Ok, I’m going to put it in writing to make myself more accountable (that’s a thing, right?) – I am going to try turning more of the ridiculously lengthy thoughts I take in my iPhone Notes app into actual blog posts. For nearly every destination we have visited, I’ve detailed my favorite restaurants, where we stayed, and random other pieces of advice.
Do I do anything with these obsessive lists? Sure, when a friend asks about a travel destination I’ve been to, I happily send over my notes (need something before I post this massive backlog, just let me know!). But otherwise, they mostly just sit in the iCloud abyss.
But I’ve been encouraged by my friend Dan (an awesome Brit we met in Buenos Aires, who kept me especially entertained by teaching me British slang) to finally put these thoughts into some easy-to-use, no-nonsense blog posts.
So here we go. First up – the Chilean side of Patagonia!
Our Patagonia Itinerary:
Santiago –> Punta Arenas (6 nights) Puerto Natales (3 nights) –> Torres del Paine (5 nights) –> Puerto Natales (1 night) –> El Calafate, Argentina (3 nights) –> El Chalten (4 nights) –> Buenos Aires
Torres del Paine National Park is definitely the star of the Patagonia region. Known for its amazing hiking and beautiful scenery, it is 100% worth a visit. It’s not easy to get there however, requiring you to visit at least two other Patagonian towns – Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales. So make the most of it and enjoy some sights and good food while you’re there.
Assuming you’re going to start on the Chile side of Patagonia, this town of 124,000 is where you’ll fly into from Santiago.
Recommended Time: 1-3 days.
Due to the timing of our flight to Chile and when we started the W Trail in Torres del Paine, we stayed a week in Punta Arenas. This is a long time in this tiny town. We filled it with some good activities and unless you’re going to Ushuaia or Antarctica, this is as far south as you can get, so we found it fun to be there.
But by no means do you need that long. 2 days is probably sufficient for most people but you could even make it shorter if necessary.
Where to stay:
- Ecolofts Croacia: amazing, modern loft apartment with full kitchen incredibly friendly staff, and great breakfast ingredients provided (and alfajores cookies most evenings!).
- Walk or run along the waterfront pedestrian path: it goes on for miles along the Strait of Magellan
- Cerro de la Cruz Mirador: nice view of the city; easy walk to the top of the hill.
- Drive to last road on continental South America! You will need a car for this (tours may go out there but probably unlikely – we rented a car for just the day which was easy and reasonably priced) but how cool is it to say you drove to the last road? We say, very cool.
- Hike to San Isidro Lighthouse, the last lighthouse on the continental South America: once you’ve made it to the end of the road, hike along the beach to the lighthouse. It’s not the best hike and it’s 7 miles on rocky beach, but it’s kind of cool to say you went there!
- Skip – Tour to Magdalena Island: we took the Fiordos del Sur II half day tour to see the penguins. I really wanted to like this tour but for almost $100 a person, it was not really worth the cost as there were more seagulls than penguins.
- La Marmita: great spot for dinner, cute space, nice service, Patagonian cuisine but lots of vegetarian options.
- Wake Up Coffee: surprising find – a cool hipster coffee shop with American style brunch and good coffee & matcha lattes.
- Restaurant Damiana Elena: funky restaurant in an old house. No menu, instead the waiter tells you the options for the day. You can even pick your bottle of wine yourself from their wine cellar.
Recommended Time: 2-4 days.
It’s a cute, very small town right on the lake, with big mountains all around. Some good restaurants make this an especially nice tourist stop.
Unless you rent a car, you’ll need to go here before and after visiting Torres del Paine National Park because of the bus routes. It’s super easy with Bus Sur but will almost assuredly require you to stay at least 1 night on either side of your park stay.
Where to Stay:
- Factoria Patagonia: super cool new hotel with great decor, perfect location, good breakfast. Small rooms but all was great.
- Skip – the Singing Lamb hostel: the private rooms are bad with no windows (truly), terrible beds and no social vibe when we were there.
Torres del Paine (W Trail/O Circuit) Prep:
- Attend the Daily Free Info Session from Erratic Rock/Day Zero: super helpful info, even if you think you know it all! Occurs daily at 3pm. You can also rent or buy extra gear and food from them if needed.
- Load up on snacks: Fruto Secos on Esmeralda is a great, locally owned spot for well-priced dried fruits and nuts.
- Get your bus ticket to Torres del Paine: Book seats online for Bus Sur to/from the park before heading to the park as it can book up.
- La Guanaca Pizzeria: great pizzas and salads, and they make their own microbrew beers.
- Mesita Grande: excellent spot for big pizzas for carbo loading! And for those who have been to Buenos Aires before, don’t worry, these are legit house made, thick crust, wood fired pizzas, not anything like typical Argentine pizzas 🙂
More on the Torres del Paine Park coming next!