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6 Of The Most Unique Travel Routes through Patagonia

An inhospitable landscape of snow-capped peaks and sun-scorched plains, Patagonia has captured the imaginations of explorers for centuries and remains an irresistible spot for modern adventurers.

If you want to encounter wildlife in abundance, looming mountains and more glacial lakes than you knew existed, check out these six unique travel routes through Patagonia for discovering these wild, breathtaking lands at their best.

1. Cruise through the Chilean fjords on a passenger ferry

Given you’re never more than 350 km from the Pacific Ocean in Chile, exploring this country by boat is essential.

In fact, for many Patagonians on the Chilean side, passenger ferries and cargo ships-turned-passenger-liners are a standard form of transport and one which – if you’re lucky with the weather – offers truly sensational views.

If this style of travel floats your boat, jump on board from Puerto Montt at the very top of Patagonia or Quellón on the southern tip of archipelago Chiloé.

Sit back and relax as you voyage through the fjords to the port towns of Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Natales further south (but before you do, read this article about the Navimag ferries).

Travel routes through Patagonia

Why explore Patagonia this way?

Passing coastline fringed with national parks, temperate Valdivian forest and gently smoking volcanoes, these ferries are a unique form of adventure travel in this part of Patagonia.

You’ll likely see Commerson’s and bottlenose dolphins, penguins, sea lions, albatrosses and even blue and humpback whales.

You’ll also mingle with locals for whom this form of transport is a regular part of their lives, and have the chance to discover how true is the claim that Patagonians are among the friendliest people in the world.

2. Motorbike through Argentine Patagonia along Ruta 40

Argentina’s longest road, Ruta 40 weaves a dusty track between desert, vineyards and glacial peaks before hitting Ushuaia – the world’s southernmost city.

For a glorious way of traversing Patagonia, pick it up in Bariloche and prepare yourself for the staggering natural monuments and windswept steppe of Argentine Patagonia.

Why explore Patagonia this way?

Two wheels and a tank of gas are all you need for Argentina’s favourite road trip.

Stops along the way are numerous and impressive: to start, enjoy the watery landscapes and hiking trails of Nahuel Huapí National Park and the craft beer in bohemian hop centre, El Bolson.

Further south, find 12,000-year-old hand prints and cave paintings at the Cave of Hands, discover El Chaltén and Monte Fitz Roy, Argentina’s self-proclaimed hiking capital and learn about perspective by standing at the base of the colossal Perito Moreno Glacier.

Argentina economy update

The Argentine economy is a huge mess at the moment, with inflation expected to hit 200% this year. Using Argentine pesos can therefore be a nightmare – and mean you lose a lot of money. The blue dollar (an unofficial exchange rate that gives you a better conversion than the official rate) is around, but if you want to avoid carrying lots of cash, you can now pay using your credit card and get an exchange rate similar to the blue dollar rate. You must choose to pay in Argentine pesos (not USD!) to secure this rate.

Both Mastercard and Visa give you what is called the MEP rate, which is almost as good as the blue dollar rate. Mastercard will charge you the official rate but refund you the money a few days later; Visa will charge you the MEP rate from the beginning.

If you do want to have some Argentine pesos for paying in cash (which I highly recommend as you will need them for some restaurants and attractions), it’s best to use Western Union, whereby you send cash to yourself using the Western Union app and then withdraw it in Argentine pesos from one of their branches in Argentina. Bear in mind, those in El Calafate and Ushuaia can run dry of notes, so it can be easiest to do this in Buenos Aires.

Additionally, you can bring USD (unmarked and untorn hundred dollar bills), which you can exchange at “cuevas” (unofficial exchange houses). These will be able to give you the blue dollar rate and any hotel owner will be able to tell you where your nearest one is. Souvenir shops in most parts of the country will be able to give you pesos in exchange for dollar bills – although they might not give you the best rate.

Avoid cash machines. Currently, the maximum withdrawal is the equivalent of $15 USD in Argentine pesos and it will cost you $10 USD in fees.

Finally, cross the Strait of Magallanes to finish this travel route through Patagonia at the harbour in Ushuaia as you overlook the Beagle Channel at the “End of the World”.

Interested? Check out this guide to driving in Argentine and Chilean Patagonia.

3. Trek through the evocative landscapes of Torres del Paine

Travel routes through Patagonia

Part stupendous scenery and part epic adventure destination, Torres del Paine National Park is a backpacker favourite in the south of Chile.

The famous granite Paine Massif (peaks) after which the park is named have become the site of the classic Patagonian photo – and for good reason: they’re spectacular at dawn.

Why explore Patagonia this way?

The Circuit (an eight- to ten-day hike) receives less footfall than the more conventional ‘W’, but it definitely knocks the socks off its shorter cousin.

The key challenges of the trek, the unforgiving mountain ascents and battling the winds that ravage the park, pale into insignificance against the dramatic vistas of glaciers, meltwater-blue lakes and towering mountains.

Yes, it’s likely the most tourist-packed of these travel routes through Patagonia, but it’s still worth facing the crowds. Believe me, the experience of being in the wild heart of the region more than compensates.

Whether you go all out with the full Circuit or pick the shorter route, the inhospitable yet breathtaking terrain of this iconic part of Patagonia will leave you with the feeling of having conquered one of the globe’s most beautiful walks.

4. Kayak to Cape Horn, Chile’s southernmost tip

The act of “rounding the horn” (or passing around the fabled promontory, Cape Horn at the far south of South America) remains the stuff of legend in maritime circles, particularly given the grizzly history of this perilous stretch ocean.

Once the watery grave of many an unlucky sailor, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that kayaking this route is best suited to expert paddlers.

Why explore Patagonia this way?

Not only do you gain bragging rights for navigating dangerous conditions and paddling to the “Ends of the Earth”, you’ll likely come across a wealth of sea birds and marine wildlife.

The symbolic albatross, which represents lost sailors, graces the skies here, while killer whales, sea lions and dolphins splash in the waves and bear witness as you conquer one of nature’s most epic challenges to man.

5. Drive Patagonia’s most beautiful road, the Carretera Austral

Travel routes through Patagonia

The stretch of road between Puerto Montt and Villa O’Higgins in Chilean Patagonia is known as the Carretera Austral, a route populated by tiny, charming towns and even more bewitching national parks and reserves.

With this backdrop of ancient, virgin forests, glacial lakes, thermal springs, and immense glaciers, the Carretera Austral is Patagonia’s most spectacular road.

Why explore Patagonia this way?

While still a remote, unpaved dirt track at points, it grants access to some of Patagonia’s lesser-known sights, such as the Hanging Glacier in Queulat National Park, the looming San Rafael Glacier near Río Tranquilo and the active Chaitén volcano in Parque Pumalín.

What’s more, renting a car in Chile Patagonia is significantly cheaper than across the border and so the Carretera Austral has unsurprisingly become one of the most popular travel routes through Patagonia for foreigners and Chileans alike.

I always recommend Rental Cars because they can help you find the cheapest rental vehicle and provide insurance documents in English.

But to fully capitalise on this way of exploring Patagonia, pack a tent and a stove and be ready to wild camp wherever you choose; the area is overflowing with picture-perfect pitches and plenty of other adventures awaiting discovery.

6. Cycle barely-ridden routes to cross the Chilean-Argentine border

Traversing the Andes that straddle the Argentine/Chilean border is always an interesting ride for cyclists, but this one manages to take Patagonian border crossings to the next level.

The route between Villa O’Higgins in Chile and El Chaitén in Argentina includes fording a river – the glacial waters of the appropriately named Río Obstáculo – and two boat crossings, before the final downhill stretch that finishes with splendid views of Monte Fitz Roy.

Why explore Patagonia this way?

Patagonia is pretty hot on exceptional landscapes, but as tourism gains popularity, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find the real draw of the region: its silent, undisturbed nature.

Cycling anywhere in the area is an excellent way of experiencing these distinctive Patagonian delights; however, this particular stretch is regarded as one of the most remote and challenging.

Cyclists are sometimes required to carry their bikes, while the unavailability of definite boat timetables mean you’ll probably end up passing a few days waiting for the next ferry.

But if the idea of being practically alone in the deep Patagonian wilderness is the stuff of your adventurous dreams, then this is the ultimate travel route through Patagonia for you.

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Patagonia travel Chile | Patagonia travel Argentina | Patagonia travel itinerary | destinations & where to go in Patagonia | hiking | road trip | kayaking | adventure travel | travel & backpacking itineraries.

Mark. A.

Thursday 19th of September 2019

As a retired engineer, I thoroughly research every step of my trips, including an upcoming journey to Chile. Your website is by-far the best organized, must thoroughly researched, and most useful one I have found on the web. You have validated many things I slowly learned through painstaking time spent making arrangements. You must provide great travel planning services.

Also, when visiting Puerto Natales in November (of 2000) I was frustrated with consistently ugly skies. One tour guide said Feb was usually much better weatherwise. Has that been your experience?

Thanks for the great service you provide many many travelers.


Friday 2nd of November 2018

Great post, we are planing our trip to Patagonnia for January and Ferbuary and I see I will be reading loads of your articles. Thank you :)


Sunday 5th of February 2017

Wow, these are look absolutely incredible. Would love to get cycling out there - can't imagine a more amazing way to see Patagonia!

Steph Dyson

Monday 6th of February 2017

I met so many cyclists when I was travelling and I was very jealous of their freedom; it really is possible to go wherever you want in Patagonia (and particularly the barely discovered parts) if you have your own transport. Happy travels!

Iftekhar Idris Asif

Saturday 4th of February 2017

Far from Asia, but still attracting me like magnets. I wish I could visit the place.


Saturday 4th of February 2017

Torres del Paine sounds wonderful! Maybe I will get there one day.

Steph Dyson

Monday 6th of February 2017

You really should do! It's one of the most beautiful national parks I've ever visited!