Covering a vast amount of the south of South America, Patagonia has long been drawing tourists keen to see the marvellous and varied landscapes this thousand-plus mile area has to offer.
But with so much ground to cover, it can be hard to plan an itinerary that will maximize your time in this fantastic part of the world.
With that in mind, here is a rundown of some of the most well-known (and some less so) locations in Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia that you should make time to check out during your trip.
Places to Visit in Patagonia
Bosque Petrificado La Leona – A mesmerising trip back in time a short drive (in Patagonian terms!) from popular tourist destination El Calafate in Argentinian Patagonia, this awe-inspiring desert landscape features dinosaur fossils and petrified trees, giving visitors a glimpse of the world that is normally reserved for palaeontologists and archaeologists. A marked difference from the frozen landscapes the region is famed for.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Nestled amongst a spectacular mountain range and teetering on the edge of the impressive Lake Argentino in the Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier is the most famous glacier in Patagonia. Visitors can choose a number of ways to take in this fascinating leftover from the last ice age. You could take a boat trip to view the icy blue walls up close or embark on a hike over and around it. Of course, if you want to keep your feet on dry land, you can do so too, from any number of breathtaking vantage points.
Punta Tombo – Between September and April, Punta Tombo is the number one place in Patagonia to learn about and see penguins. In fact, the peninsula boasts the region’s largest colony of Magellanic Penguins. Located just north of Camarones, be prepared for a long drive if you’re coming from Puerto Madryn. The journey is worth it though; specially constructed walkways mean you can get up close and personal with these entertaining little birds, while never encroaching onto their nest sites and damaging the colony. Be warned though, get too close and you could be on the receiving end of a nip. Those beaks are sharp!
Situated in the shadow of Cerro Torre, one of the highest peaks in Patagonia, Laguna Torre is a lake fed by the retreating Glacier del Torre. A brisk hike from El Chalten, if you are lucky enough to have good weather when you are there, Mount Fitz Roy may even be visible through the clouds. A must-see for any adventurer visiting the region, there is an air of magic surrounding this exquisite place.
San Carlos de Bariloche
In the foothills of the Andes and sitting on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, San Carlos de Bariloche (or simply ‘Bariloche’) is a major centre for tourism. Boasting Ski and mountaineering facilities, as well as beautiful beaches (although the melted snow-fed lake is cold year-round) the city has been welcoming tourists since the 1930s. The beautiful stonework and stained glass of the Church of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi is a constant crowd-drawer and the city’s history of science and technology means sites like Juan Peron’s never-finished Huemul Project are a cause of intrigue and fascination.
Often referred to as the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia first came to the Western World’s attention when the HMS Beagle, captained by Robert FitzRoy, reached what we now know as the city in 1833. The nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park is easily accessible by car or the brilliantly named End of the World Train and the city’s museums offer fascinating insights into the settlement of the area by the native Yamana, the English, and the Argentinians. Most Antarctic cruises set sail from Ushuaia, with travellers often reporting sea lion and penguin sightings in the bay and further out into the Southern Ocean.
San Martin de los Andes – If birdwatching is your thing, San Martin de los Andes is the place to visit. The venue for the South American Bird Fair, every year twitchers from around the globe convene to share their passion and celebrate the rich diversity of feathered South American residents. The city is also an important ski and snowboarding destination and boasts a vibrant nightlife
Torres del Paine National Park
Over the border in Chilean Patagonia is this picturesque park, named after three magnificent, naturally formed granite towers situated in the centre of the stunning landscape. A three-hour drive from the closest city, Puerto Natales, there are a host of reliable bus services that regularly come and go to drop off and collect visitors to the area. A popular destination for hikers, there are a number of paths around the park that offer wonderful views of the area and the chance to glimpse the native wildlife in their natural surroundings.