High season in Patagonia is November to March. Most people do not consider visiting outside of these times. However, Patagonia during the winter months (in the Southern Hemisphere) is delightful, peaceful and incredibly beautiful. Patagonia in winter is pretty different to the summer months. You can get cheaper accommodation, go on stunning winter wonderland walks, avoid the crowds and enjoy fresh, clear, sunny winter days. I fell in love with winter time in Patagonia. We visited in July to August and found very little information about travelling in Patagonia at this time of year. It can be tricky, but it’s totally doable and completely worth it! Here’s your comprehensive guide to travelling in Patagonia during the chilly winter months.
When is winter in Patagonia?
Winter in southern Argentina and Chile is between June and August. The northern parts of both Chile and Argentina are generally warmer and milder. It’s just the south (basically Patagonia) that experiences a proper winter.
Buses in Patagonia
Distances in Patagonia, and Chile and Argentina more broadly are insane. You will spend days on buses whilst visiting Patagonia, unless you fly around. Buses are not a bad option though, most are ridiculously comfortable and the scenery is amazing. I loved the long bus journeys in Patagonia.
In winter, be warned that although MOST buses run between different locations, some don’t. I’ll flag up which bus routes are open and which ones aren’t.
Crossing over the border between Argentina and Chile
Patagonia is absolutely massive, way bigger than most people realise. It’s a massive 1,043,076 km squared and covers large parts of both Argentina and Chile. When you travel to Patagonia you often have to cross between Argentina and Chile, then Argentina again and then Chile again on the bus. You have to go through border crossings and often get rid of your fresh food.
Your bus will take you to the border, then you get out and go through each immigration, get a stamp and then get back on your bus. Like us, you will end up with a massive amount of Chilean or Argentinian stamps in your passport!
Budget for Chile and Argentina
Let’s talk about money! Both Chile and Argentina are not cheap countries. In fact they are two of the most expensive countries in South America.
Accommodation in Argentina/Chile:
Accommodation isn’t cheap, but is far more reasonable during the winter months. We spent around £27 GBP ($35 USD) per night for nice double rooms. You could probably do it cheaper in hostels, but as a couple it’s often around the same price just to get a private room compared to getting 2 dorm beds.
Food and activities:
Evening meals were around £20 ($26 USD) for both of us. Often, we made sandwiches for lunch and bought yogurts, bread and such for breakfast to save money. We didn’t buy any souvenirs. Activities are generally expensive. I will detail specific prices for different activities below.
How much we spent in Chile and Argentina:
Our total costs for Chile and Argentina was £5700 for just over 2 months for 2 people. This includes internal flights, buses, accommodation, food and activities such as skiing/volcano trekking. Luckily James had been to Argentina and Chile before so we knew in advance they would be expensive countries.
Horrendous ATM fees
Argentina particularly has absolutely outrageous ATM withdrawal fees (around £8 GBP /$10 USD) and the amount you can withdraw is small. These fees can really add up. Here’s how to avoid ATM fees in Argentina.
Patagonia In Winter: Itinerary
High season itineraries don’t cut it when you spend some time in Patagonia during the winter months. Some roads are closed and at times it can be tricky to get around. Certain places are just not worth going to. Here’s where to go and how to get to each place.
Stop 1: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Winter rating: ❄️❄️ (lovely weather)
Although this is not Patagonia, Buenos Aires in the winter is delightful. It’s often sunny, cold and clear, which is my favourite weather. The city is quiet and peaceful during the winter months. You can get bargain-priced, extremely lovely accommodation.
Amazing accommodation in Buenos Aires, Argentina:
We stayed at the beautiful Avenida Tango which had some pretty impressive views of the city from the balcony! In winter time this almost luxury accommodation was very cheap.
Things to do in Buenos Aires, Argentina:
- Walking Tours: Buenos Aires Free Walks are immensely good. The guides are engaging and knowledgeable of the fascinating history of Argentina and of Buenos Aires. I went on two of these tours (Recoleta and City Centre) and loved them both.
- Recoleta Cemetery: The Recoleta cemetery is really worth visiting. It is famous for having Evita Peron’s grave. Evita is a controversial figure in Argentina, with many people loving her and many hating her. The Recoleta cemetery is pretty and interesting to walk around, with tombs bigger than a standard rental flat in London.
- Recoleta Area: I explored the Recoleta area as part of my free walking tour. However if you aren’t doing that, do visit this scenic area.
- Casa Rosada: This is Argentina’s version of the White House. Except it’s pink!
- Congressional Plaza: This plaza is home to the important political buildings of Argentina. I learnt about the congressional plaza during the free walking tour, so I recommend doing a walking tour.
- Puerto Madero: The regenerated port area behind Casa Rosada. It is a nice area for strolling and there are some fancy restaurants. It reminded me of St Katherine’s Docks in London. There’s also several old boats that have been turned into museums (Sarmiento and Uruguay), the Bridge of the Woman (Puente de la Mujer), some nice green spaces (like Parque Mujeres), a big promenade and the nature reserve (Reserva Ecologica), which is a lovely place to walk around if you want to escape the city without leaving it. It gets a bit busier at the weekend but is empty during the week and is free!
- La Boca Neighborhood: A few years ago Boca was a glorious and colourful neighborhood to visit. These days it’s still colourful but is horrific. It’s full of crowds and absolutely shite tourist tat. Also be careful, the area around La Boca is pretty dangerous if you stray off of the tourist streets.
Pop to Iguazu Falls:
Before heading into deepest, darkest Patagonia you might want to visit the popular Iguazú Falls. These world famous waterfalls are situated on the border of Argentina and Brazil. On both sides you can view the waterfalls. Do note, when we visited they were ridiculously busy. Here’s how to avoid the crowds at Iguazu falls.
Stop 2: Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn is popular in the summer time, as it has pretty beaches and there is a super cute penguin colony. Punta Tombo is three hours outside of Puerto Madryn and home to over 1.2 million penguins. This has gotta be worth a visit right? The issue is they aren’t really around outside of the months of September and March. Boo!
I had also read about the elephant seals on Isla Escondida, but again they are only around in October. Every year, around March and April, the Orcas arrive in the Valdes Peninsula, where they eat a lot of seals! Whilst this all sounds amazing, we were in Argentina at the wrong time of year.
However, all hope is not lost if you do want to visit Puerto Madryn during the winter months. Between June and November, you can spot southern right whales who breed in the waters around Puerto Madryn at this time of the year.
How to get to Puerto Madryn from Buenos Aires:
We decided to skip Puerto Madryn, just because Argentina was absolutely bashing our travel budget and we were trying to avoid flying around too much. However, it’s just under 2 hours from Buenos Aires by plane and 18+ hours by bus. You can book buses through BusBud.
Do note, to then get down to Ushuaia (mentioned below) you have to fly from Trelew. Or alternatively sit on a bus from Puerto Madryn to Rio Gallegos for 17 hours, then change buses at Rio Gallegos and spend another 10 hours on a bus getting to Ushuaia. This final journey involves a 20 minute ferry crossing across the Straits of Magellan and exiting Argentina, entering Chile, exiting Chile and then re-entering Argentina. It took these travellers 30 hours to get from Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia via bus.
Stop 2: Ushuaia, Argentina
Patagonia in winter rating: ❄️❄️❄️ (boat trips and beautiful winter treks)
Ushuaia was our first stop in Patagonia, and it’s an amazing wintry travel destination! It is Argentina’s southernmost city and apparently is the most southern city in the world. Although this is often contested with Chile. Ushuaia is nicknamed the “end of the world”
In winter, it certainly felt like the end of the world. The sun didn’t rise until almost 10am. Ushuaia is a standard slightly tumbledown Argentinian city, but is surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains with loads of awesome winter stuff to do.
Things to do in Ushuaia (Argentina) in winter:
- Boat trip: You can visit the famous Ushuaia penguins in winter but only one agency runs this boat tour and it is significantly more expensive compared to summertime. Also there are only around 50 penguins there vs thousands in the summer as they are off having fun somewhere else in winter. However, you can do an awesome and much more personal boat trip to see the seals, sea lions, lots of cool birds and lighthouse. We did a craft beer boat trip on a teeny weeny boat. It was an amazing day. We went with Yate Tango and paid ARS 2,000 (£38) each.
- Trekking in Tierra Del Fuego Parque National: Tierra Del Fuego national park is totally beautiful. It’s full of lakes, snowy mountains and glorious fairy tale forests. You can enter this national park for free in the winter. It’s just the bus that costs a bomb at ARS 850 or £16 GBP/$20 USD per person. We did the Hito XXIV walk to the Chilean border post and got some amazing mountain views. To get there, take the bus from the main bus terminal on Avenida Maipu next to the big petrol station. The first bus in the morning was 10am and the return trip from the car park of the restaurant and info centre is at 3pm or 5pm.
- Tierra Del Fuego Train: You can take the train at the end of the world too as part of your trip to Tierra Del Fuego. The bus can drop you off and pick you up from the station and the train will then take you into the park. You still need to pay almost full price, if not full price for the bus and then the train is quite expensive too so we opted out of doing this. Check latest train prices and schedules.
- Trek to Playa Larga and beyond: This walk is SO worth doing. It’s along incredible coastline and at the end you get a little surprise. Oh and it costs barely anything and the scenery is almost identical to the national park.
- Dog sledding: Yes, you can do dog sledding in Ushuaia! Ushuaia was actually one of the few places we saw it available in Patagonia. It costs around ARS 2,400 per person or about £46.
- Skiing in Ushuaia: We didn’t ski in Ushuaia, but only because we planned to ski in Bariloche. Bariloche was a nightmare for skiing, particularly if you are a beginner. So, I’d recommend looking into doing it in Ushuaia instead!
- Scuba diving: Yes, if you are completely bonkers you can scuba dive in the cold waters around Ushuaia. Diving costs $160 USD and you can do it with Ushuaia Divers during the winter months.
- Museo Maritimo & Presidio: This is Ushuaia’s maritime and old prison museum. It’s cool as it is based in a prison block, but it was a little random at times, overkill on information in some parts then no information in other sections. It’s pretty pricey to visit at ARS 600 (£12/$15 USD) per person or ARS 450 (£9/$12 USD) for students.
How to get from Iguazú or Buenos Aires to Ushuaia:
Again due to the size of Argentina, we had to fly and do a stop off in Buenos Aires.
Stop 3: Torres Del Paine, Chile
Patagonia in winter rating: (too expensive)
Winter time in Torres Del Paine is meant to be incredible. I wanted to do the famous W trek so badly. However we decided against visiting Torres Del Paine in winter for the following reasons:
- Although previously you could do the W trek without a guide during winter, now it’s compulsory to have a guide.
- It’s very expensive to do the trek with a guide. I’m talking over a thousand dollars per person. This was TOTALLY out of our backpacker budget.
- You can do other things in the National Park, but there is no direct bus that operates every day in the winter between Torres Del Paine and Puerto Natales (where you have to stay).
Stop 4: El Calafate, Argentina
Patagonia in winter rating: ❄️❄️ (incredible glacier)
Three words. Perito Moreno Glacier. After you see this, no other glacier will compare. It’s stunning and the main reason people visit El Calafate, Argentina. However, there isn’t that much else to do in El Calafate that doesn’t cost an absolute fortune.
Things to do in El Calafate (Argentina) in winter:
- Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier: And just gape at it in amazement like I did. You can pay extra to walk on the glacier using crampons or take a boat trip up to the glacier. We arranged transport to get to the glacier at the bus station in El Calafate.
- Bird Reserve El Calafate: There is the bird reserve in El Calafate which is pretty, it’s called Laguna Nimez. You can pop out into the beach and walk to the spit which is pleasant.
- The Glaciarium: The glacier museum is totally worth a visit. The views of the mountains from the museum are stonking and the museum is interesting and has a good level of information. The Ice Bar apparently isn’t worth visiting, we didn’t bother with that aspect!
- Museum El Centro de Interpretación: Highly recommended and focuses on local history.
- 4×4 trips: You can take 4×4 trips into the mountains through the tour agencies in El Calafate. But as you can imagine these are pricey!
- Hire a bike: You can also rent a bike and cycle along the lake. We walked it but weren’t very impressed. It was a lot of nothing interesting to see! With bikes, you could go further and perhaps get to more scenic bits.
- Ice skating: Apparently you can ice skate on the Argentino Lake. This was recommended as something to do by wikitravel and El Calafate tourist information. God knows where you’d hire skates from though and the ice was certainly not thick enough when we were there in deep winter!
How to get from Ushuaia to El Calafate:
You can take buses all the way from Ushuaia to El Calafate. This takes around 14 hours. You have to cross over to Chile, take a ferry and then cross back again. In Rio Gallegos (Argentina) you have to change buses. We decided to break the journey up a little and stay overnight in Rio Gallegos. There’s not much there. You can book buses through BusBud.
Stop 5: El Chalten, Argentina
Patagonia in winter rating: ❄️❄️❄️ (amazing trekking)
Situated deep in the Patagonian mountains, winter in El Chalten is wild, but good fun and beautiful. Expect most restaurants, bars and shops to be closed, but the independent walks you can do there are still amazing despite the harsh conditions. Here’s our comprehensive blog on visiting El Chalten in winter.
Cosy accomodation in El Chalten
Make sure you book self catering accommodation if you visit El Chalten in winter, as otherwise you are going to go hungry. We stayed at a lovely self catering apartment called Apart Guillaumet which had everything you need to keep you warm and cosy after long winter treks!
Things to do in El Chalten (Argentina) in winter:
- There are many independent walks you can do in El Chalten, just make sure you bring the right gear for winter. We did the following walks: Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado, Laguna Capri and Viewpoint Fitz Roy, and Laguna Torre.
Getting from El Calafate to El Chalten:
The bus to El Chalten from El Calafate is really good, comfortable and takes about 3 hours. It costs 800 pesos per person, each way. In winter the bus leaves at 8am from El Calafate. The bus goes from El Chalten to El Calafate twice a day at 8am and 5pm. You can book the bus at the bus station in El Calafate.
Stop 6: Bariloche, Argentina
Patagonia in winter rating: ❄️ (too busy!)
Bariloche is meant to be ‘the place’ to visit in the winter in Patagonia. And it should be, it has skiing and lovely treks. But it was not fabulous at all. Accommodation in Bariloche was expensive and poor quality compared to the rest of Patagonia this time of year. The place was PACKED. Popular restaurants often had huge queues outside them in the evenings. And the skiing was an absolute nightmare. I’ve written a blog on how to ski in Bariloche (as the information offered by tourist information was so limited) and what issues we had with skiing in Bariloche.
Things to do in Bariloche (Argentina) in winter:
- Skiing at Catedral Alta Patagonia: Find out how to ski in Bariloche.
- Hiking: Walking around the countryside near Bariloche is fabulous. Many of the main walks were closed due to bad weather, but Cerro Llao Llao was open and beautiful.
- Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady: For Brits or other Europeans who are used to endless churches and cathedrals, it’s not much to write home about but it’s nice enough.
- Museo De La Patagonia: It is a quirky little museum on the history of the local area, but is well reviewed and reasonably priced.
- Walking tour of Bariloche: You can do a walking tour on the German footprint in Bariloche. Spoiler alert: Bariloche was a haven for fugitive nazi war criminals.
How to get from El Chalten to Bariloche:
You first have to head back to El Calafate. You cannot take a bus between El Calafate and Bariloche due to some of the Road 40 being closed during the winter months. We ended up having to fly via Buenos Aires (mad).
Stop 7: San Martin De Los Andes, Argentina
We merely stopped off in San Martin De Los Andes and literally the town is beautiful. It’s full of cosy looking wooden lodges and is way less touristy than nearby Bariloche. I wish we’d stayed for a few days, as it seems to be a well kept secret in Argentina. If you plan to stop off here are some things you could do in San Martin De Los Andes.
How to get from Bariloche to San Martin:
You can take a bus which takes around 3.5 hours. Again, you can book this via BusBud.
Stop 8: Pucon, Chile
Patagonia in winter rating: ❄️❄️❄️ (quiet and beautiful)
Pucon is a pretty town situated on the Chilean side of Patagonia. It’s near volcano Villarrica, which is one of Chile’s most active volcanos. Pucon has a beautiful lake with a black sand beach and there are some stunning wintry walks you can do in the area. However, Pucon is a little rainy in winter. Although, when it has good days, they are amazing, with beautiful clear skies. Accommodation is cheaper in the winter and the town isn’t very busy at all.
Adorable Pucon accommodation:
We stayed in some beautiful accommodation in Pucon called Lounge Brasil Hosteria Boutique. It was one of my favourite places we’ve stayed at in our 14 months of travel. The breakfast is AMAZING too.
Things to do in Pucon (Chile) in winter:
- Climb Volcano Villarrica: Yes you can still climb Villarrica in the winter. However, I tried and failed. It’s much harder in the winter. It was very icy, snowy, windy, absolutely freezing and I found it terrifying! You need a guide, crampons, a ice axe and all the clothes. We turned back 600m from the top due to the fact it was extremely windy and icy. It would have taken us another 3 hours to get to the top in these conditions and my nerves were totally shot. I was convinced I was gunna die falling off the volcano. Many other groups turned back earlier than us. We went with Agencia Patagonia Experience, a guide and all the gear up the volcano costs around £104 (which included a visit to the awesome local hot springs the next day). Despite the conditions, on a clear day the views are incredible and the best I’ve ever seen. I was too cold, terrified and it was too windy to photograph them though.
- Skiing in Pucon: You can go skiing in Pucon. It’s not cheap, the chair lifts are old fashioned but there aren’t many other places in the world that you can ski on an active volcano are there?
- Do a wintry trek in Huerquehue National park: We did the Los Lagos walk which was 7.7km each way. San Sebastian mountain was closed, but goes up to around 1,800m. Los Lagos was a truly stunning walk through a magical winter wonderland. Here’s how to do this trek and here’s some information on buses to get to Huerquehue National Park, with the Caburgua bus leaving at 8:30am from the bus terminal on Uruguay road in Pucon. The last bus back leaves at 5:10pm from the entrance of the park. Do double check these times though, as they are subject to change!
- Watch the sunset on the black sand beach: On a clear day, grab some beers from the supermarket and head to beach Playa Grande to watch the sunset. Winter sunsets in Patagonia are pretty amazing.
- Walk around the peninsula: Pucon has a little peninsula you can stroll around. It’s very pleasant and there’s a secret little beach you can visit. Just follow the route around on the maps.me app (which you can use offline!).
How to get to Pucon from San Martin/Bariloche:
You can get the bus from Bariloche to Pucon, you’ll need to change at San Martin De Los Andes.
Stop 9: Santiago, Chile
Winter rating: ❄️ (not wintry)
By this point, the winter rating is irrelevant! Santiago in winter is not boiling but it’s warmed up. You’ll still need your winter gear at night. Santiago isn’t worth spending too much time. It’s not a terrible city but is a bit meh!
Safety note on Chile:
Chile has been experiencing significant protests, violence and unrest recently. Do check the British Foreign Office travel advice on Chile regularly on where you should avoid for your own safety. Parts of Valparaiso and Santiago are mentioned.
Things to do in Santiago, Chile:
- Free walking tour: A walking tour with free walking tour Santiago is totally worth your time. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and we learned a lot about Chilean history.
- Santa Lucia Hill: Santa Lucia Hill is a great place for getting views across Santiago. Head there for 12noon when they blast the canon off.
- Wine tasting: Concha Y Toro is probably the most famous wine in South America. You can do a wine tasting tour of the Concha Y Toro winery near Santiago.
- Parque Metropolitano De Santiago: You can climb up the hill (or take the funicular) and get views across the city, see the statue of the virgin and the little church.
- Museo Historico Nacional: This museum is probably interesting if you can speak Spanish well. There’s nothing in English so best not to bother if you aren’t fluent. It’s free though!
- Valparaiso: Valparaiso is about an hour and a half away from Santiago. This city is known for its colourful streets full of street art. It does offer interesting street art and nice streets, but do note this is only in a small part of the city. A lot of the city is quite run down and you can’t seem to access the coastline. You can get to Valparaiso from Santiago via Pajaritos bus terminal where Pullman and Turbus buses go regularly.
- El Cajon Del Maipo: Sadly in winter this national park is closed. Instead we headed to Quebrada De Macul to do a walk. It’s nearby to Santiago but the walk was busy and underwhelming. The waterfall at the end of it is vandalised and thus disappointing. Here’s how to get to the Quebrada De Macul walk if you want to get out of Santiago and stretch your legs!
How to get from Pucon to Santiago:
You can take the night bus directly from Pucon to Santiago. Again this can be booked via BusBud. We booked it at the Pullman bus terminal in Pucon though.
Other places worth visiting in Argentina and Chile:
If you have more time, and want to venture out of Patagonia, here are some other places you might want to visit in Chile and Argentina:
- Iguazu Falls, Argentina: Iguazu Falls is probably one of South America’s most awe-inspiring waterfalls. You can fly to Iguazu Falls from Buenos Aires, and spend a few days visiting both the Argentinian and Brazilian side of these impressive waterfalls. Do note, they get extremely busy though. Here’s how to avoid the crowds at Iguazu falls.
- Mendoza, Argentina: Mendoza is famous for delightful Argentinian wine (the best in the world in my opinion!). You can visit local wineries, sample the wine and also do horse riding and paragliding in Mendoza. From Santiago, you can take a bus to Mendoza. We weren’t sure if it was possible, as there were no buses online when we looked during the winter months. On the bus you have to cross over the Andes mountains, so the weather can be changeable. However, buses were running when we went to Santiago in August.
- La Serena, Chile: You can head to La Serena from Santiago, it’s on the way to the popular Atacama Desert. La Serena is totally worth visiting, particularly for the stunning Damas Islands (Isla Damas). These are covered with squawking birds of many unique varieties, barking sea lions, sea otters bobbing their heads above the waves and penguins. Stargazing in the nearby Elqui Valley is breathtaking. Here’s my travel guide to La Serena, Chile.
- San Pedro De Atacama, Chile: The Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and if you visit you’ll feel like you have landed on another planet. You can take tours (or drive if you have a car) out into the desert, visit the salt flats and see flamingos. Stargazing is popular and also spectacular here. To get there, you can fly to nearby Calama from Santiago and then head to San Pedro De Atacama, or alternatively take the bus (23+ hours) from Santiago. I recommend doing a stop off in La Serena like we did to break up the journey!
- Arica, Chile: Arica in north Chile is really only worth visiting to get to Peru or Bolivia. It’s a border town. You can visit the nearby (but not that near) Lauca National Park. Unfortunately one of the only ways to do this (unless you have your own car) is via a vomit tour going from sea level to 4600m in one day. It’s a long day and probably not worth it, find out why in my Arica travel guide.
Clothes for Patagonia in the winter
As mentioned above, the winter months in Patagonia are between June and August, and you are going to need clothes to keep you warm. I recommend taking:
- Good sturdy walking shoes: I have this pair of Salomons X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes, they are so comfortable and waterproof. Mine are low rise, so you might want a pair of high rise walking boots. Remember to go half a UK size up. Salomons are damn comfy and the best walking shoes I’ve ever owned, but funny sizes. James has Merrell Men’s Moab 2 GTX Hiking Boots.
- Trekking poles: We didn’t bring them, but wished we had for the icy treks!
- Walking trousers
- A pair of thermal trousers: Plus a back up pair in case you get stuck in bad weather.
- Thick walking socks
- Thin socks for extra warmth
- Thermal vest
- Thermal long sleeved top
- 2 jumpers: Yes, I wore both!
- A good raincoat
- Warm hat
- 2 pairs of gloves: A thin and thick pair.
- First aid kit: including bandages, plasters, compeeds, medical gloves, wound cleaning wipes, sterile sodium chloride wound eye wash pods (e.g. little sterile bottles for cleaning wounds), scissors, tweezers and sterile butterfly closure bandages
- Water purification tablets or a travel water filter
- Survival shelter
- A pen knife
- Phones with the Maps.Me app installed and charging packs
- Head torches
- A whistle
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