Patagonia is a sparsely populated region at the southern most tip of the Andes Mountain range, it covers parts of Argentina and Chile. Well known for its mountains, fjords, lakes and glaciers, it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and Atlantic Ocean to the east. To the south, various bodies of water connect the two oceans, the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel are the most well known. The South Patagonia Ice Field is approximately 350km long and covers an area of 12,363 square kilometres. It supports dozens of glaciers which flow either west into the Pacific or east into the Atlantic.
How to get to Patagonia
Our Patagonia trips arrive into three different locations; Buenos Aires, El Calafate and Puerto Natales.
To reach Puerto Natales:
You will need a flight that arrives at Teniente Julio Gallardo Airport (PNT) in Puerto Natales on or before day 1 of your itinerary. If you are arriving on day 1 and not before you should ensure your flight arrives in the morning before midday. To reach Puerto Natales most will people will need to connect through Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport - Santiago (SCL).
To reach Santiago from the UK, British Airways have direct flights departing from Heathrow at 21:55 and arriving at 07:30 the next day (local time). The flight time is 14hrs. Air France offer flights from Manchester with a 2hrs 50min stop in Paris. British Airways have flights from Edinburgh with a stop of 1hrs 4min in Heathrow. Indirect flights have a total travel time of roughly 19 hours to reach Santiago.
For travellers from the USA, LATAM have a direct flight from New York to Santiago departing at 19.30 and arriving the next morning at 05:55 (local time). The flight time is 10hrs 25min. LATAM also offer direct flights from Miami with similar times. Indirect flights are available from Los Angeles, Dallas and San Francisco with LATAM, Delta and Jet Blue.
To reach Buenos Aires:
Your international flight will need to arrive at Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport (EZE). From the UK, British Airways have direct flights departing from Heathrow at 22.10 and arriving at 09.10 the next day (local time). The flight time is 14hrs. Lufthansa offer flights from Manchester with a 1hrs 30min stop in Frankfurt. KLM have flights from Edinburgh with a stop of 1hrs 45min in Amsterdam. Indirect flights have a total travel time of roughly 17 hours.
For travellers from the USA, American Airlines have a direct flight from New York departing at 21.55 and arriving the next morning at 09.40 (local time). The flight time is 10hrs 45min. American Airlines also offer direct flights from Miami and Dallas with similar times. Indirect flights are available from Los Angeles and San Francisco with Latam, United and American Airlines.
On arrival in the airport, after clearing immigration and collecting your luggage, please look out for a member of our team in the arrivals area. They will be holding a large KANDOO sign.
To reach El Calafate:
You will need a flight that arrives at El Calafate Airport (airport code FTE) on or before day 1 of your itinerary. If you are arriving on day 1 and not before you should ensure your flight arrives in the morning before midday. To reach El Calafate most will people will need to connect through Buenos Aires. Please be aware that you may need to change airports in Buenos Aires so you should allow time for this.
If you are changing airlines or re-checking your luggage at an airport on route, please ensure you leave a minimum of 3 hours between flights. This will account for any delays on arrival, travel time across airports (this can take longer than you think) and time taken to re-check baggage.
The weather in Patagonia is notoriously changeable and it is not uncommon for trekkers to experience four seasons in one day. The region is also well known for its ferocious winds that can reach up to 120 miles an hour in the most extreme cases!
The most common time to visit Patagonia is during the summer months of December to February. At this time, you can expect daytime temperatures between 6 °C and 20 °C. Night time temperatures could go as low as 0°C. The wind can be quite strong during the summer and there is always the possibility of rain. However, when it is not raining the skies are generally clear providing great views. The landscape is green, in the height of its growing season and there is plenty of wildlife about.
For up to date weather forecasts from the Patagonia regions please follow these links:
For adventure travellers, trekking in Patagonia in the south of Argentina and Chile is the obvious choice. The near vertical walls of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre attract thousands of trekkers and climbers each year and the Chilean National Park of Torres del Paine is only a short journey over the border. See below our four Patagonian trekking routes:
PEAKS OF PATAGONIA | Two challenging trekking routes and one epic journey that will stay with you for a lifetime. This adventure is for those who want to journey into the very heart of the mountains. In Los Glaciares National Park we will spend 4 days trekking from El Chalten to Laguna Condor, making camp each evening in the shadow of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Crossing the border into Chile, we will then take on the world renowned W Trek in Torres del Paine National Park.
LAND OF FIRE | This adventure will take us by boat into the Beagle channel to observe sea lions, penguins and cormorant. We will gaze southward over the ocean to the Antarctic Peninsular and walk through the forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park. We explore the savagely beautiful Torres del Paine with its iconic granite spires and journey north, crossing the Argentinian pampas to reach the famous peaks of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.
W TREK| The W Trek is the classic route taking in the incredible scenery of the Patagonian wilderness. Adventure through forests of Lenga and birch, traipse along the gentle lakeshores emanating their vibrant, turquoise hues and weave along alpine pathways in the shadow of the giants above. Finishing at the iconic Las Torres lookout, this trek provides a variety of natural phenomenon over 4 days on relatively low lying terrain.
O CIRCUIT| The full 'O' Circuit includes all the sights of the popular 'W' Circuit along with all the wonders of the quieter, northern side of the famous Torres del Paine mountain range. This adventure offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in some powerful, natural surroundings. Step away from the chaos of daily life and return to basics in an unrivalled setting. For those wishing for a trek that requires a bit more demand, the 'O' circuit provides a challenge with longer, more strenuous days than it's shorter sibling, but with even more captivating views.
Training for your trek in Patagonia
The trekking in Patagonia fairly involves some steep ascents up to mountain passes. Poles are an essential for anyone who struggles with knee or hip pain. Our trekking routes don't require any technical equipment and are doable by anyone with trekking experience and a good mindset, however we would stress the importance of a training plan that involves long days on the mountain. Often trekking over consecutive days can prove to be quite a challenge so you will need to be really fit when you arrive. We recommend getting out into your local mountains or hills and doing some long walks of 5-6 hours at the weekends to prepare. During the week having a solid exercise plan to build up your general fitness will really help with your enjoyment of the trip.
Good equipment starts with your feet. Do not turn up for your trek in a shiny new pair of boots. Make sure your boots are well worn in and are comfortable. After your feet make sure you are looking after your head. You will need something that provides good sun protection. For night you need a really warm beanie or even balaclava. These can double up as a nightcap on really cold nights. Finally, think about clothing layers. The daily temperature variation can be up to 30 degrees, however Patagonia's notorious winds can cause this to shift at the drop of a hat. The best way of coping with this is with layering rather than relying on one single jacket. Other critical items are a 4 season sleeping bag, trekking poles, a head torch for camp, a comfortable day pack and lots and lots of high factor sunscreen.
In Buenos Aires, El Chalten, El Calafate, Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego and Puerto Natales we will stay in comfortable 3-star hotels. Rooms will be double or twin with en-suite bathroom. We ensure that all the hotels we use are well located to allow you to get out and explore the area.
In Los Glaciares National Park we will be camping. A 3 man tent is provided per two people along with a foam mattress. You will not need to carry these, however, you will be expected to set them up and take them down the next morning. A large dining tent is provided for eating meals and as a communal space. All crockery and cutlery is provided. There will be dry “long-drop” style toilets at the campsites but no showers so we advise you to pack wet wipes.
In Torres del Paine, a spacious 2-man tent is provided per two people along with a foam mattress. Tents will already be set up with mattresses inside...some of them are even raised on special platforms! There will be shared bathrooms with flushing toilets and hot water at all sites except Camping Los Perros (cold water only).
Sleeping bags can be hired for the duration of your trip at an additional cost (to be paid locally).
Your meals will be prepared at the campsite and you will eat in the refuge 'restaurant' each morning and evening. All crockery and cutlery is provided.
Wifi is available at the refuges but must be bought on a pre-paid card. This can be purchased at the refuges or mini-markets at the campsites.
On our last night in the Fitzroy region we will stay at Laguna Condor Refuge in wooden chalets with twin or double en-suite rooms. Make sure to check out their hot tub!
Whilst camping in the Fitz Roy region your meals will be prepared at the campsites using fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We will provide you with a dining tent in which to take your meals and all crockery, cutlery, tables and chairs are provided. Picnic lunches will also be prepared for you. You will be expected to carry your share of the food for these 3 days in your backpack. On the third night of this trek you will be staying in a refuge where food will be provided.
In Torres del Paine National Park, breakfast and dinners will be taken at the mountain refuges and picnic lunches will be provided. Whilst staying in hotels in the larger towns, you can choose to eat at the hotel or go out and find a local restaurant.
Argentine cuisine consists mainly of meat. More precisely, beef. Argentina is renowned for the quality of its steak and it is a meat lovers paradise. You will find grilled meats available everywhere including tripe, intestines and even udders. Meat aside, the cuisine is a mix of Spanish, native American and Italian influences so vegetarians can always fall back on dishes like gnocchi, pasta and pizza. In the large towns and cities, you will find all dietary requirements are catered for. You may also have the opportunity to sample “Mate”, a Paraguayan tea made from a variety of holly and typical drank from a “bombilla”.
If you have special dietary requirements please inform us when booking your adventure. We can cater for vegetarian and gluten free diets and you are welcome to bring along your own gluten free produce. Please be aware that in Torres del Paine you will need to carry any special food items yourself.
Whilst trekking, boiled and filtered water is available every morning for you to fill your bottles or bladder. We recommend you also bring a water filter or purification system to allow you to refill at refuges or springs. All drinks, including water, are your own responsibility through out the trip. We don’t recommend the use of plastic bottles which will need to be carried out and recycled.
All the toilets in Patagonia will be in a sit-down western style, although some are a bit nicer than others! In your hotels and in the Laguna Condor Refuge you will have en-suite rooms wit western style flushing toilets. In the Los Glaciares National Park, there will be dry “long-drop” style toilets at the campsites. It is worth carrying some toilet roll for these as they don't always get replenished. In Torres del Paine there are western flushing toilets at all the campsites we use.
In Torres Del Paine National Park there is no vehicle access and, as we won't be using porters for this trip, you will be carrying all of your own personal equipment (from Day 2 to Day 5). This will be for your sleeping bag and personal equipment only and will not include tent or mattress as these will be provided at the sites. For this, you will need a backpack of roughly 40 litres to carry with you each day. We recommend that this is no more than 12kg to ensure it is comfortable for you to wear throughout your trek. This can be used as your hand luggage on international and domestic flights. If you wish to bring another bag for items before and after the trek this can be left in secure storage at the hotel for the trekking period. We request that you do not bring a rigid suitcase as they are more difficult to transport.
Please be aware that on domestic flights in Argentina and Chile there is a maximum weight of 15kg on all checked luggage. If your main bag weighs more than 15kg you may be asked to pay excess luggage fees which will be your own responsibility.
In Chile the currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP). In Argentina the currency is the Argentine Peso (ARS). For the latest exchange rates please visit www.xe.com
We do not recommend the use of traveller’s cheques as they are often impractical. Bank cards are widely used for most things but it is best to use Visa as Mastercard is not commonly accepted. Your guide will show you the best places to change currency at the best rate. The official exchange rate offered by banks and ATMs is not good as these are controlled by the government and reflect the poor rate of the Argentinian peso. You will therefore find that it is best to take Euros or Dollars with you and exchange locally with "arbolitos" or use specific banks that offer 'Blue Dollar' exchange. See our Argentina Travel Guide for more information on this.
In Buenos Aires, an average meal for 2 will be around $30 in a mid range restaurant or $7 in a fast food restaurant. A 15 minute taxi ride will cost around $24. If you want to spend less and travel by public transport then this costs roughly $0.35 per journey, however cash isn't accepted on buses or trains so you will need to buy a SUBE card and top it up with money. SUBE cards are available from the metro station, kiosko or train station and cost $1.60.
In Puerto Natales, an average meal for 2 will be around $50 and a 5km taxi ride around $8. Taxis are plentiful and most drivers should have a meter, however if they don't, always remember to settle on a price before leaving. If you prefer to do it a bit cheaper then take to the streets, pretty much everywhere in Puerto Natales is less than a 20 minute walk from the town centre.
In Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, an average meal for 2 will cost around $13.
In El Calafate and El Chalten, an average meal for 2 will cost around $80.
See below for expected budgets for meals out on each trip (per person):
Land of Fire: $250
Peaks of Patagonia: $200
W Trek: $50
O Circuit: $50
Our recommended guidance for spending budget per person in Patagonia would be between $300-350 (for Land of Fire or Peaks of Patagonia) or $100-150 (for W Trek and O Circuit) on top of your tips. This will give you ample souvenir spending money.
Tipping is common but not mandatory and should be based on the level of service you feel you have received.
The amounts below will give you an indication of how much to tip. Please note that these amounts are for the entire group, therefore you should divide them by the total number of people in your party. You will be provided with a Tip Recommendation three weeks prior to departure with recommended tips based on the number of people in your group.
Guide: $20 US Dollars per day
Driver: $5 – $10 US Dollars per day
Buenos Aires Tour Guide: $10 (Peaks of Patagonia and Land of Fire only)
As an example: a guide may receive $20 per day x 17 days = $340. Divided by 10 people in the group = $34 per person.