Top 10 Budget Activities in Patagonia
In a world of overpriced tours and online packages that will suck your wallet dry, how is it possible to plan your trip while staying under budget? Well look no further than this collection of the best value activities in Patagonia. This is the best of the best: the most cost-effective and spectacular adventures.
1. Hiking The Fitz Roy Loop
Bring your tent and camping gear to the free campsites of El Chalten, Argentina and settle in for some of the world’s most breath-taking scenery. Get up close and personal with two of the world’s storied mountains: Monte Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Fitz Roy is the stuff of legend: its original name bestowed by the indigenous Tehuelche people means “smoking mountain,” and the range is the inspiration for the logo behind the clothing company Patagonia. Cerro Torres was long thought to be insurmountable by the world’s great alpinists: the route to the top is capped by 1 KM of straight vertical incline, followed by a treacherous mushroom ice cap. Throw in rapidly violent weather patterns and you’ve got a challenge the bravest will accept.
Access to this national park is free, so the only costs here are buying food for the hiking trail. You can spend anywhere between 2 and 6 nights in nature’s wonderland taking in all of the glaciers, jagged peaks, and boundless views. Cost: $5-6/Day
2. Trekking on Glacier Exploradores
Without a doubt, one of Patagonia’s most unique adventures is strapping on a sharp pair of crampons and hiking across one of the area’s many glaciers. While such a trip may set you back $200 or more in places, on Chile’s Carretera Austral lies a mostly undiscovered gem that offers the same experience for a third of the price. In Puerto Rio Tranquilo there are a dozen tour operators competing on price and offering a day trip to Glacier Exploradores for $45,000 Chilean pesos. Work your way through the ever-changing tunnels and caverns of the melting ice before finding yourself deep within the glacier itself, surrounded by the sounds of rushing water and blue waterfalls. Cost: $67
3. Marvel at The Perito Moreno Glacier
The most dynamic of Patagonia’s glaciers, the Perito Moreno Glacier outside of El Calafate, Argentina never disappoints. Regardless of how many glaciers you’ve seen before, the 5 KM wide sheer wall of ice astounds visitors with its size and beauty. The front wall of the glacier reaches an astounding 74 meters skywards, while 170 meters of additional ice is trapped below the surface. I can guarantee it right now: feast your eyes on this wonder and it will be one of the highlights of any trip.
Although entry to the park is an expensive 260 pesos, you’ll understand it is worth the price of admission once you get close enough to appreciate the size of this monstrosity. Line up with your camera and trigger finger on the boardwalks, ready to snap some shots of the glacier calving into the water in thunderous claps that reverberate across the mountains. Cost: $17
4. Climb to the summit of Volcano Quetrupillan
Along Chile’s long coast lies a plethora of perfectly canonical volcanoes. These giants are the country’s addition to the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, a circle of tumultuous geological activity responsible for many of the world’s most violent earthquakes. Find yourself on top of one of these snow-capped giants by hiking to the peak of Volcano Quetrupillan outside of Pucon.
This day trip does not require any previous climbing experience, only a pair of strong legs and a determined mindset. Prepare to be wowed by incredible sunrise views of the entire lake district, then turn around and ski or slide down the snowy slope! Cost: $57
5. Hike "The W" at Torres del Paine
One of the more popular hikes in the world has achieved such a superlative due to its outstanding scenery and infrastructure. Everyday on The W (or the longer, more economical and more remote O) leaves you feeling small under the dramatic scenery of Mother Nature and her ridiculous power.
Take in the tremendous Glacier Grey stretching down from the Patagonian ice field, explore all the different angles of the chain of mountains that snakes through the park, and wake up before dawn for the poster-worthy shot of the storied Torres at sunrise. Cost: $25-29/day.
6. Rafting The Futaleufu River
There are rivers, and then there’s the Futaleufu. These Class V rapids are adjacent to a remote border between Chile and Argentina and will leave you reeling, with the adrenaline pumping as huge waves crash into the boat.
Rafting or Kayaking on the world-class swells of the Futaleufu river is an experience you won’t soon forget. Plus, the adventure is just half the price of a rafting trip out of Bariloche, Argentina. a day’s drive away, yet a world difference compared to the chilled-out vibe that ensconces travelers in Futaleufu. Cost: $50
7. Marble Caves
Outside of the sleepy little town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo you’ll find one of the world’s most stunning natural geographic formations. Rising directly out of the crystal clear water are white and grey marble caverns of breathtaking beauty. The rocks fold into themselves and waves lap away at the surface, creating hollowed out caverns that are perfect for exploring. The beauty of this location is simply not to be underestimated, and it’s easily accessible by boat. Cost: $8
8. Route of The 7 Lakes
In Argentina’s lake district between Bariloche and San Martin de Los Andes lie seven lakes of incredible beauty. While driving through Nahuel Huapi national park, give yourself plenty of time for breaks to enjoy the view, snap pictures of the water’s pure surface, and just take it all in. On the way back choose the long route through the undisturbed wilderness to glimpse curious rock formations and an amazing natural amphitheater. Cost: $25-40
9. Monumento Nacional Los Pingüinos
In the middle of the Magellan Strait near Punta Arenas lies Isla Magdalena, a Penguin colony largely undisturbed by the modern trappings of humans. An astounding 20,000 penguins swim, waddle around, and lounge in the sun, turning even the most skeptical visitors into fans of these adorable flightless birds. As the penguins walk across the trail you can get up close and personal with the beautiful and curious creatures or peer into the hovels monogamous pairs have dug out of rock walls to hatch and raise newborn chicks. Cost: $51
10. Cruise Through Fjords on The Naviera Austral
If you search online for boat trips in Patagonia, you’ll most likely come across the Navimag Ferry, which offers trips through the fjords and islands of Western Chile; however, even the cheapest passage on the boat is $200, making it out of range for most backpackers. Much less publicized but much more reasonably priced is the Naviera Austral, which has the same experience of cruising through the immense Patagonian landscapes for just $24. The boat is populated mostly by fisherman heading to their tiny villages, adding to the cultural immersion and leaving you wondering how they survive in such remote outposts of the world. Cost: $24
Where will your adventure in Patagonia take you? Find out the best places to visit and how to see it all on a budget with your copy of Patagonia On A Budget