Hola! Are you looking for a solo trip of a lifetime and short of days? been there! Backpacking in Patagonia is for sure a dreamland for outdoor lovers and it has been one of my favourite places ever!
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Although Patagonia is such a vast region that easily deserves 6 months of traveling (perhaps even more), my 2 and a half weeks solo backpacking in Patagonia trip from London allowed me to see some incredible places and do some awesome hikes.
To maximise the times, as usual, I took the flight to Argentina straight from my work in London and arrived back straight to the office, is it tough? no! just get an extra coffee that day!
My two and a half week solo adventure in Patagonia route:
Day 1 Buenos Aires
Days 2-3 El Calafate
Days 4-7 El Chalten
Day 8 Puerto Natales
Days 9-13 Torres del Paine
Days 14-16 Ushuaia
Day 17 Buenos Aires
In a perfect world we’d always have many more days for traveling (whilst still having a job), so of course I missed many other places to go hiking in Patagonia so I’ll surely be back one day to explore more down there!
As it was a really short trip, I took flights from/to Buenos Aires/El Calafate/Ushuaia as otherwise by bus I’d have spent the two weeks just sitting on it (the distances are that big!)
The solo backpacking in Patagonia adventure started in beautiful Buenos Aires, I stayed in Back in BA hostel, which I cannot say much of it as I left in the middle of the night to catch a plane to El Calafate, but in the evening there was a good vibe among all the backpackers so I’d no doubt in recommending to stay there.
I did manage to walk a little bit around Buenos Aires, luckily a good friend of mine lives there and we took a nice walk around town.
When you arrive to El Calafate you take a mini bus to town as the airport is relatively far away. I got to Hostel Cambalache Bed & Beer, Martin, the owner, is one of the nicest guys I met in Argentina and he was super helpful giving not only local area info but also about hikes in Chalten and Torres del Paine. You must try the empanadas at Cambalache!
On the same day I went to the Perito Moreno Glacier. I did the walking over the balconies, you get to see the glacier in many different angles and it was not crowded at all (at least when I went), so I had a peaceful time on my own contemplating this nature wonder.
My Backpacking in Patagonia adventures couldn’t start any better than this!
I took the afternoon bus, so maybe in the mornings it’s busier. It’s hard to realise the scale of this huge glacier, imagine in the photo above that the closest part of it to where I’m standing is 70 meters tall (or a pretty decent 22 storey building!)
I was not looking to do it anyway, but an advise from Martin was that if you have done glacier trekking in the past, skip it in the Perito Moreno, as they will charge you a fortune to make you walk on a dead area of the glacier.
El Calafate gets its name from a little berry that grows in the region. Do not miss the chance to drink a Calafate Beer at the Chopen Brewery! they brew everything right there and had a very nice selection of distinctive flavours, as soon as you arrive they let you try them all! food was good as well!
On the following day I continued moving on my trip backpacking in Patagonia. I took a bus to El Chalten (about 4 hours). The road, as with all the buses I took, was very scenic and we stopped in a couple of places to take some photos.
From things that I read previously and comments from other travellers, I knew I was going to love El Chalten!
This tiny little town was cheekily founded by the Argentinian government in 1985 to take advantage on a territorial dispute with Chile for the area that includes the Lago del Desierto.
Nowadays, it’s known as the trekking capital of Argentina, and for some people there’s even rivalry to determine if El Chalten is better or worse than Torres del Paine. I don’t dare to compare them, they are both awesome!!
El Chalten is basically a 4 roads town that you walk all in 10 minutes, but from there you have a number of treks that you can do in 1 hour or multi-day. I stayed in the Hostel del Lago, those days the place was pretty empty, so either you like it or hate it, I prefer to have people in the hostels to share stories, in any case, the place was clean and decently cheap.
The two most popular hikes are the Laguna de los Tres (the best views for the Fitz Roy) and the Cerro Torre. Both of them are easy, Laguna de los Tres does have a climb at the end that takes about 40min but you then get rewarded with a fantastic place to get your (previously bought in town) empanadas lunch!!
The Cerro Torre hike has just some little climbs, but it’s a very scenic route as well.
However, in my opinion the best hike in El Chalten was the less transited hike, the Senda a la Loma del Pliegue Tumbado. On this one I finally felt I was in full contact with the Patagonia, as the other two are a bit touristy (still a must though!).
You will go through changing landscapes, and weather conditions, at the top of the Loma I had to put on my winter layers as it was pretty windy and cold. After a final good climb, the 360 views are worth the effort and I was really excited when I spotted an Andean Condor flying high but clearly identifiable, that’s a big bird!
If you have a few days, go for this hike! it is the longest single-day hike over there and even that is empty, you will not have a chance to get lost at all as it’s well marked.
I also went to the Lago del Desierto on my last day, it was scenic and there’s a nice walk around, but to be honest, if you’re short of time, is better to skip this one for one of the hikes.
Check my post I wrote more in detail about Hiking in El Chalten . Do not miss the chance to go to El Chalten if you’re backpacking in Patagonia as this is a really cool little town!
I went back to El Calafate just to spend the night and then take a bus to Puerto Natales in Chile. I was really looking forward for the next stage of my backpacking in Patagonia adventure!
In Puerto Natales, I found the hostel Zaltaxar, which was very nice and clean, and cheap!
Francisco, the owner, is a great person and he clearly makes the most of his geographical place in the world as he’s always hiking in the area. He also helped a lot with suggestions over what to do in Torres if I didn’t manage to book camping places (there were some issues those days with the people from Fantastico Sur for the bookings)
I sorted a rental tent from Rental Natales, Guillermo, the owner, was super helpful giving some tips for the W Circuit and I could see that all his rental equipment was pretty new, he likes what he does and he buys quality stuff and not cheap equipment.
Go there and ask him about the time he took a photo with Macaulay Culkin! maybe I can get that to become a code word for a discount! ha!
The 5 Days in Torres del Paine National Park were simply stunning, you don’t need to be super fit to do the W Circuit, but you also have the chance to push yourself and do some extra walking to explore more. I wrote in more detail my 5 days there on this post!
MY CAMPING ESSENTIALS
After 5 glorious days it was time to go back to Puerto Natales, to catch up a pretty long bus the following morning towards Ushuaia.
The road trip to Ushuaia was about 10 hours, with a change of bus in the middle of nowhere but surprisingly efficient as we did not wait more than 5 minutes for the other bus to pick us up. You get to cross the Strait of Magellan in a ferry, in that short cross of the strait we saw a few penguins swimming next to us!
The trip is long but you get plenty of nice views, and the more you go south the more you can think of how vast this region is. If you’re looking to go the farthest town south of the world don’t expect it to be a short ride!
The first sight of Ushuaia is of a typical postcard image, it’s a pretty little town, although after meeting a few locals they told me is rapidly growing.
It is still a wonderful place to go backpacking in Patagonia as there are plenty of things to do!
I had only a couple of days to spend here, my biggest wish was to do some scuba diving in Tierra del Fuego but unfortunately the only guy I found doing tours was not available on these two days. Instead I asked around and decided to do a couple of tours (there are plenty of them).
One was a boat tour around the Beagle Channel, organised by El Che Turismo Alternativo, I decided for this one because it was in a small boat, only ten people, nothing compared to the huge touristic boats with no charm.
We saw lots of sea lions, different birds, beautiful views, and didn’t manage to see more because the tide started changing very rapidly and the captain was honest enough to tell us that he preferred to go back to town so we didn’t get sick, he offered us refunds or to reschedule for the following day.
On the following day I took a tour with Canal Fun and Nature towards the National Park, which included a bit of hiking and canoeing. They pick you up at the hostel and provide a nice lunch with Patagonian Wine.
The tour guides were very knowledgeable and gave us a lot of insights of the area, its nature and social stories. It was a cool day out, but if you’re on a budget, go to the National Park on your own with a bus and you will save a bit of money.
I stayed for three nights at Hostel Cruz del Sur, I only found this place because I tagged along a couple I met on the bus and I was delighted! it’s a really cool place, with awesome atmosphere.
I was very lucky to stay there because I had not booked anything and I saw a lot of people being turned away. Breakfast is included and you risk having an overdose of Dulce de Leche, yummy!
During my time here I managed to walk all over town, go for a walk around the bay and you will be rewarded with great views of the town.
There are lots of options for eating and found some local gems by asking the local people working in the stores. The Maritime and Prison Museum is a good day out as well if the weather is not good, you read and discover a lot of stories of this remote part of the world.
It was now time for me to catch a plane back to Buenos Aires. just over two weeks of breathtaking nature, wonderful people, tasty food and great wine. Without a doubt it has been one of my all-time favourite hiking trips!
Feel free to drop a comment or question if you’re planning to go solo backpacking in Patagonia!
Check out the rest of my hiking adventures around the world for more inspiration on your next adventure trip!
2 thoughts on “Backpacking in Patagonia: solo trip in 17 days”
This is fantastic – thank you for sharing! I am also planning a (solo) trip to Patagonia later this year and your blog is perfect to help me plan.
May I ask which month/ year was it when you travelled there? And very roughly, excluding the international flights (I’ll be flying from Scotland), how much did it cost? I’m trying to figure out whether it makes sense for me to do this as a solo female traveller VS taking a group tour.
Hi Aneesha, thanks for stopping by! I was there in November time but already about 5 years ago so the costs are not really updated. If you’re happy staying in hostels and booking buses yourself (which has no difficulty at all) you will normally be saving minimum half the price of an agency, likely much more. I have nothing against tours but in terms of money savings and freedom of movement I will always advocate for the solo trip! And remember, you’re never really solo as there are lots of other backpackers and friendly locals to meet in every country! Share your adventures at some point! I’ll love to hear about how it goes!