Did you know that winter in the Northern Hemisphere is actually the perfect time for Patagonia hiking? The months typically associated with winter sports and glistening snow offer the polar opposite in the South. So, just as you’re preparing to hunker down this winter, it might be the ideal moment to start fantasizing about a private adventure to nature’s premier playground.
Whether you go this year or next, it’s never too early to start planning your hiking adventure of a lifetime through Patagonia. In this article, we cover all you need to know to tackle some of the world’s most coveted trails during your Argentina personalized tour. From the top hikes and to what to wear, to which cities to pass through on the way, our travel experts don’t miss a beat!
The top hikes in Argentine Patagonia
In an earlier article, we focused on hiking in Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most famous spots in Chilean Patagonia. And Argentina also claims some pretty incredible Patagonian trails, deserving of a detailed overview.
The three following routes, in particular, inspire countless adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts to hit the trail. They also demand moderate to advanced hiking skills (see further below for easy-moderate day-hike destinations). So, for those of you most excited about a hiking challenge in Patagonia, consider one of these classic Patagonia treks in Argentina.
– The Refugio Otto Meiling trail
The jumping-off point for the Refugio Otto Meiling trek is none other than the “Little Switzerland” of Patagonia: San Carlos de Bariloche, or Bariloche, for short! Sitting peacefully in the heart of the Lake District, Bariloche is also considered the gateway into Argentine Patagonia.
You will take a quick shuttle bus ride with your private travel guide from Bariloche to the sleepy town of Pampa Linda, Argentina. Officially entering the great Nahuel Huapi National Park, you will then embark on the 14-kilometer climb to the Otto Meiling Refugio.
Although it is physically possible to hike this trail and return to Bariloche in one day, the logistics and timing of the shuttle to the trailhead and back don’t allow for it. You would also miss an incredible evening of camping, and/or staying in the local refugio (refuge) maintained by the Club Andino de Bariloche.
Catching the sunrise over Cerro Tronador is an experience for the ages because this glacier-capped extinct volcano is the highest peak in all of Nahuel Huapi at 3,484 meters. And you will be just a stone’s throw away from this sleeping giant.
– The Laguna de Los Tres hike
With the Laguna de Los Tres trail, you have a lower altitude to contend with than even the Refugio Otto Meiling hike. At only 744 meters above sea level, this is also a hike you can easily tackle in one day, but most opt for at least one overnight. And we have to agree! The camping opportunity here is too beautiful to pass up, and your customized tour package would allow for flexibility here.
You will find the starting point for the Laguna de Los Tres hike in El Chalten, Argentina, which is the home base for many other iconic Patagonia hiking excursions and sits within the Los Glaciares National Park. Seeing as the Laguna de Los Tres could also be a day hike if you have limited time, you can return to your hotel in El Chalten for some well-deserved rest and relaxation afterward.
Laguna de Los Tres also goes by the name “Fitz Roy hike” due to the postcard view of Mount Fitz Roy gracing its summit. The lagoon at the top actually lies at the center of three incredible mountain peaks (hence its name “de Los Tres”), which include Mount Fitz Roy, Mount Poincenot, and Cerro Torre.
Unlike the Refugio Otto Meiling experience, you won’t need to take any sort of shuttle to the trailhead of Laguna de Los Tres. The trek begins on the outskirts of El Chalten, and you will be able to easily get there walking from your hotel with your guide.
– The Huemul Circuit
The Huemul Circuit is for experienced hikers. Full stop. If you’re looking for a multi-day Patagonia trekking experience, and don’t have time to make it to Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, then the Huemul Circuit makes for an incredible alternative!
This trek also lies within Los Glaciares National Park, so you might want to spend a night or two in El Chalten to get all of your ducks in order with your trekking guide. We would never want to dissuade anyone who has their heart set on embarking on this rewarding journey, but it is important that you are both physically and mentally in top shape for this trail.
The trail itself only stretches 40 miles; however, the rugged hiking conditions require navigating knee-high river paths, walking across glaciers, and battling 60+ mph wind gusts. This is why the overall trek takes between four and five days to complete.
But if you decide to include this unique trail in your Argentina vacation, you should also know that reward is well worth the struggle. It is the only trek in Patagonia that offers a privileged view of the Southern Patagonia Ice field – the world’s second-largest ice mass after the North and South Poles!
How to hike Patagonia
As is the case with most hiking adventures, exploring the trails of Patagonia provides you with the opportunity to disconnect from your busy schedule and vibe with nature’s unfiltered presence. We consider the following two categories of utmost importance when planning a personalized Patagonia hiking adventure.
– The perfect clothes
Rule number one? All the layers! Patagonia weather is both breathtakingly elemental and extremely unpredictable (part of its charm!) This fact really shouldn’t negatively affect your hiking experience if you are properly clad.
This means well-planned outerwear – from a light, but warm, jacket, wind-resistant shell jacket, and rain jacket, plus rain pants. Highly water-proof hiking boots are also a must, in addition to a beanie, brimmed hat, scarf, and mid-weight water-resistant gloves.
You will also want plenty of lightweight, preferably cotton (most breathable material), t-shirts, a fleece, a couple lightweight sweaters, a few pairs of hiking pants, and at least one pair of thermal underwear. A few extra pairs of hiking socks can’t hurt, in addition to a couple synthetic shirts for the quick-drying effect.
Another undeniable draw of traveling through Patagonia is the variety of extremely charming local accommodations, some of which also contribute to a luxury travel experience. Imagine returning from that eye-opening and rustic camping trip in Refugio Otto Meiling and checking into the grand Llao Llao Hotel & Resort in Bariloche – the same hotel that hosted the Obama family.
Can’t miss cities in Argentine Patagonia
You can enjoy some pretty authentic experiences when embarking on leisurely day hikes from any of the following cities in Argentine Patagonia. And if you are a highly-skilled hiker, who already embarked on one of the three aforementioned trails, these cities would provide a laid-back and cultural complement to your hand-crafted itinerary.
– Puerto Madryn
Puerto Madryn is a hotspot for wildlife lovers and offers a wealth of both outdoor and cultural activities. Puerto Madryn serves as the gateway city Península Valdes Reserve, renowned for its unparalleled whale-watching, and intriguing Welsh history & culture. You will also be able to spot elephant seals, sea lions, and Magellanic penguins, orcas, and dolphins!
– El Calafate
You may have already heard of El Calafate, because it is one of the top Patagonia buzzwords, given its proximity to the renowned Perito Moreno Glacier! El Calafate is one of the most-visited Patagonia cities, and for good reason. This bucket-list Patagonia destination gets you a front-row seat to one of the world’s most unique glaciers and is also a quick jumping-off point into Torres del Paine National Park.
How can you plan a trip to Patagonia without at least considering Ushuaia, after all, it is the world’s southernmost city! For some prime light to moderate to advanced hiking, check out Tierra del Fuego National Park, encompassing over 63,000 hectares. If you decide to travel in the Austral winter (May – September), you can also take advantage of some exciting ski routes here.
– Río Gallegos
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, try Río Gallegos! Many consider the fact that few tourists travel here to be the main benefit to visiting this region of Argentine Patagonia. Because you can also stay in a traditional Argentine estancia (ranch), and directly engage with an activity supporting local communities, in addition to taking in the breathtaking nature.
How to hike Patagonia with Kuoda
Most of these hiking experiences require getting your shuttle tickets for transportation to the trailhead, and entrance tickets into the National Parks well ahead of time. Kuoda takes care of all of these nitty-gritty logistical details and more. We leave no stone unturned.
Our Argentina curated trips take all of your interests and expectations into account to create your very own hand-crafted journey. We also pair you with a local expert guide who knows these mountain glacier trails like the back of their hand – with Kuoda, safety comes first, always. Contact us today to get the ball rolling on your meaningful trip through some of the world’s best hiking trails!