Top 5 Treks/Trails in Patagonia
Chile and Argentina have some of the most splendid landscapes in the world, and certainly the greatest not-so-hidden gem in the region is Patagonia.
Maybe the most spectacular region in all of South America
Patagonia is located in the southern region of the continent, being part of both countries, it spreads from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and through the famous Cordillera de los Andes. Due to it’s hauntingly beautiful scenery, it attracts thousands of visitors every year, coming from all the corners of the world to see the amazing beauty and take part in the numerous options of outdoor activities.
Some of the main attractions, widely known across the whole continent
- Torres del Paine
- Puerto Natales
- Lake district(Shared with Argentina)
- Punta Arenas(Strait of Magellan)
- Tierra del Fuego(Western part of the island)
- El Calafate
- Lake district(Shared with Chile)
- Tierra del Fuego(Easter part of the island)
With a huge amount of trails, trekking is one of the most emblematic activities in Patagonia
Being a place rich with natural beauty, the region became a gathering place for trekkers from all over the world and each year its reputation as a center for adventurous sports grows. Attracting hordes of climbers, hikers, rafters and much more. In this article I’ll show some of the best trails in Patagonia.
The famous W-Trail in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile:
With over 180 thousand hectares of extension, the Torres del Paine National Park is the main attraction in the Patagonia region. And so, it also has the the most famous trail in the whole region and one of the best in the whole continent, the worldly known W-Trail. The W in its name comes from the fact that the route forms a giant “W” when you see it in a map(as you certainly noticed in the picture up there). There are a few ways to start this trail, but the one I consider the standard is this: Get a bus heading to Torres del Paine from Puerto Natales, most hostels sell the bus tickets for you, not just the bus companies. After you arrive in the Park, leave the bus at the Laguna Amarga entrance. There you will pay your entrance fee. And it’s done, you are officially in the Torres del Paine National Park.
To start the hike you can walk from the entrance to Hosteria Las Torres, where you can spend the night if you want. This spot also has a campsite if you want to save some Chilean Pesos. From Hosteria Las Torres, just a few hours north is the closest spot to admire the 3 famous towers of the park(see the picture below). You walk from the place where you spent the night, until you reach the Base Las Torres. Some say that this little trek is the best part of the trail, at least in terms of sight seeing. After seeing Las Torres, you can walk back to the Hosteria and spend the night there.
This is just the first day, in the next few days you will go south and west, following the “W” in the map. It’s not a tricky trail but it can be physically demanding if you are not used to trekking. The whole trail can be done in 4 days(maybe even 3) without much effort. And you will find some of the most beautiful sights you will ever see during your travels.
The not so famous “The Circuit” Trail, also in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile:
This trail is actually an extension of the W-Trail. As you can see in the map, it contains the W. But now you will have a much tougher job ahead of you. “The Circuit” as it’s called(sometimes people name it “The O”) is over 140km long, that means you will probably need at least 7 days to completed it.
To start the trail do the same as with the W. Leave the bus at the entrance, and walk to the hosteria. Or if you want, just follow a path to the right that will take you straight to Seron, which will be you first stop. To complete this trail, you just need to follow the big O on the map, like you did with the W in the previous one. And once again, not a complicated trek, but a very demanding one.
It’s a long trail, but some of the most amazing sights in the park will be available to you, like in day 2, when you will camp besides the lake Dickson, with a glacier on the background as you can see below.
The Fitzroy Trek, Argentina:
Located in Parque Nacional Los Claciares, Fitzroy is the most emblematic mountain in Argentinian part of Patagonia .
Unlikely Torres del Paine park, here we have several options of great one day treks, where you can visit some amazing spots with beautiful views of the Fitzroy and still return to your comfortable hotel beds each day. But you may also take advantage of the campsites and do some multi-day trekking so you can enjoy this one of a kind location in all of its intense aspects.
To get the park, you must arrive at El Calafate first, then take the public bus to El Chalten/Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. To get to El Calafate, you can fly from Buenos Aires, or if you are in Chilean Patagonia, you can get a bus from Punta Arenas to El Calafate.
In the park, there is no need to hire a guide, the circuit is pretty easy to follow if you have the endurance for it. Also almost everything is free, except for food and gear, so it’s not as expensive as Torres del Paine.
Here are some of the best views you will have in this trail and also the El Calafate Glacier(which you cant miss while you are at El Calafate):
Lagunas Altas Trail, Patagonia Park, Chile:
This new and beautiful trail is located in the soon to be national park, Parque Patagonia. The administration of the park is fighting to elevate the area to the status of national park to preserve this paradise from the advances of the human developments and tourism companies. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t visit it, quite the opposite, they are just making sure that tourism in the region will be sustainable.
To get to the park, the standard way is to fly to Balmaceda from Santiago, rent a car there, and drive for about 6 hours until you reach the park. By the way, roads in Chile are extremely safe and it’s really easy to rent a car.
And now about the trail, it’s 23 km long and it starts near the entrance lodge of the park. You will see the Tamanguito peak in the way, and some of the beautiful lakes in the region. There is no need for a guide, and the trail is well signalized, plus you can do the whole trail in about 8 hours.
There are also numerous other trails you can do while at Parque Patagonia, all extremely beautiful like everything else in this extraordinary place.
Huemul Circuit, El Chalten, Argentina:
This circuit also starts at El Chalten, like the Fitzroy Trek. From this small village. you walk towards Toro Lagoon and through forests and by lake sides. The next day, you will trek from the lagoon to Paso del Viento and you will need to get your feet wet for a while.
On day 3 you will go from Paso del Viento to Paso Huemul and Lake Viedma where you will camp.
The main characteristic in this trail is how many different landscapes through the whole route. You will see forests, dry mountains, huge lakes and much more. it certainly is one of the most impressive and breathtaking experiences in Patagonia.
An amazing and expensive paradise
If you decided you have to visit this breathtaking place that is Patagonia, be prepared to spend some real money. Being so distant from everything, things are extremely more expensive than the average price in South America. So come prepared to spend quite a considerable amount of money. But as it is anywhere else, there’s always ways to save a few Pesos. Check online for agencies and guides if you need them, compare prices, compare reservation fees and anything else you might need.
But I’m sure if you go there, no matter how much money you spend, and how tired you will get from those extremely demanding treks, you will go home thinking everything was worth it to experience this wonder called Patagonia.