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Free Things To Do in Argentine Patagonia

If you have extra time, Southern Patagonia is worthwhile.
  • #1
    Things to do in Argentine Patagonia
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    #1 in Argentine Patagonia
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    Recreation, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    More than Full Day
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    Stretching across northwestern tip of Argentine Patagonia sits the picturesque Lake District. Sandwiched between the Andes mountains with Chilean Patagonia to the west and Atlantic Patagonia to the east, the Lake District contains breathtaking vistas from nearly every angle. San Carlos de Bariloche, known simply as Bariloche, serves as the region's major hub. Towering over the immense Nahuel Huapi Lake and the surrounding national park, Bariloche provides a tranquil setting for lounging outdoors, savoring local cuisine, and admiring the picturesque scenery. But Bariloche boasts more than natural beauty. Venture into Bustillo, the heart of the city, and you'll discover European architecture infused with local hardwood accents, which create a lofty urban setting. During July and August, you'll find idyllic skiing conditions, and, in January, you'll relish prime hiking and river rafting weather. We suggest visiting during November or March, when you can soak up the fresh air, marvel at postcard-perfect views of the Andes, and relax at a tucked away mountain retreat without heavy crowds.

    From Bariloche, it's easy to travel to Cerro Catedral's luxurious ski retreat. It's also worth checking out Villa La Angostura (a lakeside village 50 miles north of Bariloche) and San Martín de los Andes (a scenic town 112 miles north of Bariloche). Both feature local craft markets and panoramic views.

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    Atlantic Patagonia
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    #2 in Argentine Patagonia
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    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    This beautiful Patagonian region (which skirts the Atlantic Ocean and sits just east of the Lake District and above Southern Patagonia) consists of wildlife havens and quaint Welsh villages. Here, you'll spot tea connoisseurs flocking to towns like Trelew and Gaiman in search of the perfect brew and throngs of visitors congregating to Peninsula Valdés during whale-watching season. The easiest way to reach Peninsula Valdés is via bus or car from Puerto Madryn or Trelew, Atlantic Patagonia's main cities. Mar y Valle, a reputable bus service, offers transportation to Peninsula Valdés from Puerto Madryn for about $16.50 ARS (roughly $3.75) each direction.

    Punta Tombo wildlife sanctuary, located about 154 miles south of Puerto Madryn, is also worth a trip. Here you'll find dozens of charming Magellanic penguins mingling along the shores. To reach Punta Tombo, drive southbound on RP 1, which leads to the sanctuary.

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    Southern Patagonia
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    #3 in Argentine Patagonia
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    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
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    Boasting jaw-dropping sights—including Perito Moreno Glacier, Mount Fitz Roy, and Cueva de las Manos—Southern Patagonia attracts culture-hounds and nature-seekers alike. Sitting beneath the Lake District and Atlantic Patagonia at Patagonia's southernmost tip, this rustic district sits to the east of the Chilean border, sprawling downward to the verge of Antarctica.

    Most visitors descend upon El Chaltén or El Calafate to experience Patagonia's rugged backcountry. From El Calafate (a remote desert town that serves as the base to journey across Perito Moreno Glacier), you can relish the towering ice fields and far-stretching verdant forests. Daring hikers trek up jagged peaks and trek across the area's immense ice fields. Near El Calafate lies El Chaltén, a small town neighboring Mount Fitz Roy. From El Calafate, you can take an excursion to survey the Cave of the Hands' ornate and enigmatic cave arts.

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    Mount Fitz Roy
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    #6 in Argentine Patagonia
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
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    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Free
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    This jagged, granite-walled mountain towers 11,000 feet over El Chaltén in Southern Patagonia. Mount Fitz Roy, which typically stands obscured in a haze of clouds, was originally named "Chaltén," meaning "smoking mountain" in the ancient Tehuelche tribe's dialect. Today, its title commemorates Sir. Robert FitzRoy, the sailor who guided Charles Darwin into South America aboard the HMS Beagle.

    Visitors find the mountain striking as it's the highest mountain peak in Glacier National Park. But they also warn of the exhausting hike and harsh weather that can hinder even the most adept hikers. One TripAdvisor user explains, "Bringing your trekking shoes is a good idea, and be aware that the weather is tricky."

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