Active hiker in Patagonia, Mt Fitz Roy, Argentina

Destinations Ultimate Guide to Patagonia

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Ultimate Travel Guide to Patagonia

What is Patagonia

You may have heard of Patagonia as it is the name of a popular, sustainable outdoor clothing brand famous for its fleeces and outdoor jackets. In actual fact, Patagonia clothing was named after a truly unique mountainous region spanning across Chile and Argentina in South America.

Where is Patagonia?

Rather than a country, Patagonia is the name of a region. Broadly speaking, Patagonia encompasses the whole of the pointy part of southern Argentina and all of southern Chile. More specifically, the region of Patagonia stretches south from Rio Negro and Viedma in the east and San Carlos Barioche in the west of Argentina, and south from Puerto Montt in Chile. It is an area of just over 1 million square kilometres, or 400,000 square miles.
three spires of Cerro Torre in Patagonia overlooking a lake

What is Patagonia Famous For?

This list of reasons to visit Patagonia is pretty long. It is the most southern most area in the world and closest to Antarctica. It is incredibly biodiverse, being home to epic coastline on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it has tropical rainforests and high Andean Mountain peaks, there are subzero regions in the very southernmost parts, not to mention the volcanoes, rivers, lakes and wildlife here. In addition to all of this, it has been inhabited by humans for tens of thousands of years yet the topography of the region still makes it one of the most remote places on earth.

So, if exploring a country where you can literally experience nature at its most unspoilt is for you, then Patagonia is probably on your bucket list. This stunning region appeals to trekkers and adventure enthusiasts, botanists and naturalists, photographers and artists. An appreciation of untouched natural beauty is all you need to enjoy all Patagonia has to offer.

What is the currency of Patagonia?

What currency you use in Patagonia will depend on what area you’re in usually. Bringing US dollars into Patagonia is a good idea as you can use these in larger towns and cities in businesses that cater to tourists. Local Arbolitos are people who exchange currency and they will help you exchange dollars for Argentinian Pesos (ARS) or Chilean Pesos (CLP) depending on where you are.

What is the population of Patagonia?

Although not a country, it is estimated that the Patagonia region has a population of approximately 2 million people, which for its size equates to around 1-2 people per square kilometre making it one of the most sparsely populated places in the world.
Hikers during the W trek in Patagonia

How to get to Patagonia

From both the US and the UK, we’d recommend flying into Buenos Aires international airport, officially Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), also known as Ezeiza Airport after its location. From here you can get an internal flight to your preferred Patagonian destination.

It is also possible to fly to Santiago international airport in Chile but there are more internal flights to Patagonia available from Buenos Aires.

What to do in Patagonia

As mentioned above, Patagonia is most famous for its simply stunning natural landscapes which are the reason for many travellers journeying to this diverse region. This is a land of remote ranches, sprawling wilderness, the Argentinian Andes and Chilean inlets, islands and rivers. To be honest, you don’t need a hit list of tourist attractions for this destination. The best thing you can do in Patagonia, is to actually experience Patagonia.
Trekking in Patagonia

A huge draw for walking enthusiasts is that Patagonia is a much quieter trekking destination than the Himalayas. The landscapes are, arguably, more beautiful with no significant altitude and none of the people. Of note Patagonia mountains include Mount Fitz Roy, 3,359m and Cerro Torre, 3,128m. Yet you don’t have to summit a peak to journey through this fascinating region.

Patagonia is also home to some iconic trekking routes. The W Trek is a multiday Patagonia trekking route that explores the Torres del Paine National Park taking you along crystalline blue lakes, bottomless gorges, ancient forests and jagged peaks. Depending on where you start, there are a few variations of this Patagonia hike, but Kandoo take 4 leisurely days to experience this remote and rugged terrain, allowing plenty of time to take in the gorgeous surroundings and enjoy all the national park has to offer.

Whilst the Torres del Paine W Trek is approximately 75 kilometres, its more challenging sibling the O Trek or O circuit is closer to 125 kilometres and has more ascent and descent, meaning a tougher Patagonia trek but one with even more rewarding views. The O Trek follows the same route as the the W Trek in parts but takes in the even more remote areas of Torres del Paine offering a truly off the beaten track trekking experience.

There are plenty of places to trek through Patagonia and whilst booking your trek with a reputable adventure travel company such as Kandoo is the best and most efficient use of your time here, independent travel is fairly easy, although engaging a local guide is probably a good idea.

Trek in Patagonia
Wildlife in Patagonia

Such diverse and uninhabited landscapes are teeming with wildlife and those who are quiet and patient may well be rewarded with glimpses of the lesser-seen locals. Pumas are the big cat of Patagonia and have one of the highest densities in this region. You’ll also find guanaco, which are a relative of alpacas, vicuñas, Patagonian mara, large rodent-like rabbits, Patagonian foxes, armadillos, skunks and Darwins Rhea here. Look to the skies for soaring condors, pygmy owls, and woodpeckers, or glimpse Chilean flamingos scattered along the lake shores here. Take time to explore the waters and you may find Southern right whales migrating from Antarctica, orcas in the Chilean fjords or seals along the Beagle Channel. The Strait of Magellan is home to around 3,000 dolphins too.

The end of the world

Ushuaia is known as the end of the world. This is the most southern inhabited city and sits right at the bottom of Patagonia on the island of Isla Grande. This eclectic hub is a mish mash of colourful buildings, busy harbours, adventure activities and steep, lilting streets. The Andes Mountains meet the Beagle Channel here and there is plenty to see and do.

Patagonia for Photographers

Whether you are a professional photographer, an amateur dabbler or you pride yourself on your Instagrammable content, Patagonia offers endless opportunities to snap unspoiled beauty. Don’t forget your camera, power banks and chargers as there is a new vista around every corner and we don’t think there is anywhere else like here on earth.

Vividly colored Magellanic woodpecker, Chile
When to visit Patagonia

The best time to visit Patagonia is during the southern hemisphere’s summertime from October to February. November, December and January are the hottest months, but the shoulder months of October and February will be mild still with less windy conditions. You can also visit during March and April when the temperature is cooler but before the rains come.

Why did the Welsh go to Patagonia?

This isn’t a joke! We thought we’d end our guide to Patagonia with a bit of interesting trivia.

In 1865 150 Welsh people departed Wales for Patagonia to establish a colony there to protect their Welsh language and culture which they believed they were at risk of being persecuted for in Wales. A local printer and a politician journeyed to Patagonia and were granted land by an Argentinian minister, although it was occupied by the indigenous Tuhuelche at the time. They sent home for reinforcements and eventually established a colony there, after numerous false starts, aided by the local people in exchange for resources and knowledge.

It is estimated that there are now 70,000 Welsh Patagonians in Patagonia today – who’d have thought it!?

Hopefully we’ve managed to answer all your questions about Patagonia and managed to whet your appetite to experience this astonishing place for yourself. Kandoo Adventures pride themselves on being travel experts and offer a range of awesome adventures to this fascinating region. Check out our Patagonia trekking adventures and talk to our knowledgeable team today about your next trip.