As one of the last true wilderness areas, set at the end of the earth, Patagonia is something truly special. It stretches across the southern edge of both Chile and Argentina and is home to some extraordinary wonders. Imagine icy glaciers, towering granite spires, incredible wildlife, dazzling blue lakes, golden grasslands and gorgeous fjords and waterfalls.
But which region is better? Both the Chilean and Argentine side has its unique advantages, from the best treks to the best scenery. We put them up against each other in our Patagonia travel guide to find out if Patagonia is better in Chile or Argentina.
Best for landscapes
Ready to get snap-happy? You’ll find the most spectacular landscapes in Torres del Paine National Park, a true wonder of Chilean Patagonia. It’s hard to beat the iconic granite spires, snow-capped mountains, blue lakes and golden pampas of Torres del Paine. Although, the stunning Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina comes a close second.
We’ll take you behind the scenes of this extraordinary wilderness with a Local Specialist. You’ll see natural landmarks and scenic outlooks that showcase the beauty of the region. Visit the Nordenskjöld Lookout, Salto Grande waterfall, Sarmiento Lookout, Lake Pehoé, Puente Negro (Black Bridge) crossing the Paine River, and the famous Blue Lagoon with its brilliant blue waters.
We’ll even take you to the Milodon Cave, where evidence of a giant prehistoric ground sloth was found by German Explorer Hermann Eberhard. Don’t forget your camera!
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Best for wildlife
If you’re hoping to spot some incredible wildlife in Patagonia, Argentina is the best place to do it. While you can spot the elusive puma and cute guanacos in Chile, you’ll have the chance to see Magellanic penguins, fur seals and fascinating birds like the austral parakeet in Ushuaia.
It gets even better in Puerto Madryn, where you can spot guanacos, whales, elephant seals, sea lions, and the world’s second-largest penguin colony (after Antarctica).
When you travel Patagonia with Trafalgar, we’ll take you to the striking landscapes of Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentinian’s southernmost national park on the border of Chile. Here you’ll marvel at lush forests, waterfalls and snowy mountains, dotted with wildlife like red foxes, beavers, condors and eagles.
You can also take a thrilling Beagle Channel cruise and keep watch for colonies of fur seals, Magellanic penguins, and albatrosses flying overhead.
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Best for trekking
If you want to go trekking in Patagonia, both Argentina and Chile are home to some incredible hiking routes. We love hiking in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego, but if we had to choose one, we’d do the iconic “W” trek in Chile. This magical route takes you around the extraordinary landscapes of Torres del Paine.
Your Trafalgar Local Specialist will take you on this famous trail that stretches from the northern shores of Lake Nordenskjöld, and heads towards the snow-capped Monte Almirante Nieto in the southeast of the Paine Massif. You’ll walk from pebbled beaches to rugged steppe landscapes to Andes shrublands on your unforgettable journey.
Best for glaciers
Dreaming of glittering glaciers? You’ll be most impressed by the Perito Moreno Glacier in the UNESCO-listed Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. At 60-metres high, this dazzling blue beauty is the godfather of them all, although the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers in Chile come a close second.
When you travel Patagonia with Trafalgar, you’ll get to explore the Perito Moreno Glacier with a Local Specialist. Wander along with the milky coloured glacial lakes and towering snowy peaks of the national park. You might even get to see the massive icebergs carving off the glacier and plunging into the lake with a thundering splash.
Best for cruising
If you want to go cruising, it’s best in Chile. You can explore the Patagonian wilderness by taking a boat up the Rio Serrano. We’ll pass the Southern Patagonian Icefield (Campo de Hielo Sur) and head toward the turquoise sheets of the Serrano Glacier, then explore the impressive glacier with a Local Specialist.
You’ll hike through unspoiled rainforest landscapes to Seno Ultima Esperanza (“Fjord of the Last Hope”), and get an incredible view over the rest of the Southern Icefield. Next, you’ll continue through the fjord with views of both the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers, before toasting to an unforgettable expedition at the ends of the earth.
Best for driving
Want to hit the open road? Chile is famed for the Carretera Austral, the one-of-a-kind scenic highway that takes you driving through the gorgeous Patagonian landscapes. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled and your camera at the ready on this drive of your life.
Best of all, when you travel Patagonia with Trafalgar, you get to kick back and relax in our luxury coaches while your expert Driver takes care of getting you to each amazing sight.
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Best for cuisine
Love your food? Argentina narrowly takes the cake for the best cuisine in Patagonia. There’s nothing better than coming home to world-class Argentine beef or the famous El Calafate lamb, washed down with a fine Malbec wine after a day of adventure in Patagonia.
Although, the Chilean lamb and king crab over the border is totally delicious too. You’ll have to try both to pick your favourite!
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Best for size
If it comes down to size, the Argentine Patagonia is a winner. It’s larger than Chilean Patagonia, meaning there are more places to visit and more things to see and do.
However, while Chilean Patagonia may be smaller, that also means it’s easier to see and do all the best things in that region. Perfect if you’re short on time.
Best capital city
To kickstart your Patagonian adventure, you’ll most likely fly into one of the capital cities – either Buenos Aires in Argentina or Santiago in Chile.
Both cities have their gems, but we can’t go past the elegant, tango-dancing Buenos Aires. Some of the best Trafalgar experiences here include enjoying a traditional homemade dinner with a local family in Palermo Soho and watching a sensual tango performance. You’ll also see all the famous sights like the iconic pink Casa Rosada, the Plaza de Mayo, the opulent Teatro Colon, trendy La Boca, and the fascinating Recoleta cemetery.
If you’d rather explore Santiago, the capital of Chile, you’re also in for a treat. We’ll take you on an in-depth tour around the city, stopping at the ornate Central Market where pop-up restaurants serve local treats, then journey to an exclusive winery in Casablanca Valley for a gourmet lunch served alfresco in stunning surrounds. You’ll even get to meet the winemakers and enjoy an exclusive wine tasting.
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The verdict: Is Patagonia better in Chile or Argentina?
After weighing up the highlights of both regions, we can safely say – do both! Both Patagonia in Chile and Argentina is home to spectacular wonders that cannot be missed. Best of all, both regions are easily combined.
After visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, you can make the trip to Torres del Paine in Chile. It’s just a 3.5-hour drive via a road link from the town of El Calafate. This way, you can see the best of Patagonia in one unforgettable trip.
What is the best month to visit Patagonia?
Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina is best visited any time from September to April, with each season bringing its own treasures.
Spring (September to November)
In spring, the weather will be warmer, but you’ll get strong chilly winds and rain is more likely. Temperatures range between 3 and 18°C. The advantages of spring are lower prices, fewer crowds, blooming flowers and newborn wildlife.
Summer (December to February)
Summer is the most popular season thanks to the warmest weather, with average temperatures ranging from 6 to 20°C. You’ll still get the infamous strong winds, but skies are mostly clear and the landscapes will be lush and green. You’re also more likely to see wildlife, but you’ll have to contend with larger crowds and higher prices as this is peak season.
Autumn (March to May)
In autumn, the weather starts to get cold, with more chance of rain and snow later in the season. The plus side is that you’ll see gorgeous autumn foliage and have a good chance of spotting wildlife. You’ll also enjoy lower rates and fewer crowds.
Winter (June to August)
Winter is usually best avoided as the weather can be unpredictable, with snowstorms and freezing temperatures between -3 and 8°C. If you’re willing to brave the snow, you’ll be rewarded with glittering icy landscapes. Plus you’ll likely have the place almost entirely to yourself!
Would you prefer to explore Patagonia in Chile or Argentina – or both? Let us know in the comments below!