Traveling to Patagonia is dream come true for many travelers, but it can be very hard figuring out where to go and what to do when planning a Patagonia itinerary. The region is very big and covers two different countries. The logistics of traveling between the two countries and other intricacies of traveling this part of the world are covered in our How To Plan a Trip to Patagonia post.
This Patagonia itinerary covers three different itineraries for 7, 10 & 15 days but can be easily modified to fit any traveler’s needs. It is good for visitors who only have a short time to spend in the region and the ones that want to completely immerse themselves and travel less traveled paths.
Table of Contents
- 7-DAY Patagonia Itinerary – Classic Patagonia
- 10 Day Patagonia Itinerary – Patagonia for Adventurers
- 15 Day Patagonia Itinerary – Less Traveled Path
7-DAY Patagonia Itinerary – Classic Patagonia
If you have only one week in Patagonia, you have just enough time to visit places in and around El Calafate. In this 7-Day Patagonia itinerary, we will focus on hitting the most popular spots in both Chile and Argentina to get a taste of this amazing part of the world. For this itinerary, you will fly in and out of El Calafate, Argentina.
For this itinerary, I suggest using public and private transportation instead of renting a car.
Day 1 – Arrive in El Calafate
By the time you arrive in El Calafate, it will be late morning/early afternoon. Spend the rest of the day walking through town and make your way to Reserva Laguna Nimez. Plan for dinner and the show at one of the estancias. We visited Estancia 25 de Mayo.
At the estancia, you will learn about the history of the town and Patagonia’s way of life as well as witness manual sheep shearing. Dinner is usually plentiful and delicious. Transportation is provided.
We stayed at Santa Monica Aparts.
Day 2 – Visit to Perito Moreno
Glacier Perito Moreno in Los Glaciers National Park is what put El Calafate on the map. Its majestic beauty attracts many visitors to this region. It is only 75 km and easily accessible from El Calafate by bus, car, or private tour.
If you decide to go by bus, Caltur is the main operator. It leaves from the bus terminal twice a day, at 9 am and 1 pm.
Depending on how adventurous you are, you can explore this beautiful UNESCO site in a few different ways. Walking on the boardwalk and seeing the glacier from different angles is one of the most common ways. There are five different trails, that can be explored individually or combined with other trails.
You can kayak or take a boat cruise to get closer to the glacier.
For true adventure seekers, you can trek on the glacier. There is a Big Ice trek or Minitrek both operated by the only tour operator allowed to do this Hielo y Avantura. It is an amazing experience to walk on top of the glacier.
Both experiences include a transfer to the park, a 1-hour boardwalk adventure, 20–30-minute boat ride to start the hike. However, with Big Ice Trek you will be trekking on top of the glacier for 3 hours, and with Minitrek hike only 1 hour on the glacier.
Either option is great, and the tour is finished with whisky on glacier ice and some Bon-Bons.
Back in town finish the evening with a delicious dinner at La Zaina Restaurant.
Day 3 & 4 – Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is a National Park in Chile and is only accessible from El Calafate by private transfer or a car. No public buses go to Torres del Paine from El Calafate.
Torres del Paine is where the massive granite towers are, also home of W Trek or O Trek. W Trek is a 5-day hike, and O Trek is a 10-day hike. In a 7-Day Patagonia Itinerary, you will not have time for these hikes. However, there are plenty of day hikes you can enjoy.
The park itself has ferries and buses that can transfer you within the park to complete day hikes to the Base of the Towers, the viewpoint of Cuernos (the horns), the waterfall, Glacier Grey (where you can walk on the glacier), and all different short hikes with amazing viewpoints.
Hotels you can stay at are Hotel las Torres, Hotel Lago Grey, Hosteria Pehoe, and many more. Options are endless and this park is truly worth exploring.
The drive to Torres del Paine from El Calafate is close to 4 hrs. During our first visit to Patagonia, we took a day tour from El Calafate to Torres del Paine where we visited the waterfalls and viewpoint of the Cuernos. It was a very long day that started at 4 am and we felt rushed while in the park. We decided to come back a few years later to do the W Trek and explore the park more in-depth.
If a day or two is all the time you have, I would still recommend visiting Torres del Paine but strongly recommend dedicating more time here if possible.
On day 4 make sure you have a prearranged shuttle pick up or a vehicle to take you back to El Calafate. In El Calafate, you can enjoy dinner at the amazing Morrison Restaurant.
Days 5 – 7- El Chalten
El Chalten is an equivalent of Torres del Paine on the Argentine side. It is a small village whose existence is tied to Fitz Roy. Climbers and hikers alike, flock to this village to explore its beauty. El Chalten is 3-hour drive from El Calafate. There is a bus service to El Chalten, Chalten Travel, or you can book a private transfer or rent a car.
The main attraction in El Chalten is Fitz Roy Peak towering over the village with its majestic presence. There are a few day hikes you can take to get closer, one of them being Lagunas de los Tres. Some others are Mirador los Cóndores, Chorillo del Salto, Laguna Capri and Laguna Torre.
The weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable and in El Chalten even more so. Giving yourself here a few days gives you a higher chance of getting a glimpse of Fitz.
On day 7 drive back to the airport outside of El Calafate and fly back.
10 Day Patagonia Itinerary – Patagonia for Adventurers
This 10-Day Patagonia Itinerary starts in Chile and finishes in Argentina. This means that you will fly into one country and fly out of the other. For a better understanding of different flight options and how to plan a trip like this, you can read our blog post How to Plan a Trip to Patagonia.
Day 1 – Puerto Natales
Arrive in Puerto Natales and spend the afternoon exploring the town with a stroll by the water, possibly a stop at the Last Hope Distillery and dinner at Afrigonia.
Day 2-5 – Torres del Paine
The next few days you will spend hiking in Torres del Paine. You can either do the famous W Trek or day hikes. Either can be done on your own or with a guide. We have a few posts about W Trek hike and accommodations you can check out for all the details.
Bus-Sur leaving from Puerto Natales bus station has many different options to take you to Torres del Paine. It’s the same bus line you can use for the return to Puerto Natales on day 5.
W Trek can be done east to west or west to east. What that means is that you either start the hike at the base of the Towers or finish at the base of the towers.
We started with the Towers and hiked west, finishing at Glacier Grey. From Glacier Grey, you can either take a ferry back or if the weather is not cooperating hike back to Paine Grande and take a ferry from there back to the bus stop.
TIP: Lago Grey ferry gets canceled more frequently than the Lago Pehoe ferry due to the high winds.
Since this itinerary does not include a stop in El Calafate I would suggest trekking on Glacier Grey, that way you can skip Perito Moreno. Or if you have more time to add to this itinerary you can do both.
On Day 5 return to Puerto Natales and plan an early departure the next morning to El Chalten.
Day 6 & 7 – El Chalten
Getting to El Chalten can take a long time depending on how you plan to travel. I strongly recommend renting a car as that is the quickest option and with the limited time, you don’t waste your time on the bus.
There is no direct bus from Puerto Natales to El Chalten. You would have to take a 6-hour bus to El Calafate and then get on another bus from El Calafate to El Chalten which is another 3-hour drive. Driving on your own you can make it from Puerto Natales to El Chalten in 7 hours. Either way, you will have to cross the border from Chile to Argentina.
If you leave early enough, you may have enough daylight left to either do the Laguna Capri or Chorillo del Salto hike when you get to El Chalten.
Save the full day for the Lagunas de los Tres hike. The hike to one of the world’s most amazing viewpoints, Fitz Roy.
Day 8 – 10 – Bariloche
In the interest of time, to get to Bariloche you will need to fly. On day 8 make your way to the airport in El Calafate and grab a flight to Bariloche. The flight is less than 2 hours long, but taking a bus or driving is a 24-hour adventure.
Once you arrive in Bariloche, I suggest renting a car to maximize your adventure time and not have to worry about bus schedules. Public buses are an option and are used by many travelers.
Spend the afternoon of the first day exploring the city center, tasting the world-renowned chocolate in Bariloche, walking by the lake, or taking a quick hike up to Cerro Campanario for an amazing 360-degree view.
On day 9 you can choose to do one or a few of the following things hike to Refugio Frey, Hike to Cerro Llao Llao, Hike to Cerro Tronador, visit Isla Victoria, or go on a drive of seven lakes. Whatever you choose to do you will not be disappointed as Bariloche is one of the most beautiful places in the world and beauty surrounds you wherever you go.
The things we enjoyed the most were the hike to Refugio Frey walking on the edge of the mountain, visiting CervecerÍa Patagonia the brewery with the best view in the world, tasting the chocolate and driving to seven lakes.
On day 10 fly back home or to the next adventure.
15 Day Patagonia Itinerary – Less Traveled Path
This itinerary is exactly how we spent our last visit to Patagonia in December and January of 2022/2023. It is an intense itinerary, it covers a lot of ground, a lot of border crossings, renting a car, and driving on remote unpaved Patagonian roads. It was one of the best trips we ever did, one that leaves you wanting more, and one that you maybe don’t appreciate at the moment because of how intense it is but constantly reflect on.
This itinerary starts in Puerto Natales, goes to El Chalten and then crosses the border to Aysen Regions where Marble Caves, Patagonia National Park, Cerro Castillo, Hanging Glacier and Laguna San Rafael National Park is.
Day 1 – Puerto Natales
Arrive in Puerto Natales and spend the afternoon exploring the town with a stroll by the water, possibly a stop at the Last Hope Distillery and dinner at Afrigonia.
We stayed at Toore Patagonia.
Day 2 – 6 – W Trek
We ended up doing a W Trek with a tour operator because we couldn’t make the accommodations work the way we needed to, to fit the rest of the trip. This particular tour operator offered accommodations the night before the trek and the night after so on Day 2 we checked in at their location and started the hike on Day 3.
W Trek is one of the most iconic hikes in the world that has it all peaks, valleys, massive granite towers, horns, lakes, glaciers, and you will probably experience all four seasons while hiking and possibly even in one day so come prepared with water and windproof clothing.
Since in this itinerary, we are skipping a stop in El Calafate I would recommend doing Ice Trek on Glacier Grey for a similar experience.
Day 7 – 10 – El Chalten
Rent a car first thing in the morning and head toward El Chalten. We rented a car from EuropCar and had no issues. The main thing to remember is to let them know that you will be crossing the border to Argentina, as you will need a border crossing pass which costs approximately $30/day.
From Puerto Natales to El Chalten is a 7-hour drive at best with favorable border crossing times. We crossed the border by Rio Turbio and drove to Esperanza to avoid the Ruta 40 shortcut because it has really bad potholes and there is a gas station in Esperanza, the only one before El Chalten.
PRO TIP: Gas is much cheaper in Argentina than in Chile. I would recommend carrying at least a 20-liter (5 gallon) gas tank with you during this itinerary as gas stations are few and far in between.
Hopefully, upon your arrival to El Chalten, the clouds will be gone and you will have one of the most iconic views driving in.
Settle in your accommodations and explore the town in the evening.
PRO TIP: Driving in between towns in Patagonia cellphone reception is non-existent but usually in towns if you have a data plan you should have some connection. In El Chalten, I had none and even wi-fi is very weak at most accommodations.
While in El Chalten the most beautiful hike is a hike to Laguna de Los Tres. Some other options are Mirador los Cóndores, Chorillo del Salto, Laguna Capri and Laguna Torre, weather permitting.
We stayed at Estancia Bonanza, 12 km on the unpaved road past the town with an amazing view of Fitz Roy peaks.
On the way out of El Chalten make sure you top off your gas tank. There is only one gas station in El Chalten, at the entrance of the town and you may have to wait in line for a while to fill up. We waited for an hour on New Year’s Eve as they were closed on New Year’s Day and so was every other gas station on our path.
Day 11 – Driving North
The main objective of the day today is to get as close as possible to Chile Chico in Chile or even cross the border. We were deceived by Google showing that it would take 12 hours to get to Perito Moreno town (not the glacier). With that in mind, we decided to spend the night in Perito Moreno. We made it there in less than 8 hours. If we were to do it again, we would go from El Chalten straight to Chile Chico (in Chile) and spend the night there.
The drive is pretty boring, you are mostly driving through the desert with only seeing guanacos for miles at a time. Some sections of Ruta 40 are unpaved and we did take the Ruta 29 shortcut which is also unpaved, it saves over an hour on the drive.
We did this drive on New Year’s Day, the gas stations in El Chalten and Tres Lagos were both closed. We lucked out with Bajo Caracoles gas station being open. It was nerve-wracking driving not knowing how far we would be able to make it.
When we made it to Perito Moreno our hotel was the only thing open in town and a couple of convenience stores. No restaurants, and no grocery stores. We literally found one convenience store open with the last 2 rolls of bread, cheese and salami, that was our New Year’s Day dinner. Note to self, do not travel on holidays in South America.
Day 12 – Puerto Guadal | Marble Caves
Drive from Perito Moreno to Chile Chico is less than an hour, but the border crossing may take just as long. Since you are arriving back in Chile, you will have to take all your luggage out, get it scanned and have your car inspected this can take a while.
PRO TIP: If you are carrying a gas canister with you, you are allowed to cross the border with it. We were not sure if this would be a problem and it was not. I would also suggest topping it off in Argentina. Gas is cheaper in Argentina than in Chile.
Once past Chile Chico, road 265, which takes you to Puerto Guadal, is unpaved but in fairly good condition and the views are just stunning. You will be driving next to Lago General Carrera/Bueno Aires with mountain views of National Park Laguna San Rafael and snow-capped peaks all over.
For the next few days, we suggest staying in Puerto Guadal and exploring from there. It is a great centralized location to see Marble Caves and explore Patagonia National Park.
Before checking into our accommodation, we continued on to Puerto Rio Tranquilo to take a boat ride to see Marble Caves. Marble Caves are the main reason we came to this part of Patagonia. A few years back I saw pictures of them and have always wanted to see them but getting there has not been an easy task.
There are many boat tours from Puerto Rio Tranquilo that operate this tour however one local suggested that we go to Puerto Marmol, Bahia Mansa, and use a less-known operator from there.
Unless you have a 4×4 vehicle I would not suggest going here. You have to drive down the steep Puerto Marmol dirt road with massive ruts. However, if you do have a 4×4 vehicle it was a great experience to do this from Bahia Mansa.
We were the only ones on the tour with Jony, the owner of the operation who did not speak English, and a young guide. Boy, we wish our Spanish was much better, as Jony looked like he would be an interesting guy to talk to. The place is very secluded where goats, dogs, and cats are roaming around.
You have an option of taking a boat or kayak tour. The boat tour is about an hour and the kayaking tour is much longer. Most people suggest a kayaking tour as you get more time on your own, but since we were the only ones on the boat, we picked a boat tour.
On the tour, you will visit Marble Caves, Marble Cathedral, and Marble Chapel and yes, it is just as beautiful and colorful as the pictures suggest. I was so worried that we would be disappointed, as I was not flexible on skipping the Marble Caves, which caused a lot of extra driving and logistical issues, but we were not!
We stayed at El Arrayan Lodge & Restaurant and all our meals were included.
Day 13 – Patagonia National Park
Patagonia National Park is the newest National Park in Chile, and because it is off the beaten path it was the least crowded hike we did our entire time in Patagonia. It was just us, Guanacos, and a couple of other dedicated hikers.
From Puerto Guadal you will have to get on Carretera Austral and drive south next to Rio Baker for a little over an hour, don’t miss a viewpoint for Rio Baker or a short hike to Confluencia Rio Baker/Neff where two rivers come together. Off Carretera Austral look for road X-83, which takes you into the park. A more common place to stay if visiting the National Park is Cochrane.
TIP: Road X-83 is another option for crossing the border from Argentina.
In Patagonia National Park, we did a Lagunas Altas hike as a loop. It is a 19 km hike and then you have to take a road between the two trailheads back which adds another 2.5 km (13.3 miles total). It was a hard hike. The terrain was completely different from anything else in Patagonia.
Patagonia National Park is full of rolling hills and pastures, much greener than other areas. No rugged, wind-shaped peaks, the climb is gradual. At the top, you will walk around many different lagunas and then descend.
This hike can be done clockwise or counterclockwise. We did it clockwise, to avoid the steeper climb from the other direction but coming down was brutal on the knees.
Day 14 – Cerro Castillo/Coyhaique
The hike to Laguna Cerro Castillo was one of the other hikes we had on our list.
The drive from Puerto Guadal to Villa Cerro Castillo is over 3.5 hours long with good conditions. But driving in Patagonia is never a sure thing and delays should always be expected. I would suggest starting the drive very early in the morning.
The day hike to the laguna closes at noon, so you need to make sure you arrive before then to be able to do this hike. How to get to the trailhead is a little convoluted, check out our Ultimate Guide to Laguna Cerro Castillo Day Hike post.
The hike is very similar to the Towers in Torres del Paine, or Lagunas de Lost Tress in El Chalten. A steep climb up for an amazing view of the laguna in front of the rugged almost black peaks but much less crowded.
After the hike drive to Coyhaique. From here on out the road is mostly paved!
Make sure you stop at the viewpoint Cuesta de la Diablo, where after driving up the winding road you get a beautiful view of Cerro Castillo and other snow-covered peaks in the area.
We stayed at the Domo Carpe Diem, a tiny little dome outside of town and a 4×4 is required to get to it. It had an amazing view and the host was amazing.
We had dinner at DaGus Restaurant.
Day 15 – Fly out
Fly out of Balmaceda Airport and back to Santiago.
If you have more time I would suggest either taking a boat to San Rafael glacier or hiking on it, or from Coyhaique visiting the Hanging Glacier in Parque Nacional Queulat.
More Information For Your Trip to Patagonia
PATAGONIA: Learn more about planning a trip to Patagonia in our article How to Plan a Trip to Patagonia. And if you need a guide for hiking Laguna de Los Tres in El Chalten or Cerro Castillo in the Aisén Region, we’ve got you covered.
TORRES DEL PAINE: For detailed information about hiking in Torres del Paine read our W Trek Guide. We also have a step-by-step article on how to book the accommodations on the W trek and a breakdown of the cost.