When is the best time to visit Patagonia?
What’s the climate like?
What clothes should I take?
Do I need a passport or visa to enter Patagonia?
When is the best time to visit Patagonia?
First of all, reprogram your mind if you live in the North Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere the seasons and climate are reversed. While you are in winter, we are in summer and vice-versa. Your november is our May. Your April is our October and your July is our January. mmm…
Because of the great quantity of activities available, Patagonia can be visited whenever you like to. I have seen great colors in April and May taht I have not seen in February. The trees turn reddish and the skyes get bluer. It just depends of what you like the most. Keep in mind that Fauna Attractions like penguins are closed during winter and days are real short.
From october on, days in patagonia are longer, the sun rises at about 5:00 am and sets around 10:30 pm. Higher elevations will be experience a cooler climate, and frosts may occur at night, even during the summer.
Because of its great area, there are important climatic variations in the region, influenced mostly by the relief, the sea and the wind. In the eastern slope of Patagonia Mountain Range there is a cold steppe climate that prevails in the central continental area.
What’s the climate like?
Patagonia’s seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere. This means that the warmest months are December, January and February, while the coldest are in June, July and August.
An Unpredictable Weather
We can say weather in Patagonia is really, but really unpredictable. Anyway, we can say there are several types of weather, Channels Weather, of high humidity, with precipitations over 1000 milimeters a year (Evangelista 8.000mm); Steppe, very dry with precipitations under 300 milimeters; and Tempered Cold with a transition between 1º and 2º, typical of Punta Arenas, with about 450 annual milimeters, with average temperatures of 9º, arising exceptionally to 20ºC every several years.
Patagonia summer offers warm, sunny days and cool nights. Patagonia days are long, the sun rises at about 4:30 a.m. and sets near 10:30 p.m. Typically temperatures are around 20ºC during the day, dropping to about 8 ºC at night. Higher elevations will be experience a slightly cooler climate, and frosts have been know to occur at night, even during the summer. During April, daytime temperatures are usually in the 15 ºC, and drop to the 2ºC at night. Because of its great area, there are important climatic variations at the Region, influenced mostly by the relief, the sea and the winds. In the eastern slope of Patagonian mountain range there is a cold steppe climate that prevails in the central continental area.
Let us take Punta Arenas, where the average rainfall registers 425 millimeters annual, mostly in spring-summer and in winter as snow. This is an area of wind, more intense at spring-summer, time at which it reaches an average speed of 30 to 40 kilometers per hour, fading almost at all in winter.
Torres Del Paine
In the tourist area of Torres del Paine National Park there is a mild climate; besides there is a microclimate area in Laguna Azul area, with a considerable increase of temperature in summer (25 to 30 degrees Celsius). In mountain chains there is an ice climate while in the Pacific coast area and channels there is a cold temperate climate, with great humidity.
An special feature of southern climate is the amount of solar light hours, which are less in winter and extended at summer reaching as far as 18 hours, approximately, in December.
What clothes should I take?
Sometimes it is cold and sometimes it is hot. All the same day. So what should you use to avoid or reduce perspiration and feel comfortable? Well the use of layers is the best advice. The idea is to add cloth or take off cloth depending the circumstances. Doing so will help your body to mantain a comfortable and constant temperature. Today, is easy to find sinthetic fibers that are developed to remove perspiration, becoming better than any natural fiber. For the upper body the first is a t-shirt made from sinthetic breathable “thermal” fabric. A as second layer you can use a long sleeve shirt of the same fabric and then a sinthetic fleece sweate or jacket. This wil protect you from moisture and wind. Anyway, it is a good thing to carry a very warm woolen sweater with you. Thermal underwear is recommended specially in cold nights.
When It Gets Wet
Patagonia weather changes without notice and that is why you should carry a windproof and waterproof rain jacket. Some experienced trekkers use rubberised rainwear to “cut-off” the rain. Waterproof overtrousers are recommended and gaiters to avoid water run down to your feet. Gaiters can protect your legs from vegetation as well.
Protecting Your Head
Patagonia sun burns, so it is important to use a hat that covers your head, your neck and your ears. UV protection sunglasses are recommended for all higher treks. Binoculars are also useful specially for fauna and bird watching.
Protecting Your Feet
Protecting you feet is also a serious thing. I have seen some who have used new shoes for trekking and have got lots of blisters and pain. Boots or shoes must be worn-in before and should be robust to protect ankle and heel, but should be flexible at the same time. A Waterproof inner lining will help to kee you feet dry. It is a good thing to spray all over your boots or shoes a waterproofing product.
The load must be on your hips, so the bakcpack must be robust with adjustable waist belts. If the load is weighted on your shoulders you may suffer pain and permanent injury to your back. Shoulder straps are meant to steady the backpack only. It is good to use removable daypacks to attach to the top. It is a good advice to put inside the backpack a big garbage bag first and then put all your things in. Backpacks are never 100% waterproof so it is a good way to keep them dry. A 70 liter volume is ok.
If you are a serious trekker you may prefer to bring your own high quality tent. I remember once trekking in the big circuit in Torres del Paine in summer. A cold front got us in Los Perros, we got all wet, I could not move my right hand because of the cold and the tent did not pass the test. When you are in a kind of an emergency tent is like home and they worth the extra cost.
Sleeping Bag & Mattress
Sleeping bag should be at least -20Cº. Some bags are compact and have very good isolation but if they get wet, take more time to dry and nights may be uncomfortable. Other with synthetic fill, may be bulkier but have better insulation properties even they are wet. A light mattress is necesary. Some prefer inflatables.
Because of accidents that have damaged National Parks, some have prohibited campfires. It is a good thing to bring with you at least a small stove. Utensiles and stove fuel are available in Patagonia. Because of accidents that have damaged National Parks, some have prohibited campfires. It is a good thing to bring with you at least a small stove. Utensiles and stove fuel are available in Patagonia. Gas stoves are very popular, safe and esay to use. Disposable gas canisters that can be found without a problem in hardware stores. More experienced trekkers would prefer Gasolines that work fine even at very low temperature.
Do I need a passport or visa to enter Patagonia?
Visas are not required to entry to Chile or Argentina for citizens of most European countries as well as citizens from the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand if you are going to stay up to 90 days. Anyway, remember to ckeck on the current situation at the time of your trip in case requirements changed.
Though getting a Visa for staying period longer than 90 days can be expensive and take too much of your time, it is a good thing to arrange trips to be able to cross to a neighbor country and then come back which gives you another 90 days to stay.
Can I use my credit cards/ATM cards in Patagonia?
Yes. We suggest the use of Credit Cards and cash as a standard, but is advisable to carry Traveller Checks, though you may not use it at the end because of heavy comissions.
In Chile, banks are open from 9.00am to 2.00pm Monday to Friday. In Argentina banks are open from 9.00am to 2.00pm Monday to Friday. Automated Teller Machines (ATM) are widely available at banks, along main shopping streets and in malls.
If you are trekking in Torres del Paine National Park doing the Big Circuit where no phone line is available no card will be useful, only cash. The same for camping sites and small business outside. Hotels and Hosterías usually have Credit Card payment system even they might be far.
Mastercard and Visa are the most accepted Credit Cards. American Express and Diners Club are also accepted in many places. In some stores you may get a 5% discount if you pay in cash. International credit cards and ATM cards will work as long as they have a four-digit PIN encoded. Check with your bank before leaving home. Even though you may use your card for cash advances in ATMs, you may end up paying undesirable comissions or more than you get because of exchange rate. Most ATMs operate under Cirrus/Maestro system allowing you to withdraw money directly from your home bank account. ATMs seem to be more secure and cheaper than Travellers Ckecks.
Exchange Bureaus can be found in most tourism cities like Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Calafate, Ushuaia, etc and rates are fare enough and better than exchanging in banks. To calculate currencies now go to Yahoo Finance.
Are there any poisonous animals in Patagonia?
Patagonia has no snakes or dangerous wild animals, making it safe for visitors to enjoy outdoor activities.
Is it safe to drink the water in Patagonia?
Water has no problem in Southern Patagonia. In fact water can be taken from pipes or streams but if you prefer to purificate it, boil water for 5 minutes to kill all pathogens. If you prefer to have natural water, Mineral Water can be found in stores anywhere. Food in the south of Chile and Argentina are prepared and served with high hygiene standards and eating vegetables is safe. Carrying supplementary dried fruits and vegetables is good for excursions and walks.
What is the voltage of electricity supply in Patagonia? Do I need to take a converter?
Electricity is supplied throughout Patagonia at 230/240 volts, 50 hertz. Travelers will require a voltage converter for 110 volt devices, unless the item has a multi-voltage option. Please note that in Chile power outlets only accept rounded 3 or 2-pin plugs, depending on whether an earth connection is fitted. In Argentina power outlets accept rounded 2-pin and diagonal 2-pin plugs. It is easy to find adapters anyways…
Where are the international airports located in Patagonia?
Patagonia’s international airports are at Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires and El Calafate in Argentina. Local airports in Punta Arenas (CHILE), Rio Gallegos (ARGENTINA) and Ushuaia (ARGENTINA) where you can connect to Punta Arenas and viceversa.
Should I go on a guided walk or an independent walk?
If you like hot showers and other home comforts, you should book a guided walk. But if you don’t mind ‘roughing it a bit’ then try independent walking, carrying your own pack and staying in basic huts or tents.
What types of accomodation are available in Patagonia?
Patagonia offers a wide range of accommodation options from top-class hotels, exclusive lodges, motels, guest houses, and farm or homestays to backpacker hostels.
Do I need to pre-book accommodation?
Yes. It’s a good idea to book in advance, especially during the busy summer period in Patagonia – from December to February.
What is a ‘Farmstay’?
Farm or Estancias and homestays are an ideal way to get to meet local people and experience a slice of Patagonia rural life. Depending on the kind of farm, you may get the chance to share home cooked meals with your hosts and join in with milking cows, shearing sheep, lambing, or whatever else is happening on the farm.
What types of activities are available for children?
If you are thinking about visiting with your family, you can be confident that Patagonia has a wide range of activities to keep your children happy.
Patagonia’s parks and large areas of unspoilt wilderness are ideal places to expand your children’s appreciation of wildlife and the outdoors. Horse riding, snow activities (in winter), penguins watching, and wildlife centres are just some of the choices available.
Most family restaurants have childrens’ menus and high chairs. Many cafes also have high chairs. Most public gardens have well equipped play areas for young children.
Is the water safe to drink?
The tap water is safe to drink in most parts of Patagonia. To be sure, ask your tour leader or the hotel/ restaurant staff. Bottled water is readily available as well if desired.
What type of food is typical of Patagonia?
Our Patagonia tours include a mix of regional and international specialties such as BBQ, sandwiches, pasta, fresh produce, etc. On the Chilean side, seafood is among the world’s best. Fish is often fried but will be steamed or grilled upon request. Beef is central to the Argentinean diet. Barbecue grills and steak houses are common, often with 10-15 different choices of beef cuts.
What type of transportation is used?
Our Patagonia tours utilize a variety of transportation including private vans, comfortable tourist buses, boats, flights, etc. We use a mix of private/ public transportation to provide travelers with the safest and most efficient transportation in each area. Each tour itinerary page has a description of the transportation included on that tour. If you have additional questions, just ask!
What are the accommodations like?
In Patagonia, we have selected a variety of charming accommodations ranging from remote hiking lodges to comfortable city hotels with all of the modern conveniences. In general, we use small, family-run accommodations that are locally owned and characteristic of each area instead of luxury chain resorts.