The wilderness of Patagonia is a treasure trove of hiking trails for those who venture to this far flung corner of the globe, and with a new direct flight now being operated by British Airways from London to Santiago, this end of the world destination is more accessible than ever…
Where is it? Patagonia is a region in the southern section of South America which is split between Argentina and Chile.
When is the best time to visit? Ideally between October and March, but September and April are also good.
What is the weather like? Patagonia is notorious for the ferocious winds that have shaped the region, but during peak season the days are most often dry and sunny. Prepare for all weathers however, particularly when walking in the mountains, as it’s not unusual to witness 4 seasons in a day!
What should I take? A down jacket, decent beanie, sunscreen and good quality hiking shoes/boots are staples.
Regardless of your hiking abilities, the hiking trails of Patagonia should be on everyone’s bucket list . Visitors to this magical region can enjoy relaxed walking across fields of wildflowers, past turquoise lakes, through ancient woodlands and alongside fjords that could be straight out of a fairy tale. Unlike many other treks in Latin America, almost all of the hikes in Patagonia are at very low altitude, making them much more accessible and far less strenuous. Don’t be discouraged if you are looking for adventure, though – those seeking a more thrilling experience can find hikes and climbs that only the most professional of trekkers can complete.
Of the hundreds of trails across this huge landscape, I have picked 5 of my favourites…
1. The ‘W’ Trek
The ‘W’ trek is probably the most well known of all the hikes in Patagonia, and the most popular. Situated in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, this beautiful 4-5 day hike can be completed by camping each night or by sleeping in the very well-equipped ‘refugios’ which are found along the route. I found the refugios to be extremely well equipped for weary hikers. Although simple, they are incredibly comfortable and offer excellent facilities, including hot showers, hearty meals and a warm bed. For those not wanting to take the walk-and-camp option, almost all of the routes can be completed on day hikes from a hotel base.
Recommended Hotel: Awasi Patagonia
2. Laguna de los Tres
The ‘3 Lakes’ trek near El Chalten in Argentina is a stunning 3 day walk which will lead trekkers past breath-taking views of the Mouth Fitzroy range. Walk across bridges spanning rivers and streams of crystal clear water, through dark and mysterious woodlands that shiver with the wind and hide many unique bird species. This is my favourite walk in Patagonia by far, it is captivating and beautiful, the photos just don’t do it justice! An added bonus is that the trek ends in the town center meaning you can stop by the waffle house or cerveceria for a post-trek treat :)
How to do it: Take a Jeep Safari to El Chalten & beyond…
3. Huerquehue National Park
Located in the far north of Patagonia, near the charming town of Pucon, this is a relatively unknown part of Chile. Accessible by a short bus journey from the town, this park boasts remarkable views and well-marked trails. The unique biodiversity in Huerquehue creates bizarre and almost pre-historic landscapes that even well-travelled visitors will be amazed by. Tall araucaria trees (often known by the nickname ‘monkey puzzle’) are scattered across the mountainside, and create the perfect silhouette against the backdrop of the snow topped Lanin and Villarica volcanoes – it’s the kind of place that you wouldn’t be surprised to see a dinosaur! The best thing about this incredible habitat is that it supports a huge variety of interesting wildlife. Noisy flocks of slender-billed parakeets feed on the seeds of the araucaria, and many hikers are often surprised to see parrots in such a bizarre place. There are also tiny lizards which disappear into the undergrowth in a flash of blue and green as you walk past. If you are lucky (as I was) you can also spot tarantula lurking on the forest floor and the tiny pudu deer tiptoeing through the undergrowth.
Recommended hotel: Hacienda Hotel Vira Vira
4. Tierra del Fuego National Park
In the far south, at the very end of the world, lies Tierra del Fuego National Park. It’s location alongside fjords and mountains make it an incredibly pretty, and almost ethereal, landscape. The snow-capped mountain are covered in thick, ancient woodland which are silent but the occasional chirp of a bird or rustle of the wind. It’s a majestic place which will take your breath away and leave you wondering if you’ve stumbled into another world. On arrival there is a small fee to pay, and you will be issued with a map of the park – the best advice I can give you is to ignore this map completely and use GPS as the trails are so poorly marked. Perhaps this is why it is so beautifully untouched, because most people haven’t discovered the more remote paths away from the serenity of Lapataia Bay. There are differing levels of difficulty including gentle walks along the waters edge, a long hike up to the Chilean border and a very steep climb to the craggy mountaintops. Whichever you chose, I can promise that you will leave a little bit of your heart at the end of the world.
How to do it: Enjoy a 4 day cruise through the fjords of Chile, starting or ending in Ushuaia
In the heart of the lake district of Argentina, the bustling city of Bariloche is a hub of activity for outdoor enthusiasts. Once you escape the streets filled with chocolate shops and busy restaurants, the surrounding area is simply stunning. Visitors can enjoy horseback rides, enthralling white water rafting trips, rock climbing adventures and kayaking tours of the lake. However, one of the biggest draws to this area is the incredible hiking opportunities that it presents. Cerro Catedral is an impressive spike-ridden mountain which is a popular trekking location during the summer, and one of South Americas best ski slopes in the winter. Refugio Frey offers camping accommodation for those wanting to thoroughly investigate the many trails.
Recommended hotel: Luma Casa de Montana
I could easily write a list of 10, 15 or even 20 spectacular hikes in Patagonia, but I chose these 5 as they are accessible, suitable for most ages and abilities, and offer out-of-this-world scenery in some of Patagonia’s best National Parks.Whichever paths you decide to explore, you won’t be disappointed!
If you want more information on visiting Patagonia, please do not hesitate to GET IN TOUCH.
Blog post by Kim Mouncer – Product & Marketing Executive at Humboldt Travel
For more information on visiting Patagonia, simply CLICK HERE and follow the links through to Argentina or Chile.