Patagonia is one of the most remote and spectacular regions in the world. Spanning the southernmost tip of South America across both Argentina and Chile, its natural beauty is defined by extremes, from jagged glaciers to barren desert. Prepare to get swept up in Patagonia’s dazzling scenery when you visit its most enrapturing sights, according to global travellers.*
San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
Take in views of Nahuel Huapi National Park from the top of Cerro Companario
The chocolate-box town of San Carlos de Bariloche (also called Bariloche) is right in the heart of one of Argentina’s most-visited national parks, Nahuel Huapi. And thus serves as a gateway to some of the country’s most arresting scenery. The park is home to glacial valleys, deep blue waters and evergreen forests that creep up cliff faces but its eponymous lake is the centrepiece. This enchanting strip of cerulean blue is a glacial remnant that’s over 100km long, with huddles of forested islands scattered across its waters and seabirds like the kelp gull and the blue-eyed cormorant. It’s a wonderful spot for kayaking, too. Beyond the lake, you can hike Mount Catedral for panoramic lake views or swim in one of the waterfalls that cascade down from the surrounding peaks. Afterwards, retreat to the restful Cacique Inacayal Lake Hotel & Spa.
El Calafate, Argentina
If you're lucky, you'll catch sight of ice chunks tumbling into the water below
About 80km from the town of El Calafate, you’ll find the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, where freezing icefields carve out a remarkable landscape. The area is best-known for the otherworldly Perito Moreno glacier on Lake Argento (it looks just like ‘The Wall’ from Game of Thrones). This vast mass of blueish ice spans 121 square miles and towers 240 feet above the water – and unusually it continues to grow. If you linger on the viewing platform for a little while, you’ll be rewarded with the dramatic natural phenomenon of ice chunks breaking off from the wall and plummeting into the turquoise waters below. Make your base in El Calafate at the Alpine-style Hotel Kosten Aiken, close to all of the park’s main sights.
The Ushuaia lighthouse is located at what feels like the end of the world
Ushuaia lays claim to a unique title – it’s considered the world’s southernmost city. It’s also the capital of the Tierra del Fuego region and (‘Land of Fire’) archipelago, named by Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, after he spotted fires along the shoreline as he sailed past. These days, you’re more likely to spot ice and snow in Tierra del Fuego. It’s an ancient, moody and altogether unusual landscape of glaciers, mossy lenga forests and rocky islands, encapsulating Patagonia’s striking natural wonder. A great spot for capturing the atmosphere of the area is Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, which can be reached by boat from Ushuaia. Here, you’ll be left (temporarily) to yourself to take in the sparse panoramas and to recapture the feelings of isolation that the explorers of old would have felt. When the boat comes to pick you up, head back to Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa upon arrival
El Chaltén, Argentina
Snap a picture of the Cerro Torre mountain peak in El Chaltén
El Chaltén is a mountain village that skirts the northern edge of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The thing that draws visitors to its wild frontiers, however, is hiking; it’s known as Argentina’s capital of trekking. Depending on your hiking level and the intensity you’re after, you can choose between day walks past the frosted spires of Cerro Torre and along the Mirador Maestri (a lake named after the Italian climber notorious for creating a ladder to climb up Cerro Torre). Or longer walks along the biting Hielos Sur (the Southern Patagonian Icecap). The latter is one of the most challenging but rewarding of hikes, with many routes clocking in at a week long (hiking experience and specialised mountain gear is required). But the serene views of Hielos Sur’s lunar-like expanse and the feeling of being immersed in nature is immensely gratifying. When you eventually return to El Chaltén, reward yourself with a night at the luxurious Destino Sur Hotel & Spa de Montaña.
San Martín de los Andes, Argentina
Lake Lago Lolog is spectacular in autumn backed by the snow-covered Lanín volcano
Located in the northwest of Patagonia, San Martín de los Andes is known as a base from which to explore Lanín National Park. This park (the third-largest of its kind in Argentina) takes its name from the Lanín volcano (Lanín translating to ‘Dead Rock’). This snow-capped, sleeping 3776-metre-high giant can be seen from all over the park and makes for a magnetic sight. Beyond the volcano, the park’s landscape is beautifully varied; from the barren scrublands of the Patagonian steppe to the crimson flora and monkey puzzle trees (a type of conifer) of the Andean-Patagonian Forest. It’s a veritable labyrinth of hiking trails that crest glacial lakes and lonely lagoons, your only company likely to be the woodpecker and firecrown birds native to the area. Make your base at Las Cumbres Apart & Suites.
**The data scientists at Booking.com dug into internal data to find the most highly endorsed destinations in Patagonia for ‘nature’.