Hi, My sister and I want to see various parts of Patagonia around November or December 2017. Starting in Santiago for Wine, visiting el calafare and el chitin, the Cave of Hand, Pto Tranquil, stopping in Ushuaia, and then heading upwards to Argentina for Hot Springs or Iguazu Falls. I really want to see historical sites, Ice bergs, penguins, etc. I planned a trip for about 18 days. Is it easier to book all my transportation and housing (flights, local hostels, taking local buses everywhere) myself, or should I organize most of the travel and hotel stuff through one of the tour companies in Patagonia ahead of time? I'm trying to determine if it's worth spending a little extra to ensure I have proper housing and can get to where I want to go or is Patagonia easy to just "wing it" and get around?
Also, are there any amazing sites that aren't too touristy, but allow me a glimpse into the Patagonia culture and history and easy to get to?
Thanks for any help. :)
Hi there, I travelled through Argentina for 5 weeks, so can only speak for that side, although I'm sure it's a similar situation in Chile. The buses are super comfortable and easy to book! However, the distances between some places are HUGE, so sometimes you can be stuck on buses for 20/30 hours + - which when you have limited time is not great. I would just get on a plane (LAN or Aerolinas Argentinas). Air fares are cheaper to book from outside of the country (this is a fact, not sure why), so if you decide to do this, I would book fights ahead of time. You are also traveling in high season so especially if you are heading to smaller places like El Chalten, book ahead as it can get full. I'm all for winging it and being free, but since Argentina and Chile are large countries you should definitely check the connections between the places you want to see before you leave, just so you can work out if there's a bus, how long it will take or if taking a plane is the smarter option. You'll have an amazing time. It's one of the best things I've ever seen. I wrote a blog about my highlights with some travel tips too: http://sandrashakespeare.com/the-best-of-argentina/
Have a great trip!
Sandra almost 3 years agoAnswered by Sandra Shakespeare
Sandra, thank you for your Help! almost 3 years agoAnswered by Em
Hi, I recommend planning ahead as much as possible. The season is short down there and very popular. So an advance reservation on a bus can save you hours and hours. Transfers are long across huge expanses of territory. There are only a very few places to cross between chile and Argentina - the most spectacular may be between Puerto Montt and baraloche, Argentina .... In the north of Patagonia. If you want more info, I've done trips here for the last few years. Send an email and we can continue to swap info. Ramelle@newviewtours.com almost 3 years agoAnswered by Ramelle
I would do a little bit of both. Book some stuff ahead but leave wiggle room for extending a stay here or leaving a place earlier. I was just there but it was the end of the season sondidnt have to worry about things being sold out- but some places were already closed for the season. The W trek is the BEST. Los Glaciers is great but you dont really need to do all 3 hikes- younsee the same thing from a different view point. The buses are comfortable and very efficient, but flying makes sense on the longer routes. almost 3 years agoAnswered by Trisha
I started from Porta Arenes and booked day tours to the national park and glaciers in Argentina. Traveled overland by bus to Ushaia,,flew up to Puerto Montes and immediately caught bus to Puerto Varas,great small town with good hotel on the lake with view of volcano. Later took bus to island of Chilloe, good day out. Never any problems. 10 months agoAnswered by cloudie
I travelled through Chilean Patagonia in a rental car with my boyfriend for about 5 weeks in January/Feb this year. We travelled the length of the Caretera Austral, meaning we stopped in Villa O'Higgins, not continuing down to Punta Arenas. For us, travelling independently was the best way for us to see this region and I wouldn't want to do it any other way. We loved the freedom of stopping anytime we wanted to appreciate a beautiful view, hang out in tiny towns, swim in crystal clear lakes, cook meals on our campstove (saving heaps on dining expenses), and setting up camp whenever we found somewhere pleasant. Car rental isn't cheap, nor is fuel, and campervan companies like Wicked and AndesCampers exist but cost a fortune and need prior reservation especially for peak season.
Depending on your length of travel, comfort preferences and flexibility, it's worth knowing hitchhiking is a common form of travel along these routes if travelling during peak summer (Jan-mid Feb), as there's more traffic on roads to offer lifts. In fact heaps of Chilean University students do this on their summer holiday. We picked up over 20 hitchhikers outselves during our travels. In this case a lightweight tent and camping equipment would be advisable so don't need to book accommodation in advance. Note this part of Patagonia does require ferry rides in parts. If travelling independently on foot, you can book your ferry on arrival however if travelling with a vehicle in high season it's worth booking your ferry passages maybe a couple of weeks ahead or you may find it's booked out for four days or more when you reach tiny towns like Hornopiren.
If you want to experience culture, try to make it to a minga. We went to the annual minga at Puerto Cisnes where we reunited with many of our previous hitchhikers and can say it was a true highlight and captures the welcoming atmosphere of this part of the world.
As for touristy places... everybody who travels this route on Caretera Austral independently will almost certainly stop at each place on the way and seems to have similar travel speeds. Whoever you saw at yesterday's hiking trails, you're likely to spot them again along the way. 10 months agoAnswered by Keiran