What not to miss in Patagonia

From giant mountain slides to coastal eco-lodges, here are some of the things everyone should experience across the Argentine region

Patagonia’s vastness and marvelous diversity make it almost impossible to comprehend. There is not just one Patagonia to discover, but many: mountains, seas, glaciers, extreme sports, fine dining, and wines are just some of the incredible options available throughout its 800,000 square kilometers.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the incredible destinations not to miss.

What not to miss in the Patagonian mountains

The Refugio Trail in Bariloche (Rio Negro) | The national capital of snow, chocolate and the Patagonian mountains, Bariloche sits within the Nahuel Huapi National Park on the shores of the lake of the same name. It is home to some of southern Argentina’s most beautiful beaches, such as Melipal, Serena and Del Toro, which are bathed in glacial waters. It is a paradise for lovers of kite surfing and paragliding. 

Overlooking Bariloche are eight mountains that seem to encapsulate the ways you can explore the paths, lakes and woodlands of the Andean Cordillera — and visit their refugios or mountain shelters. 

  • Otto (accessible by car and cable car) 
  • Campanario (whiz up on a chairlift to the cake shop at the summit)  
  • Lopez (a strenuous day hike or the last of four refugios on the multi-day Nahuel Huapi Traverse)
  • Runge (where you can descend via chairlift or go down a giant slide)
  • Challhuaco (with slopes specifically for sleighing down) 
  • Leones (from where you can visit caverns with cave paintings on the walls) 
  • Tronador (the highest, with vistas over seven glaciers) 
  • Catedral (the largest ski center in the Southern Hemisphere) 

You can find all the information about the refugios, paths and mountain campsites on www.clubandino.org

The tulip field (Chubut) | This is an ephemeral and unique spectacle: rows of 30 varieties of the flower, originally from Turkey but synonymous with Holland, cut a striking profile against the snowy background of the Cordillera. This 3.5-hectare multi-colored carpet is the largest tulip field in all of Argentina and its splendor lasts for just 30 days, which is the time it takes to harvest them at the end of October to sell their bulbs. The flowers are thrown away. 

The family-run business is in Trevelín, in a gorgeous mountain villa at the entry to Los Alerces National Park. As well as taking part in guided walks through the tulip farm, visitors can savor a typical Welsh tea service with a view out over the flowers. The cherry on the teacake is the nocturnal tour, available only when there’s a full moon. It has a waiting list! 

More info on booking details: https://tulipanespatagonia.com.ar/ 

What not to miss on the Patagonian Coast

Bahia Bustamante Lodge (Chubut) | A secret passed on by word of mouth between lovers of authentic and sustainable immersive nature tourism, the New York Times compared Bahía Bustamante to the Galapagos Islands because of its status as a reserve for biodiversity. In the 1950s, the lodge functioned as an institute dedicated to collecting seaweed. 

The heirs renovated the old buildings — houses, a church, a general store, a club, and warehouses — and transformed it into a private town with a five-star eco-lodge on the Patagonian steppe, facing the sea. It’s so remote that there’s no Wi-Fi signal. Solar is the main source of power, and the menu is based on the establishment’s lamb, fish, seafood, and vegetable production. 

As well as spotting marine life just a few meters from the beach, guests can enjoy a program of activities including trekking to a 60 million-year-old petrified forest, bike tours, and days on the beach in natural swimming pools of ruddy rock with warm, clear water and excursions in 4×4 to an old lighthouse that has featured fascinating legends of shipwrecks. More information and booking: www.bahiabustamante.com

The Pinot Noir route (Neuquén) | The cultivar is emblematic of Patagonia, the heart of Argentina’s most innovative sparkling wines. It’s also the varietal that drove the transformation of old fruit fields in the valley of San Patricio Del Chañar, 46km from the city of Neuquén, into the youngest and most promising wine hub of the country. The figures of this phenomenon speak for themselves: of the 10 active wineries, eight of them export. There are guided visits to the region’s vineyards and pioneering barrel rooms (Bodega Fin del Mundo), access to paleontological discoveries on the farms (Familia Schroeder), and gourmet restaurants with vistas over the hills (Bodega Malma), as well as limited edition tastings (Secreto Patagónico).

What not to miss in southern Patagonia

El Chaltén (Santa Cruz) | The Argentine capital of trekking is a little over 200km from the Perito Moreno glacier. It’s a mountain hamlet at the foot of the vertical Fitzroy massif. 

The youngest village in Patagonia, it was founded in 1985, in the middle of the border conflict between Argentina and Chile. It is the frenetic point of departure or rest stop for intrepid hikers and mountaineers who want to climb the Torre and El Chaltén hills. True andinistas don’t give up until they’ve completed the demanding trek to Laguna De Los Tres, an oasis watched over by ancient hanging glaciers. More information on www.elchalten.com

Ushuaia by helicopter (Tierra del Fuego) | No-one who’s done all the maritime and land excursions in the southernmost city in the world can say that they truly know it unless they’ve flown over the city at least once by helicopter. One of the most complete trips is the Peninsula Mitre program, a circuit to observe remains of shipwrecks, abandoned mines, and cliffs inhabited only by wild cattle. Suitable only for the intrepid is the heli-skiing and heli-boarding option, which includes three landings in the Andean Cordillera for off-road descents on virgin snow, guided by experienced skiers and avalanche specialists. 

More information and bookings: www.heliushuaia.com.ar


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