12 THINGS TO DO IN PATAGONIA IN THE WINTER
by Katherine Oakes
Like many other popular destinations around the world, Patagonia also experiences an influx of visitors during its high season. The best way to avoid this chaos is simple: visit Patagonia in the winter (April through September). The off-season is arguably one of the best times to visit the park not only because you can truly experience its rugged, remote wilderness but also for less obvious reasons, like the prime weather conditions.
This is a bucket-list trip for sure and well worth the effort it takes to plan out the perfect itinerary — of course, with a little wiggle room for spontaneous adventures and unexpected obstacles that always make for the best stories. So if you’re up for a chilly visit to South America’s most beautiful region you are in the right place.
And as it goes in all of the destinations we share, please practice good trail etiquette and remember to Leave No Trace. This means packing out all of your garbage, being respectful to others on busy trails, and following the established rules.
Thinking about planning a visit to the bottom of the earth? Here are 12 things to do when visiting Patagonia in the winter.
Top 3 Planning Tips for Visiting Patagonia in the Winter
1) Plan out your timeline first and pick a region to visit second
What many first-time visitors don’t realize about Patagonia is that the region is enormous (400,000 miles to be exact) and visiting different areas within a few days time isn’t a realistic goal. Plan the length of your trip first and then choose which regions you want to explore. This way you can factor in the proper amount of travel time that will allow you to be fully immersed in your park experience — not your tight schedule.
2) Choose your own Patagonian winter adventure…
Literally! The six regions of Patagonia are geologically diverse, so no regions have weather that are exactly the same — some even have their own microclimates. During the winter, different areas offer different outdoor activities that you can’t do in the warmer months, like trekking over ice caps, skiing on snow-capped volcanoes or experiencing one of the most famous parks without the crowds. So, decide what sort of outdoor adventure you are up for and choose the region(s) accordingly.
3) Book a hotel and transportation ahead of time
Like any popular tourist destination, the off-season can get pretty quiet. It’s a good idea to start booking your accommodations and transportation at least three months in advance to make sure places are open. One of the biggest hurdles in planning our trip was realizing we might not hear back from some travel agencies and some hotels might not be open. It’s better to rule that out sooner rather than later, so don’t wait for the last second to make plans.
12 Things to do in Patagonia in the Winter
1) Go skiing in Patagonia
Skiing in South America is an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Carve out time to make some turns in Chilean or Argentinian Patagonia if you are able to, and ski at resorts like Cerro Bayo, Cerro Catedral, and Chapelco. It may be one of the pricier activities but is a can’t-miss opportunity for all you powderhounds out there!
Read More About What to Wear Skiing
2) Keep an eye out for wildlife
Thanks to the decrease in visitors, wildlife sightings are pretty incredible during the winter season. Catch a glimpse of the park’s pumas, condors and penguins from a safe distance and take pictures! It’s unlikely that you will see these animals in the wild up close like this anywhere else in the world.
3) Visit Torres Del Paine, Patagonia in the winter
The winter season is one of the best times to visit the park’s most famous region of Torres Del Paine. During this time of year, there aren’t any dangerous wind speeds that prevent you from hiking to the summit of most peaks and the views are unparalleled. Don’t worry about subzero temperatures or tons of snow, some areas have microclimates and most of the park experiences a light frost and mild cold weather. Clear blue skies and no crowds make a trip to Torres del Paine during the winter a perfect way to experience Patagonia at its most remote.
4) Tour Los Glaciares, Patagonia
As you can tell by the name, this region is home to the largest population of glaciers in Patagonia. Visiting Los Glaciares during the winter can be as relaxing or adventurous as you like, with options like hiking to see the Fitz Roy Massif, snowshoeing, and more.
5) Explore Patagonia’s parks on horseback
Hiking will certainly keep you warm but exploring the area on horseback is another way to see the park without fear of catching a chill. Some hotels have stables of their own for guests who want to go out riding or visitors can reach out to private guides like Tours by Locals (which I’d recommend) to help you set up the best experience.
6) Hike the Dientes de Navarino Circuit
This challenging 5-day trek is famous for being remote, wild and beautiful. Located at the bottom of Patagonia, you will pass over the Beagle Channel and visit Puerto Williams on your way down. Hiring a guide through Tours by Locals is a great option and a good idea to play it safe, especially in the winter. Bring sturdy hiking boots and a pair of microspikes, as well as a good pair of trekking poles to help keep a steady pace and protect your knees.
Read our guide on how to layer for winter hiking & our favorite gear for winter hikes
7) Visit Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Famous for being the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia is located at the bottom tip of the continent in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It’s a stunning city that’s perched on a hill with access to tons of winter sports like skiing, ice skating, dog sledding, and trekking. It’s also known for being, “the gateway to Antarctica”—you know, if you’ve got time to spare.
8) See the King Penguin colonies
One of Patagonia’s most popular residents are their King Penguins. These beautiful seabirds are visible from a safe distance on expeditions in parks such as Tierra del Fuego and Torres del Paine, where you can go with an experienced guide by boat to see this incredible species up close.
9) Visit the Argentinian town of El Chalten
The small town of El Chalten sits in the corner of Patagonia, straddling the border of Chile and Argentina in Los Glaciares. It’s a magical spot known for its close proximity to hiking, kayaking, backpacking, horseback riding and more. It’s also popular for having a laid back, Patagonia hippie vibe, which is a truly unique cultural experience. Before you head there, make sure you book a hotel as much of the town shuts down in winter.
10) Go ski touring on Patagonian volcanoes
One of the most epic ways to experience the volcanoes of Patagonia is through a guided ski tour. Head to the Araucaria forest to ski 4 of the most famous snow-capped volcanoes and some seriously relaxing thermal hot springs. Sounds like the perfect trip to me!
11) Kayak the Valdez Peninsula
Going on a winter kayaking excursion in Patagonia is worth getting a little chilly! You’ll warm up as you paddle and forget all about the temperatures when you see the penguins, whales and sea lions up close.
12) Have a pisco sour!
No matter what time of the year, there’s simply no excuse to not have a Pisco Sour, Chile’s national drink. This sweet, tangy and fizzy libation can be had throughout the entire country and Chilean bartenders take great pride in serving you one. Also make sure to try the Argentinian version, a Pisco Calafate, which uses a different fruit but delivers the same delicious taste and South American drinking experience!
Have you been to Patagonia in the winter? What else would you add to our list? Have questions? Leave us a comment below.