourist spots, fun things to do and sightseeing options! A glance at the Patagonian map shows that while the Argentinian Patagonia mainly comprises of empty ranches, the Chilean Patagonia is home to islands, inlets and channels.
Best Time to Visit Patagonia
The best time to visit Patagonia is November to early March. Although it may be crowded, this time has the best weather for exploring different sites, like Torres del Paine National Park and Tierra del Fuego.
The months of July to August, however, should be avoided- this is because during this period, most of the attractions are closed, and thus the visit will turn out to be futile. The trip can also be planned during the fall and spring months, when the weather is pleasant, although not ideal.
Things to do in Patagonia
You certainly need to do two things upon reaching Patagonia- visit both the Argentinian and the Chilean sides. Both sides have their own share of fun activities and attractions to offer –
1. Visiting Argentinian Patagonia
The first defining feature of the Argentinian Patagonia is the coastline, divided into South Coast and North Coast respectively.
2. South Coast
The Southern Coast holds marine life close. While Southern Right Whales can be found in the months between July and September, Orcas, elephant seals, sea lions and fur seals can be found all round the year. At Punta Tombo, south of Madryn, 210,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic Penguins (largest in the world!) are found between September and March. Rockhopper penguins, cormorants and Commerson’s dolphins along with seals can be seen further south, at Puerto Deseado.
The most important landmark in this southern region is Puerto San Julian. One can venture on a 12 km walk here from the town centre to the abandoned Swift Meatpacking Plant.
Cabo Virgenes is another highlight of the southern coast, which looks over the Atlantic and the Strait of Magellan. Visitors can enjoy food and drinks at the Estancia Monte Dinero and the Al Fin y Al Cabo Café-Bar at the foot of the lighthouse, which looks over the sweeping ocean.
3. North Coast
The North Coast harbours small towns – Rawson, Puerto Madryn, Trelew and Gaiman- which were carved out of hamlets established by the River Chubut. The history of this place is largely derived from stories of migrants who came from Whales to settle here. These towns can easily be visited by car or bus, with chapels and small tea-stalls lining the route. Another theme that shines here is that of dinosaurs, with numerous fossils having been found in Patagonia. Many of these rare finds have been displayed at the Egidio Feruglio Museum of Palaeontology , Trelew.
4. Visiting the lake districts of Rio Negro and Neuquen
Both these districts include dainty towns like Junin de Los Andes, San Martin de los Andes and Villa la Angostura, which are good bases for camping, hiking, trout fishing, horse riding or quad biking. The Seven Lakes route can be taken to reach these towns, which is a photogenic car/bus ride lasting 110 km between a series of lakes surrounded by the Andean peaks.
Another major town is that of Bariloche, on the banks of the Nahuel Huapi lake. Bariloche is also a great camping base for trekking and biking.
Visitors can enjoy the through-Andes Ferry and Boat Ride to Puerto Varas in Chile, which provides further views of the lake which are otherwise inaccessible.
Bariloche is also a great starting point for long drives along the South Coast routes of Argentina’s Ruta Nacional 40, as wel as Cabo Virgenes.
5. Visiting the Museo Leleque
Close to the town Esquel, south of Barlioche, Museo Leleque showcases 14,000 native artefacts like bone drills and arrowheads. It is operated and run by the Benneton Family.
6. Visiting the Cueva de las Manos (Cave of Hands)
These caves are one major highlight on the Ruta Nacional 40. They are overhanging caves, where 9,000 year-old stencilled handprints and galloping guanacos painted by ancient people where found back in 1972. Overlooking a beautiful gorge, the calming and thought-provoking art can be thoroughly enjoyed.
7. Visiting the Los Glaciares National Park
This park protects the southern ice fields, dozens of glaciers, etc. Its star attractions include the towering Fitz Roy Massif, Lago Argentino and Perito Moreno. One can do various things in this park, including ice-hiking, walking up to Mount Fitz Roy and relaxing at the backpacker town of El Chalten. The art of understanding craft beers can also be experienced at La Vineria.
8. Visiting Chilean Patagonia
Chilean Patagonia has no end and no beginning- it is home to dusty little towns including Frutillar, Puerto Octay and Puerto Varas. Activities like trekking, cycling, kayaking and rafting can be easily organised from any of these towns.
The Puelo Valley is a must-visit for horse-lovers wishing to go horse riding, located between Cochamo in Chile and Lago Puelo in Argentina. The Andes also provide a low pass which is used by trekkers every summer.
Genuine wilderness can be found further down south, with rivers interrupting the main road. One can take a drive down the Carretera Austral from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins in order to witness the beautiful, lush forests of Palena and Aysen, as well as the second largest lake in South America, Lago General Carrera.
Another highlight of the Chilean side of Patagonia is the Parque Patagonia region, which is a protected swath of steppe and low mountain ranges. The Torres del Paine National Park must also be visited, which provides brilliant camping sites and superlative hotels.
Places to Stay in Patagonia
Best places to stay in Argentinian Patagonia include-
- America del Sur Hostel, El Calafate
- Hosteria Canela, Esquel
- Estancia Don Jose, Rio Mayo
Best places to stay in Chilean Patagonia include-
- Singing Lamb, Puerto Natales
- Hotel Nogueira, Punta Arenas
- Antumalal, Pucon
Patagonia has a lot to offer, right from some of the most beautiful attractions to the best places to enjoy your stay. Both the Argentinian and Chilean sides are equally attractive, and one must plan a trip aimed at visiting both. With its beautiful, varied landscape and sea of adventure options, Patagonia is sure to leave a mark on our hearts!
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