Patagonia in 10 days: Another ultimate itinerary (and more)
Table of contents
Our previous post about 20 things to know about Patagonia included some recommendations based on our own experience to plan a trip there, but we didn’t go into detail about what places to visit. Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer to that question!
Patagonia is so vast, unique and beautiful that it’s hard to know what to visit in the first place. Therefore, the answer will very much depend on the days you have available and what you want to prioritise (coast versus mountains, Argentina or Chile, etc.) and we wanted to share our itinerary with some alternatives for inspiration!
🤔 The rationale behind this itinerary
I remember when we decided that “that’s it, our next trip would be to Patagonia!”, we started looking for what to do in the two weeks we had available and it was a bit overwhelming to see so many things that were a must! At the same time, you would like to see the most breathtaking spots but you definitely want to avoid the crowded touristic places…
Renting a car was definitely a key factor not to feel part of such crowds (we were basically alone in the road quite often), but that also means you need to focus your trip on a small part of this immense land.
In Argentina, Patagonia includes the provinces of Tierra del Fuego, Santa Cruz, Chubut, Río Negro and Neuquén, and to a lesser extent the northerner provinces of Mendoza, La Pampa and Buenos Aires.
In Chile, it includes the regions of Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena and Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo, and to a lesser extent the northerner region of Los Lagos – that is a long list, isn’t it? Patagonia spans over 1 million km2…
Thus, for less than two weeks (10 days), we decided to focus on the southernmost part of Patagonia as it’s rich in glaciers and has many options for hikes. So we did the Argentinian province of Santa Cruz (the western side), the city of Ushuaia (in Tierra del Fuego) and the Chilean Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena region, to explore the famous Torres del Paine National Park.
No coast for us – although we would have loved to see the whales (sea lions and penguins) that you can find near Puerto Madryn, in the Valdés Peninsula (this remains pending for a next visit of Patagonia; or you can also include it to your list, in case you have more days!).
That said, we are aware that our first post about Patagonia had presented the region as a challenging destination with some tips, etc. and that we didn’t focus much on its positive and somehow curious aspects, which are many…
💥 What makes Patagonia so special?
Where to begin!
Despite the grandeur of Patagonia, the region is hugely sparsely populated and thus, it has limited infrastructures (e.g. there is no train line except for Viedma-Bariloche), being very WILD; and WILD is a good thing nowadays, you won’t find many places on Earth that are so unique and make you feel so tiny, and you will run into your share of wild animals – believe us, we didn’t look for it and we did!
But don’t worry about getting lost in such a vast land. If you end up driving in Argentina, you will basically have two roads: Ruta 40 (going all over the western side of Argentina), Ruta 3 (stretching along the eastern coast of Argentina) and a few other connecting roads – that’s it!
Mountains are a thing there too. The Patagonian section of the Andes is home to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the world’s second largest extra-polar ice field (the first one being at the Kluane National Park and Reserve in Canada), and you will be able to appreciate the magnificence of its glaciers from very close!
One of the other things that also amazed us about Patagonia was the colour of its waters. The glacier lakes and then rivers feature a unique bright turquoise that is due to the “rock flour” released by the glaciers. You can appreciate it very well in this picture from NASA!
If you go to El Calafate and/or El Chaltén, you will clearly see this in Lago Argentino and Lago Viedma; and the smaller lakes of the Torres del Paine National Park also have these bright colours.
Another interesting thing was to realise that most of the land in Patagonia is privately owned and as explained here, it can make independent travel challenging some times…
To give you an idea, the biggest private landowner in Argentina (and its Patagonia) is the Benetton Group with some controversies; but for instance, Douglas Tompkins, the founder of the North Face and Esprit brands, was also one of the largest private landowners of Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia and dedicated a large part of his life to create and preserve natural parks promoting the protection of its wildlife and biodiversity.
And parks, like the Torres del Paine one, are really an amazing thing in Patagonia, you can feel so isolated from the world…
We actually stayed in what we classified as the Patagonian version of the ‘The Shining’ hotel:
[More details to come!]
One last fact about Patagonia (that I had to look up out of curiosity) is the origin of the name Patagonia. It’s believed to come from the word “patagón”, which was used in 1520 by Ferdinand Magellan (yes, the guy who did the first circumnavigation of the Earth) to refer to the native people of the region, who apparently were so tall that they were thought to be giants.
🤩 What to visit in Patagonia when you only have a few days👇
🗓 10 amazing days in Patagonia
Below you will find the different activities we did in Patagonia, covering key attractions while allowing some freedom between destinations – we hope this might help you decide on your own itinerary too!
Soon we will be posting in more detail on each of these destinations!
Arriving to El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier
– El Calafate is an interesting town that will allow you to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier from very close… (even from the top!)
On the road: Travelling to El Chaltén
– we did this journey by car and it was a lot of fun, plus the views of the lakes and mountains were just breathtaking!
Hiking to Laguna de los Tres and the Fritz Roy
– this is a fully recommended hike from El Chaltén! If you want to do a round hike (do it!), there is a special starting point…
Hiking in Torres del Paine National Park
– there are no words for this place, its colours and landscapes, plus there are so many hike options! (If you have more days, do extend your trip here!)
Visiting Ushuaia, the southernmost city
– this is also a unique place in Patagonia that it’s worth visiting (we had our doubts when trying to prioritise destinations, and glad we did prioritise it!)
More time? 🇦🇷 Include 4 days in Buenos Aires and the Iguazú Falls
In our case we flew to Patagonia from Buenos Aires (some people may find it more convenient from Santiago de Chile), and we decided to stay a couple of days in the capital of Argentina and also do a two-day escape to the Iguazú Falls – we like contrasts and maybe you do as well!
Soon we will be posting on each of the below too…
+ 2 days
– you won’t regret to stay a few days in this beautiful city full of history, colours and cultures (before or after your trip to Patagonia!)
+ 2 days
– these marvelous and impressive waterfalls are between the Argentinian–Brazilian border and can (should) be visited from both sides!
📍Map of full itinerary
😋 Things you should try out in terms of food
We wanted to end this post on a yummy note! And, in addition to enjoying the landscapes and beauty of this remote region, you can eat very VERY well in Patagonia.
When planning our trip to Pataognia, we weren’t expecting a very sophisticated cuisine, but in every town we stayed in Argentina (El Calafate, El Chaltén and Ushuaia), we were always recommended a series of restaurants that we tried out and ate so SO well (and for relatively reasonable prices!). We will share more about these restaurants on each destination post!
Many of the things you will eat in the Argentinian Patagonia are found across Argentina, such as their famous empanadas (savoury) and alfajores (sweet), and this also includes wine from Mendoza and other regions. There is also a lot of influence from the Italian cuisine, having their own pasta and pizza specialties.
But one thing to note is that due to the difficulties of growing their own vegetables and fruits (Patagonia is very windy), the diet there is often rich in meat (so not an easy destination for vegetarians, although there are alternatives) and cereals.
Below we wanted to do a recap of three things you should try out during your stay in Patagonia:
These are very typical savoury pastries across Argentina that can be filled with meat, cheese and vegetables. They can be baked or fried (I prefer the baked ones as they are a bit healthier and are easier to eat when you are on the go!).
We found empanadas to be super convenient (in addition to yummy!) when travelling by car, as we wouldn’t know when we would be able to stop somewhere to eat, and even for excursions and hikes as it wasn’t always easy to find fresh bread!
🔥 Cordero asado
This is obviously not an option for vegetarians, but I had to mention it as lamb is a common dish in Patagonia.
It’s often roasted in a very traditional way, placing the meat at a specific distance and position from the embers for many hours to cook slowly and acquiring a very unique taste. Lamb is often eaten with bread and some side dishes that can include vegetables and potatoes.
In some places in Patagonia, they also eat the meat of guanaco (similar to llamas) seasonally, although we didn’t dare to try it out… (plus it wasn’t the season in October-November, I believe it’s rather eaten during the winter there).
This is just something you will see everywhere you go in Argentina and you definitely have to try out, at least once…
Alfajores are a symbol of the country (in addition to Maradona), although you can find variants in other countries.
These giant biscuits are made of two round dry cookies filled in with dulce de leche (“milk jam” as translated by the French) and the whole thing is covered with powder sugar (traditionally) or chocolate (less traditionally) – they are indeed a calorie bomb that can become very handy when trekking or hiking!
Did you find this itinerary and post useful or have other recommendations for Patagonia?
If you like what you read, please feel free to share this post, leave a comment and/or find out more about travelling in Patagonia 👇👇👇👇👇
If you plan to go to El Chaltén from El Calafate by car and want to do things on the road, this is your post! 🚘 🏞️ There are a few options: from visiting cave paintings and a historic (and also the only) inn on the road, La Leona, to joining an excursion to its petrified forest and admiring the gorgeous lakes that characterise this remote region of 🇦🇷 Patagonia!
El Calafate is a must see and do in 🇦🇷 Patagonia. This unique small town is located by Lago Argentino (a blue-bright lake) and next to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares 🏔 and therefore the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, where you will learn about glaciers, see pieces of ice fall off, and can even do a trek on the glacier appreciating its grandeur! 🙌
Patagonia can be a challenging destination at times, but it’s all worth it! For us, it has been the most amazing trip we have ever done!🥇 That’s why we wanted to share with you 2️⃣0️⃣ tips based on our own experience and that we hope will help you plan and enjoy your trip to the fullest! Learn what to watch out for in case you rent a car, why independent travel can be difficult and more… 💸