Perfect Patagonia Itinerary: From One Week to One Month
Are you embarking on a long-awaited road trip to Patagonia? We've got you covered. No matter if your journey takes one, two or three weeks or even a month, we have the perfect itinerary for every traveler. Our four weeks tried end tested itinerary includes all highlights both Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia has to offer, but we also created options for those with less time.
Creating the perfect itinerary for Patagonia is not an easy task.
First, the region spans between two countries, Chile and Argentina, second, the weather can be even more unpredictable factor than anywhere else in the world and third, this place is so beautiful that it is almost heartbreaking to choose what destination to visit and what is better to miss out.
We've created this itinerary for every one of you who wants to visit Patagonia, and it does not matter if you have only one week, two weeks, three weeks or a full month. Except for the one-week itinerary when we think is better to rent a car to save as much time as you can, all schedules are perfectly doable by public transport.
Do not forget that distances between places in Patagonia are vast, and buses, especially in the Chilean part of Patagonia not that frequent, so always incorporate travel times and times for relaxation into your itinerary.
As we traveled this route ourselves, we know that all versions of these itineraries are perfectly doable though.
We've also written a full post about the essential things you need to know before traveling to Patagonia, which should also help you to plan the perfect vacation.
1-WEEK PATAGONIA ITINERARY
Patagonia is a vast region, so we won't lie to you that one week is a long time to explore all the highlights, but it is for sure still better than nothing.
When creating your itinerary for one week in Patagonia, we recommend you to stick to one area and not try to cover long distances as you would spend most of your precious time in the transport instead of outside.
To get the maximum out of your time, the itinerary is packed to the brim, but if you feel you need to slow down, there is always an option to take a day off and admire the beauty of Patagonia leisurely than from the hiking trail.
In one week in Patagonia, you still can see the best things Chilean and Argentinian part of the region has to offer, so no worries.
Our Tip: When traveling during high season and you are traveling in a short time, we recommend you to rent a car so you won't have to be dependant on public transport.
Although we found buses in Patagonia reliable, we always had to look for information after our arrival to a destination, tickets were often not possible to book online, and it even happened to us once that buses were full between El Calafate and Puerto Natales, so we lost one day, which you with only one week can hardly afford.
Day 1: Flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate - El Chalten
Take an early morning flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, so you should be in your first destination around 8 AM. Pick up your rental car at the airport, and set off on your amazing one-week long journey!
Today, your main goal is to drive to El Chalten, Argentinian hiking capital. The drive between El Calafate and El Chalten takes approximately 3.5 hours, and it is wonderful, so you can take your time and soak in the first moments in Patagonia. Once you reach El Chalten, you can check-in in your hotel, and because it is already an afternoon, you will have time only for a short hike.
One of the shortest, but rewarding hikes in the El Chalten area is a trek to Los Condores and Las Aguilas Viewpoints which takes approximately 2 hours return.
It is possible to travel from El Calafate to El Chalten by bus. Some bus companies stop even at the airport. Check the up-to-date schedule, but buses usually leave El Calafate at 8 AM, 1 or 2 PM and 6 PM. Either way, you should make it to El Chalten the same way as well, and with a bit of luck, you can also do a short hike.
There is also an option to reserve a shuttle bus, which will take you from the airport directly to your hotel in El Chalten.
Day 2-3: El Chalten: Hike Laguna de Los Tres & Laguna Cerro Torre
Both hikes are moderately difficult but quite long, 23 kilometers and 18 kilometers retrospectively, but what we could see, either the less experienced and less fit visitors made it to both lakes.
The most characteristic view in Argentinian Patagonia is the one of Mount Fitz Roy towering above Laguna de Los Tres, so check the weather forecast and adjust your plans accordingly, but the weather in Patagonia can change a couple of times a day, so it is always hit or miss.
Both one-day treks are doable on own as the path is well-marked, but you can book a guided tour as well.
Day 4: El Chalten - El Calafate - Perito Moreno
In the morning drive from El Chalten to El Calafate, check-in, and carry on to Perito Moreno Glacier.
The glacier is one of the most awe-inspiring sights in Patagonia, so take your time. You can either admire the glacier from boardwalks, but there is also an option to do kayaking, ice trekking on the glacier or admire Perito Moreno from a boat.
When traveling by bus, we recommend you to leave El Chalten early in the morning at 7:30 AM or 8 AM, so you will be in El Calafate around noon, and you'll still have a chance to get to Perito Moreno. The afternoon buses to Perito Moreno were leaving El Calafate at 1 PM, so you can buy your ticket once you arrive at the bus station and leave your backpacks there as well, or you can reserve a private transport in advance here to make sure you will make it.
Day 5: Puerto Natales
Today you will cross borders to Chile.
When traveling by car, try to get on the road as soon as you can because there can be lines at the borders in the high season. The drive from El Calafate to Puerto Natales will take you around four hours. Because you are pretty flexible with a car, here we will outline two options you have.
You can either stay overnight in Puerto Natales and enjoy a lazy afternoon walking around the bay, or you can carry on to the national park and stay in one of the most beautiful hotels surrounded by mountains, Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, and spent the rest of the day in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park.
When taking the 7:30 AM or 8 AM bus from El Calafate to Puerto Natales, you will be in today's destination at 1 PM, so you will most likely won't catch the public transport to the national park (buses leave sometimes at 1 PM, sometimes at 2 PM), in case you would want to spend a night there instead of in Puerto Natales. In January, when the season in Patagonia was in full swing, we had troubles to buy a ticket, when you are on a strict schedule, you can book your bus ticket in advance here.
Day 6: Torres del Paine
No matter if you have decided to stay in Torres del Paine National Park or in Puerto Natales, today's itinerary will take you to the park where you will hike the most famous one-day trek in Chile, Mirador Las Torres Hike.
Alternatively, you can hike the equally beautiful Grey Glacier Hike.
If you do not have a car, it is possible to take shuttles buses from Puerto Natales leaving at 7 AM and returning back around 7 PM. Mirador Las Torres is a moderately difficult trek which takes approximately 8 or 9 hours to finish, but it is one of those things you don't want to miss when in Patagonia.
There is also an option to take a full-day tour around the park to enjoy the best vistas without that much hiking.
Day 7: Punta Arenas
On your last day drive to Punta Arenas (buses runs frequently between those two towns), and when time allows you can do a penguin watching tour (the departure is early in the morning, but can be postponed).
After that,when traveling by bus, you can take a bus to the airport and wait for your flight back home, when traveling by car, you must drop it off, but unfortnately you must drive back to El Calafate, as when you rented the car in Argentina, you must return it in Argentina as well.
Our Tip: It is also possible to follow this itinerary in reverse order, in case you'll find cheaper flight tickets to Punta Arenas and then from El Calafate.
2-WEEK PATAGONIA ITINERARY
Two weeks in Patagonia give you a great opportunity to explore the best highlights in the area, plus you can do one multi-day trek which will lead you through some spectacular scenery.
You can either travel by rental car or take buses because 14 days give you more freedom, more time to get from one place to another and your schedule does not need to be that strict.
Two weeks for Patagonia are also great you can work with your itinerary more and amend it in case something happens or when the weather is not cooperating.
Day 1-5: Buenos aires - puerto natales
For the first five days follow the one-week itinerary and then return here.
After your arrival in El Calafate, get to El Chalten, where you can do two one-day hikes, then come back to El Calafate, from where you visit Perito Moreno Glacier. From El Calafate take a bus or drive to Puerto Natales.
Instead of enjoying your free afternoon, you will need to stock up on food and rent a camping gear (in case you don't have your own) for 5-day W Trek.
Day 6-10: W Trek
W Trek is one of the multi-day hikes in the world, and because of the popularity of the trek, campsites or huts in the mountains must be reserved well in advance.
Take your time while preparing for the trek, because there are several companies running the accommodation, so you will need to reserve huts or campsites one by one. W Trek can be finished in four days, but to enjoy the stunning scenery, we think it is better to allow yourself one more day.
In case you do not want to carry own tent and food, do not want to spend that much time by planning where to sleep every night, you can book this W Trek Tour, and your the only responsibility will be hiking.
Our Tip: After five days of hiking in the wilderness, we think you might be looking for some comfortable hotels in Puerto Natales. You can search for rooms here.
Day 11: Punta Arenas
From Puerto Natales head to Punta Arenas. It is a quite short drive by car and buses run frequently between these two destinations.
You might be a bit exhausted after the multi-day trek, but we think the great way how to relax is to join a penguin watching tour (the departure is early in the morning, but can be postponed).
Day 12: Drive to Ushuaia
Ushuaia is the world's southernmost city, and we believe it is worth it to visit it, although it is quite far.
You will spend today on the road, you need to cross borders again from Chile to Argentina, but the drive is scenic (you will cross waters on the ferry), and yet again different than you'd seen in Patagonia.
Bus from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia leave early in the morning.
Day 13: Ushuaia
Ushuaia is a special place, and there are several things you can do here, our favorite thing was hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park - there are several trails, and you can choose one according to your physical abilities and mood.
We did one of the hardest hikes in the park Cerro Guanaco trail, but the views from the top of the hill were spectacular.
If you had enough of hiking, you can take a train to the end of the world and enjoy the specific scenery.
Our Tip: We found pretty cheap last minute flight tickets from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires.
Day 14: Buenos Aires
After almost two weeks in the wilderness, when you spent the majority of your days in the mountains, it is time to explore Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires.
The city's center is quite compact, so it is easy to walk around, and there are so many things to do that Buenos Aires will keep you busy before your flight back home.
3-WEEK & 1-MONTH PATAGONIA ITINERARY
Three or four weeks in Patagonia is a great amount of time to see both the highlights and even things regular short-time travelers don't have time to visit.
From here will start your Patagonia journey via one of the most scenic roads in the world, Carretera Austral.
You can rent a car in Puerto Montt or it is possible to travel Carretera Austral by public transport (which is irregular, but everything is doable) or hitchhike in case you have the full month or more.
The itinerary is a bit different when you travel by car (you need to cross borders elsewhere) because only people traveling without own transport can do the border crossing between Villa O'Higgins and El Chalten.
Day 1: Santiago to Puerto Montt - Chaiten
Fly into the capital city of Chile, Santiago, here take another morning flight to Puerto Montt.
No matter if you plan on renting a car or travel by public transport, you need to wait here for the overnight ferry to Chaiten. Check the up-to-date schedule as the ferry runs three or four times a week.
If time allows, you can visit a small town Pucon sitting on the lake's shore.
Day 2-7 or Day 2-14
Depending on if you travel to Patagonia for three or four weeks, you can spend on Carretera Austral either remaining six or thirteen days.
Here is the list of places you should not miss, and it is only up to you how much time you will spend there.
Do not forget that when traveling by bus, sometimes it is time-consuming to get from one place to another.
Pumalin National Park
One of the least known and often skipped national parks along Carretera Austral is Pumalin NP.
If you are looking for a place without crowds and authentic feel, you've just found it. We spent two days hiking in the park, as we hiked both El Mirador Trail and Volcano El Chaiten Trail, but when short on time, we recommend you do the latter.
The base for trekking in Pumalin National Park is a small village Chaiten.
Queulat National Park
The reason why to visit this national park is the awe-inspiring Hanging Glacier and several waterfalls along the way.
If you do not travel by car, you need to hitchhike from Puyuhuapi to the entrance gate of the national park, because public transport is not reliable here.
Cerro Castillo Hike
One of the most amazing one-day hikes in Patagonia is Cerro Castillo trek leading from the village high to the mountains until you reach towering peaks above the insanely blue lagoon.
You can stay either in a larger city Coyhaique where it is possible to do proper shopping or in Villa Cerro Castillo.
Puerto Rio Tranquilo
A small village of Puerto Tranquilo is a great base for visiting either Marble Caves or (and) Exploradores Glacier.
For Marble Caves, it is easy to arrange a tour within a couple of minutes on the lake's shore, the glacier hike is better to arrange, at least one day in advance.
Patagonia National Park
The newest national park along Carretera Austral simply called Patagonia National Park is worth exploring.
You can find here a growing number of trails we did our own version of Lagunas Altas Trail. It was more than 30 kilometers long trek, but beautiful, especially because we did not meet here a single person.
The last stop on Carretera Austral is Villa O'Higgins - literally because the road ends here.
If you made it here, congratulations!
The village is surrounded by mountains and glaciers, so you can do plenty of hikes here, including multi-day ones. We did Altavista Trail, and from the path, we got truly stunning views.
When you made it to the southernmost point of Carretera Austral by car, you need to turn here and drive back to Chile Chico border crossing, and then continue your journey on Argentina's Ruta 40, which is, by the way, another scenic route with many worthwhile stops.
Border Crossing Villa O'Higgins to El Chalten
The most memorable border crossing we've ever done.
We did the crossing in one day, but if you have camping equipment, you can spend in the wilderness even longer.
Crossing borders between Villa O'Higgins and El Chalten requires a bit of planning as you need to combine bus, boat, walking, boat and bus again, but we promise, it is well worth it.
Day 14-28: From El Chalten to Ushuaia
Once you get to El Chalten, you can take either a day off, or continue in your program.
Follow our two-week itinerary for the rest of your journey, you will only skip the drive from El Calafate to El Chalten.
Our Tip: When traveling Carretera Austral by car, you have more options on how to adjust your itinerary. You don't need to start your journey in Puerto Montt, but on Argentina's side in Bariloche, from where you can either first explore the Lake District, and then cross borders to Chile at Paso Cardenal, or you can drive down Ruta 40, and cross borders to Chile in Chile Chico, explore as much as you want Carretera Austral, and then cross the borders back and continue down south to El Chalten.
Plan your trip well ahead to find out what would be the best option for you, and always include vast distances in your itinerary. Do not forget that if you traveled Patagonia by car, you do not have to drop off the car in the same location, but it must be in the same country, so if you rented the car in Puerto Montt in Chile, you must drive back to Punta Arenas, where it is possible to drop off the car, and fly back home.
Our Tip: Have we inspired you to visit Patagonia, but do you feel overwhelmed as traveling on own is not your thing, or you do not have that much time for planning your holiday? You can always book a multi-day tour.
WHAT TO PACK FOR TRAVELING IN PATAGONIA
The combination of unpredictable weather and the fact that you will spend most of your day out, you should arrive well-equipped. Martin soon found out that his old waterproof jacket is not that waterproof here in Patagonia.
We've handpicked five essential things you should pack with you for your Patagonia trip.
Fleece Jacket for Him & for Her | The region of Patagonia is extremely cold even in summer, so bring along fleece jacket or any additional layer with long sleeves not to feel cold. We spent quite a lot of time on the lake's shore and a warm jacket came handy.
Rain Poncho | It can start raining any time of the year in Patagonia's mountains, and rain poncho will protect you and your valuables as well.
Waterproof Jacket for Him & for Her | Wind in Patagonia is so strong, especially during summer hiking season, that you must pack a quality waterproof and windproof jacket otherwise the day could be quite miserable.
Hiking Poles | We always find hiking poles useful, especially when we know from trek's profile there will be a steep descend.
We've also written a full post, Patagonia Packing List, in case you want to read what to bring and what to leave behind.
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