This vast region extends from silent fjords and pristine natural parks in the south, to shimmering lakes and windswept steppe in the north. While the attraction of Patagonia is its sense of being an inhospitable, barely-explored wilderness, this part of South America is surprisingly accessible, even with a short two-week window of time. Here are our recommendations for planning a short Patagonia itinerary, including considerations before you book your vacation as well as recommended itineraries to inspire your trip.
Initial Patagonia itinerary considerations
Before even starting to plan, it’s essential to consider your Patagonia itinerary must-sees or non-negotiables. Perhaps you’ve been harboring a desire to visit the ends of the earth: Cape Horn and Ushuaia. Maybe it’s the unforgiving but utterly splendid glacial and pampas landscapes of Torres del Paine that have captured your imagination. Either way, with only two weeks you’ll might be unable to visit all of the region, but good planning will ensure you still have the time for appreciating some of its most famous landmarks.
Looking for inspiration? We’ve written about the places that should put Patagonia at the top of your bucket list.
Distance and transport
Patagonia covers an enormous area and domestic flights or buses are the two main options for traversing the region.
Internal flights: International flights arrive into Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport (Santiago International Airport). Sky and LATAM airlines fly to Punta Arenas (2+ daily) and Puerto Montt (8+ daily).
Buses: A huge range of bus companies operate in Chile and tickets are best booked in advance from bus stations located in cities and towns. Recorrido and Bus Sur are sites with online booking facilities and which can help you find transport between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales, as well as to El Calafate, Río Gallegos and Ushuaia across the border.
For a full list of Chilean bus companies, visit Omnilíneas.
Internal flights: International flights land in Ministro Pistarini International Airport, Buenos Aires (Ezeiza International Airport, EZL) and LATAM and Aerolineas Argentinas are the main carriers that fly to Rio Gallegos (3+ daily), Ushuaia (5+ daily), El Calafate (3+ daily) and Bariloche (3+ daily).
Buses: Similar to Chile, the most common form of transport in Argentina is by bus. To assist in searching for and booking tickets, Omnilíneas has an online system that covers destinations in Argentina.
Time of year
The high season for travel in Patagonia is usually between November and April, when tourists can make the most of warmer weather and the full functionality of the tourist infrastructure, some parts of which shut down during other periods of the year. For activities such as hiking, kayaking, wildlife watching, camping and photography, the late fall through to early spring seasons are undoubtedly Patagonia’s optimum time.
If you’re looking to ski in Patagonia, the region’s principal resorts, such as Cerro Catedral in Bariloche, Cerro Perito Moreno near El Bolson and Cerro Castor near Ushuaia, open from July through August.
Two week itineraries
Patagonia Itinerary One: Hike in spectacular landscapes
- Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas and take the bus to one of the globe’s most renowned national parks, Torres del Paine.
- Spend four days trekking the “W”hike and breathing in the park’s pure Patagonian air.
- Take a bus to El Calafate to visit the extraordinary Perito Moreno Glacier and ice climb through crevasses on its ice-blue surface.
- From El Calafate, take a short bus journey to El Chaltén, Argentina’s hiking capital and where Monte Fitz Roy – the highest of all the peaks in Los Glaciares National Park – is waiting to be climbed. Pass a few days in this relaxed town enjoying the various hiking trails that start from its outskirts.
- Return to Punta Arenas by bus to soak up some of the maritime history in this Patagonian city before flying back to Santiago or Buenos Aires.
Patagonia Itinerary Two: Explore the Ends of the Earth
- Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas and board the expedition ship, Stella Australis for an eight-day cruise following Darwin’s famed route through the Beagle Channel and around Cape Horn.
- As part of the cruise, visit the Magellanic penguin colonies on Magdalena and Tuckers Islets, pass through the Chilean fjords and Glacier Alley and encounter the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, and fabled Cape Horn.
- From Punta Arenas, arrive by bus to Río Gallegos to spend a few days fly fishing or experiencing the gaucho culture in local traditional estancias (ranches).
- Return to Punta Arenas and spend a day or two exploring the city’s museums, including the Nao Victoria Maritime Museum which is home to a full-sized reproduction of the HMS Beagle – the famous ship that brought Charles Darwin to South America,