Top things to do in Patagonia: 10 beautiful sights to see [+ map]
Our top sights in Patagonia: In the south of Chile and Argentina, incredible mountains, imposing glaciers, endless expanses, and unique wildlife await you. We will tell you what you have to see in Patagonia in this article.
We show you the best highlights in Patagonia. You can't miss these ten unique attractions on your trip to South America.
Hi! We are Biggi & Flo
We are two adventurous travelers who are drawn to faraway places. On our travel blog, written with a lot of heart and soul, you will find exciting tips and reports on the topics of travel, outdoor and photography.Advertising notice: All links marked with * are affiliate links. If you order something through this link, we receive a small commission - nothing changes in the price.
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Our top 10 attractions in Patagonia at a glance
Here you will find an overview of the top sightseeing destinations in Patagonia that you must see on your trip through Chile and Argentina:
- Perito Moreno Glacier
- Laguna de los Tres with Fitz Roy
- Isla Magdalena with the Magellanic penguins
- Mirador Base Las Torres (Mirador Torres)
- Laguna Torre
- W-Trek (O-Trek)
- Grey Glacier
- Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado
- Serrano Glacier
- Catedral de Marmol
- Insider tip: Pali Aike
- Extra tip: Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia
Map with all sights to see in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego
On our interactive map, you will find the most beautiful sights and most important places in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego at a glance. The top highlights can be found in the largely undeveloped wild Andes in the west. The east of Patagonia, meanwhile, is characterized by endless expanses.
1. The Perito Moreno Glacier: Patagonia’s most famous highlight
The Perito Moreno Glacier, located near the tourist-popular town of El Calafate in the Argentine part of Patagonia, is one of the coolest places to visit in the region and in Los Glaciares National Park.
The Perito Moreno Glacier (also known as the Bismarck Glacier or Francisco Gormáz Glacier) is gigantic and the last glacier in the region that is not shrinking despite global warming.
With an area of about 250 square kilometers, the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest outlet glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Thousands of visitors come every day to admire this Patagonia highlight at close range.
The best view of this natural wonder is from the viewing platforms (also suitable for baby carriages and wheelchairs) at the end of the glacier, directly at the glacier lagoon. There are several levels from which you have a magnificent view of the ice towers, which are up to 70 meters high.
With a little patience, you can even see the glacier calving. It’s an unforgettable experience when the blue ice blocks, weighing tons, crash into the water of the glacier lake with a roar and create huge waves. The best chance to see this natural spectacle is at noon when the sun is high and the ice is melting.
You can also observe the Perito Moreno glacier from the water. Excursion boats go to the glacier from the south as well as from the north. You should buy the tickets in advance on the internet. There may be some remaining tickets on site – but you can only pay with cash and only with Argentine pesos.
The entrance fee to the Los Glaciares National Park is 5,500 Argentine Pesos (as of February 2023). By the way, outside the official opening hours, the park is closed and the access road is closed. This is especially annoying for photographers who want to photograph this great sight in the best light.
El Calafate: Starting point of great experiences
|Perito Moreno Glacier: Ice Hike & Boat Trip||approx. 220 euros||➤ booke here*|
|Perito Moreno Glacier & optional boat trip||approx. 40 euros||➤ book here*|
|Perito Moreno Glacier Boat Day Tour with Lunch||approx. 250 euros||➤ book here*|
Tip: Many tourists only visit the viewing platforms. Very worthwhile is also a detour to the Mirador Canal de los Témpanos, just before the main parking lot at the end of the access road (turn right onto the large parking lot). Here you will get a completely different view of this impressive natural highlight.
Our hotel tips in El Calafate
2. The hike to the Laguna de los Tres with Fitz Roy
The Laguna de los Tres at the foot of the imposing, 3,406-meter-high Fitz Roy (also Cerro Fitzroy or Cerro Chaltén) is the next top thing to do in the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, which you should not miss on your Patagonia trip.
Without sweat, however, you will not be able to see this great Patagonian sight. From the village of El Chaltén, a hiking trail leads through the Patagonian mountains up to the picturesquely located glacier lagoon.
From the large parking lot in El Chaltén, the trail leads steeply upwards. Soon you will enjoy great views of the course of the Rio de las Vueltas. After about four kilometers (one to two hours on foot) you will reach the next highlight of the hike, the Laguna Capri. The next kilometers are rather leisurely through the typical Patagonian jungle.
After nine kilometers the trail picks up again. Now it gets down to business. If you are not used to steep climbs (and descents), you will quickly reach your limits here. Hiking poles are sometimes a great help. However, it’s advisable to practice using the poles in advance! Sturdy hiking boots are also a must.
After four to six hours, the destination is finally reached: the Laguna de los Tres. The sight of the glacier lagoon with the mighty granite towers of Fitz Roy in the background will blow your mind!
Time to take a long break. Up here it gets very cold and windy at times. Be sure to bring a warm jacket.
Tip: Climb the small hill on the left. From here you have a great view of the Laguna de los Tres and the lower Laguna Sucia. The waterfall, which you can see from up here in the distance, is not worth it.
In total, the hike to Laguna de los Tres is just under 22 kilometers long (out and back). There are 920 meters of ascent and descent to overcome.
Our hotel-tips in El Chaltén
3. The Isla Magdalena with the Magellanic Penguins
Isla Magdalena (Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos) is nothing more than a barren island in the Strait of Magellan. And yet Isla Magdalena is one of the most famous sights in Patagonia.
This is because of the many Magellanic penguins that live on the island. Visitors have one hour to explore the island with its waddling inhabitants. You can only reach Penguin Island as part of a guided tour from Punta Arenas in Chile. After a long bus ride, you change into a boat. With a bit of luck, you can see dolphins and whales on the boat tour.
Around Isla Magdalena, a hiking trail leads through the realm of the penguins. Don’t get too close to the cute little animals. Penguins can inflict excruciating wounds on troublemakers. Always keep at least two meters away!
After exploring Isla Magdalena, we take a boat to Isla Marta. There is a huge sea lion colony here. Be sure to pack your telephoto lens to capture these imposing animals on camera.
Booking the boat trip to Isla Magdalena and Isla Marta spontaneously in Punta Arenas is almost hopeless. Buy the ticket as early as possible on the internet (book here). We paid 84,000 Chilean pesos per person for the trip (as of February 2023).
|Boat tours from Punta Arenas price ticket||Price||Ticket|
|Penguin tour to Magdalena and Marta islands||approx. 130 euros||➤ book here*|
|Day tour Whales, Penguins, Glaciers||approx. 290 euros||➤ book here*|
Photo tip: You’ll get the best penguin pictures on Isla Magdalena with a strong telephoto lens. We were on the road with a focal length of 100 to 400 mm (full format). Here you can find our photo equipment and here you can find our online photo course.
Our hotel-tips in Punta Arenas
4. The Mirador Base Las Torres (Mirador Torres)
The hike to Mirador Base Las Torres in Torres del Paine National Park is probably the most famous hiking tour in all of Chile. One could also say: Every Chilean has to stand at the foot of the imposing granite towers once in his life. Accordingly, it’s always crowded here – but we consider it an amazing thing to do in Patagonia.
But not only that: The Mirador Base Las Torres is also part of the famous W-Trek (and the longer O-Trek). The W-Trek is not only the most famous hike in Chile but in all of Patagonia. From nine o’clock at the latest, when the excursion buses arrive from Puerto Natales, it gets brutally crowded on the trail.
Young and old torture themselves up the endless path to this imposing Patagonian sight. This makes the hike sometimes very tough. Therefore, start the tour as early as possible to avoid the crowds, at least during the ascent.
Alternatively, you can climb up and spend the night halfway up at the Refugio Chileno. From here it’s only about two hours of ascent to Mirador Base Las Torres. This is especially good if you want to photograph the Torres in the most beautiful morning light (which is done by many hikers who do the W-Trek).
Mirador Base Las Torres is about 21 kilometers round trip from the hiker parking lot (at the information center for the W-Trek). You will overcome 930 meters of ascent and descent. Especially the last part up to the glacier lagoon is very steep. Be sure to bring warm clothes and sturdy hiking shoes!
|Excursions from Puerto Natales||Price||Ticket|
|Torres del Paine: Mirador Base Las Torres day hike||approx. 60 euros||➤ book here*|
|Day trip to Torres del Paine National Park||approx. 80 euros||➤ book here*|
|Boat tour Serrano Glacier with lunch and whiskey aperitif||approx. 180 euros||➤ book here*|
Our hotel-tips in Puerto Natales
5. The mighty Laguna Torre
The hike to Laguna Torre in Los Glaciares National Park is a Patagonia highlight that you will definitely never forget.
You will be rewarded at the end of the hike with a unique view over the Laguna Torre, where huge ice floes drift from the glacier. In the distance, mighty rock spires rise into the sky. You are looking here at the imposing Cerro Torre. The 3,128-meter-high granite mountain is considered one of the most beautiful and challenging mountains in the world.
Cerro Torre creates goosebumps among mountaineers. Hardly any other mountain in the world has so many stories and myths. The first documented successful ascent was in 1974 when a team of four from the Italian climbing club “Ragni di Lecco” made it to the summit via the icy west face.
The story of the Italian Cesare Maestri, who allegedly stood on the summit with his fatally injured comrade Toni Egger as early as 1959, is now considered disproven. In 1970 Maestri returned and fought his way with a compressor to beneath the huge ice field of the summit peak (but again he probably did not reach the summit).
The compressor is still stuck in the rock face today. The “compressor route” is today considered one of the most difficult climbs in the world.
Reinhold Messner has dedicated an entire book* to Cerro Torre. There is also an impressive film* about the Cerro Torre with the unfortunately fatally injured extreme mountaineer David Lama.
The hike to Laguna Torre (starting in El Chaltén) is 18 kilometers long and has 350 meters of altitude (outward and return), so it’s not easy to manage. On your Patagonia trip, the Laguna Torre is an absolute must!
6. The multi-day hike on the W-Trek (O-Trek)
The W-Trek in Torres del Paine National Park is the most famous hike in Patagonia and a real outdoor highlight. Depending on the variant, you will be on the W-Trek for four to six days. By the way, the “W” stands for the route that you hike at the foot of the famous Cuernos.
The highlights of the W-Trek include the view of the Grey Glacier (Glaciar Grey), the Mirador Británico at the end of the Valle Francés (French Valley) and the Mirador Base Las Torres already mentioned above as a top sight.
Tip: The hike through the Valle Francés can also be booked as part of a guided tour from Puerto Natales (book here*).
On the W-Trek you will stay in simple accommodations in the refugios, in rented tents, or your own tent on the designated campgrounds. Because of the high demand you should book your accommodation as early as possible. With a little luck and the right agency, spontaneous bookings a few days in advance are also possible.
The landscape on the W-Trek with the great views will enchant you. What we liked less, are the crowds (also in the evening in the accommodations), which are on the W-Trek.
The multi-day hike on the W-Trek is unfortunately very expensive. At least if you are on the road without your own tent and you eat in the accommodations. For the W-Trek you have to calculate about 1.200 Euro to 1.600 Euro per person for accommodation and food.
You will find more peace and quiet on the O-Trek, which is about 130 kilometers long (but also includes the W-Trek), which we hiked in eight days. However, many of the scenic highlights can be found on the W-Trek.
The O-Trek is even more expensive than the W-Trek. For accommodation and food, you have to calculate 1,600 to 2,600 euros per person on the eight-day tour. It only becomes clearly cheaper with your own tent and own food supply. By the way, you can’t hike the O-Trek without a reservation (refugio or campsite). The rangers check every hiker if he has a reservation!
7. The Grey Glacier
The next top thing to do in Patagonia we highly recommend is the Grey Glacier (Glaciar Grey) in Torres del Paine National Park – a real postcard motif. If you hike the W-Trek or the O-Trek, you will get very close to the huge deep blue ice field on the often windy hiking trail.
The Grey Glacier can also be explored very well by boat. Tickets are available at the Hotel Lago Grey (at least one hour before departure; website). The pier can only be reached on foot. For the difficult walk along the gravel beach, you have to plan 30 to 60 minutes.
The boat trip to the Grey Glacier is an amazing thing to do in Patagonia. The boat goes to all three tongues of the huge glacier. From the deck, you have a breathtaking view of the mighty blue ice masses.
At 85,000 Chilean pesos per person, the half-day excursion is unfortunately not quite cheap (at least a delicious pisco sour is included). The one-way trip to Refugio Grey (75,000 Chilean pesos) is only interesting for hikers who walk the W or O trek. If you book the round trip, you cannot get off or on.
Be sure to pack the thickest clothes you have with you. This is the only way to enjoy the ride on the deck of the boat. Of course, you can also go inside the boat, but outside the experience is much more fun.
8. The view mountain Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado
The 1,520-meter-high Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado in Los Glaciares National Park is a view summit in a class of its own. Of course, you can’t miss this magical place.
From the parking lot in El Chaltén, the ascent is always quite leisurely. Soon you leave the town behind and dive deep into the Patagonian landscape. You will cross a canyon, enjoy great views and hike through the typical jungle. If you’re lucky, you might even see a puma on the hike.
After about seven kilometers you leave the forest behind you. Now it becomes sparse and windy. But the view is magnificent. And often some Andean condors are circling above your head. You will reach the first viewpoint with a fantastic view of the Laguna Torre (our top sight number 5) after about nine kilometers (three to four hours of walking time).
If you still feel like it, you can take the safe but very steep (!) ascent to Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado. The reward for the effort is a gigantic 360-degree panoramic view. The highlights are of course the Laguna Torre with the mighty Cerro Torre in the background. You also have a magnificent view of the Fitz Roy.
The beautiful hike to the Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado is about 19 kilometers long (outward and return). There are almost 1,100 meters of altitude to overcome.
9. The remote Serrano Glacier
The Serrano Glacier in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park (Parque Nacional Bernardo O’Higgins) is another place you must see.
At 35,000 square kilometers, Chile’s largest national park can only be reached by boat (book here*). The tours to this natural wonder start in the morning in Puerto Natales. After a short bus ride, you change to the catamaran in Puerto Bories.
The boat will take you for hours through the impressive Patagonian world of fjords, which is very reminiscent of the landscape in Norway. From the boat deck, you will collect unforgettable impressions of the “Fjord of the Last Hope” (Fiordo de Última Esperanza).
The first highlight of the boat trip is the Balmaceda Glacier (Glaciar Balmaceda). From here it’s not far by boat to the absolute highlight of the excursion: the Serrano Glacier (Glaciar Serrano). Here the boat also docks.
If you like, you can hike with a guide for about half an hour along the Laguna Serrano. At the end of the easy trail, you will get a magnificent view of the unimaginably large glacier that covers large parts of the 2,250-meter-high Monte Balmaceda.
10. The Catedral de Mármol
As the last top sight in Patagonia, we want to introduce you to the Catedral de Mármol. This is an impressive cave system, formed by the erosion of the limestone coast by the water of the huge Lago General Carrera (also Lago Buenos Aires).
Unfortunately, the marble caves in Lago General Carrera are very far from the other well-known Patagonia sights in Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales (about 15 hours drive), El Calafate, and El Chaltén (about 13 hours drive each). So to explore this highlight, you’ll need plenty of time. Two or three weeks in Patagonia are hardly enough.
If you bring this time with you, a unique natural wonder awaits you that you can explore by boat. The boats start in Puerto Río Tranquilo. Some tours also start from Puerto Sánchez.
Unfortunately, we were not at the Catedral de Marmol ourselves. But what is not, can still become :-)
Patagonia secret tip: Pali Aike National Park
We wouldn’t be the Phototravellers if we didn’t have another Patagonia secret tip for you: the Pali Aike National Park inspires with a great volcanic landscape and numerous wild animals like pumas, guanacos, nandus, flamingos, and condors.
In addition, the Pali Aike National Park is little known and hardly visited – a side trip is very worthwhile! The national park reminds us of the Canary Islands, like Lanzarote or Tenerife.
In the small visitor center, the rangers show you all the highlights of the national park. If you travel by camper, you can even stay overnight in the national park. However, you have access only during the regular opening hours (outside the opening hours a locked gate blocks the entrance).
Extra tip: Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia
Tierra del Fuego – which can be reached by car only by ferry – is often counted to Patagonia. However, the Strait of Magellan forms the southern border of Patagonia. So Tierra del Fuego does not belong to Patagonia.
Due to the close proximity, many tourists combine Tierra del Fuego with Patagonia. The most famous place on Tierra del Fuego is Ushuaia on the Argentine side. Ushuaia has long been considered the southernmost city in the world.
Today, Puerto Williams in Chile on Isla Navarino is considered the southernmost city in the world. But whether Puerto Williams, with a population of just over 2,000, is really a city is debatable.
One thing is certain: with just under 70,000 inhabitants, Ushuaia, located at the foot of high mountains, can confidently be called a city. Cruises to Antarctica also depart from Ushuaia.
With the national park Tierra del Fuego there is also a real visitor attraction. The most famous highlights in the Tierra del Fuego National Park include the ride on the Tren del Fin del Mundo (book ticket*) and the southernmost post office in the world (apart from Antarctica).
The most famous sight outside the Tierra del Fuego National Park is Laguna Esmeralda, which you can reach after a hike of about one and a half hours. You should also book a boat trip to Isla Martillo with its many penguins.
Our hotel-tips in Ushuaia
The most important places in Patagonia
As you have surely seen on our Patagonia map, the Patagonia sights are concentrated in the west, at the edge of the largely inaccessible Andes. To the east, you’ll find Patagonia’s seemingly endless steppe landscape.
Patagonia travelers can’t miss Punta Arenas (Chile), Puerto Natales (Chile), El Calafate (Argentina), and El Chaltén (Argentina). On Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia (Argentina) is the main tourist center.
Biggi between the “Punta Arenas”-lettering
From a touristic point of view, Punta Arenas is certainly the most exciting place in Patagonia
If you travel to Patagonia by plane via Santiago de Chile, you will land at the airport of Punta Arenas. The city with its 120,000 inhabitants is one of the most important in Patagonia. In Punta Arenas, there are many restaurants and bars and a beautiful waterfront.
We liked the History Coffee (Google Maps; be sure to try the Pisco Sour) and the Imago LibroArte Café (Google Maps). Delicious empanadas are available at Roca Mar Comida Al Paso (Google Maps).
A must-do is the “Punta Arenas” sign by the sea. Very popular and a great photo motif is also the old dilapidated jetty right by the writing.
Absolutely worth seeing are the Plaza de Armas Punta Arenas (the main square), the Museo Regional de Magallanes, the Palacio Sara Braun, the Monumento A Tripulantes Goleta Ancud at the waterfront, the huge Cementerio Municipal Sara Braun (the cemetery), the viewpoint Cerro de la Cruz and the Museo Nao Victoria with replicas of historical ships in the original size. You have a great view over the sea and Punta Arenas from the Sky Bar in the skyscraper right at the harbor. There are also some shipwrecks to see around the city.
We spent the night in Punta Arenas in the beautiful Hotel Ilaia*.
Puerto Natales – about three hours by bus or car from Punta Arenas – is the gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park. The town itself offers many restaurants and bars. Great cocktails can be found in the Last Hope Distillery (Google Maps), by the way, the southernmost distillery in the world (the free guided tours are a tourist magnet). We also enjoyed “The Coffee Maker” (Google Maps) on the waterfront.
Also very popular is the long boardwalk with the great view over the sea with the mountains in the background.
Nearby (about 20 minutes drive), on the way to the Torres del Paine National Park, a stop at the Cueva del Milodón (Monumento natural Cueva del Milodón) is worthwhile. A huge cave complex awaits you, where the German adventurer Hermann Eberhard discovered a prehistoric Mylodon (giant sloth) in 1895. A figure shows the Mylodon in its original size.
If you travel to Patagonia by plane via Argentina, you will land at the airport of El Calafate.
The town thrives on its proximity to the Perito Moreno Glacier, probably the most famous sight in Patagonia. El Calafate, located on the huge Lago Argentino, is super touristy and somehow reminds us of a western town in the USA. The long main street is lined with restaurants.
One of the top highlights in El Calafate is the Glaciarium Patagonian Ice Museum. Here you will find an exciting exhibition about the Argentine glacier world. There is a free shuttle bus from the center to the museum.
If you want to eat German bread and pretzels again on your long journey through South America, stop at the PANtagonia bakery (Google Maps).
El Chaltén at the foot of the imposing “Fitz Roy” massif calls itself the “Argentine capital of hiking”. The town offers many cafés and restaurants. The highlights can all be found in the surrounding nature.
In El Chaltén, the impressive day hikes to Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Torre, and Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado await you. In addition, there are many other tours, such as the multi-day tour to the huge Viedma Glacier.
Also popular is the short walk to the Chorrillo Del Salto, a 20-meter-high waterfall and one of the top highlights in the immediate vicinity of the village.
If you are traveling in your own car, a trip to Lago del Desierto is also worthwhile.
Free Internet (WLAN) is available at the main square. Otherwise, there is no mobile internet in El Chaltén.
Saving tip: In the La Waflería (Google Maps) there are not only delicious waffles. You can also exchange cash (dollars and euros) – and at a very good rate (“dólar blue”). We got 370 Argentine pesos for one euro in February 2023 (some Visa credit cards have a similar exchange rate).
Ushuaia is the largest city on Tierra del Fuego and also the starting point of Antarctic cruises because of the airport. In addition, Ushuaia is the meeting point for adventurers who want to cross or have already crossed the length of the American continent. The density of huge expedition vehicles is unusually high in Ushuaia.
The city itself is very industrial and not really worth seeing. At the tourist information, you can get a free stamp from the gateway to Antarctica (but such fun stamps in the passport can cause problems).
Worthwhile is a trip to the Glaciar Martial and of course to the national park Tierra del Fuego. The historic Tren del Fin del Mundo also runs here (book ticket*) and at the southernmost post office in the world, you can get another fun stamp in your passport for three dollars. A must-do in Ushuaia is also the hike to Laguna Esmeralda.
You should also book a boat trip to Isla Martillo with the penguins (bookable at Piratur at the cottages at the tourist information, 34,000 Argentine pesos per person). Here you can see Magellanic penguins, Gentoo penguins, and even a pair of King penguins. The two actually swam the wrong way and now probably live on Isla Martillo for the time being.
These were our top sights in Patagonia. Of course, there is much more to discover than just our top 10 highlights. Enclosed you will find some beautiful pictures from Patagonia to dream about. By the way, here you can find our online photo course.