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Getting around Patagonia

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Getting around Patagonia


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11. Posted by Tabithag (Budding Member 55 posts) 40w

Mattfozz27: We were in South America in 2011-12. We did the travel around Patagonia largely on our own, using the buses to get around. We did book our stay in Torres del Paine (at the Eco Lodge), including transfers, through Journey Latin America, and that was good. We also did some of our South America trip, Buenos Aires to Cartagena, Colombia, via Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, with Dragoman, which is linked to Intrepid. We really enjoyed that experience, and I know they also have a route through Patagonia.

12. Posted by paintingdreams (Budding Member 11 posts) 40w

Oh thats awesome that you did it by yourselves :) We are going to do the same :) We would love to hit all these places below:
Tierra De Fuego
Puerto Arenas
Puerto Natales
Torres del Paine National Park
El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier
El Chaltén,
Viedma Lake, Viedma Glacier
FutaleufĂș River

How long did you travel in Patagonia for? Any good advice about the places i mentioned? Buses? Accom etc? Anything you would or would not recommend ?

Thank you

13. Posted by Tabithag (Budding Member 55 posts) 40w

We travelled southward in 2012, starting from Santiago, and stopping off a number of places along the way down to Puerto Montt and took the Navimag Ferry to Puerto Natales, then the bus to El Calafate, which is where you go to the Perito Moreno Glacier from, then buses to El Chalten and back.

We took a bus back to Purto Natales and were collected for a minibus transfer to Torres del Paine, stopping off at the Milodon Caves along the way which was interesting, and had a transfer from TdP to Punta Arenas, then took the bus to Ushuaia.

We found all of the buses comfortable enough, but be aware that there can be protests and blockades that will delay buses, sometimes for quite some while, so it is sensible to leave a bit of leeway in travel time for anything major. We were going to Ushuaia to get a boat to Antarctica and were very pleased we left ourselves a spare day, as at one stage it looked like our bus from Punta Arenas would not go that day due to blockades. In the end, it was just a few hours delay, but we would have been beside ourselves had we not had the day to spare. Also, do get your tickets a few days in advance if you can - we bought our outward tickets at the bus station when we arrived - as the buses do fill up.

Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas are both fine to spend a few days in, and PN has some nice places to eat and drink, but there isn't much to do there. We had spare days in between specific trips, so were hanging around in Punta Arenas for a while. Because we are long term travellers, somewhere to chill out, catch up on practical stuff etc is fine for us, but you may want to keep time in those places shorter.

Our TdP trip was arranged through Journey Latin America and we stayed at the EcoCamp, which was excellent, and perfect for us as my husband does more trekking that I do, so we could go in different groups. They have groups that set out on multi day trips, such as the three day 'W' hike,camping along the way, or what we did, which was day trips and hikes from the lodge. The walk to the base of the Torres, and the Grey Glacier are two classics.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is stunning. We did the boat trip and the walkways, but you can also do a walk on the glacier, which would be great too.We spent four nights in El Calafate, two nights either side of a three night stay in El Chalten, which was enough to do what we wanted and spend time hanging out in the town. In El Chalten, there is a really nice walk to the Lake Capri, with a great view of Fitzroy, or you can do longer hikes too. Do book your accommodation well in advance and note that we found ATMs in El Chalten both lacking and unreliable.

We didn't really spend time in Ushuaia or Tierra del Fuego, as we were doing trips to The Falkland Islands (from Punta Arenas) and Antarctica.

We do keep (erratically) a small personal blog, which you are welcome to look at if you like.

I don't know what your budget is, but aside from the EcoCamp, we stay in private rooms in hostels (usually shared bathrooms) etc. If you are also budget travelling, details are on the blog if you wish. All are ok except the one in El Chalten, where our room was half of a shipping container! The Antarctica Hostel in Ushuaia was very good.

Couple of food recommendations:
Puerto Natales: El Asador Patagonica; Baquales Microbrewery; Aldea Restaurant
El Calafate: La Lucheza
El Chalten: El Muro restaurant (for meats); La Waffleria (not so much the waffles, but great place and sandwiches)
Punta Arenas: Jekus Restaurant
Ushuaia: Parilla La Rueda

14. Posted by Megan_3 (Budding Member 64 posts) 40w

I'm travelling Patagonia now, I started in the Chilean Lake District and went over to Bariloche and made my way south. It's easy enough to get buses round here but it is really expensive! I got a 25 hours bus from Bariloche to El Chalten and it cost $250.
I haven't made it down to Ushuaia yet but so far Perito Moreno has been incredible (you should definitely do the ice trekking - it's worth the money) and El Chalten is beautiful too.
I'd would say you'd be better off flying from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and making your way north. Flights from Santiago were a lot more expensive when I looked.
If you want any more advice feel free to send me a message :)
Have a good trip! Megan

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Jan-2016, at 07:53 by Megan_3 ]

15. Posted by paintingdreams (Budding Member 11 posts) 39w

Tabithag thank you so much for your information. It has been so incredibly helpful!

Megan_3- Wow that bus was so expensive ! Are they all that price? I wonder if it worth hiring a car for some of the trips or is that crazy expensive too?

I can't wait to see The Glacier :) What trek did you do? I was thinking about doing the longest one, your advice would be great !

I am flying from Buenos Aries to Ushuaia and then was going to bus the rest. I would love to follow your trip :) Any recommendations on Accom or sights would be amazing !!

Have a ball :)

16. Posted by Megan_3 (Budding Member 64 posts) 38w


I'm not sure about hiring a car , I haven't heard of anyone doing it. Lots of people hitchhike but I was alone and on a tight schedule so couldn't really give it a go but lots of people were successful doing it.
I did the mini trek as thy didn't have space on the big trek but it was still amazing and definitely in my top 3 of South America. It might even be number 1. You can book this online the company is Hielo y adventura as it does get booked up quick.
Ushuaia was really nice. I wish I had longer there but make sure you go to Laguna esmerelda - it's so beautiful!
For Torres del Paine I did a day trip and was a bIt disappointed so definitely do the W trek. You can pre book free campsites before.
I would say make sure you have enough time for Patagonia, I felt like my trip was really rushed and I had to selective on what I wanted to. It felt like I was on buses all the time though without much time to enjoy each place.
For me Chalten and Ushuaia are worth spending a few days in. Calafate is only for the glacier and the same with Puerto Natales for Torres del Paine.

17. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 38w

There's another option to consider: Taking one of the cruises from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires, or the other way around. The routes usually include Puerto Montt, the Chilean fjords, the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas, the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia, Cape Horn, Stanley (Falkland Islands), Puerto Madryn and Montevideo. Cruise lines typically slash rates about 90 days before a cruise begins. The discounted rates usually are offered through large online travel agencies. The savings can be substantial (you might be surprised). Check it out.

One could combine a cruise (seeing Patagonia from the sea); and returning for hikes throughout the region by flying from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, or from Santiago to Punta Arenas; then taking public transportation to wherever else you want to go.

[ Edit: Edited on 27-Jan-2016, at 19:36 by berner256 ]

18. Posted by Mattfozz27 (Budding Member 49 posts) 38w

thanks for all the info. I will more than likely be travelling on my own, but that depends if i meet anyone else who wants to do this when on my travels

i just wasnt sure about the buses considering i wont have much knowledge of the language

19. Posted by berner256 (Travel Guru 526 posts) 38w

You shouldn't have any problems with buses in South America, even if you don't have a good command of Spanish or Portuguese. Most of the routes are well traveled, so many have gone before you.

I travel independently most of the time; however, I don't foreclose the possibility of joining a tour, or a cruise, if it suits my purpose. A cruise as mentioned above can save you money, plus provide another perspective of Patagonia, viewed from the sea. Here's what Charles Darwin saw in the Beagle Channel in 1833: "It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow."

I leave Feb. 29 for Patagonia. Originally I had planned a March-April trip to northern Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. But on discovery of a 14-day cruise from Valparaiso to Buenos Aires for $1,540 (including taxes and prepaid gratuities for an ocean view room; no single supplement), I decided to opt for Patagonia instead. When opportunity presents itself, I'm flexible enough to go for it. I'm now planning my land route, primarily using buses to take me from place to place. Friends, previous postings on this Forum; and other online sources, have provided valuable insight.

P.S. This is my first cruise since 1973, when I took the old Italian Line (the Michelangelo) from New York to Naples. However, I have taken a lot of ferries. The last one was in October 2015, when I traveled on the Aline Sitoe Diatta from Dakar to Ziguinchor, Senegal.

[ Edit: Edited on 28-Jan-2016, at 08:21 by berner256 ]

20. Posted by -.Martin- (Budding Member 6 posts) 35w

I just came from a whole tour around Argentina, including patagonia. Been to el Calafate three times now. I Suggest that you do the Big Ice Expedition in El calafate where you trek the glaciar Perito Moreno, if not there is not much to do in Calafate other than seeing the glacier there is nothing to do. El Chalten is the National Capital for trekking, there are many tourists and hikers from all around the world. The Tourist Information posts on the Patagonia were excellent, at least in spanish, dont know how they would be expressing themselves in english, but the info they provided was good, a nice surprise from my country. Of course being argentinian I did this trip in my car, I posted some photos here on my profile.

Torres del Paine, did not go there, but heard that its expensive inside the park, so take your food from Puerto Natales or wherever, and they recommended me a week to fully explore the gigantic park.