By Allie Almario
Driving in Patagonia
Be prepared for the vast distances between national parks and gateway cities. For example, the drive time from the airport in Punta Arena, Chile to Torres del Paine National Park can take between five to six hours. A popular overnight stop is Puerto Natales, somewhat halfway between the two points. Breaking up the trip here means you can take time to explore the fjords of La Ultima Esperanza by catamaran or ferry. A must is a fantastic hike to the biggest non-polar glacier, the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
Expect a full-day car transfer if you are traveling from El Calafate, Argentina to Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. While the drive itself may be just under four hours, the border crossing may take up to two to three hours depending on how many travelers are waiting for their passports to be processed. Most transfers are timed to arrive at your next lodging by check-in time in the late afternoon.
Pick the right lodging
There are many choices for hotels and accommodations within the national parks in Patagonia. In Chile, you can decide between eco-friendly yurts and lodges overlooking glacial lakes or ultra-luxurious five-star properties located in reserves. A few even provide a private guide who comes assigned with each villa. If you prefer more independence and like to hike at your own pace, choose a lodge that is located close to self-guided hiking trail loops.
Choose the right time to go
November to March offers the best and most temperate weather, but hotels will fill quickly due to high demand during the short summer Patagonia season. You can also roll the dice and go in shoulder season. You’ll find less crowds but potentially colder temperatures and windier conditions. Just dress accordingly and be prepared — the rewards can pay off greatly.
Patagonia trips always mean traveling long distances and lots of enjoyable physical challenges. Try to pace the trip well to avoid travel fatigue, not to mention jet lag! We always recommend spending a minimum of two to three nights at each national park so you can find adequate time for daily hikes and explorations between drives from park to park. Take at least one unscheduled day in your itinerary to give yourself a break. Plan on a massage, sit by a lake and write in a journal, or find a quiet spot in the lodge by the fireplace and write a few postcards to friends.
Traveling to Patagonia can be expensive. Plan ahead at least a minimum of six to eight months ahead of your preferred departure to make sure you have the widest choice for internal flights and best accommodations for your travel style. Waiting too late can add hundreds of dollars due to lack of availability.
As always, if you have questions about Patagonia travel, it’s best to work with a destination expert like ours at Premier Tours to help guide you in planning the perfect itinerary.