Best places for Hiking in Patagonia
Patagonia it’s a vast, huge, endless source for inspiration in many different ways. Shared by Argentina and Chile, this territory stretches along both sides of the Andean Cordillera for over 2400 km from North to South. The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans reach its coast, either by open Ocean fronts, Fjords, Channels, Straits, Bays, Coves, or Gulfs.
The geographical features in the different latitudes of Patagonia include mountains, forests, rivers, glaciers, a humongous continental ice field, lakes, lagoons, islands, and the endless steppe. Naturally, there are hundreds of trails to walk through in order to discover some of these natural treasures. In this article, we would like to introduce you to some of the most remarkable Patagonia trekking routes.
Bariloche and the Lake District: the “Huella Andina”
San Carlos de Bariloche is the main hub of the Lake District (northwestern Argentinean side of Patagonia), an area very similar to the Alps and very popular for hosting mountain villages and impressive landscapes. Nature wise is an area with plenty of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and lagoons.
Over the years, different inhabitants have created several trails for trekking, which lead to different viewpoints and have different difficulties. These trails are spread along a corridor of over 600 km, which goes from Esquel (Los Alerces National Park and UNESCO site) to Villa Pehuenia, passing by El Bolsón, Lago Puelo, Bariloche, Villa La Angostura, San Martin de los Andes, and other highlights. These places are home to several National Parks and attractions, and the “big conjunction” of all the trekking trails that exist in these attractions, is known as the “Huella Andina”.
Walking along all its trails takes a long time, therefore, travelers choose the parts that look more appealing to them. Some of these trails are interconnected among themselves through mountain shelters, such as those in the Cathedral Hill or the Tronador Mount. For instance, there is a trail of around 45 km known as “4 Refugios” (4 shelters), which connects the mountain shelters “Frey”, “Jakob”, “Lopez” and “Laguna Negra”. An unforgettable experience!
On the other hand, during wintertime (most of the trekking activities are common during spring, summer, and autumn) there is a lot to do and to see….and hiking among snowed forests is something that you shouldn’t miss!
El Chaltén & El Calafate: land of Glaciers and trekking Paradise
Welcome to the capital for trekking in Argentina: El Chaltén. Lying at the feet of the Mount Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre, this picturesque village is the gate to all kinds of trekking adventures. El Chaltén is around 3 hours from El Calafate, which is the main hub for logistics and gate to the Glacier Perito Moreno.
If you ever visit this area, you should definitively combine 2-3 days in El Calafate with at least 3 days in El Chaltén. In El Calafate, the Glacier Perito Moreno rises as one of the most impressive glaciers-to-see in the world. Its balconies are super nice to walk on, and the contrasts between the forests, the lake, and the ice walls are quite nice to see.
The glacier Perito Moreno is inside Los Glaciares National Park, and besides walking on the balconies it’s also possible to hike on top of the Glacier, kayak among ice chunks, or navigate on Lago Argentino.
El Chaltén, 220 km away from El Calafate, is the ideal place for trekking in the Argentine side of Patagonia. One of the reasons is because this is an area with abundant contrasts in relatively short trekking-distances, with the possibility of walking along many of its trails through full-day hikes from the village.
The most iconic hikes are “Laguna de los 3” and “Lago Torre”. The first one takes around 10 hours return –medium difficulty- from the village and offers great views to the Fitz Roy Mount. The other one is shorter (around 8 hours) and leads to the lagoon which is at the feet of the Torre Mount. These trails (and other popular ones) are not really high in altitude, which is good news for those who suffer from altitude sickness.
Apart from these two hikes, there are also many other ones, and it’s possible to join some of them through the mountains (camping only). One of the most iconic multi-day hikes are the “Ruta del Huemul” and the legendary “Expedition to the Continental Ice Field”. The Continental Ice Field is a humongous ice cap –the third largest in the world after Antarctica and Greenland- shared between Argentina and Chile. This “ice plateau” lies behind the Fitz Roy Mount, it is 90 km wide and stretches along 400 km from North to South.
Torres del Paine: the Legendary W-trek
The National Park Torres del Paine (Chile) is certainly one of the most incredible places for trekking in the world. The most popular circuit is known as the “W-trek”, which consists of a 3-4 days hike along the main three valleys of the National Park. These Valleys are the “Rio Asencio” (view to the Base of the Towers), “Francés” (view to the Horns), and “Grey” (view to the Glacier and Lake Grey). If you see the circuit on a map, you will notice that it looks like a “W”.
Travelers can stay either in camps, refuges, or other types of accommodation. However, not all of them are located at the same spots. For instance, if you like comfort and high-end hotels, you may lose some parts of the circuit but will be able anyways to do most of it.
There is another great hike known as the “O” trek, which an extension of the “W” that circles around the mountains. On the other hand, the National Park Torres del Paine counts with other highlights and attractions, such as its rich wildlife and breath-taking panoramic points.
The main gates to reach are Puerto Natales (Chile), Punta Arenas (Chile) or El Calafate (Argentina).
Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Williams, and other great destinations
Like those mentioned above, we could extend the list to many other great destinations. For instance, Tierra del Fuego (main hub: Ushuaia) offers plenty of trails along peat bogs, mountains, rivers, sea-side (Beagle Channel), forests, and lakes. Right in front of Ushuaia (Argentina) and on the southern side of the Beagle Channel, is Puerto Williams (Chile), known as well as the “new” Southernmost city in the world.
From Puerto Williams it’s possible to enjoy one of the southernmost trekking circuits in the world: the “Dientes de Navarino” trail. This trail has the shape of teeth (“dientes” in spanish) and takes around 5 days. The landscapes are similar to those in Tierra del Fuego, with many virgin areas, beautiful lagoons, and incredible Nothofagus forests.
Other great areas for trekking in Patagonia are in the Chilean Fjords, the Chilean Lake District, the “Carretera Austral”, Patagonia National Park, Perito Moreno National Park, and Península Valdés. We invite you to come and discover the beauties that this amazing region of the world has to offer!