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Trekking and Hiking in Patagonia

Feb 7, 2024 | Travel Tips

Nestled at the southern tip of South America, the Patagonia region, shared between Chile and Argentina, beckons adventurers with its untamed wilderness, breathtaking landscapes, and awe-inspiring trekking routes. Embarking on a trek through this pristine region promises an unforgettable journey filled with rugged beauty and natural wonders.  Many come to hike in the two most well known national parks in the region: Torres del Paine, in Chile, and Los Glaciares in Argentina. Below we’ve outlined the most well-known trails and adventures in the region as well as information on where to base yourself. Patagonia is best trekked in the months between October and April, during the southern hemisphere’s summer months.
Chile - Torres del Paine National Park

Chile

Torres del Paine National Park

Begin your expedition in the iconic Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, where jagged peaks, turquoise lakes, and vast glaciers create a mesmerizing backdrop. The W Trek and the more challenging O Circuit offer diverse trails, showcasing the park’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife, including guanacos, foxes, and elusive pumas. They are the two most popular tresks of the park and attract explorers from all around the world. But there are also day hikes for the less intrepid. Popular hikes include:

W Trek – named after its distinct W shaped route, this 47-mile trek is very popular and typically takes 4-5 days and includes many of the day hikes listed below.

O Circuit – more challenging and longer than the W Trek, the 58-mile O Circuit encircles the entire Paine Massif, and includes many of the highlights of the W Trek but includes more remote areas such as John Gardner Pass and the backside of the Paine Massif.

Valle des Francés (Valley of France) – a full day hike, providing panoramic views over 16 km of hiking and close to 600 m elevation gain

Base de las Torres (Towers Base) – A challenging 19 km day hike climbs over 1000 m and takes you to the base of the Torres, rewarding you with the iconic views of the massif

Grey Glacier – a full day hike, this 16 km trail provides spectacular views over almost 800 m elevation gain

Mirador Ferrier – a 6 km route, climbing 600 m to one of the best viewpoints in the park

 

Chile Torres del Paine

When planning to trek in Patagonia, there are several base locations in Chile that provide access to the region’s stunning landscapes. Two popular bases for exploring the Chilean side of Patagonia are Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas.

Puerto Natales

Proximity to Torres del Paine: Puerto Natales is the closest town to Torres del Paine National Park, making it a convenient base for trekkers. The park is about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Puerto Natales.

Accommodation: The town offers a range of accommodations, from hostels to hotels, catering to various budgets. It’s advisable to book accommodations in advance, especially during the high trekking season.

Services and Amenities: Puerto Natales has gear rental shops, supermarkets, restaurants, and outdoor stores, providing trekkers with the necessary supplies and services before embarking on their trek.

Punta Arenas

Airport Access: Punta Arenas has an international airport, making it a convenient entry point for many travelers. From Punta Arenas, you can either take a bus or drive to Puerto Natales for access to Torres del Paine

City Attractions: Punta Arenas itself is a charming city with historical sites, museums, and a vibrant cultural scene. Travelers may choose to explore the city before or after their trekking adventures.

Travel Hub: Punta Arenas serves as a transportation hub for the region, connecting travelers to various destinations in Patagonia.

The Carretera Austral: Venture off the well-trodden paths and explore the Carretera Austral, a remote and scenic highway winding through Chilean Patagonia. This route introduces trekkers to hidden gems like Cerro Castillo National Reserve, where challenging trails lead to panoramic views of pristine landscapes, serene lakes, and snow-capped peaks.

mountains argentina patagonia

Argentina

Los Glaciares National Park

Argentina’s Patagonian offering includes Los Glaciares National Park, a breathtaking wilderness area renowned for its stunning landscapes and pristine beauty. The park features the postcard-perfect imposing peaks of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. While the ascent to the peak of Fitz Roy is reserved for only the most skilled mountaineers, there are other trails for hikers to embark on to get you up close to these giants.

Fitz Roy Trek – classic trekking route, 30 km trek leads to the base of Mount Fitz Roy, one of the most iconic and photogenic peaks in the Andes

Huemel Circuit – This 66 km trek is a challenging and less-traveled multi-day trek offers stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Lake Viedma, and the towering Mount Fitz Roy.

Laguna de los Tres – is an iconic (and lengthy) hike (22 km) that takes hikers through beech forests and along mountain streams before reaching the turquoise Laguna de los Tres, offering a panoramic view of the three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.

Laguna Capri – a moderate, 8.7 km hike with just over 400 m elevation gain, takes you to the shores of Laguna Capri and with beautiful views of Fitz Roy.   

 

Patagonia Argentina

El Calafate and El Chaltén are two popular base towns in Argentina for trekking in Patagonia, offering access to some of the region’s most stunning landscapes, including glaciers, mountains, and pristine wilderness.

El Calafate

Proximity to Perito Moreno Glacier: El Calafate is known for its proximity to the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier, a must-visit natural wonder. While not a trekking destination itself, El Calafate is an excellent starting point for exploring the glacier and other nearby attractions.

Access to Torres del Paine: El Calafate serves as a gateway for those wishing to visit Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Regular bus services connect El Calafate with Puerto Natales, the nearest town to Torres del Paine, making it a convenient base for trekkers.

El Chaltén

Base for Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre: El Chaltén is often referred to as the “Trekking Capital of Argentina” and is nestled within Los Glaciares National Park. It provides a base for exploring the iconic Fitz Roy Range, including Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

Numerous Trekking Options: El Chaltén offers a variety of trekking options, from shorter day hikes to multi-day adventures. Popular trails include Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Capri, and the challenging Huemul Circuit.

Outdoor Atmosphere: The town has a laid-back, outdoor-oriented atmosphere, with trekking and outdoor activities being the main attractions. There are hostels, hotels, and campsites to accommodate different types of travelers.

Both El Calafate and El Chaltén offer unique experiences, and the choice between them depends on your specific interests and the type of trekking you wish to undertake. If your focus is on exploring glaciers and accessing Torres del Paine, El Calafate may be a more suitable base. For those seeking to trek amidst the Fitz Roy Range and Los Glaciares National Park, El Chaltén is the ideal starting point.

Many of the day hikes and treks can be hiked independently as trails are well marked and there are good maps available. But for those that want some guidance, there are plenty of guiding companies in the region. From the towering spires of Torres del Paine to the icy wonders of Perito Moreno, a trek through Patagonia promises an adventure of a lifetime, leaving indelible memories etched in the heart of every explorer.

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