Moon Patagonia

Including the Falkland Islands


By Wayne Bernhardson

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Your World Your Way!

Patagonia’s staggering landscapes, titanic glaciers, and rugged mountains evoke mystery and inspire self-discovery. Explore the ends of the earth with Moon Patagonia.

What You’ll Find in Moon Patagonia:
  • Expert author and world traveler Wayne Bernhardson shares his perspective on his favorite place on earth
  • Full-color guidebook with vibrant, helpful photos
  • Detailed directions and maps for getting around and exploring on your own
  • Strategic itineraries, including The Best of Patagonia, Wildlife Encounters, Explore the Natural World, Glacier Gazing, and Classic Patagonia Road Trips
  • Activities and ideas for every traveler: Hike the glacier of Perito Moreno National Park, or glimpse Patagonia’s pre-Colombian past at Cueva de las Manos. See penguins and marine mammals off the coast of the Falkland Islands, or visit Chile’s lakes district, home to the Mapuche people. Savor authentic asado at a local ranch, and go horseback riding through the Torres mountains. Sample seafood in Santiago, or take in tango in Buenos Aires
  • In-depth coverage for Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Northern Argentine Patagonia, The Chilean Lakes District, Aisén and Continental Chiloé, Southern Argentine Patagonia, Magallanes, Argentine Tierra del Fuego, and the Falkland Islands
  • Accurate information, including background on the landscape, culture, history, and environment
  • Handy tools such as travel tips and safety information in an easy-to-navigate format, all packaged in a book light enough to fit in your daypack

With Moon Patagonia‘s practical tips, myriad activities, and an insider’s view on the best things to do and see, you can plan your trip your way.


wild horse in Parque Nacional Chiloe

the harbor at Ushuaia

DISCOVER Patagonia

Planning Your Trip



Best of Patagonia


Explore the Natural World


Classic Patagonia Road Trips

Cerro Castillo.

Patagonia has excited the imagination since Magellan’s account of hidden cities of gold first reached the Old World. Even today, when air travel has made much of the exotic familiar, Patagonia’s staggering landscapes evoke mystery and inspire exploration.

The diversity of this region is unparalleled, with fjords, big-sky steppes, and truly wild coastlines. Glaciar Perito Moreno is a grinding river of ice that’s a feast for the eyes and the ears. Hiking trails trace the pinnacles of Torres del Paine and elephant seals crowd the coastline of Península Valdés. The aboriginal rock art of Cueva de las Manos gives glimpses of the pre-Columbian past. The Falkland Islands offer the greatest assemblage of Antarctic wildlife—including penguins—this side of the frozen continent. Patagonia is also rich with culture. Chile’s lakes district is home to the resilient Mapuche people, who defended their territory against the Spaniards for centuries, and in Tierra del Fuego, sheep farmers have created a distinctive cultural landscape.

Five centuries after its discovery by Europeans, Patagonia remains an enduring symbol of the unknown, still luring the adventurous to the end of the earth.

interior of the Capilla de Mármol

black-browed albatrosses at The Rookery on Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires

rockhopper penguins at Cape Bougainville, East Falkland.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

a solitary araucaria in front of Volcan Lonquimay

guanaco crossing the river

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

Patagonia is notoriously hard to define. For the purposes of this guide, it’s a pragmatic matter that corresponds closely to political geography.


Patagonia’s primary gateway is also South America’s highest-profile capital. Many visitors spend weeks or even months enjoying its first-rate hotels, innovative cuisine, all-night entertainment, nonstop shopping, and matchless cultural resources. Despite its international sophistication, it’s also a city of intimate neighborhoods where no one is truly anonymous.


Patagonia’s other gateway remains one of the continent’s most underrated cities. While it lacks the international profile of its Argentine neighbor, Santiago’s setting at the base of the Andes is more impressive, and its hotels, food, and entertainment scenes are catching up rapidly—not least because Chile is the continent’s most politically stable and prosperous country.


In this guide, northern Argentine Patagonia comprises Neuquén and Río Negro, plus northwesterly parts of Chubut. While most of Argentine Patagonia is arid steppe, the densely forested sector near the Chilean border boasts numerous national parks. San Carlos de Bariloche is the country’s playground for hiking, skiing, rafting, kayaking, and fly-fishing.


The Sur Chico, popularly called the Chilean lakes district, is a wonderland of rivers, lakes, forests, and volcanoes. It comprises La Araucanía and Los Lagos; the latter includes the Chiloé archipelago. It is common to cross the Andes into Argentine Patagonia here. It’s also the official starting point for the Carretera Austral, the southern highway that links parts of southern Chile to the mainland.


Chile’s Aisén is mostly wild islands-and-highlands country. In this guide, it also includes the southernmost part of Los Lagos, often known as “continental Chiloé.” Running most of the region’s length, the Carretera Austral is one of Patagonia’s greatest road trips. Off-highway sights like Laguna San Rafael and Parque Pumalín, one of South America’s most audacious private conservation initiatives, are also highlights.


In this guide, southern Argentine Patagonia consists of Chubut province and Santa Cruz province. Its coastline is a scenic cornucopia of whales, seals, penguins, and other wildlife. It’s also famous for Glaciar Perito Moreno, a crackling outlier of the Campo de Hielo Sur, the southern Patagonian ice sheet. Two legendary highways, the coastal RN 3 and the interior RN 40, connect the region with northerly provinces.


South of Aisén are jagged mountains and islands set among inland seas. Copious rain and snow feed rivers and the glaciers of the Campo de Hielo Sur. Pristine woodlands still cover the mountainsides in much of the region, whose biggest draw is the igneous spires of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. The only significant city is Punta Arenas, though growing Puerto Natales is a gateway to Torres del Paine. Puerto Williams is the last major settlement north of Antarctica. Local cruise ships now visit Cape Horn, South America’s southernmost point.


Across the Strait of Magellan from the continent, Chile and Argentina share the broad steppes and mountainous sub-Antarctic grandeur of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, where Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city and Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego was Argentina’s first coastal national park.


More than 500 kilometers east of the mainland, the Falkland Islands acquired international notoriety in 1982, when an Argentine dictatorship invaded to enforce a long-standing territorial claim to the British-held islands. The British regained them 10 weeks later. Since then, the Falklands have prospered under a commercial-fishing-license regime. They’ve also become a magnet for cruise ships and a handful of independent adventurers who come to see abundant sub-Antarctic wildlife and enjoy local hospitality.

When to Go

The southern hemisphere’s spring, summer, and fall months correspond to the north’s coldest seasons, adding to Patagonia’s appeal. Still, seasonal wildlife migrations and Andean ski resorts make it a destination even during the austral winter.

The Andean lakes district is a traditional summer destination, with locales like Bariloche and Pucón as busy as the ocean beaches. It’s also a magnet for fly-fishing enthusiasts October to April. Bariloche is the focus of Argentina’s ski industry June-August.

Farther south, El Calafate, gateway to Glaciar Perito Moreno, offers many services October to April, and even for the July holidays. Península Valdés is a special case that depends on South Atlantic wildlife—July’s midwinter arrival of right whales brings the first tourists, who keep coming with the influx of elephant seals, orcas, and penguins until the end of March.

Tierra del Fuego is primarily a summer destination, though it also has a ski season. The city of Ushuaia is the gateway to Antarctica, where the spring breakup of pack ice determines the season.

Falklands tourism depends on the wildlife calendar. Migratory Magellanic and rockhopper penguins and elephant seals begin arriving in October and stay until March, or even a little later. That said, there’s some wildlife at all seasons, even though access becomes more difficult in winter.

Before You Go

Patagonia covers an enormous territory, far larger than most of the world’s countries, and logistics can be complicated. Capital cities like Buenos Aires and Santiago are compact and easy to travel around. Visiting other high-profile destinations like Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier and Chile’s Torres del Paine require 2- to 3-hour flights or 15- to 30-hour bus trips. Driving is an option, but for most visitors this will mean a rental car from a provincial airport or city.


U.S. and Canadian citizens traveling to Argentina and Chile need passports but not advance visas. Passports are also necessary for checking into hotels, cashing traveler’s checks, or even credit card transactions. Both countries routinely grant foreign visitors 90-day entry permits in the form of a tourist card. Both also collect a substantial reciprocity fee from certain nationalities, including Canadians and Australians, at all border crossings.

Visitors to the Falkland Islands, including Britons, must have passports, return or onward tickets, and sufficient funds to cover their stay. They may need to arrange accommodations in advance. A Visa or MasterCard is proof of sufficient funds. Visitors must also have adequate medical coverage, including emergency evacuation insurance.

southern sea lion in the Falkland Islands


Argentina and Chile demand no proof of vaccinations, but if you are coming from a tropical country where yellow fever is endemic, authorities could ask for a vaccination certificate. Traveling to Patagonia or elsewhere without adequate medical insurance is risky. Before leaving home, purchase a policy that includes evacuation in case of serious emergency.


Most visitors arrive by air, via the international airports of Buenos Aires (EZE) or Santiago (SCL). Some arrive overland and others by ship. Chile’s LATAM has the only commercial flights to the Falkland Islands.

Argentina has an extensive network of domestic airports, serving many destinations from Buenos Aires south to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Chile’s domestic airports are located in Temuco, Pucón, Osorno, Puerto Montt, Chaitén, Balmaceda, and Punta Arenas.

Argentina and Chile share numerous border crossings. In both countries’ lakes districts, trans-Andean bus service is fairly common, but many southerly crossings lack public transportation. In both countries, buses along the principal highways are frequent, spacious, and comfortable. Fares are reasonable by international standards.

For those choosing an aquatic route, the main international crossings are the popular bus-boat-bus shuttle between Argentina’s San Carlos de Bariloche and Chile’s Puerto Montt, and the cruise between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia.


Budget travelers should pack a spacious but lightweight backpack and a small daypack for excursions. Even for non-backpackers, light luggage is advisable. Use sturdy locks on all luggage.

Good rain gear and warm footwear are essential for hikers. Warm clothing, sleeping bags, and a sturdy tent are imperative at high elevations and high latitudes. In southernmost Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, state-of-the-art wet-weather gear is advisable. In some national parks, wood fires are prohibited. An adaptable multi-fuel camp stove is the best choice. Binoculars are a good idea for watching wildlife. Rental gear is available in the gateways to prime hiking areas.

In much of the region, drinking water is potable straight from the stream, but a purification system is a good idea. Public restrooms sometimes lack toilet paper, so travelers should always carry some.

Best of Patagonia

This 10-day itinerary focuses on highlights for first-timers, including Argentina’s Glaciar Perito Moreno, Chile’s Torres del Paine, and one of South America’s largest penguin colonies. A possible extension goes to the “uttermost part of the earth” at Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, in Argentine Tierra del Fuego.

Day 1

Plan a morning arrival in Buenos Aires, leaving the afternoon free for sightseeing and the evening for a tango floor show.

Days 2-3

After breakfast, fly to El Calafate (3 hours) and take an afternoon excursion to a nearby estancia for a traditional asado (barbecue). The following morning, take a full-day excursion to the groaning, deep blue Glaciar Perito Moreno.

Days 4-5

Take a scenic morning bus trip or drive to El Chaltén (3 hours), the trekking mecca of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. With an early arrival and good weather, it’ll be a swift hike to view the glaciated needle of Cerro Torre. Spend the next morning on a full-day hike to Laguna de los Tres, with stupendous views of Cerro Fitz Roy, followed by an evening return to El Calafate.

Days 6-8

Bus to bustling Puerto Natales (5 hours), gateway to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Stay overnight in Natales. The next day, plan on a scenic day hike in the vicinity or in the park (2 hours north), with afternoon options for short hikes or a horseback ride. The next morning, hike the short but strenuous trail to the tarns beneath the Torres themselves. In the evening, return to Puerto Natales.

Day 9

Travel across the Magellanic steppe to Punta Arenas (3 hours), with a short detour to the Magellanic penguin colony at Pingüinera Seno Otway, or, if the timing is right, ride the afternoon ferry to the larger colony on Isla Magdalena, in the Strait of Magellan. There are also quicker Zodiac trips to Isla Magdalena.

Day 10

From Punta Arenas, a morning flight to Chile’s underrated capital, Santiago (3 hours), leaves the afternoon free for sightseeing and a seafood lunch at the Mercado Central, followed by a nighttime departure. A later departure from Punta Arenas could mean time to visit that city’s exceptional Museo Regional Salesiano and then transfer directly to the international flight home.

Extension: Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego
DAY 10

From Punta Arenas, take a day tour to the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, to see the king penguin colony at Parque Pingüino Rey. It’s a long trip via ferry and road so, returning to Punta Arenas, have a relaxing dinner at one of the city’s outstanding restaurants.

DAYS 11-12

From Punta Arenas, take the 50-minute flight to Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego. This is the starting point for wildlife-viewing on the legendary Beagle Channel. Spend half a day on the water. The next day, plan an excursion to Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, which has multiple short hiking trails. Save time for Ushuaia’s Museo Marítimo, which is actually a prison museum.

DAY 13

Fly over Argentina’s endless Atlantic coastline back to Buenos Aires. The afternoon and evening are free for sightseeing and a tango show before the flight home.

Glaciar Perito Moreno

Santiago’s Mercado Central

Explore the Natural World

Patagonia offers an astonishing diversity of natural environments. The coastline abounds in wildlife, including elephant seals, penguins, and sea lions, but the great distances require time and money to see it. Public transportation is fine along the main highway but poor off it. The same is true of the Patagonian steppes, home to the llama-like guanaco and the ostrich-like rhea, and the southern Andean forests beyond the main tourist clusters.

Northern Argentine Patagonia boasts major paleontological sites in and around the city of Neuquén, and in and around the city of Trelew, near Puerto Madryn, as well as the wildlife mecca of Península Valdés. Along much of the Andes, particularly on the Chilean side, volcanism is an active presence.

Day 1

After an early-morning arrival in Santiago, start sightseeing. Plan on a seafood lunch at the picturesque Mercado Central and a visit to the information offices of Conaf, the country’s main national parks and conservation agency. Alternatively, in lieu of a hotel, ride a comfortable sleeper bus to Temuco, gateway to the upper Biobío’s araucaria forests.

Day 2

From Temuco, reached by sleeper bus (roughly nine hours) or a two-hour flight from Santiago, rent a car to explore the streams, gallery forests, and araucaria woodlands of Parque Nacional Tolhuaca and the upper Biobío, with accommodations at Curacautín or Malalcahuello. Bring binoculars for bird-watching.

A king cormorant scavenges for nesting material on Saunders Island, in the Falklands.

Day 3

Plan a full-day hiking excursion to araucaria forests above Malalcahuello, on the slopes of Volcán Lonquimay, with a post-hike soak at the nearby hot springs.


On Sale
Nov 21, 2017
Page Count
620 pages
Moon Travel

Wayne Bernhardson

About the Author

Wayne Bernhardson first traveled to Patagonia in 1979, visiting both Chile and Argentina as far as Tierra del Fuego, “the uttermost part of the earth,” and has returned to the region almost every year since 1990. He also spent a year walking, sailing, and flying around the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and had the pleasure of revisiting them to research this book. He owns an apartment in Buenos Aires, near the Palermo botanical gardens, and spends four to five months in the “Southern Cone” countries every year.

Wayne earned his PhD in geography at the University of California, Berkeley, but abandoned academia for a perpetual Latin American road trip that many university faculty envy. He is the author of Moon guides to Argentina and Chile, and has written for magazines and newspapers including Trips, the San Francisco Chronicle, the American Geographical Society’s Focus, Business Traveler, Dupont Registry Tampa Bay, Postcards, National Geographic Traveler, Latin Trade, and Travel Holiday. He often gives lectures on destinations he covers in his books.

When not in South America, Wayne resides in Oakland, California, with his wife, María Laura Massolo, their daughter, Clio Bernhardson-Massolo, and their Alaskan malamute, Malbec (named for Argentina’s signature red wine).

Learn more about this author