At the tip of the Southern Hemisphere resides a mysterious and beautiful land known as Patagonia.
Shared between Chile and Argentina, it is one of the most well-preserved places on the planet and there are many places within this region worthy of a visit on your next trip.
With the right information you can have the experience of a lifetime an d see the best sights in both Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia.
1/ Bariloche, Argentina
Sitting at the foothills of the Andes mountains and on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi is the Alpine-style city of Bariloche.
It’s located directly inside the Nahuel Huapi National Park and has been a place tourists flock to since the late 30s.
Skiing is a must if you’re planning a trip here
The runs at Cerro Catedral are one of the main reasons the city receives so many visitors in the Winter season (May-August).
It’s also a dream come true in the Summer with plenty of exciting things to do like mountaineering and trekking through the national park’s unforgettable landscapes.
The terrain is almost completely wild and uninhabited; perfect for a pure eco friendly experience.
For those wanting to relax and nothing more; Bariloche offers several lake-side beaches, for sun-bathing in the Summer months when the air is warm and the water is fresh (derived from melted snow).
The city is also known for its swiss-style chocolate and architecture, making it a delight to simply stroll through.
2/ El Bolsón, Argentina
This little town is located at the foothills of the Piltriquitron mountain, in the Rio Negro province of Argentina.
El Bolsón has a distinct “hippie-vibe” mixed with German influences from the first wave of settlers, making it especially interesting.
There is also a regular handicraft market with artesenal beer and specialty products such as smoked trout, cheeses, and chocolates.
Some of the best activities for seeing the great outdoors are trekking and climbing, very accessible during high-season (December to March).
Lago Puelo park is one of the best places to explore on foot, there is also a boat which travels between the Argentinian and Chilean side of the lake.
The rivers are another remarkable attraction and depending on the level of excitement you’re looking for, rafting is renowned here.
For a more laid-back option, try fly-fishing.
3/ Futaleufú, Chile
Just eight kilometres from the Argentinian border, nestled in the Chilean Andes lies Futaleufú, which means “Big River” in Mapudanan.
This is for good reason, as one of the top three rivers in the world can be found here.
Futa is renowned for its class-five white water rapids, perfect for kayak expeditions and rafting.
The town itself may be small, with just 2,000 inhabitants but it’s full of personality, culture, and nature.
Aside from kayaking and rafting, there are numerous treks for tourists to discover, whether to Piedra de Aguila for a view of the entire valley or through the National Reserve which is home to Chilean huemuls.
“Cabalgatas” or horse-riding tours can take you through more diverse and hard-to-reach terrain, lasting anywhere from three hours to ten days.
The culture of Futaleufú is a unique one, because of its close proximity to the border, you’ll find Argentinian customs mixed seamlessly with those of the Chileans: mate, gauchos, and chamamé are all side-by-side with the cueca, pisco, and huasos.
4/ Corcovado National Park, Chile
This is a huge area of preserved Valdivian temperate rainforest in what is known as Chile’s “Green Patagonia”.
It is home to two volcanoes: Corcovado and Yanteles, as well as part of the Yelcho river.
The national park spawned as a result of a public and private conservation effort just over a decade ago.
This incredible piece of land houses eighty-two lakes, ancient forests and several diverse mammals including pumas.
It is home to 18 mammal species, 64 bird species, 133 flora species.
The estuaries hold a diverse wildlife including colonies of shorebirds, penguins, sea lions and was discovered to be a nursery area for blue whales.
5/ The Island of Chiloé
Chiloé is sometimes referred to as “the emerald island” of Chile, with a culture all on its own due to isolation from the rest of the country.
Stories and mythology are important parts of the island as well as the unforgettable natural landscapes and wildlife.
You will find the Chiloe national park along the Eastern shores and Tantauco park on the West.
Luckily for tourists, blue whales, Chilean dolphins, sea lions, Magellanic penguins, and Humboldt penguins all call the national park home.
The island’s capital, Castro, is located on the East coast with a population of 40,000.
It is well-known for its “palafitos” or traditional wooden stilt houses.
Some of these iconic houses have been well-preserved in the Gamboa district.
The seafood market is another important tradition in the city where locals go to purchase fresh fish and mollusks.
Additionally, within the city: the regional museum of Castro exhibits many items made in Chiloé and houses several local archeology samples.
6/ Magdalena Island, Chile
Here you can see, up-close and personal, the daily lives of more than 200,000 Magellanic penguins eating, bathing, and raising their young.
This island is home to the largest penguin colony in Chile.
Between November and April the birds can be seen breeding and molting before they move off to warmer waters for the Southern wemisphere Winter.
Boats head to the island, which sits 35 kilometres from Punta Arenes, two or three times each day during high season, with the journey taking approximately 30 minutes each way.
7/ Melinka, Chile
Melinka is the largest town in Chilean Archipelago, surrounded by endless islands which are ideal for fishing, sailing, boating, and sea kayaking.
If you’re looking to hike in unspoiled, natural territory, this area is one of the best in the world to do it.
Seven hundred miles of islands with little civilisation will make you realize just how remote Southern Chile can be and also lends a true diversity to the places and people.
If you’re looking to see some wildlife, try taking a short boat tour to some of the surrounding islands which feature sea lions, penguins, dolphins, seals, and whales (when in-season).
8/ Coyhaique, Chile
Sometimes referred to as “the city of eternal snow” due to its year-round white-capped mountains, Coyhaique is the capital of both the Aysen and Coyhaique regions of Chile.
Being quite easy to arrive to by way of the Carreterra Austral, air, or sea, the town is known among tourists, both national and international.
The Simpson and Coyhaique rivers are popular for fly-fishing as well as kayaking and there is a small ski-track known as El Fraile outside the city for a day of fun in the snow.
From Coyhaique, it is quite easy to travel to the surrounding attractions such as the Coyhaique national reserve, perfect for day hikes and viewing local flora and fauna.
The national reserve of Cerro Castillo sits close to the city as well, about two hours driving, but well worth the effort.
You have the option to do trekking or a cabalgata (horse-riding) to see the marvellous nature and scenery within.
9/ Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile
A little town in Chilean Patagonia offers the most direct access to two of the most well-known marble caves in the country.
Puerto Rio Tranquilo is on the shores of General Carrera lake, shared by both Argentina and Chile, with a total size of 1850 square kilometres.
Boats and kayak excursions leave from the edge of the lake, so you can get up close and personal with the cave circuits.
Catedral de Mármol and Capilla de Mármol are the two largest caves in this area and have been formed by years of erosion into the beautiful masterpieces they are today.
10/ Caleta Tortel – Village in Chile
Exceptionally beautiful, Caleta Tortel, lies between Northern and Southern Patagonian ice fields in the Aysen region of Chile.
It is home to less than 600 people and is relatively unknown outside of Southern Chile.
One of the things the place is most known for is its walkway system, built by the local inhabitants, which run several kilometres along the cove.
These walkways serve as a way for the locals to communicate and travel within the town.
The landscape of Tortel is truly interesting as it is formed by a number of glaciers, fjords, channels, and estuaries.
Since 2003, Caleta Tortel has been connected to the rest of Patagonia by the Caraterra Austral.
A walk around the town by way of the iconic walkways will give you a peak into a different lifestyle, including the stilt houses the majority of residents live in, modelled on typical Chilotean architecture.
The Laguna San Rafael national park lies near Tortel, and is known for its lagoon, formed by the melting of the famous San Rafael glacier.
The glacier itself covers an area of 17,420 kilometres and includes the Northern Patagonian ice field.
The Southern Patagonian ice field as well as Katalalaxir national reserve and Bernardo O’Higgins national park, the largest protected area in Chile, are all accessible from Tortel.
11/ Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia
The capital of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, is known to be the Southern-most city in the world.
The history of this city is an interesting one with British settlement first occurring in the latter half of the 19th century, before this, the Selk’nam indians had inhabited the area for more than 10,000 years.
Tierra Del Fuego national park can be reached by the “End of the world” train or highway.
Here you will see dramatic natural scenery including waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers.
You can walk along the popular Coastal path and see some of the park’s beaches and forests including Lenga beech and Coihue which are home to several local animal species.
Aside from Ushuaia, other popular attractions are the Beagle Channel, Pipo River cascade, Lago Fagnano, Lago Roca, and Ensanada Bay.
For animal-lovers: wildlife is abundant in Ushuaia including local birds, penguins, seals, and orcas.
Check out the Sea Wolves catamaran tour to see the area’s sea lions and bird species. If you’re keen to get a peak at Tierra del Fuego on a tight timeline, join a day tour and let the local guides organize the itinerary for you.
12/ El Calafate
El Calafate is the gateway to Los Glaciers national park and sits on the shores of Lake Argentino in the Santa Cruz Province of Argentina.
Many use El Calafate as a hub to visit different parts of the national park such as Perito Moreno and Cerro Chaltén.
The sheer number of glaciers in the area make El Calafate a natural place for trekking.
The most well-known and well-visited glacier is Perito Moreno; its ever-shifting form make it particularly interesting for visitors as it is composed of several other pieces of moving ice.
13/ Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine park is a UNESCO world heritage site and reserve; it remains as one of the most pristine and remote places on the planet.
You’ll find all the natural wonders you can imagine within: towering mountains, sparkling lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, as well as a mix of Patagonian wildlife such as guanacos, condors, pink flamingos and Patagon hares.
Naturally, Torres del Paine is a wonderland for hiking, with the W trek being the most well-known among travellers.
This trek takes you up, through and back down the mountain valleys in the span of five to seven days (five to eight hours of hiking per day).
Through this trek, you will see many of the park’s attractions such as Los Torres, Los Cuernos, Valle Frances, Paine Grande, and Glacier Grey.
Torres del Paine can be explored in several ways aside from the typical W trek; horse-back riding is a popular way to enter and see parts of the park, as well, some travellers opt for a zodiac motorboat through Rio Serrano.
Full W trek tours can be over $1500 USD over a few days and is offered by a few companies. However, if you’re short on time and just want to see some of the highlights, day tours are also available.
14/ El Chaltén
Come to this small mountain town in the Santa Cruz province of Argentina and you’ll be in what is rated the second best city in the world to know.
It’s located inside Los Glacieres national park and was recently named Argentina’s trekking capital.
Most of the people who come to El Chaltén are backpackers looking to trek.
There are numerous campsites available, with those along the trails outside El Chaltén being free of charge.
If you’re thinking of going to El Chaltén for a visit, make sure to pack accordingly; the climate is semi-arid yet unpredictable with day-time Summer temperatures normally dropping below 18 degrees and 5 degrees during the night.
15/ Puerto Madryn
Puerto Madryn is a seaside city in the Chubut region of Argentina; it was founded by Welsh immigrants in the 19th century and expanded by the building of the Central Chubut railway.
Due to the early arrival of immigrants from the Wales, the city has distinct Welsh features and a handful of monuments dedicated to this history.
The main reasons tourists flock to Puerto Madryn is for Peninsula Valdes, a nature reserve designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
The peninsula is a wonderland for marine-mammal watching; it’s home to sea lions, elephant seals, baleen whales (between May and December) and orcas.
Land-dwelling mammals are also in abundance off the Peninsula: rheas, guanacos, macas as well as the famous Magellanic penguins can easily be seen as part of a tour.
With so many natural wonders and pristine landscapes, you won’t want to miss the chance to see Patagonia within your lifetime.
There’s no other place on the planet with so much diversity and such an interesting mix of histories and cultures that make it what it is today.
As the entire land mass of Patagonia spans 1.043 square kilometres it can be tricky to see what you want in a short amount of time.