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Patagonia is a geographical region in South America that is comprised of the southern areas of Argentina and Chile. What makes this destination so special is its untouched landscapes of majestic mountain ranges, turquoise lakes, eclectic wildlife, and gigantic glaciers. For nature-lovers, this is truly a place where outdoor adventurers can play.
Each year, many flock to the southern tip of South America to camp, trek, and explore the vast expanse of pristine wilderness. While there is much to see, there are a few sites you simply can’t leave Patagonia without experiencing. Check out this list of the nine must-see sites and start planning your trip today.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
One of the most famed sites in Patagonia is the Perito Moreno Glacier, located in Los Glaciares National Park. Its massive size at 19 miles long and azure color make it easy to see why this glacier was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
You can simply visit the park and walk the boardwalk along the edge of the lake, marveling at its size and taking as many pictures as your camera can hold from the viewing platforms. You can also take a boat cruise to get up close and personal, learning all about its structure from a local guide. However, for a truly unique experience, you can book a trekking tour and actually walk on the glacier itself!
Mount Fitz Roy and Laguna de los Tres, Argentina
If you’ve seen pictures of Patagonia, you’ve undoubtedly seen the iconic photo of a turquoise lake with a large mountain range in the background. This is Laguna de los Tres and Mount Fitz Roy, located in Los Glaciares National Park, which can be accessed from the town of El Chaltén. It’s one of the most popular hikes you can complete in Patagonia, and from the photos, you can see why!
There are various trails that can take you to this location, and you can even camp right in the park. Just remember to book early, as spaces can fill up quickly! If you aren’t a seasoned hiker, we suggest booking a tour that will take you to this location safely with local experts who can lead the way.
Marble Caves, Chile
While most come to Patagonia to trek into the mountains and wander the vast expanse of untouched land, no trip is complete without seeing the magic of the Marble Caves. Located in the middle of General Carrera Lake, this hidden gem is worth the adventure, as these colorful masterpieces can only be accessed by boat. If you’re a kayaker, this is a site worth visiting, as you won’t find anything quite like it anywhere else on Earth.
The caves are over 6,000 years old, created by the melting glaciers that have filled the lake over time. The persistence of the water has slowly carved out the intricate cave system, and its mineral-rich qualities have changed the color to the neon spectacle you see today. There aren’t many things in the natural world that compare to the blue-green wonder of this magnificent site!
Laguna Torre, Argentina
Laguna Torre is another famous hike that leads to a pristine lake with stellar mountain views. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, you can explore this area on your own or with a guide who can take you safely into the area for pictures, picnic lunches, and once-in-a-lifetime vistas.
At this stunning location at the Torre Lagoon, you’ll find bold blue water, glacier ice, mountain peaks, and clear skies. Next to Laguna de los Tres, this is one of the most sought-after destinations in Patagonia.
Parque Nacional Patagonia, Chile
Calling all animal lovers! If you’re looking to see some incredible wildlife, look no further than Parque Nacional Patagonia. The park, once an oversized estancia, is home to flamingo, puma, fox, guanaco, huemul, viscacha, and much more. From bird watching to puma tracking, this park, along with the various campsites and lodges nearby, makes for a great stop on your Patagonian adventure.
The heart of the park is in the Chacabuco Valley, which contains a wealth of biological diversity. It’s nestled between the steppe grasslands of Argentina and the beech forests of Chile. It was created by combining five separate reserves and parks that now encompass 1,000 square miles. In this diverse ecosystem, you’ll find grasslands, riparian forests, and wetlands to explore.
Cueva de las Manos, Argentina
Cueva de las Manos, aka the Cave of Hands, is a historical goldmine you may not know about, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one that contains a wealth of culture, wisdom, and mystery. Historians believe these cave paintings were created between 9,000 and 13,000 years ago, telling the story of what is assumed to be hunter-gatherer communities that lived and thrived on these lands.
The main attraction here? The stenciled outlines of hands, shown with the backdrop of reds, browns, and oranges. You’ll also find animals and hunting scenes depicted on the walls, too. The paintings were created using mineral pigments, such as iron oxides for red and manganese oxide for black to name a few. It’s speculated that three different groups inhabited the area based on painting style and historical dating, but what researchers lack in understanding is solidified by the undeniable evidence that ancient people inhabited this place long ago, taking care of the land in the process.
Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego), Argentina
Ushuaia is located on the southernmost tip of South America and is also known as the “End of the World”. When you come to Patagonia to explore, this quaint town is a must-see. A great base for exploring, you can enjoy the area by boat, as various day-cruise ships depart from the docks with loads of travelers waiting to discover the beauty of this southern region. You can even take a ride to Antarctica, spending the day or the week at sea!
From charming restaurants and cafes along the water to treks to Penguin Island and the Martial Mountains, this little town is like no other. Enjoy it while you’re in Patagonia!
Penguins in Punta Tombo, Argentina
Punta Tombo is located on a narrow peninsula on the Argentine coastline and is home to the largest grouping of Magellanic penguins. Over a million penguins come to this area each year to breed! When visiting, it’s deeply important to remember that this is their home and to follow the directions and signage on the land to ensure they stay safe and healthy.
The penguins call Punta Tombo home from September to March, giving birth in November to a multitude of new babes. Walk the boardwalks next to these adorable creatures and take all the pictures you can in this magical area of Patagonia.
Traditional estancias in Patagonia
Estancias are ranches that have become a traditional aspect of Patagonia’s history and landscape. These legendary estates are home to large herds of sheep and baqueanos, aka Chilean cowboys. The baqueanos take their yearly pilgrimage to round up the sheep and return them to the main ranch.
There are a variety of estancias throughout Argentina and Chile in the Patagonian region, offering day activities such as horseback riding, catered lunches, and hiking, along with B&B options for a truly immersive experience. For a little history and a lot of fun, booking a trip to an estancia is a must.
Thinking about a trip to Patagonia? Reach out to TourHero and let us help you create the perfect nature-filled trip! From serious treks and dome camping to comfortable stays with great views, you can have it all on your next South American getaway.
TourHero is a social travel platform that enables you to travel with like-minded people and fall in love with the journey. We work closely with handpicked local operators to ensure every experience curated is unique and exclusive to your travel group. Come with us on epic adventures and create memories that last a lifetime!