14 BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN PATAGONIA AND SOUTHERN CHILE
I recently received a lot of requests about the best places to see in Patagonia. Truth is, there are so many places that it’s hard for me to name them all each time. So I knew I had to write an article for you guys. Here is the list of my absolute favorite places I visited while hitchhiking through Patagonia for 5 months during the fall winter season! This is, of course, a non exhaustive list. I’m sure there is way more to see and I’m aware that one cannot see it all. Especially if you travel the way I do. That’s why at the end of this article, I’m also going to include the places I was advised to visit but didn’t get the chance to see. Are you ready to be blown away? Because I have been and I still can’t believe I got to see such wonders.
PS: to not confuse you, I’m going to start this list from the south and keep going up north until the end of Patagonia and the southern region of Chile
1. Ushuaia - The fake"End of the world"
Ushuaia was the starting point of this whole journey hitchhiking to Alaska. So of course, it was already a special place for me. But little did I know it had so many gorgeous places and that it would keep me trapped for more than 3 weeks.
As soon as I arrived at the airport I was blown away. I had never seen an airport like this one. Ushuaia is considered as “the end of the world” because it is the southernmost city in the world but Puerto Williams is located further south than Ushuaia but not considered as a city because it only has 2000 inhabitants.
You cannot miss this place. It is so much more than just its famous sign “End of the world”.
2. Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is just one of those places that make you feel like you are on an other planet. I had there probably the most adventurous time of my life. Check out the episode where I take you to a secret shelter hidden in the mountains. Me and some friends went completely off trail, got lost, soaked, left without any food and I had to walk 2 hours in the dark but it was the most incredible trek I’ve ever done and some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen. You’ll need to go to Puerto Natales, which is located 250 km away from the National park which is also a very nice coastal city worth visiting.
3. Perito Moreno glacier
Located in the Los Glaciares National Park, it is without a doubt one the most visited attraction in Argentina and an obligatory stop after you leave Puerto Natales. This ice field is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. This 250 km2 (97 sq mi) and 30 km (19 mi) in length is located about 78 km (48 mi) from El Calafate. I went there the day of my birthday and couldn’t have wished for a better day to see it. Thanks to the fact that I somehow look South American, I paid 250 pesos (5€) instead of 600 pesos (12€). You can also book a tour to go walk on the glacier which I didn’t do because it was very expensive 100€.
I was also able to witness huge blocks of ice detaching from the glacier which really is an impressive spectacle. You can see it in this episode 🙂
PS: when you look for it on the map, keep in mind that there is a town also called Perito Moreno.
4. El Chalten
El Chalten is one of those places you never want to leave. It keeps surprising you everyday by its beauty, its magic. Seeing it change with the weather was also an incredible thing to witness. I got to experience it with and without the snow. Got to walk on the frozen Laguna de los tres. Everthing there is free and still pretty wild. I made amazing friends there and it seems that there is a curse: anyone who tries to leave this place the first time (me included) had to come back because there was always something happening on the road. Whether it was because there was no car to pick you up or because the roads got suddenly closed because of the weather, it happened to every hitchhiker I met there.
5. The whole road from Los Antiguos to Puerto Rio Tranquilo
From Los Antiguos in Argentina, where I did some wild camping because I hadn’t found anyone to host me, I crossed the border by walking to join a little town called Chile Chico in Chile. The whole ride, you can see the beautiful Lake Buenos Aires/General Carrera. Both towns, Los Antiguos and Chile Chico are very pretty and worth making a stop.
Then, after having spent a couple of days in Chile Chico, the same lady who had given me a ride to Los Antiguos picked up and drove me about half way to Puerto Rio Tranquilo, where I finally joined the famous Carretera Austral. The whole ride was incredible and she was kind enough to stop for me to take some pictures of the amazing places we were passing by on the route 265-CH.
6. The Marble Caves
After having being dropped off at the Carretera Austral, a family picked me up and just like that, I was sitted at the back of the car, under the rain with a goose as a travel companion. They offered me something to eat and invited to stay over. I stayed 2 days at their house and of course, couldn’t miss the Marble Caves for the world! They were actually the reason why I had taken the risk to take this route, completely empty at this time of the year
Those stunning caves carved into marble are bordering the Buenos Aires/Genereal Carrera lake I talked about earlier. You have the choice to go there on a little boat with approximately 10 other people and it will coast you about 10000 pesos (12€). You can also decide to go there on a kayak which is way more adventurous but also more expensive. I got there late afternoon but if you can, go there early in the day, that’s when you’ll get the best light to take amazing pictures.
7. Lago las Torres
This place is without a doubt the most surprising and definitely the highlight of this whole journey as I had no idea it even existed. I arrived there very randomly because the day I left Coyahique, it was already 4 pm (I’ve never been too good at leaving early) and I asked the car that picked me up if he knew a place where I could camp. Hitchhiking at night is a no go. I was on a way to Puyuhapi and wanted to see the Bosque Encantado (The enchanted forest) and also the Queulat National Park. I just wanted a place to spend the night. Well, little did I know what surprise I was going to get waking up the next day. I completely fell in love with this place and stayed there until I completely ran out of food. The temperature reached -10 °C (14F) and even if it was freezing, this place will remain one of my most beautiful memory. The coordinates of this place are: -44.79552, -72.213416 . You can just enter them in your GPS like the one I use, Mapsme and it will find it 🙂
8. Bosque Encantado
Well, if I had to use one word to describe this place, it would definitely be “enchanted”. There is such a magical atmosphere there. It’s actually pretty hard to put words on it. The way the trees seem to be enchanted creatures, letting you enter their house, knowing anything can happen, is somehow exciting and scary at the same time. Me and my friend Federico, with whom I traveled for 2 months arrived there in the afternoon. There was a first sign at the entrance saying that it was forbidden to enter. We decided to jump the fence. There was no way we were going to let this sign stop us.
So we went. The path seemed pretty normal so we kept on going. We knew there was a lagoon called Laguna Los gnomes. It didn’t seem far but it seemed that we were going to have to leave our bags because of the elevation. We were the only ones in this forest anyway. We hid them and went. But there was an other sign a bit harder to pass trough this time. It said: danger for life. But we were stubborn. So we managed to jump the fence and went. It’s only later that we understood that the path was completely inaccessible. Trees had been falling down, blocking all the ways to keep moving further. But still, we didn’t want to give up. We found an other way but this time, off trail.
We started walking on rocks until we actually had to climb them. The more up we would get, the more they were starting to be covered by ice. Walking there became impossible and too dangerous. The sun was going down, it was starting to rain and there was no way we would make it to the lagoon and back to where we had left the bags. We had no equipment to camp, no food so we had to turn back. On the way back we got lost, it was already dark but luckily we managed to find our way back. We thought about camping there but a truck stopped and got us to a little town about 30 km away where we camped under the rain.
If you go there during summer, you’ll definitely be able to get to the lagoon.
The Chiloé archipelago is located off the coast of Chile in the Pacific ocean. The beautiful Chiloé Island is located in southern Chile, in the Tres Lagos region. It is linked to the mainland by ferries which cross the Chacao channel.
I was in El Chaiten and I actually had decided to keep going on the Carretera Austral because the price they charged for tourist to take the ferry was a little too expensive for my 5 to 10€ daily budget. It was 18000 pesos (22€ ). But as always, I left pretty late and the first car that gave me a ride dropped me off right in front of the ferry. Was it a sign? I thought so. So I went. And luckily, they made me pay the local price of 13000 pesos (16€ ) as I bought it straight from the boat.
Me and my friend Federico arrived in Chiloe at 9 pm with absolutely no idea of where we were going to sleep. But we met a young man on the street and asked him if he knew an abandoned place where we could camp. He called his friend who called his mom who said: “Are you crazy, they aren’t going to camp with this cold! Tell them that I’ll come pick them up now”. And that my friend, was my first interaction with chilote people. To be honest, it rained pretty much the whole time I was there so I wasn’t able to see much but what definitely made this place incredible was the generosity and kindness of its people.
Chiloé is widely known for its distinctive folklore, mythology, cuisine (if you like seafood, you’ll be in heaven) and unique architecture. They also have an incredible amount of varieties of potato.
In Quellon, you’ll also be able to find the Hito Zero sign which represents the “beginning” or “the end” of the famous Panamerican road that leads all the way to Alaska. Considering that this is where I’m going, it was pretty symbolic for me and I couldn’t miss the chance to see it. Plus, you’ll want to walk along this gorgeous beach right on time to see the sunset.
10. Puerto Varas
The city is famous for its German traditions, its natural environment and its popularity as a tourist destination. It is way more beautiful than Puerto Montt and is only located about 20 km (12 mi) from it. It’s also located on the shore of Llanquihue Lake, the second largest lake in Chile. You can see the Osorno volcano in the background and also the snowcapped peaks of Mont Calbuco and Mont Tronador.
11. Lake Ranco and Chihuio hot springs
This place was also an other suprise. Thanks to my amazing hosts Cristian and Sole in Puerto Montt, I discovered Playa Llifen on the Ranco lake where they brought me and my friend to have breakfast, before heading to The Chihuio hot springs that are probably the cheapest one in the whole country. I only paid 3000 pesos to enter (3.7€). The infrastructure has nothing fancy but it is immersed in the Andes Mountain range and you’ll for sure enjoy the whole ride. It has bathrooms, changing room and a huge pic-nic area where you can make a fire and a barbecue. It is apparently also a symbolic place because it’s in this resort that the famous poet Pablo Neruda bathed before leaving his country when going into his exile in Europe in 1949
When I arrived in Bariloche, winter was already well established and it snowed a lot. I didn’t stay much there so I didn’t see as much as I wanted to but this place is filled with incredible hikes. You have to stop there. So here are the few pictures of the things I managed to do before I left to go to San Martin de Los Andes.
Just so you know, Bariloche is a city filled with a lot of young people and known for its parties. I met a lot of people there who were volunteering in hostels and looking for a job as it gets very busy during the ski season.
13. San Martin de los Andes
On the way to San Martin, after having being dropped off by the first car, me and my friend waited about 40 min. And I discovered an amazing place where I seriously would have loved to camp (1st picture). It was bordered by the Lake Nahuel Huapi and wasn’t far from Bariloche.
The whole ride is incredible and it is not for nothing that it’s called “The 7 lakes road“. There are 2 roads that go to San Martin de los Andes. Make sure you take the one that go through Villa la Angostura.
Unfortunately, it happened the same thing that it did in Bariloche: the weather wasn’t nice and I didn’t do as much as I wanted to but I definitely think it is a place worth visiting.
Pucon… What to say except that you stole a piece of my heart? Was it the way totally unexpected I got there after having hitchhiked in 5 different cars that day or the fact that I experienced right away the generosity of its people, who came to rescue me, while I was just going to sleep on the beach and leave the next day? Little did I know that I was going to stay almost a month there!
Anyway, Pucon is in my opinion the perfect balance between civilisation and nature.
If you like waterfalls, hot springs, rafting, climbing volcanoes and hiking, you will NOT want to miss this place. Plus, it is bordered by the Villarica lake so you’ll be able to get some beachy vibes on its black volcanic sandy beaches if you go there in the summer. Just be aware that it gets very crowded at this time of the year.
Also, if you are looking for a friendly and professional agency to organize your tours, then I recommend Amulen-ko. They are my friends, I know they are serious and will treat you well. Tell Roberto you come from me, I think he would be very happy to hear how you found him 🙂
Anyway, this article has come to an end. But before I leave, as I mentioned it at the beginning, I’m also going to give you a list of what I didn’t do but that was still on my list:
Sierra Baguales (at the north of Torres del Paine)
Cerro Castillo National park
Queulat National Park (which was impossible to do when I was there due to the heavy rain)