The Best Patagonia 2 Week Itinerary: Epic Road Trip in Chile & Argentina
April 17, 2023
If you’re planning an epic road trip in Patagonia, you’re in the right place! This region is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited. From jagged mountain peaks to opportunities to see wildlife and a variety of excellent hiking trails, there are endless adventures to be had.
Not only is Patagonia an epic destination, but I found it to be very safe to explore. There are some remote areas that you’ll be traveling through, but with the proper preparation, it is very doable to navigate through the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina on your own.
If a Patagonia trip is on your bucket list, keep reading to learn what I recommend for a 2 week itinerary and all of the tips that you’ll need to know along the way.
This Patagonia trip itinerary is based on visiting Patagonia in December 2022 and January 2023.
How many days should you spend in Patagonia? This is always a hard question to answer because I believe you should travel with as much time as you are able. You could spend months exploring Patagonia and still not see everything. Or, you could visit for 3 days and still have a memorable trip.
However, if you’re flying all the way to the bottom of South America, you might as well allow for a good amount of time to properly explore a few different areas of Patagonia. If you would like to visit both Chile and Argentina, and do some epic hiking along the way, I think that 2 weeks is the right amount of time to see the highlights.
Since Patagonia is located in the Southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed from the Northern hemisphere. This means that their summer is December through February. This itinerary includes a lot of mountainous hiking, so you’ll want to visit during the summer months or close to it.
This trip is doable from October to the end of April, but you’ll likely have the best weather from November to March. I visited in December/January and thought it was the perfect time.
- Some areas of Patagonia are quite remote. Be sure to download Google offline maps so you’ll be able to navigate without service. I also recommend having an international phone plan or local SIM card.
- Prepare for all kinds of weather on your Patagonia trip - but especially wind. The wind can be very intense and even make it hard to drive. Dress in layers and be aware that you may have all 4 seasons in one day!
- If you are renting a car in Patagonia and plan to cross the border, you’ll need the rental company to provide a special permit. Make sure you ask about this ahead of time and be aware that it has an extra fee.
- If you’re traveling by car and headed into remote areas, be sure to fill up on gas whenever you can.
- I always recommend having some local currency when you travel. However, the vast majority of places in Patagonia took credit cards and in the few instances where we needed cash, they also took USD.
- You will likely see a lot of wildlife as you drive around the country! Be on the lookout for guanacas (similar to llamas) and rhea (similar to ostriches).
- Argentina and Chile use different types of power outlets. Coming from the US, you'll need an adaptor for each. I recommend getting a set of universal plug adapters. Chile uses Types C and L, while Argentina uses Types C and I. Both countries have a standard voltage of 220 V, so make sure your devices are compatible with 220 V.
When it comes to transportation around Patagonia, most travelers will either rent a car or travel by bus. The bus is a great option if you’re visiting Patagonia on a budget, as it’s much cheaper than renting a car. But if you prefer to have the freedom to come and go when you please, renting a car is the best option.
Here are few things to keep in mind if you rent a car:
- Most of the rental cars are manual.
- You will need an additional permit from the rental car company if you plan to cross the border between Chile and Argentina.
I will be writing this itinerary from the perspective of renting a car, but will provide some information about bus options too when applicable.
This itinerary involves renting a car in Chile to drive yourself around Patagonia, hiking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, crossing the border into Argentina and then returning to Chile. This is almost exactly what I did, and what I recommend for an epic trip. However, there are many opportunities to alter the itinerary if you have less time.
- Day 1: Fly into Punta Arenas, drive to Puerto Natales
- Day 2: Prepare for the W trek and visit Mylodon Cave National Monument
- Days 3 - 7: Hike the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park
- Day 8: Drive from Puerto Natales to El Chaltén
- Day 9: Hike to Laguna De Los Tres
- Day 10: Drive from El Chaltén to El Calafate
- Day 11: Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier
- Day 12: Drive from El Calafate to Punta Arenas
- Day 13: Take a penguin day trip
- Day 14: Fly back from Punta Arenas
Fly to Patagonia. Most likely, you will fly into Punta Arenas and then travel up to Puerto Natales.
To get to Patagonia, you’ll want to fly into either Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. It is highly likely that you’ll be connecting through Chile’s capital city, Santiago, first.
Punta Arenas is a lot bigger than Puerto Natales, so there are many more flights and options for rental cars.
If you fly into Punta Arenas, you can either rent a car or take a bus to get to Puerto Natales. I opted to rent a car so that I would have it ready after the W Trek to drive directly into Argentina.
Check out my guide to renting a car in Patagonia for all of the details on car rental!
Either way, it is about 3 hours driving time between Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales.
Tip: If you rent a car in Chile, make sure to ask for a border crossing permit to be able to take it into Argentina. This is an extra fee and not all companies allow it. Call the rental car company ahead of time to make sure, as their online information may not be up to date.
When you reach Puerto Natales, check into a local hotel and explore the town!
When it comes to hotels in Puerto Natales, there are many to pick from. I recommend Hotel Altiplanico Sur for a more peaceful and luxurious stay (at a mid-range budget). Each room has a view facing the water and they have a wonderful restaurant with refreshing cocktails. We also ordered packed lunches from this hotel to have our first day on the W Trek.
Another great hotel in town is Kau Lodge. It is right on the water and closer to town, so you’re an easy walking distance from restaurants. It has more of a social, hostel vibe but still offered private rooms and was quiet.
There are also several great restaurants in Puerto Natales. I recommend Café Artimaña, Cafe Kaiken and La Guanaca Pizza. Café Artimaña is a cozy restaurant and craft brewery that serves dishes full of flavor. I really enjoyed a mushroom risotto and a pisco sour. The staff was kind and welcoming.
Cafe Kaiken is another local Chilean restaurant that serves a variety of pastas, as well as other dishes and a selection of wine.
Finally, La Guanaca Pizza is a fun spot for comfort food with a variety of pizza options, cocktails and craft beer.
Tip: Try a Pisco Sour while you’re in Patagonia! It’s a cocktail that is typically made with brandy and blended with fresh juice, sugar and ice. The drink is generally regarded as originating in Peru, but is also very popular in Chile.
Make sure you’re ready for the W Trek and visit the Mylodon Cave National Monument.
This might not be necessary depending on what time your flight was and where you flew into, but I’m leaving an extra day in the itinerary to prepare for the W Trek!
Make sure you are completely packed and ready with any snacks or gear that you may need.
If you have time for an activity and have a rental car, go on a hike in Mylodon Cave National Monument! The park is just about 20 minutes from Puerto Natales and has a massive cave to explore. It is a quick walk to see the Milodon Cave, which is the largest cave in the park. The cave is 200 meters/660 feet long and there is a trail around the rim to explore.
On the short walk to the cave, you’ll also find signage to learn about the history of the cave and prehistoric animal life in the area.
There are many more trail options if you have time and energy. I recommend hiking to Cueva del Medio, a smaller cave that is really neat to explore.
If you don’t have a rental car, you can also visit via taxi.
Spend 5 days hiking the W Trek in Torres Del Paine National Park. Alternatively, spend a couple days here doing day hikes.
If you have the time to spare and you love hiking, I highly recommend hiking the W trek during your trip to Patagonia! The W Trek is a multi-day hike in Torres Del Paine National Park. Most hikers do the trek over 5 days and 4 nights.
If you’re an avid hiker, you’ll find the W Trek to be incredibly rewarding. The journey will lead you past serene turquoise lakes, cascading waterfalls, mighty glaciers and rugged mountain peaks. Not to mention the chance to spot the magnificent condor birds and the opportunity to get to know other hikers along the way.
One of the great things about the W trek is that you can stay at inns along the way. The inns provide shared dorm rooms, or they can provide tents for a lower cost. They also can provide all of your meals. Having a shower, a bed and your meals taken care of is certainly a luxury after spending your days hiking up and down mountains!
I hiked the trek from East to West and stayed in four different inns along the way. To start and end the trek, I took a bus from Puerto Natales.
If you have less time OR hiking for 5 days doesn’t sound appealing to you, I still recommend spending one or two days in Torres Del Paine National Park.
One option for a shorter visit is to stay at Hotel Las Torres Patagonia and take a day hike to see Mirador Base Las Torres, which is arguably the most iconic view in the park. Another great option is to stay at Hotel Lago Grey and take their scenic boat ride to get a great view of Glacier Gray. No matter what you decide, make sure to spend some time in this incredible park.
Make your way from Puerto Natales to El Chaltén.
After exploring Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile, it’s time to head to Argentina! Take the bus or your rental car across the border into Argentina.
If you are driving a rental car across the border, here are some things you need to know:
- You must have a border crossing permit that will be provided by your rental car company.
- You’ll stop at the Chile border crossing first, then drive across the border and stop again on the Argentina side.
- If you cross at the border closest to Torres Del Paine, it is 8.5 km or a 10 minute drive between the two buildings. It feels a little strange to be in no-man’s land for that long, but keep going and you’ll see it! As soon as you reach Argentina, the road becomes unpaved.
- When you leave the Argentina border, the road is unpaved for a bit longer until you turn onto Route 40.
- Your map will likely try to take you on Route 40 between Estancia Tapi Aike and El Cerrito. This is a long section of unpaved road that you should avoid due to its remote nature and the strong possibility of a flat tire or other car trouble. Instead, take Route 7 to Esperanza and then turn onto Route 5.
- Due to the remote areas you’ll be driving through, be sure to get gas when you can and have a map.
If you are taking the bus, you may need to spend some time in El Calafate between Puerto Natales to El Chaltén.
The drive between Puerto Natales and El Chaltén takes about 5 - 6 hours, but this could be delayed if you have a long wait at the border crossing.
When you reach El Chaltén, check into your hotel and dine out.
My meal at Fuegia Bistro was my favorite meal of the entire trip. My partner and I both had vegetarian crepes and they were full of flavor. I had the crepe with spinach, and my partner had one with pumpkin and walnut filling, tomato sauce and blue cheese. They tasted like the ultimate elevated comfort food. Not only were the crepes fantastic, but the restaurant had a great wine selection and fabulous service. It’s a little bit of a nicer restaurant but still casual.
I also had a nice stay at Hostería Kau Si Aike. The lodging was basic but included breakfast and the host was so kind and helpful!
Tip: Cell service and wifi is unreliable in El Chaltén. There were some short periods of time where the entire town didn’t have internet. Make sure to be prepared so you’re not completely reliant on it.
Spend the day on an epic day hike to Laguna De Los Tres.
If you’re up for a long day hike, the trek up to Laguna De Los Tres is a must! This hike will rival the W trek in terms of epic views and stunning landscapes. You’ll be hiking to the destination that inspired the logo of the Patagonia brand and get to see a bright blue lake framed from incredible mountain peaks.
Tip: This trail gets super crowded so I recommend getting an early start.
There are a couple different starting points for this trail. The most popular trailhead is right on the edge of town and the town is small enough that you can walk there from any hotel. If you drive, there is a relatively large lot.
Another option is to start from the Senda El Pilar trailhead, which you can reach by bus or car. If you go there by bus, then you can hike back to the El Chalten trailhead and make it a point-to-point hike. This allows you to experience more scenery and hike a less crowded portion of the trail at the beginning of the day! The mileage for both routes is similar.
I hiked out and back from the main trailhead and logged 15 miles. The trail has gradual elevation for the first 2 miles, then is flat for the next 2.5 miles. During the flat part of the trail, there are several opportunities to see Mount Fitz Roy in the distance. The views are incredible the entire way!
The last 1.3 miles of the trail to reach the viewpoint are definitely the hardest. There is a lot of rock scrambling and some areas where you’ll be climbing up loose rock. During the day I was here, the wind was intense and it continued to get worse the higher I climbed.
When you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of Laguna De Los Tres with the backdrop of Mount Fitz Roy. The area at the top is very exposed, so there can be high winds (there were for me!). I also never saw the full mountain view due to cloud cover, but it was still one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen!
Spend the morning on a short hike in El Chaltén and then drive to El Calafate.
Do another short hike or two in El Chaltén before making your way to El Calafate (a 2-3 hour drive).
If you only have the morning, I recommend the Chorilla Waterfall and/or the Huemul Glacier.
Chorrillo del Salto is a short and easy trail that will lead you to a beautiful waterfall. If you are hiking in from town, it’s a little over 4 miles. But if you have a rental car, you can park very close and hike about 0.7 miles round trip to reach the falls. I recommend going early to see these falls because they get crowded.
A bit further from town, the Huemul Glacier hike is about 2 miles and includes a beautiful trek through a green forest and a great view of the glacier hanging up above a lake at the end.
Please note that to reach Huemul Glacier, it’s about 34 km on a dirt road. The dirt road should be doable for any car, but there may be some rocky and wet areas. Expect it to take a little longer than you expect, but the drive has many beautiful views!
If you are spending the entire day in El Chaltén, another iconic trail is Laguna Torre. This 10.9 mile (or more if you add on the Mirador Maestri viewpoint) hike leads to a lake that often has icebergs floating on the surface. I hope to hike this next time I visit the area!
After a morning of exploring, make your way to El Calafate to continue your trip.
Tip: If you’re driving, allow extra time to get gas in El Chaltén. There is one tiny gas station and one pump, so there are often long lines. You will also need to pay in cash.
Take a day trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
For your one full day in El Calafate, head to the Perito Moreno Glacier. I opted to take a day trip that includes transportation from El Calafate, time at the Glacial walkways, a boat ride and a hike ON the glacier.
The views of the glacier from the walkways are outstanding. There are 4.7 km of walkways and you can see the glacier from multiple angles. It’s truly a sight to behold. The glacier is 5 km wide, has an average height of 74 m above the water and has a total ice depth of 170 meters.
The glacier is also on the move. It flows about 2m each day further from its origin point. And you’re likely to see chunks of ice calving (breaking off) and falling into the water. It’s fascinating to watch!
Next to the walkways, there is also a cafe and gift shop where you can buy lunch.
After exploring the walkways, we took a boat ride in front of the Southeast side of the glacier. It was a quick ride and fascinating to see the tall glacier walls from the water.
We were dropped off on the other side of the waterway and hiked over to the foot of the glacier. From there, we geared up with some heavy duty spikes and helmets.
The glacier hike was so much fun! We got to explore a crevasse, sample glacier water and take in the stunning views. Glacier hiking is always such a special experience - I also got to enjoy it at the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska.
This tour was extra fun because it ended with whiskey served over glacier ice and chocolate enjoyed on the glacier. It was a memorable experience that was worth every penny!
A trip to Perito Moreno Glacier is something not to miss on your Patagonia itinerary.
Drive from El Calafate, Argentina to Punta Arenas, Chile.
Spend this day driving from El Calafate back to Punta Arenas. Keep in mind that you’ll have to cross the border again, so you should allow some extra time. In my experience, crossing into Chile took a lot longer than crossing into Argentina. They spend a lot more time searching your bags.
Tip: You cannot take any fresh fruit or vegetables into Chile, be sure to throw them out before you reach the border. Other foods such as nuts and meats can only be taken in with a declaration.
The drive between El Calafate to Punta Arenas will likely take between 5 and 6 hours.
When you reach Punta Arenas, spend some time exploring the city or relaxing after a long trip.
If you have some extra time in Punta Arenas, visit the Cemetery of Punta Arenas. The cemetery is quite large and impressive. It ranks in the top 10 of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. You’ll be able to explore tree-lined paths with perfectly manicured hedges and see the gravestones of ancient settlers and immigrants.
This is a small admission fee and you’ll be given a map with some information to learn more as you explore.
Another great stop in town is Cerro de la Cruz, an observation point that offers great views of the city. From here you’ll be able to see the Strait of Magellan and a large portion of the city. It’s located in a city park and you’ll also find some nice murals and benches. It’s a great place to watch the sunset.
Finally, if you’re looking to splurge on a nice hotel for your last stay in Patagonia, I highly recommend Hotel La Yegua Loca.
This boutique hotel is themed to honor the trades and traditions of Croatian pioneers, English and Chilotes that arrived in this area in the mid-1800s. Each of the 15 rooms has a different theme showcasing different jobs held by the early pioneers. I stayed in ‘The Warehouse’ which was equipped as a workshop. Details included tools on the walls, a soldering iron as a towel rack, and Chevy memorabilia adorning the walls. Maybe the best part was that the room had a large balcony with an amazing view looking out at the city.
In addition to the beautiful rooms, we ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel and the food was great. I enjoyed a Pisco Sour flight (there were 5 kinds to choose from!), falafel risotto and a chocolate mousse dessert.
This beautiful hotel is the perfect way to end an epic adventure traveling and hiking all over Patagonia.
See penguins near Punta Arenas.
On your final day in Patagonia, take a day trip from Punta Arenas to see penguins! This is something I ran out of time for but wish I had been able to do.
One of the closest places to see penguins is on Isla Magdalena. The island is home to Chile’s largest penguin colony and one of the largest rookeries in Patagonia. Along the way, you also may get to see elephant seals and sea lions!
It is about a 2 hour ferry ride to reach the island, or you can take a speed boat via a tour. Visitors are typically only able to spend about an hour on the island so as not to disturb the penguins too much.
You can book your visit to Isla Magdalena on Viator. This tour lasts 4-5 hours.
If you’re interested in a longer day's adventure to see penguins, you can also take a trip over to Parque Pingüino Rey located on Tierra del Fuego Island. This area is home to a colony of King Penguins and will include more travel in the Patagonia countryside. The tour lasts about 14 hours and can be booked on Viator.
Travel back to Santiago and/or home.
After an incredible two weeks exploring Patagonia, catch a flight from Punta Arenas. Depending on your flight options, you may want to spend a day exploring Santiago.
If you have a day or two to spend in Santiago, I recommend walking around Parque Forestal, taking the gondola or cable car to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, visiting the Central Market and eating some delicious food! If you have even more time, take a day trip to either the mountains or the coast. I had a great time visiting a winery, the Inca Lagoon and driving a road with 29 hairpin turns on this tour I booked on Viator.
I hope this itinerary helps you plan an epic trip to Patagonia! Keep reading to learn some FAQs and check out my ultimate guide to hiking the W Trek, my top tips for hiking the W Trek and my guide to renting a car in Patagonia to continue planning your trip.
Yes and no. Patagonia tends to be more affordable than traveling in the US, but it’s by no means cheap. As with any vacation, there are plenty of areas where you can choose between saving or splurging. One of my biggest costs was the rental car, but you can opt out of that and travel via bus instead. Hotels tended to be a bit expensive in the small, touristy towns, such as El Chaltén. And there is a large range of prices when it comes to food and activities. To see exactly what I paid to hike the W Trek, check out my cost breakdown.
As a vegetarian, I was pleasantly surprised by how vegetarian friendly the region was! I ate a lot of risotto and also came across plenty of vegetarian pizza, pasta and sandwiches. Just about every restaurant I came across in Patagonia had vegetarian options.
While I did not visit solo myself, I absolutely would! I felt very safe traveling around this part of Chile and Argentina. There are also some great opportunities to meet other travelers by joining tours, staying in social hotels and hostels and getting out on the trails. Personally, I think Patagonia would be a great place to travel solo.
For more Patagonia guides, check out these blogs:
- The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the W Trek Self-Guided
- A Guide to Renting a Car and Driving in Patagonia
- 30 Tips for Hiking the W Trek
- A Detailed Packing List for the W Trek
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