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The rugged, untamed wilderness of Patagonia beckons travelers with the promise of unbound adventures. Nestled at the southern tip of South America, spanning both Chile and Argentina, this region is a sanctuary for nature lovers, thrill-seekers, and explorers alike. Whether you are drawn to the majestic peaks of the Andes, the pristine glaciers of Los Glaciares National Park, the otherworldly beauty of Torres del Paine, the diverse wildlife, or a thrilling trip to Patagonia itself, this incredible destination offers limitless possibilities. Here are our top 12 things to do in Patagonia.
- Jan Sands
As the gateway to Southern Chilean Patagonia, Punta Arenas is primely located in proximity to all the region’s attractions. While this bustling town is a great place to set up shop for the majority of your Chilean Patagonian trip, it’s also got many appealing aspects of its own. Wander around the historic Plaza Munoz Gamero and admire the 19th and 20th-century style houses. Get picture-perfect views of the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego from Mirador Cerro La Cruz, a viewpoint located just a short walk from the main square. Visitors can also spend the day wandering around and admiring historic sites and monuments like the Lord Lonsdale Shipwreck and the Contanera del Estrecho.
Best time: Visit Punta Arenas from November to March for pleasant weather and outdoor activities. For winter sports like skiing, go in July or August.
Good to know: If you want to get out of town for a day, hit the slopes at Club Andino Skiing, just 8 kilometers away.
Riding the End of the World Train will take you on a captivating journey through the rugged terrain of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. This historic narrow-gauge railway, also known as the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino, takes you on a 54-kilometer voyage from Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, to the stunning Tierra del Fuego National Park. As you board vintage steam locomotives or diesel-electric engines, you will traverse dense forests, picturesque rivers, and awe-inspiring mountains. Along the way, you will also get to learn about the region's rich history, indigenous peoples, and the penal colony that once existed here. The train ultimately arrives at the remote Lapataia Bay, where the Pan-American Highway ends, offering a unique and unforgettable experience during your trip to Argentina at the literal End of the World.
Best time: The End of the World Train is best enjoyed from November to March, with pleasant temperatures for exploring Tierra del Fuego National Park. Winter months may have reduced train operations due to harsh conditions.
Good to know: Since this historic train journey is in high demand, it is advisable to secure your tickets well ahead of time. Opt for the first-class carriages for a more comfortable experience and better views of the surrounding landscapes.
Cruising the fjords is one of the most sought-after things to do in Patagonia. As you set sail amidst towering snow-capped peaks, colossal glaciers like the famed Perito Moreno Glacier, and lush green forests clinging to steep cliffs, you will be immersed in a world of breathtaking natural beauty. Witnessing glacier calving in the Beagle Channel, encountering diverse wildlife from seals to dolphins in the Chilean fjords, and enjoying the tranquility of Tierra del Fuego make this experience truly exceptional. Patagonia’s fjords are a hidden gem, and a cruise offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore this pristine paradise.
- Puerto Natales, a perfect getaway to Chilean Patagonia’s stunning fjords, offers fjord cruises into rugged landscapes. Sail through the Ultima Esperanza Fjord, famed for its dramatic cliffs and pristine waters, and spot the Serrano Glacier and Balmaceda Glacier along the way.
- Punta Arenas, at Chile’s southern tip, is an excellent launchpad for fjord exploration. Cruises from here traverse the famed Strait of Magellan, providing breathtaking views of Patagonia fjords, rugged coastlines and abundant wildlife. Many cruises also include stops at islands like Magdalena Island, which boasts a sizable penguin colony.
- Chiloé Island, known for its distinctive culture and unique wooden churches, is also a superb destination for fjord cruises. Sail through the Chacao Channel to witness the convergence of the Pacific Ocean and the fjord-laden inland sea, while spotting dolphins, sea lions and seabirds.
Best time: The best time for Patagonia fjord cruises is from November to March, the summer months. This season brings milder temperatures, calmer waters and optimal wildlife sighting conditions.
Good to know: Consider a smaller, more intimate cruise for a more immersive experience. Be prepared for unpredictable weather, so pack appropriate clothing and seasickness remedies.
Over 1,000 kilometers north of Punta Arenas, the quaint little town of Coyhaique offers its own take on Patagonian beauty. Enclosed by cliffs, rolling hills, and dotted with sparkling emerald lakes, fly fishermen congregate in this town known for its salmon and trout. Join in on the fishing fun, or embark on one of the other excursions to further explore the town. Sea kayaking through the Marble Cathedral and horseback riding and rafting trips along the Simpson River are popular activities.
Best time: Coyhaique boasts year-round attractions. The best time for outdoor activities like fishing, kayaking, and horseback riding is summer, which runs from December to March. Visit during the winter months for snow sports.
Good to know: Check out Feria Artesanal, a handicrafts market in Plaza de Armas, for authentic locally-made goods. You’ll find much of the merchandise is made from sheep, including sheepskin rugs and wool clothing.
Argentina's Lake District, nestled in Argentine Patagonia's northwest territory, boasts stunning scenery encompassing thousands of square kilometers. Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Chilean Patagonia, and Atlantic Patagonia, it features snow-capped peaks, glistening lakes, lush forests, hiking and biking trails, and thrilling white water rapids. Bariloche, the lively hub of the region, offers European architecture, delectable local cuisine, and proximity to Nahuel Huapi National Park, just 24 kilometers away. Here, you can enjoy kayaking, rafting, trekking, mountain biking, and even horseback riding tours with homemade lunches at local estancias. Bariloche is a year-round destination, offering skiing and snowshoeing in winter, ensuring an array of activities and attractions for visitors.
Best time: The Lake District around Bariloche is most vibrant during the Argentine summer, from December to March. This is the perfect season for outdoor pursuits like mountain biking, trekking and kayaking. If you prefer winter activities, visit during the country's ski season, which lasts from June to September.
Good to know: Sample prime South American beer at the number of Bariloche’s microbreweries. Bariloche is also the country’s chocolate capital. Make sure to stop in to some of the town’s famous artisan shops and indulge in the country’s most exquisite treat.
One of the top things to do in Patagonia is embarking on a whale-watching expedition. The coastal waters of Patagonia, particularly in the Valdes Peninsula and Golfo Nuevo region of Argentina, are renowned for their rich biodiversity. Here, you can witness the mesmerizing spectacle of southern right whales breaching and tail-slapping as they migrate to these protected waters to give birth and nurse their calves. These areas also present ample opportunities to observe orcas, dolphins, and sea lions in their natural habitat. A wonderfully instructive and amazing trip awaits you as you sail through these pristine waters with knowledgeable guides who will share insights into the behavior and conservation efforts involving these magnificent species.
- Chiloé Island, located in the Gulf of Corcovado, is a hidden gem for whale watching in Patagonia. Between December and April, the island becomes a hub for humpback whales. Visitors can embark on boat tours that navigate the picturesque waters of the Gulf, offering a chance to witness the acrobatic displays of these marine mammals, often accompanied by playful dolphins.
- The entire Atlantic coast of Patagonia offers excellent opportunities for whale watching. Towns like Puerto Deseado and Comodoro Rivadavia are known for their whale-watching excursions. Besides southern right whales, you may also encounter orcas, humpback whales, and the elusive blue whales during the migration season.
- Puerto Madryn, situated along the coast of Golfo Nuevo, serves as a prominent base for immersive whale-watching experiences. Numerous tour operators offer boat trips that allow you to get within a few meters of these gentle giants.
Best time: To witness southern right whales in Patagonia, plan your visit between June and December. For encounters with orcas, plan your visit in March and April.
Nestled in the heart of Argentine Patagonia, El Calafate is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and serves as the gateway to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Here, you can embark on adventures that take you to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the world's few advancing glaciers. Witness the glacier calving events, go on a hike, or take a boat tour to marvel at towering ice walls. Beyond the glacier, El Calafate offers breathtaking vistas of turquoise lakes, rugged mountains, and diverse wildlife. Whether you are exploring the pristine landscapes, savoring local cuisine, or simply soaking in the tranquil Patagonian ambiance, El Calafate promises an unforgettable journey.
Best time: The best time to visit El Calafate is during the Patagonian summer, from November to March. This period provides comfortable temperatures for hiking, glacier boat tours, and other activities in El Calafate. However, keep in mind that since this is the peak tourist season, it can get crowded.
Nestled in the heart of Argentine Patagonia, Mount Fitz Roy, draws rock climbers from all over the world with its steep granite walls and renowned obstacles. Known as one of the ultimate testpieces in the climbing world, Fitz Roy offers a range of routes that cater to climbers of all levels, from daring novices to seasoned alpinists. Ascending its iconic spires, like the Supercanaleta route, requires a combination of technical expertise and sheer determination, while the unpredictable Patagonian weather adds to the challenge. The reward? Breathtaking vistas of the surrounding wilderness, a profound sense of accomplishment, and the honor of having conquered one of the most iconic peaks in the world. Whether you're a climbing enthusiast or simply seeking an extraordinary adventure, tackling Fitz Roy's challenging rock faces promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of Patagonia's rugged beauty.
Best time: The best time of year to climb Mount Fitz Roy is during the Patagonian summer, which lasts from late November until late February.
Embarking on a fly-fishing adventure is a dream come true for anglers seeking fun things to do in Patagonia. The region's clear rivers, shimmering lakes, and lush landscapes offer an idyllic backdrop for casting lines. Patagonia boasts renowned fishing destinations such as the Limay River, Chimehuin River, and Lake Strobel, where you can pursue trophy-sized trout and salmon. Whether wading through the gin-clear currents or casting from a drift boat, the thrill of catching these elusive fish amidst breathtaking scenery is unparalleled. With expert guides and eco-conscious lodges, Patagonia's fly-fishing experience is not only about the catch but also about preserving the natural beauty of this remarkable wilderness.
- Nestled in the Argentine Patagonian Andes, San Martín de los Andes is renowned for its world-class fly fishing opportunities. The region is dotted with stunning lakes and rivers, including the iconic Lanín National Park. Limay River, Chimehuin River and Lake Huechulafquen are just a few of the prime fishing spots where you can cast your line for rainbow and brown trout.
- Bariloche, famous for its picturesque landscapes and glacial lakes, also offers excellent fly fishing experiences. The Limay River and Manso River, both within easy reach of Bariloche, provide fantastic trout fishing opportunities. Enjoy the serene beauty of Patagonia's wilderness while angling for trophy-sized trout.
- Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost point of South America, is a dream destination for adventurous fly anglers. The Rio Grande is celebrated worldwide for its sea-run brown trout, known for their size and fight. The dramatic landscapes of Tierra del Fuego add to the allure of fly fishing in this remote wilderness.
Best time: Fly fishing in Patagonia is excellent from November to April, with peak fishing season typically from December to March. The weather is favorable during this time, and rivers and lakes are more accessible for fishing.
Good to know: If you don’t have time for the boat tour or it’s out of your budget, don’t worry. You can still experience this natural wonder. There’s a trail just inside the park that leads to ample viewing platforms where you can snap that perfect shot.
Visiting the Marble Caves in Patagonia is like stepping into a surreal, subterranean wonderland. These natural formations are found on the shores of General Carrera Lake in Chile, accessible by boat from the town of Puerto Río Tranquilo. Carved by thousands of years of water erosion, the swirling patterns and vibrant azure and turquoise hues of the cave walls are nothing short of mesmerizing. Depending on the angle of the sunlight, the caves transform into a kaleidoscope of colors, creating an otherworldly visual spectacle.
- Nestled along General Carrera Lake, Puerto Rio Tranquilo is the gateway to the Marble Caves, locally known as "Capillas de Mármol." Carved by the lake's waters, these caves showcase a surreal blend of blues and greens when illuminated by natural light. The best way to explore them is by boat tour, which allows you to glide through crystal-clear waters and marvel at the stunning marble reflections and colors.
- Los Antiguos, situated on the Argentinian side of General Carrera Lake, offers another entry point to the marble caves. These caves are known as the "Capillas de Mármol" (Marble Chapels) in Spanish, and they are equally enchanting as their Chilean counterparts. Take a boat tour from Los Antiguos to access these geological wonders.
Best time: The ideal time to explore the Marble Caves is from October to March, as these months offer more favorable weather conditions for taking boat tours on General Carrera Lake. The sunlight during these months creates stunning reflections and colors within the caves, providing the most breathtaking views.
Glacier hiking is one of the best things to do in Patagonia, as it offers a rare glimpse into the region’s frozen wonders. Witness huge blue ice walls, towering seracs, and crystal-clear crevasses as you travel through these frozen giants in southern Chile and Argentina. The Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight, where thunderous ice calvings are a sight to behold. Patagonia's glaciers are remarkably dynamic, their movements audible and visible. Hikers can explore the intricate network of trails, witnessing the fragile beauty of these glacial landscapes while learning about their vital role in regulating global climate. It is an encounter that will leave you marveling at the wonders of Earth's natural beauty.
- Located across the border in Chile, yet easily accessible from Argentina, Torres del Paine National Park is renowned for its striking granite peaks and pristine glaciers. One of its crown jewels is the Grey Glacier, accessible through guided treks that lead you into proximity to its awe-inspiring blue ice.
- A UNESCO world heritage site, Los Glaciers National Park boasts some of Patagonia's most iconic glaciers. The Perito Moreno Glacier, in particular, offers an incredible trekking adventure. Guided ice trekking tours allow you to step onto the glacier's surface and explore its intricate crevasses.
- El Chalten, known as the "Trekking capital of Argentina" is a charming mountain community encircled by towering peaks and glaciers. The hiking trails here grant access to the Viedma Glacier, among others. Be sure to include the trek to Laguna de los Tres for a jaw-dropping view of Mount Fitz Roy.
- Though more famous for its lakes and mountains, Bariloche offers access to some captivating glaciers. Day trips from Bariloche can take you to glaciers like Ventisquero Negro, where you can partake in a hike and even ice climbing.
Best season: Summer in Patagonia i.e. from November to March is an ideal time for hiking. This period offers relatively warmer weather and less snow, making the trails more accessible. But keep in mind that Patagonia's weather can be erratic during summer, so prepare accordingly.
Located in the southern part of Chilean Patagonia, Isla Magdalena is a one-stop shop for penguin viewing. Over 120,000 Magellanic penguins flock to this island and visitors can view them by following a trekking trail around the island. The penguins are known to be friendly and curious and most visitors are delighted by the intimate interactions, close-up views, and surplus of photo-ops.
Best time: The best time to see penguins on Isla Magdalena is during the penguin breeding season, which typically occurs from October to March. Visit in summer to see thousands of active Magellanic penguins nesting and raising their young.
Good to know: This island is accessible from Punta Arenas via a 1.5-hour boat ride. To encounter penguins without high crowds, plan your trip in the early morning hours.
Patagonia’s attractions interest different types of travelers from all over the world. Rich in culture, filled to the brim with stunning natural scenery and with plenty of ways to explore it all, the things to do in Patagonia leave no one disappointed.
Wondering how much time to spend exploring Patagonia's wonders? Our travel guide has the answers. We'll help you figure out the perfect duration for your trip, and we have also got tips on the best time to visit Patagonia. For more structured travel plans, you can explore our recommended tour itineraries:
If you like the options laid out above, you will definitely find something for yourself from our list of Patagonia tours. For more ideas, browse our trips in Chile and Argentina holidays. If you are interested in planning an itinerary from scratch, a customized trip to Chile or a custom Argentina tour is the way to go.