Updated: Apr 25, 2019
This Patagonia blog will not answer all of your questions from when and where to go, whether it is expensive, and how to pack for it; I will simply take you through the trip we planned, the places we visited, and the most fascinating experiences and the gear I used.
If you love the outdoors and rugged nature, it’s hard to think of a better destination than Patagonia. Split between Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is home to the world’s most beautiful hikes, is a mecca for rock climbers, and is even the jumping off point for Antarctica.
Patagonia’s extreme southern location means there are certain months of the year when it’s a better time to visit. We wanted to hike in Torres del Paine National Park and explore the Fitz Roy region and discover dramatic glacial landscapes of and Los Glaciares National Park. Despite the highest season is between December and March, the beginning of the spring in November was the most ideal option as it was cheaper and less crowded (November and April are lovely months as well).
We flew from London (UK) via San Paolo (Brasil) and we decided to visit the following places over 2 weeks time we had. Torres del Paine and the "O" Circuit, the full loop around the Cordillera del Paine - the "W" plus the more remote backside that gets fewer trekkers, was the main highlight of the trip and we decided to hike the total distance of app. 110 kilometers in 5 days. We then decided to dedicate 2 days to visit El Calafate and 3 days hike in Los Glaciares National Park. See the breakdown of the days below:
Day 1-2: International flight from London to Buenos Aires via San Paolo.
Day 3: Domestic flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate and bus trip from El Calafate to Puerto Natales.
Day 4: Bus trip from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park, catamaran from Guarderia Pudeto to Refugio and Camping Paina Grande and hiking to Domes and Camping El Frances.
Day 5: Hiking from Domes and Camping El Frances to Mirador Base Las Torres and then Refugios Torre Central & Norte, Camping Torres.
Day 6: Hiking from Refugios Torre Central & Norte, Camping Torres to Campamento Seron and then Refugio & Camping Dickinson.
Day 7: Hiking from Refugio & Camping Dickinson to Camping Los Perros.
Day 8: Hiking from Camping Los Perros to Camping Paso and then Refugio & Camping Grey.
Day 9: Hiking from Refugio & Camping Grey to Refugio and Camping Paina Grande, catamaran to Guarderia Pudeto and bus trip to Puerto Natales.
Day 10: Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate and short hike to see Perito Moreno Glacier.
Day 11: Day trip to Estancia Christina from El Calafate.
Day 12: Road trip from El Calafate to El Chalten via popular Route 40, and short hike to Mirador Torre.
Day 13: Hiking from El Chalten to Laguna de Los Tres, Laguna Capri & Cerro Torre.
Day 14: Road trip from El Chalten to El Calafate and flight to Buenos Aires.
Day 15-16: Short visit of Buenos Aires, and flight to London via San Paolo.
Places visited and the most fascinating experiences
The following are some of the best things to see in Patagonia, in order of my personal favorites. While everyone is different, these are some of the most impressive things that I saw and that I think you’ll love too:
Torres del Paine National Park is the crown jewel of Patagonia and I highly recommend backpacking through the "O" circuit in this national park. You will see incredible mountain formations, and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is only visible from four trails in Patagonia. Some of the Ande's youngest peaks, the Torres del Paine are among the range's most emblematic sights. Some 10 million years ago, a magma intrusion failed to reach the earth's surface, cooling underground into resistant granite. In the Interim, water, ice and snow have eroded the softer terrain to liberate the spires as one of the most dramatic landscapes. The saw-toothed Curenos del Paine, located almost immediately south of the Torres proper, retain a cap of darker but softer metamorphic rock atop a broader granitic batholitic that, like the Torres, never reached the surface before cooling. It is the contrast between the tow that gives the Curenos their striking aspect.
Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre in Los Glacieres National Park are mountains in Patagonia, on the border between Argentina and Chile. They are located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, near El Chaltén village and Viedma lake. Fitz Roy was first climbed in 1952 by French alpinists Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone. In the park's most northerly sector, the Fitz Roy range has sheer spires to match Torres del Paine. Even if you are not a top technical climber, trails from the village of El Chaltén to the base of summits such as Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre make for exhilarating hikes. It is even possible to traverse the southern Patagonian ice fields. From a signposted trailhead at El Chaltén's north end, the Sender Laguna Torre is an 11-km track to the southern beech forests to the climbers' base camp for Cerro Torre.
El Calafate is a town near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz. It’s mainly known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier, whose ever-shifting icy landscape is popular for hiking and sightseeing. Spreading along the south shore of Lago Argentino, a giant glacial trough fed by melt-water from the Campo de Hielo Sur, fast-growing El Calafate is the poster child for Argentina's tourism boom. We had delicious food at Viva la Pepa, that offers sweet and savory crepes, and Mi Viejo. Where a low Andean pass lets Pacific weather systems cross the cordillera, countless storms have deposited immeasurable metres of snow that, over millennia, have compressed into Glaciar Perito Moreno, rasping a river of ice that is one of the continent's greatest sights and sounds.
El Chaltén is a village within Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s Santa Cruz province. It’s a gateway to trails surrounding the peaks of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitz Roy to the northwest. Near Fitz Roy, a path leads to the Laguna de los Tres viewpoint. Just northwest of the village, the shores of Laguna Capri offer mountain views. Shops line San Martín, one of the village’s main streets. Building itself as Argentina's national trekking capital, El Chaltén has become popular for easy access to Fitz Roy range trailheads. Exposed to fierce westerlies and to potential floods from the Rio de las Vueltas, El Chaltén has somehow managed to achieve a sense of permanence in what, just a few years back, seemed a bleak out post of government offices aimed to uphold Argentina's presence in a disputed border zone. With highway from the RN40 junction now paved, it is growing so rapidly that some fear it will become the next El Calafate, where real estate development and speculation are rampant. Travel time from El Calafate is about three hours.
Camera, Travel and Backpacking gear
I'm a keen photographer and I love taking pictures of nature and landscapes. Below I listed what I usually carry with me on holiday. If you are interested to check my full camera gear, including all my accessories, this is my Kit: https://kit.com/pieroromoli/camera-gear
Nikon D700 (https://www.nikon.com/)
GoPro Hero 6 (https://gopro.com/)
DJI Mavic Air (https://www.dji.com/pt)
Nikkor 16-34mm f4 and 50mm f1.8 (http://www.nikkor.com/)
Tamron 70-300mm f4-5.6 (https://www.tamron.eu/)
iPhone 8 and iPhone 5s (https://www.apple.com/)
Benro Carbon Fibre Tripod (http://www.benro.com/)
Manfrotto PIXI Evo 2 (https://www.manfrotto.co.uk/)
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II (https://www.lowepro.com/global/)
Hoya Filters (https://hoyafilter.com/)
I hope you’ve found this post helpful and interesting.