Patagonia is a major destination for hikers interested in the wildest and most pristine corners of this planet. The word Patagonia itself conjures images of rugged ranges piercing through the clouds, massive glaciers, and some of the biggest ice fields you will see anywhere in the world. Patagonia covers the southern portions of Argentina and Chile so hiking in this area is one of the most productive and diverse experiences you can have. The flora and fauna offer you the most stunning variety you can ever imagine. From the red-headed woodpeckers to condors to pumas or even a pygmy owl, prepare for the unexpected.
Even though the spellbinding beauty of Patagonia is not in doubt, it is even easier to hike there than many imagine. Tourism in this area is experiencing a major upsurge over the past few years. So, if you are a new tourist in this area, you will find it a lot easier than expected. Some choose to go with organized tour sets, but you can even do the hiking all alone. That you have little experience as a backpacker will not stop you from enjoying the excitement that is Patagonia. This is a hiking guide for a memorable tour of Patagonia.
When to Visit
- Summer Season (December to February)
Summer is the peak of visits to Patagonia starting from December through February as this is the time when the warmest temperature readings are done, and the days are also longest. Even though it is very cool hiking at this temperature, you must be ready for crowds and fierce winds.
- Fall Season (March to April)
For those who cannot go during the summer, there is another option and that is during fall. The temperature here is cooler and the crowds would have eased off a bit. You can also expect the winds to be milder during this period. But precipitation reaches its peaks in April and May and you need to consider that carefully. Some choose to come during fall so they can witness the stunning transformation of the trees from lush green to brilliant red.
- Spring Season (September to November)
Anyone interested in enjoying the serenity of Patagonia before the crowds arrive should plan for spring. The temperature is cool, and you can use warm clothing. The wind is also very tranquil, and precipitation is minimal.
Wind and Weather
Patagonia is a place where the weather has a mind of its own – it is always unpredictable. You will hear tourists who have been to the area before saying you can enjoy all the four seasons in one day. While planning for your trip, have it in mind that the weather is not stable.
You are most likely going to have rain but what will leave a lasting impression on you will be the wind. The winds here can be extraordinarily strong especially during the December-February period where winds can reach as high as 75 miles per hour. During summer, the air is calm, but you need to be incredibly careful on the bridges or ledges when the winds are strong – you can cancel hikes if needed.
Many of those going to Patagonia will land first at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport located in Santiago, Chile. It is from either of these airports that the tourists take local flights to Patagonia. Many go for the cheapest flight deals.
Moving Around with Buses
Even though there are buses that cover vast distances between the central areas of Patagonia in the south and the northern section, we will focus mainly on moving around the Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine. These are the most frequented routes for visitors.
There are several bus companies plying routes between the towns like Puerto Natales, El Calafate, Punta Arenas, and El Chalten. Buses are very neat and arrive on time, but it is good for you to purchase your tickets ahead of time, especially during the peak seasons.
Visiting Patagonia will cost you some fortune as it is not cheap. However, if you have limited funds, you can always go for the cheapest options when it comes to food and accommodation. A good number of the hiking regions of Patagonia have mountain huts known as refugios. In these refugios, you are going to get drinks, hot meals, and snacks. The different regions of Patagonia that you can explore include the following:
- Torres del Paine
- Los Glaciares National Park
- Chilean Lakes District
- Northern Argentina Patagonia
- Southern Argentine Patagonia (Tierra el Fuego)