Planning a Trip to Patagonia

Planning a trip to Patagonia is a bucket list dream come true. But Patagonia travel planning comes with challenges other destinations may not have. The destination is remote and because it’s likely a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there’s more urgency to make sure you see and do everything on your Patagonia trip.

In this Patagonia travel guide, I’ll show the itinerary I used for my Patagonia adventure, including how to get to each place, where to stay, and how many days was the right amount of time for all the things to do in Patagonia.

Planning a Trip to Patagonia-From El Calafate, Argentina to El Chalten Argentina, to Puerto Natales, Chile, and finishing in Ushuaia, Argentina, use this guide to plan your Patagonia travel! #Patagonia #Chile #Argentina #SouthAmerica #Travel
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Planning a Trip to Patagonia

South America is a huge continent with so many incredible sights to see and experiences to have. Before planning a trip to Patagonia, you need to know where is Patagonia in South America.

Patagonia Fitz Roy

Quite frankly, though, planning my Patagonia trip was trickier than I had expected. This was mostly because of the distances between places and how to get to each one without using too much time or spending too much money.

Traveling in South America from one place to another is not always straightforward and often takes logistical planning, time, and money, especially if you have a fixed amount of travel time.

Even for independent travelers like me, it’s completely understandable why many people choose to join a Patagonia Tour instead of arranging all the logistics on their own!

You can see from the map below, I started out my 2-week Patagonia itinerary by flying to Santiago, Chile and then made my way down to El Calafate, Argentina, making just a quick connection in Buenos Aires.

From there, I continued my route through Patagonia by bus. This is because many Patagonia flights route back up to Santiago or Buenos Aires before connecting back down to Patagonia. This wasn’t logical as I planned my Patagonia itinerary.

El Calafate, Argentina is the second pin in the cluster of 4 pins on the southern portion of the map. To the north is El Chalten, Argentina. To the south is Torres del Paine National Park and Puerto Natales, Chile. The furthest pin is Ushuaia, Argentina, a.k.a. “the end of the world.”

Approaching El Calafate Airport

Approaching El Calafate Airport

Within South America, I flew on Aerolineas Argentinas, but airlines like LATAM and Sky Airlines also offer inter-South America flights. These flights can range in prices from high to what you might expect. Luckily, I had saved by using miles and points to book an award ticket to Santiago from New York and then on to El Calafate, Argentina.

Miles & Points Travel Hack: Aerolineas Argentinas is a SkyTeam member. You can use Delta SkyMiles to book with Aerolineas Argentinas, as well as transfer Ultimate Rewards or Membership Rewards points to Flying Blue, another SkyTeam partner you can utilize for Aerolineas Argentinas bookings.

LATAM is a Oneworld Alliance member and availability can be searched through the British Airways or Qantas websites. You can use British Airways or Iberia Avios to book short-haul inter-South America flights on LATAM using the power of airline alliances.

SkyTeam Member
OneWorld Alliance Member

The cheapest way to travel through South America is overland on buses. I met travelers in Santiago with more time who were planning to take buses south, to towns in Chile’s Lake District, points in Argentina, and Patagonia. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that many days.

So, from El Calafate, Argentina, I used a series of buses to get from place to place, until eventually flying home from Ushuaia, Argentina. Remember, flights between the Chilean and the Argentinian sides of Patagonia, generally, don’t exist. And, I didn’t have time to fly back north to connect in Santiago or Buenos Aires to reach a different part of Patagonia.

My Patagonia Itinerary

El Calafate, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

Situated about 45 minutes from Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, El Calafate is the perfect jumping off point for a glacier excursion. There are a few restaurants, shops, and tour agencies on the main street and the blue waters of Lago Argentina brush along the outskirts of town.

Where to Stay in El Calafate:

I stayed at Schilling Patagonia Travellers and really enjoyed my stay here. If you’re looking for comfortable and friendly budget accommodations, I would highly recommend Schilling. The family who runs the B&B was super helpful and booked bus tickets and a Perito Moreno Glacier excursion for me. The atmosphere was friendly and laid-back. Breakfast was included in the rate and, best of all, the bus terminal was 2 blocks away.

Downtown El Calafate

How to Get to El Calafate:

You can fly on Aerolineas Argentinas from Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina to El Calafate. After landing, it was easy to get a seat on a shuttle into the town of El Calafate. At the time of my visit, the cost was $10US and payable with cash only. There wasn’t an ATM at the airport, so plan accordingly. 

I don’t remember what company the shuttle was, but upon doing research at the time this post was updated, Ves Patagonia looks like the type of shuttle bus I took.

Number of Days in El Calafate:

I stayed in El Calafate 2 separate nights. I spent 1 night, did the glacier excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier, and then took the 6:30 bus to El Chalten, Argentina. On my return from El Chalten, I stayed 1 more night at Schilling, before departing the following morning for Puerto Natales, Chile. If you plan to just see Perito Moreno Glacier, you’ll be fine with a couple of nights in El Calafate.

Why did I break up my time in El Calafate? I wanted to hike in El Chalten before leaving the area, but El Calafate is the larger bus hub with more connections to places further south into the Patagonia region. If you prefer not to hop around so much, go directly to El Chalten from the airport. After a few days there, spend time in El Calafate before moving on.

El Chalten, Argentina

Patagonia trekking

Welcome to El Chalten!

El Chalten is a tiny town dubbed the trekking capital of Argentina. It’s roughly 3 hours by bus from El Calafate. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fitz Roy perched just beyond the town. Different from Torres Del Paine in Chile, El Chalten lends itself to day hikes. The trails are accessible from town and well-marked.

There are a few bakeries and cafes that make sandwiches and snacks to pack for a day of hiking. Otherwise, you won’t find shops selling hiking gear so come prepared.

You’ll want hiking pants that are comfortable and can handle the changing elements Patagonia is known for. Even if you visit during El Chalten’s summer months, I recommend a light shell jacket to throw on if you encounter a passing rainstorm.

These gear items paired with the right hiking boots and a little sunshine, you’re guaranteed some of the best hiking ever.

Where to Stay in El Chalten:

I stayed at the Nothofagus Bed and Breakfast and would recommend it to solo travelers, as well as couples. It was a quiet and cozy place to stay. My rate included breakfast, but note, payment must be made in U.S. dollars. Recent reports from El Chalten are there are no ATMs. (When I visited, there was 1 and it was frequently out of cash.) Be sure to get all the cash you need from El Calafate or before you arrive.

How to Get to El Chalten:

Chalten Travel runs buses several times a day between El Calafate and El Chalten. At the time of my visit, I paid $62.50US for a round-trip ticket between these 2 towns.

Planning a trip to Patagonia

Mt. Fitz Roy on a clear day

Number of Days in El Chalten:

This depends on the amount of trekking you are interested in doing, but 2-3 days would be plenty of time to do a few of the hikes and see the landscape of Los Glaciares National Park. I stayed 2 nights, before heading back to El Calafate on the 6:00 p.m. bus.

Puerto Natales, Chile

Puerto Natales and the Chilean Fjords

Puerto Natales and the Chilean Fjords

Puerto Natales is a port town nestled among the fjords of southern Chile. You can take a cruise through the waterways to see the surrounding glaciers and mountains. I spent a day horseback riding in the mountains over Puerto Natales for a birds-eye view of the Chilean Fjords.

The city is also not far from Torres del Paine National Park, making it a popular place to stay or prepare for a park visit. I used Puerto Natales as my gateway into Torres del Paine National Park.

Where to Stay in Puerto Natales:

I stayed in Kaluve Patagonia. My room was comfortable and clean, had a luxury shower, and strong wifi. The family who owns Kaluve is dedicated to a high level of hospitality and go above and beyond to accommodate guests. It felt more like a homestay feel than that of a hostel or guesthouse. It was about a 10-15 minute walk from Kaluve to most restaurants and food markets in town.

How to Get to Puerto Natales:

Different companies run buses directly from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. The bus ride is about 5 hours, which includes time at a border crossing between Argentina and Chile. At the time of my trip, I purchased a one-way ticket for $55US from Always Glaciers, which also does Patagonia tours. The bus picked me up directly from my hostel in El Calafate and dropped me off just a couple blocks from Kaluve Hostal in Puerto Natales.

Stunning Torres del Paine National Park

Number of Days in Puerto Natales:

You can use Puerto Natales as a stop before camping or staying at accommodations within Torres del Paine National Park. Or you can stay several nights in Puerto Natales, making day trips to Torres del Paine. Buses run between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine.

I stayed 2 nights to explore Puerto Natales and do a full day tour of Torres del Paine, largely because I am not much of a camper (understatement!) and the park accommodations, especially as a solo traveler, were pricey! In hindsight, I wish I’d had more days in Torres del Paine, but having a reason to return is never a bad thing. πŸ™‚

Ushuaia, Argentina

Planning a trip to Patagonia

View of Ushuaia from the water

Ushuaia, nicknamed “El Fin del Mundo,” Ushuaia, is on the very southern tip of Argentina. It’s part of the Tierra del Fuego. It’s also the gateway to Antarctica, with many Antarctic cruises leaving from the port of Ushuaia. The city clings to a small swath of land between the ocean and snow-capped mountains behind.

Distances from Ushuaia sign post
A super budget hotel for Ushuaia

Where to Stay in Ushuaia:

Ushuaia is expensive compared to other towns in Patagonia. I stayed at the Hotel Austral and would highly recommend it for budget-minded travelers. There are cheaper hostel options in town but I found Hotel Austral to be a step up from the nearby hostels and guesthouses and not much more per night. In fact, I switched my booking last minute from a hostel to Hotel Austral and ended up paying only $4US more per night.

How to Get to Ushuaia:

I used Buses Pacheco for the 12-hour “trek” from Puerto Natales to Ushuaia. This time included a border crossing, pit stops, and a couple of bus transfers. At the time of my trip, a one-way ticket was roughly $70US.

Planning a trip to Patagonia

Beagle Channel Lighthouse

Number of Days in Ushuaia:

To explore Tierra del Fuego National Park, walk with penguins, and cruise the Beagle Channel, you will need 2-3 days. The town has a main street with shops and restaurants that are also worth exploring. I spent 3 nights/2 days before flying out of Ushuaia’s airport.

Planning a trip to Patagonia takes some time and coordination, but the payoff is incredible! If the Patagonia itinerary above feels overwhelming to do on your own, consider a Patagonia tour. You simply don’t want to miss out on seeing this part of the world with your own eyes!

Checking a Patagonia adventure off your bucket list will only be outdone by how jaw-dropping the destination is and all the memories you make!

So, what would you like to see and do on your Patagonia vacation? 

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Planning a Trip to Patagonia-From El Calafate, Argentina to El Chalten Argentina, to Puerto Natales, Chile, and finishing in Ushuaia, Argentina. | #Patagonia #Chile #Argentina #SouthAmerica #Travel
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82 thoughts on “Planning a Trip to Patagonia”

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Yes, thank you! Glad you enjoyed the pics of Patagonia. It is a truly stunning part of the world.

  1. Great article, thanks for writing! Thinking of doing a similar trip next winter (their summer), the landscapes seem incredible

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much! Do it, if you can! The landscape is unbelievable! If you have any planning questions, I’d be happy to help if I can!

  2. Looks amazing! I’m just starting to plan a trip to Patagonia to go at the end of November.
    Is that too late to organise a trip that isn’t going to be too expensive?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So exciting that you are planning a trip, Kim! Depending on where you are flying from flights could be pricey. Search using Google Flights in an incognito browser window so the price doesn’t go up every time you search. If you have airline miles, look at American or United for award flights. If you need inter-South American flights, Aerolineas Argentinas is a Delta partner. You can use any delta miles to book award flights. South America also has a pretty extensive routing of buses. So once you are there, you can travel by bus to many places for much cheaper than flying. Since you are going nearer to the high season, ask your hotel/guest house for help in getting bus tickets in advance. Good luck!

  3. This is a fascinating look at your trip to Patagonia. I really appreciate the way this post is formatted: not only do you provide a wealth of information, but you’ve linked to additional depth that might have overwhelmed the basic post. You clearly are knowledgeable and experienced at ensuring the most value for your expenditures of time as well as money. Terrific resource, great job.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Betsy! There’s a lot that goes into planning a Patagonian itinerary. Logistically, it’s not as straightforward as other places to organize. Glad you found it helpful!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Lesley! I had so many questions about the logistics while I was planning and I wanted to address those questions for others in this post. So glad it was useful!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I couldn’t agree more, Trisha! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit San Martin de los Andes. I just couldn’t make everything work in the time that I had, but it’s reason to go back for sure!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Exactly, Anna! I think some of my pictures actually look fake because the natural beauty of Patagonia is so unbelievable! Hope you find your way there to see it for yourself!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      So true, Laura! You could easily spend months exploring all that Patagonia has to offer.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks, Bobbi! I have an affinity for glaciers so I loved Perito Moreno Glacier, but I also loved Torres del Paine National Park. I’d love to spend more time there.

  4. I love the blue color of the water! You must have had an amazing time on your trip. Thanks for laying out the details in such an organized way. I spent some time in Buenos Aires a few years ago, but would love to go back and explore Patagonia. This post will definitely help when the time comes!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Patagonia is definitely in the top 3 amazing places I’ve been, Vicky…so far anyways! Glad you find the post helpful.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      I stayed in hostels, hotels, and guesthouses, Vanessa, and was pleased with what each of them offered for the price. By no means were they luxury accommodations, but they were all clean and comfortable.

  5. Thank you for the great itinerary! Your photos are gorgeous …. I love seeing that glacier! I can’t wait to go here someday. Saving for future reference!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Awesome! Thanks, Lauren! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing half the time because the landscape is so gorgeous. The glacier was in my top 3 places I visited in Patagonia.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Amy, thanks for your comments. I was in Patagonia at the beginning of April. It’s their fall/autumn so the colors were spectacular!

  6. This is such a wonderful post and resource! I am in the very VERY beginning stages of planning my trip to Patagonia, and I’m curious why you chose the places you did. There are so many things to do and see, and I’m having a hard time prioritizing.

    Also, did you book all of your bus tickets in advance or did you buy some once you arrived? How detailed did you plan this trip?

    Thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      That’s so exciting, Mandy! Patagonia is such an incredible destination. I can totally relate about trying to figure it all out. There’s so much to do! Traveling solo and not being much of a camper, I wanted to stick with day hikes. That meant not devoting the time to multi-day treks in Torres del Paine. I really wanted to glacier trek on Perito Moreno. I also wanted day hikes and El Chalten fit the bill. Also, I think seeing Fitz-Roy is a must. If I could change anything, I would spend more time in Torres del Paine. It was just THAT incredible. Ushuaia was beautiful and the journey there let me see the landscape. Also, the airport in town makes departures convenient. As for bus tickets, I emailed my guesthouse in Puerto Natales before and the owner got my bus ticket in advance. Otherwise, I got them once I was there and my guesthouse was able to help me with that. I booked all guesthouses in advance, but activities I did once I arrived in each location. Keep in mind, I also went at the end of March early April. November-February is the busy season. Hope all that helps and you have an absolutely amazing trip!

  7. Quick question, hopefully not too long after your post to be seen. I’m planning a trip to Patagonia next February and was wondering what it’s like traveling as a solo female in southern South America. I’ve done quite a bit of travel in Europe but the cultures are quite different and I’d like to know what to expect. Thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Abbie, thanks for your comment. Traveling solo to Patagonia was really my first true international solo travel experience. I didn’t have any trouble whatsoever. In fact, on a couple of the bus rides from place to place, I actually found there was always an older local woman or two (pseudo-aunties πŸ˜‰ ) who tried to make conversation and kept an friendly eye out for me. This wasn’t necessary because I never felt in danger, but it was nice to know someone would notice if I wasn’t on the bus after a stop. As for hiking, there were always people on the paths. I’d recommend staying at a hostel-type lodging. I had a private room, but I ended up meeting other female solo travelers in the common areas and we hiked together on some days. I also did my best to stay at lodging that was centrally located or near food options. This way, I never had to go far, particularly at night for dinner. All in all, it was an incredible experience and I found everyone to be very friendly and helpful when I needed to figure something out in my (very) broken Spanish. I hope that helps! I’m happy to answer any more questions if you have, so leave another comment or contact me via the contact form on the blog. I hope your trip is as unbelievably amazing as mine!

  8. My husband and I are in our late 50’s, farmers, don’t get to travel much, but also have to travel Nov-Dec-Jan. Peru 5 years ago, SE Asia 3 years ago. Before that it was mostly travel in Canada or Northern US with our kids. Have always dreamed of Patagonia. But not sure. Given all your travels, what are your top 5 to date?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Dorothy,
      It sounds great to “have” to travel for a few months. πŸ™‚ It’s so hard to choose a top 5 especially because it depends on the type of climate you want. Patagonia was a dream destination for me, too. I would it put at #1 for its natural beauty and endless things to do. Nov-Jan are the peak times to visit. You could easily start in Santiago, Chile and head south to Patagonia and the Tierra del Fuego. It would be a trip of a lifetime and if you have the chance to do it, I would. I also absolutely love Europe and fell in love with Romania this summer, but winter may or may not be ideal to visit depending on your climate preference. If so, Prague and Budapest are absolute gems. I also spent a magical Thanksgiving in Barcelona and Christmas in Paris. SE Asia, Thailand and Cambodia would also top my list, but it sounds as if you’ve already visited. Thanks so much for reading and I’d love to hear what you decide!

  9. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Patagonia in January. We both have limited time, 12 days max. We chose Patagonia not only for its beauty, but for its outdoor adventure. Hiking is on our top things to do and possibly camping for a night. We we’re thinking about renting a car/truck so we could sleep in it, if needed, and to travel on our own schedule. Would navigating be too much trouble and expensive? How available are gas stations? Are border crossings as hard as people say? We were thinking of just staying in the El Calafate area with a trip to El Chalten, but also driving (or bus) down to Punta Arenas. Also are the buses reliable to the schedules?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Courtney,
      Thanks for your comment. Patagonia is amazing! Unfortunately, I can’t speak to renting a car, as I did not do that. I relied solely on buses to go from El Calafate to El Chalten. I had to return to El Calafate to ultimately get the bus to the Puerto Natales/Punta Arenas area to see Torres del Paine. So, 2 things. The buses were reliable, especially to and from those major Patagonia stops you’re wanting to do. When I was on the buses, the landscape was pretty empty at times. There were certainly long stretches with no gas station, etc.. The border crossings were sometimes tedious (running all bags through scanner 2x), but fine. I actually think it was easier being on the bus because the border agents knew the bus was scheduled to arrive, as opposed to possibly arriving in a single vehicle. My hostel in El Calafate helped me get all my bus tickets and was only a 5-minute walk to/from the bus terminal. I hope that helps! Have such an incredible trip! πŸ™‚

  10. Hi there,

    My wife and I are going to Patagonia for our honeymoon in the last 2 weeks of December. We are using your 2-week itinerary as a rough guide: flying into El Calafate, then straight to El Chalten for 2 days, then back to El Calafate for 1.5 days, then to Puerto Natales as a launching point to Torres del Paine to hike the W trek for 5 days. After that, we have about 5 days left and we’re debating what to do:
    1. Go up north to Bariloche and/or Puerto Rio Tranquilo; or
    2. Go down south to Ushuaia, maybe stop in Punta Arenas on the way.

    After we do (1) or (2) above, we need to get back to El Calafate, where we fly out of in order to head home.

    We are more into hiking vs. tourist attractions. It’s a bit hard to tell how doable it is to get from Puerto Natales to either of those destinations. Which do you think we should do – (1) or (2)? Are both feasible in terms of travel? If so, how would you recommend we get from Puerto Natales to (1)/(2)?

    Thanks in advance for you advice!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Graham,

      First thanks for reading and how awesome to spend your honeymoon in Patagonia!

      I think the first thing to remember is getting around southern South America takes a long time because often the only way is the bus. So, just from my experience, I took the bus from Puerto Natales to Ushuaia. The bus was the only option. I don’t remember the exact time it took, but I left in the early morning 6am(?) and arrived in Ushuaia at 8pm (?). Along the way, I had to go through a land border crossing and transfer buses in Argentina at some point. I didn’t stop in Punta Arenas and like you wondered whether I should have. All I can say about that is I don’t feel like I missed anything by not stopping and a few hikers I chatted with in Torres del Paine said they’d wished they stayed in Puerto Natales instead of Punta Arenas. It seemed like Puerto Natales may have more going for it, especially when I mentioned I’d done some horseback riding there up into the mountains for a great birds-eye view of the area and fjords.

      While I didn’t head up to Bariloche or Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Rome2Rio shows the bus ride more than 24 hours from El Calafate.
      My advice since you’re already so far south in Puerto Natales is to continue south to Ushuaia. I think the bus ride will be shorter. Ushuaia is a landmark unto itself and the Tierra del Fuego has plenty of hiking and outdoor activities. The Beagle Channel is also stunning.

      Regardless of which you decide, even if you already have your flights, it might be worth it to change and depart from Ushuaia’s or Bariloche’s airport. Both have major airline connections to Buenos Aries and Santiago. I flew into El Calafate but I flew out of Ushuaia. I wanted to go to Ushuaia but I also knew it was a strategic end point with the airport right there.

      Good luck and feel free to get back in touch with any questions! Thanks again for checking out my post.
      Jackie πŸ™‚

  11. I am landing in Buenos Aires and have a total of 8 nights. I was thinking of 3 nights in BA and 5 nights in Patagonia. Is that doable? How would you split time between El Calafate & Ushuaia? I can get flights with miles down to Patagonia, but how do I arrange sightseeing down there? Is there a tour company to use or do you just do it on your own?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Al,
      Thanks for reading. To be honest, 5 nights in Patagonia is tight. I’d consider spending less time in BA. For the tour companies, I used Hielo & Aventura for the glacier trek on Perito Moreno. I hiked independently in El Chalten and I arranged a tour from one of the many operators in the Harbor to see Ushuaia’s Beagle Channel. I would ask wherever you are staying for recommendations, too. My hostels/B&B’s were super helpful in arranging tours when necessary. Hope that helps and have a great trip! πŸ™‚

  12. J: Planning a trip to Patagonia this coming August 2017. Your itinerary looks fabulous. Given that it is “low” travel season do you think I can get away with buying bus tickets and hotel reservations until I get there?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Dave,
      I’d say definitely yes you can wait on the bus tickets, but have some flexibility in case routes don’t run as often. I would check hotels to make sure you don’t run into seasonal closures. Patagonia is incredible! Thanks for reading and have an awesome trip! πŸ™‚ -Jackie

  13. J: Thanks for answering my Q’s. More Q’s … My family (4) and I will be traveling this August from DTW to ASU, PY where my daughter is serving in the Peace Corps. Our plans are to spend time with her in her village then traveling to Iguazu Falls (Argentine side) and then on to BUE and then on to Patagonia following the itinerary you laid out on your site – returning to DTW via USH to ASU and onto DTW. Time allotted (3) weeks. Q: Should I use the Chase Sapphire card to purchase bus/ tour/ plane tkts. / hotels to capture miles? Q: when should I book flights / hotels? Q: Best way to book flights for most miles (ie: open Jaw) ? Your advice / thoughts? Thanks.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Dave,
      Absolutely, glad to help! So, yes you should absolutely use your Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve to earn 2x-3x points on travel expenses. One exception would be if you have an Amex Platinum (personal or Biz). If you do, you’ll earn 5x the points on airfare purchased directly with the airlines. Keep in mind that many airlines have reduced the number of miles you can earn on budget fares, especially from 3rd party sites. Also, you’re likely to fly on alliance partners, particularly for inter-South America flights. Make sure you attach your frequent flyer number to these flights and earn miles. For example, if you fly Aerolineas Argentinas, add your Delta # to that flight. You’ll earn miles because they’re both SkyTeam partners. You don’t want a lot of small frequent flyer mile balances on airlines you might not fly again, so consolidate them into bigger mileage accounts like American, United, etc. Hopper is a great airfare app and Momondo and Skyscanner are great tools for researching and booking flights. There are also insights that will tell you to wait or buy. Regardless, as you search for flights, use an incognito browser window to make sure the prices don’t go up as you search. I’d secure flights first and then hotels. I like Booking.com for hotels. Look for properties that give you free cancellation. This way there’s no penalty to book and cancel if you find something better. Hope all of that is clear and helps! Good luck! πŸ™‚ -Jackie

  14. Bonjour, comment se dΓ©placer dans le centre d’Ushuaia? Y-a-t-il un rΓ©seau de bus local pour se rendre en centre ville?

    Merci

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Marie-Lucie. Ushuaia’s city center is quite close and walkable from many points of the city. But, I recommend staying closer to the water and the city center rather than further out. There are some city bus routes but they don’t reach all points in the city. Good luck and enjoy Ushuaia! πŸ™‚

  15. Jackie Sills,

    You get it!

    I have been researching a self drive tour of Patagonia. Your blog mentions the main spots i would like to visit.
    I then confirmed your knowledge and sanity by the inclusion in your NYC 100 of some of the obscure and wonderful activities/attractions that it took me 55 years to identify!

    – the Channel Gardens, Katz’s, any baseball game – but add that you have to take the subway to experience the fans – etc, etc. I might share some others – e.g. skip the kayak on the Hudson, take out the 4 person surf boat at Piuer 40 on Sundays at noon and row to the Statue of Liberty and back – then restore your strength with a beer and burger at the Ear Bar on Spring St

    but i digress – apologies!

    i would like to self drive from El Chalten/or El Calafate to Ushuaia – then fly back to Buenos Aires
    Late Feb 2018

    i checked out these tour agencies that offer to plan my trip and charge $5-7000 for each of us.
    i have always planned and executed my own trips and i would like to give it a go in Patagonia

    So, i need to book a SUV in ElChalten, and book hotels along the route – clean, comfortable accommodation – in stunning locations, if possible. I will compare places on TripAdvisor for each stop

    So my questions is – any advice on the trip, the car, the hotels, the food, – and the wine !

    All the best to you in your future travels

    May I share 2 special trips you might consider :
    – raft the Grand Canyon – 3-9 days
    – swim with thumpbacks in Ha’apai Tonga – mid Aug to mid September

    And include Tonga – August/Sept – swim with the humpbacks
    (i just returned from Tonga (i retired this year) – so swim with the whales

    Thank you

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks so much for reading and how fantastic to be planning a trip to Patagonia! I love it there. It’s just stunning. I’m sorry I can’t be of much help with the car rental, as I traveled by bus from El Calafate down to Ushuaia. One tip I can offer is to always be sure you have a full tank of gas and to have a roadside emergency kit and/or a working cell phone. The roads can be quite desolate with not much in between tows. I highly recommend my B&B in El Chalten, Nothofagus B&B. It was really nice and included breakfast (See Link above) Also, my Ushuaia hotel was nice, Hotel Austral (see link above), in a prime walking spot to the waterfront and around town. One thing I wish I did was stay in the glamping pods in Torres del Paine. It would have been fantastic to be in the park more than I was. Hope that helps and have a great trip!! It’s just epic and totally unforgettable. πŸ™‚
      Jackie

  16. Hi Jackie,

    My husband and I are following your itinerary but are unable to find the bus from Puerto natales to Ushuaia. The only one we can find is bus sur, with a connection in Punta Arenas but the bust leaving to Ushuaia leaves at 8am, making it impossible to do the entire ‘trek’ in one day which we have already planned for. Do you have any recommendations. Also, in Puerto Natales did you do the hike with a tour?

    Thanks,
    Maria

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Maria,
      Thanks so much for reading the post about Patagonia. I’m glad it’s been helpful. So, I definitely used Buses Pacheco for the journey from Puerto Natales to Ushuaia. I did have to transfer but it was not in Punta Arenas but I believe in Rio Grande. I remember not getting any response from the Buses Pacheco when I emailed them directly so I asked my hostel to help. The owner of the hostel made all the reservations in advance to my arrival. It was a long day of traveling, but I definitely did it in 12ish hours (dawn to dusk). I’d recommend asking where you’re staying in Puerto Natales to help in booking those bus tickets. I did do a small group tour (5 people, I think?). Again for this and the other activities, I did in Puerto Natales (like horseback riding into the hills to for an overview of the town, water, and fjords) I went with my hostel recommendations. I hope this is helpful and you have a fantastic trip! Patagonia is unreal.
      Thanks again for reading the blog!
      Jackie

  17. Hi! I see that you flew into El Calafate and then out of Ushuaia. Was this more expensive than it would have been to just fly from Santiago to El Calafate to start the trip and then back out of El Calafate again at the end of the trip? I’m in the beginning stages of planning and it certainly makes more sense geographically to do what you did, but I’m wondering if it’s pricey to do those one way tickets.

    I’m looking at an itinerary of something like:
    Santiago >> Punta Arenas (air)
    Punta Arenas >> Puerto Natales (bus)
    Puerto Natales >> El Calafate & Chalten (bus)
    El Calafate/El Chalten >> Puerto Montt/ San Carlos de Bariloche (bus/rent car)
    Puerto Montt >> Santiago (fly)

    Any advice on feasibility would be SO appreciated πŸ™‚

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Caitlin,
      In all honesty, I used airline miles to fly and booked an open-jaw at no extra cost. But, even with paid flights, I’d use Google Flights and piece together a multi-city itinerary to compare prices. Oftentimes, it’s cheaper even when paying for your flights. Your itinerary looks good, but I’d definitely research the open-jaw option. You might be surprised. Hope that helps! Good luck and enjoy Patagonia! It’ spectacular.
      Jackie

  18. Hi! I’m planning my honeymoon to Chile, I have no idea where to start. Did you plan your trip yourself or did you have help? Also any tips on what to do or where to go? Like maybe your favorite places or things you wish you had done while there?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Hi Rachel,
      Thanks so much for reading. I did plan the trip myself. Chile is an incredible country with so many great things to see. Patagonia, of course, is stunning. But, everything from the Lakes District to the vineyards to the Atacama Desert further north is amazing. It just depends on what you want to do and how much time you have. I’d completely recommend Patagonia for just an epic, unforgettable honeymoon. The Atacama Desert in the north is also a popular destination and could easily be part of a trip that includes Santiago, vineyard tours, and perhaps a stay in the Lakes District. Again, it depends on how much time you have. If you do Patagonia (Chile/Argentina), I’d stick with just that area since there’s plenty of things to see and savor in that region all by itself. Good luck and thanks so much for reading!
      Jackie

  19. Sally Stetson

    Jackie,
    Would you consider planning a trip for my husband and me to Patagonia? Your trip sounded fantastic, and I have about 200,000 miles on AMEX. If we could work airfare and bus travel by using AMEX, the rest would be doable. Would be glad to pay you. We would fly out of Miami and could go next March. Let me know! Thanks!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Sally. You’ll love Patagonia in March. The fall colors are spectacular. Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to help, I don’t plan travel for hire. I don’t have a license as a travel agent or the proper liability protection. So sorry about that! If it helps, I loved my itinerary, but the one thing I’d do differently is to add more time in Torres del Paine. Good luck with your trip planning. πŸ™‚

  20. Thank you for all this information! It has been super helpful with planning our three week honeymoon to Chile and Argentina. We are wondering if you have any advice about changing money when you were in Argentina? We will be landing in Punta Arenas, hiking the W, then taking a bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate and then to El Chalten, so no big airport to exchange money. We have been heading that the ATMs in El Calafate and El Chalten are difficult to get money out of and to bring USD to exchange. Do you have any advice on what you did? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks so much for reading, Kaitlin. And, congrats on getting married and your amazing honeymoon! So, my strategy was to bring USD to exchange when necessary, even though I wasn’t a fan of carrying so much cash. I didn’t exchange everything at once but along the way in Puerto Natales and El Calafate, in particular. I used a credit card (with no foreign exchange fees) when I could to save my cash. And I specifically remember trying to take out cash from the ATM in El Chalten and having difficulty when I first arrived but then having success at the end of my stay. El Chalten was the only place I personally had trouble with the ATMs, but I did see lines of people outside of banks in other places. Depending on where you’re staying, some expenses can be added to the room. I did this with a few of my bus tickets because it allowed me to pay for everything at the end with a credit card. (I was traveling solo and took extra precaution to not run out of cash.) I hope that helps but feel free to respond if you have any other questions. Thanks again for reading the blog and enjoy Patagonia! It’s incredible!!!

  21. Hi Jackie, In Torres Del Paine, are there any day hikes similar to the El Chalten one, say 4-5 hours one we can do in the national park. Same as your trip, we are doing the Full day bus tour from Puerto Natales but also want to do a small hike somewhere close to the national park with some good views.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Achyut. Patagonia is amazing! Depending on which part of the park you’re in, I might consider the Fauna Trail, Laguna Azul, or Mirador Cuernos. In particular, Mirador Cuernos has great views. These hikes are just a few hours and can be done in a day. Hope your trip is fantastic!! πŸ™‚

  22. Incredible itinerary for Patagonia and the towns around that area. I have been searching for something like this for sooooo long. Precise and hit to the point. Not confusing like any other itinerary I have ever read. Thank you so much. And it happens that we are the same type of person who enjoys the scenic view but doesn’t keen on how to live in a tent!

    This is extremely helpful !!!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Sup. Glad the guide is helpful for planning your Patagonia trip! Happy Travels. πŸ™‚

  23. Hi Jackie
    A couple questions. I will be traveling solo as well. I am not fluent in Spanish. Is that going to be an issue?
    Did you book your own flights or have assist this these? I have read from other bloggers about booking buses ahead. Did you book bus trips online or how did you do that in advance? I want to make sure I have a spot I guess.
    Do you remember the horseback riding group you used? Would you recommend them again?
    And finally what do you mean by Open Jaw when talking about flights?
    Thanks for your recommendations and blog it has definitely helped me with planning and I have greatly appreciated it. I can’t wait to see this area for myself.
    Regards

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Cassie. You are going to love Patagonia! I didn’t speak any Spanish other than a few basics like please, thank you, hello, goodbye, etc. I did book my own flights. As for bus tickets, I emailed the places where I stayed and asked for their help. In El Calafate, the hostel advised it would be ok to get them when I arrived. In Puerto Natales, the BnB owner bought them for me and added it to my room. I found the bus websites to be very unhelpful when trying to book in advance. I don’t remember the name of the horseback riding place, but the owners of Kaluve hostel in Puerto Natales booked it for me. Highly recommend the experience!! It was me, 2 guys traveling from Brazil and the ranch owner. It was a super local experience. Open Jaw flights means that you book an itinerary where you fly into one location but fly out of another. In my case, I flew into El Calafate but flew out of Ushuaia. Sometimes it’s easier to do this if you book using airline miles, but it’s also possible with a cash ticket. Hope that helps! Feel free to reach back out if you need! πŸ™‚

  24. Hi Jackie!

    I’m headed to Patagonia with my husband this week! We are in the midst of packing and I wanted to ask if there was anything you would recommend taking that I couldn’t live without? (Just crossing t’s and dotting i’s to be sure!) I also wanted to ask what the inter-South American flights were like–I’ve heard the weather/wind can be pretty dicey. We’re flying from Santiago to Puerto Natales // Puerto Natalas – Puerto Montt – Santiago. Thanks in advance…we’re really looking forward to our trip!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Kristen. That’s so exciting to be leaving for Patagonia this week! (Jealous πŸ˜‰ ) Layers are your friend in Patagonia. The weather changes quickly and one moment you can be hot and removing the layer, an hour later you’re looking for a fleece. I was so glad to have both my hiking boots and a pair of hiking sneakers and a day backpack that let me carry what I needed for day hikes. I flew from Santiago to El Chalten. The flight was smooth. From there, I took lots of buses before finally flying from Ushuaia back up to Santiago. That flight was smooth too. Hope it’s the same for you and you both have an awesome trip!! (Don’t forget the camera! The fall colors should be amazing right now.)

  25. Hi Jackie!
    Great information! Awesome read.
    Heading to Bariloche & El Calafate the first week of September.
    My husband is concerned about very low temps closer to PeritΓ³ Moreno. I have read it is still in the 40’s with rain?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Carol. That’s so awesome to have a trip planned to Patagonia! The first thing to remember about Patagonia, the weather is totally unpredictable. I’d say plan for 40s-50s temperature-wise. From what I’ve seen, rain/precipitation tends to be less in September than during the heart of winter. But, for gear, it’s best to be prepared with an outer shell to protect against getting wet. The glacier is absolutely amazing no matter what! I hope you have a great trip! πŸ™‚

  26. Hugo H. Arce'

    Very nice summary of your trip. I will be traveling from US to BA to see family and then North to Mendoza and Cordoba and then South to Bariloche and/or El Calafate…thinking of by passing El Chalten if I go to El Calafate and going to Ushuaia instead…. now that I read your post about “the end of the world” …

    what would you recommend between Bariloche and El Calafate (If I had time for just one stop between them) and/or the choice of El Chalten vs Ushuaia if I end up in El Calafate??

    Is Bariloche a must stop on the bucket list?? or the beauty of the Southern-most cities take precedence?

    Your thoughts are appreciated, Thanks, Hugo

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Hugo. My vote is for El Calafate and if you have time, El Chalten. I loved Ushuaia, too, but the hikes in El Chalten are breathtaking. Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate also shouldn’t be missed! Hope that helps and you have an amazing trip!! πŸ™‚

  27. Hi Jackie
    So glad to find your site, especially that you’re not a big hiker or camper either! We are planning on a trip to Patagonia in March, I have planned independent trips all over the world, but Patagonia is proving a challenge. I can’t find enough information on visiting Torres Del Paine, without paying the incredibly high hotel prices, if you can find a vacancy — i understand it’s 2.5 hours bus travel to and from the park from Puerto Natales. You mention you regretted not spending more time in the park, how would you spend more time in the park? If you take the bus into the park for the day, can you do day hikes from the drop off point, do you a shuttle?

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Brenda. It’s possible to take the bus to TdelP from Puerto Natales but you’d likely be limited to whatever trailheads are in the vicinity of the drop off point. To be honest, if I were to do it again, I would have stayed overnight just outside the park or in the park and I would have chosen the accommodation based on what hike(s) I wanted to do. An alternate option is to do 2 day trips from Puerto Natales. However, I’d make the 2nd-day trip one that included a day hike. On the day tour I did, it was very good and we got to see many popular places in the park. But other than a few short walks to some of the lakes, there wasn’t much hiking. I hope you have a great trip to Patagonia! It’s amazing!

  28. My husband and I are considering going in early April. How did you find the weather? Did you have sunny days or were they mostly overcast? Also, did you find the less amount of daylight time to be a concern?

    Thank you!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Hope. I didn’t find the weather to be a problem for most of the trip. The days were mostly sunny and the amount of daylight didn’t bother me. The only place where the weather got noticeably colder was in Ushuaia. The winds were stronger there as well. However, this didn’t stop me from doing the activities I wanted to do.

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Jimmy. I started in Santiago Chile because it was the best flight deal for my airline miles on the dates I needed to travel. Either way, I was looking at Santiago or Buenos Aires.

  29. Wonderful descriptions Jackie.
    You may have alluded to this but I was wondering whether it would be wise to travel with kids. We have a 14, 12 but most importantly a 10year old and want to visit for 2 weeks. I don’t see her hiking the “W”.
    Do you think it is worth making the trip with young kids?
    Thank you!

    1. Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie

      Thanks for reading, Leigh. Apologies for the delayed response. If you are a hiking family, I’d say give it a try with a 10-year-old. None of the hikes or activities I did required any special gear or climbing skills. I would check the age requirements for Perito Moreno if you intend to trek on it, though. And depending on your itinerary, each place has a range of activities to choose from that include family-friendly options. Good luck and enjoy!

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