Patagonia is a region that I have been fascinated with for a long time. The mountains, lakes, wildlife and rugged landscapes make this region one of the most beautiful places on Planet Earth. I spent just over three weeks in the Patagonia region earlier this year and was blown away by it’s beauty. Here are the places in Argentina and Chile that I visited.
The first town we hit in Patagonia was Puerto Madryn, a Welsh settlement town located on the coast of Argentina. This particular town is all geared up for whale watching tours but unfortunately we were there out of season so there wasn’t a whole heap of stuff to do. Our campsite was situated right by the ocean though so it was a nice place to just chill out and relax before the really cold weather hit us.
You can swim with seals here but at $150USD I thought it was a little pricey and not something I was dying to do.
We spotted this huge group of sea lions on the way to Puerto Madryn, they stunk so bad but what a treat to get up close and personal to these huge beasts.
We camped at the Blue Lagoon or the Azul Lagoon as it is known, this is a huge crater which was formed from a volcano. Although the day we were there was particularly bleak it was still beautiful and was a great taste of landscapes that were to come in Patagonia.
On my Tucan Travel tour in Patagonia we did a lot of ‘bush camping’, this is basically code for we have nowhere to stay so we’ll set up camp somewhere when the driver gets tired or before it gets dark. Sometimes it was a petrol station forecourt and other times it was this crater in the middle of nowhere.
It was completely isolated and I felt like I was properly in the wild. The stars were phenomenal once the sun finally set and the cold set in. Just to set the scene, there was a load of animal bones scattered around where we put our tents so someone had been there before us.
The town at the end of the world as it is commonly known was a very interesting place. Ushuaia is the drop off town before hopping on a boat to Antartica so it absolutely reeks of money and old people. The place was crawling with older American’s wearing Canadian duck goose gear talking loudly about their experiences on their Antarctic journey. I was of course jealous (of their trip not their jackets).
Like any good town there was an Irish pub, restaurants, outdoor gear shops and tourist shops. There is also plenty of tourist agents selling last minute trips to Antartica so if you aren’t on a time frame apparently you can save up to 20-30% on Antarctic trips by just turning up and having a spare two weeks to hang around for the right boat/deal to come along.
There are day trips you can pick up from Ushuaia but for a budget backpacker like myself they were all way out of my price range, a trip to see penguins would have set me back $150USD so for both of us to do that was out of the question. I thought we would see penguins at some point along the way in Patagonia but unfortunately it didn’t happen, no whales either. I feel like I must of done something wrong to not see these two icons of Patagonia!
I will return to Ushuaia one day and I will be one of those people getting on a boat to Antarctica, I’ve given myself 10 years to fulfil this goal and I shall make it happen.
Tierra del Fuego
Named Tierra del Fuego (land of fire), a fantastic national park situated just a short drive from Ushuaia. This park offers great hikes past lakes and mountains and you end up at the end of the Pan American Highway (also known as the end of the world).
Torres del Paine
The absolute jewel of Patagonia, this park offers some of the best landscape, scenery and natural beauty I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. A truly unique and beautiful location that can only be seen in real life to be believed. Snow capped mountains, high peaks, bright blue lakes, wild life and some seriously tough camping can all be achieved and seen within this magical park.
Hike to the famous Towers, spot puma and guanaco, see waterfalls and just enjoy Mother Nature at her absolute finest.
Unfortunately for me I’d twisted my ankle so the next three destinations in Patagonia were seen by hobbling around so I didn’t get to see it’s full potential. In El Calafate the main draw card is the Perito Moreno glacier, which again is Mother Nature at her finest. A huge glacier that is advancing every day, you can read more about the glacier here.
A hikers town situated in Patagonia that is filled with travellers who arise early and get out and enjoy some of Patagonia’s best hiking tracks from town. As I mentioned above I had twisted my ankle so all I saw of El Chalten was the four walls of my hostel room (luckily not just the inside of my tent) but my husband did the Mt Fitzroy hike which was one I was really looking forward to.
He said it was a tough one but worth it to get the amazing views of Mt Fitzroy but because its Patagonia and the weather is ever changing. Had he been there half an hour before the clouds would been overshadowing the tip of the mountain range but from the photos it’s still very impressive.
Again, I didn’t get to see much of Bariloche due to my ankle injury but what I did see was beautiful little town filled with chocolate, mountains and this beautiful lake right by our campsite.
Read The Not So Budget Backpacker’s guide to hiking in Bariloche for some great views and three awesome hikes.
Bariloche looks a lot like a Swiss village and you’d be mistaken if you didn’t think you were back in Europe. The main street shops are lined with chocolate shops, every single type of chocolate you can imagine they sell it and give you plenty to sample along the way.
Tips for Patagonia
- Bring appropriate clothing – I know this sounds ridiculous but I was pretty cold most of the time in Patagonia. Layer it up and don’t forget good thermals, puffer jacket and a good pair of shoes.
- You will spend a LOT of time travelling in a vehicle if you are overlanding – Patagonia is vast, some days we would drive from 7am-7pm and not see a hell of a lot along the way.
- Have plenty of pages in your passport – Getting in and out of Patagonia wasn’t easy as we had to cross the border several times. One day we crossed from Argentina to Chile and back into Argentina which equals 4 stamps. Only a week later we had to do that route again which meant another 4 stamps and that was just to get to Ushuaia and back. So be prepared if you’re passport (like mine) was running out of space.
- Don’t bring fresh food into Chile – Border crossings in Chile are a bitch, you can’t bring any fresh food with you at all so every time you cross in and out of Chile you have to empty your vehicle, bags are checked and food is inevitably wasted.
Check out my South America page for more destinations and travel tips for this amazing continent.