Solo Travel in Patagonia: Chile & Argentina

solo travel patagonia

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I write this in a cosy cafe in Puerto Natales following a successful couple of weeks travelling solo in Patagonia. This incredible region at the tip of the world known for glaciers, peaks and penguins (and the gateway to Antarctica) had been on my bucket list for YEARS.

I’m so thrilled I finally made it! It’s lived up to all my expectations and then some. Even the things I worried about – for example hiking alone – turned out fine. Better than fine!

So, in this guide, I’m going to share all my tips for women travelling alone to Patagonia, both the Chilean and Argentinian sides.

Mount Fitz Roy hike patagonia solo travel
Travelling solo in Patagonia in beautiful autumn

Is Patagonia a good place to travel alone?

I’d say reasonably so, yes. I had a blast travelling alone in Patagonia. It’s a safe and popular region where you’ll meet plenty of other travellers, including solo female travellers.

Destinations are well connected by bus and there’s decent tourist infrastructure from hostels to day tours if you don’t want to do day hikes alone.

Read next: a complete guide to solo female travel

Is Patagonia safe for solo female travel?

It’s incredibly safe. I felt safe hiking, walking in the towns at night, taking buses… In fact during everything I did!

There’s virtually no crime to worry about; I didn’t hear of anyone having a bad experience. This is quite the contrast to other places in Chile like Santiago where theft is rife and I got my iPhone snatched from my hand in broad daylight on day two.

Read next: solo travel in Chile – tips & best places

Also, I never experienced harassment in Patagonia. Generally, the vibe of Patagonia is friendly and relaxed. Also, English is spoken by locals in this touristic region far more commonly than some places in Latin America.

Tres Lagunas hike El Chalten
Tres Lagunas hike from El Chalten, Argentina

Is Patagonia ok for first time solo travellers?

I don’t see why not! Patagonia is safe and easy to navigate so you don’t need to be a seasoned solo traveller to go it alone.

I suspect most people who visit Patagonia alone as a first solo trip are keen hikers because it’s probably not the most common place in the world for solo female travel. There are definitely destinations with better hostels and activities for solo travellers.

With all that said, there’s no reason that you can’t do Patagonia alone as a first solo trip if this wonderland of hiking and nature appeals but you don’t have anyone to go with (or would rather go alone).

Good things about solo travel in Patagonia

  • Positive safety rating – you can travel without worrying about your belongings or personal safety
  • Decent hostels – although not world-class, they certainly do the job. And a few, like Last Hope in Puerto Natales, have the option of a female dorm
  • Easy to meet people – this is such a popular region and I found it easy to meet people everywhere from hostels to day tours
  • Efficient bus connections – you don’t need to hire a car alone. Also, Uber is available – and affordable – in larger hubs like Puerto Natales.

Bad things about travelling alone in Patagonia

  • Expensive – meaning if you want to get a private room rather than do dorms, it’s not especially affordable for those alone, especially on the Argentinian side. Restaurant prices, especially in El Calafate, are high so you may want to cook but this is more expensive for one (or means you end up eating the same thing repeatedly)
  • There can be some risks of hiking alone such as getting lost or hurting yourself (although the trails are usually busy and well-marked). Also, I felt most comfortable going at peak times when I actually wanted to go at sunrise but didn’t want to start alone in the dark. So, there are some slight limitations.
Hiking patagonia solo female
Hiking in Argentinian Patagonia with friends I made in a hostel

When to visit Patagonia

Be aware that Patagonia isn’t somewhere you can visit year-round because of the extreme seasons. Peak season is December to February when the weather is warmest; shoulder seasons are late March-April and October-November.

  • Winter = May-mid September. The region is basically shut so you can’t visit during this freezing cold period.
  • Spring = October-November. This is a pretty season with flowers blooming and temperatures rising, but you can still expect to experience rain and winds.
  • Summer = December-early March. Although the weather is warmest, the winds are at their strongest known to flip cars! If you plan to visit in peak season, book well in advance and prepare for higher prices and crowded hiking trails.
  • Autumn = March-April. The season winds down bringing benefits such as fewer crowds, lower prices and milder winds. The red leaves make this a stunning time to visit! Disadvantages include unpredictable weather.

I enjoyed visiting in autumn and do recommend this, but perhaps that’s because I was lucky with the weather. If you only have a set number of days and can’t spare the time for a rainy day inside, peak season is likely when you’ll want to go.

Best places for solo travel in Patagonia & can’t miss experiences

Most travellers who visit Patagonia have specific bucket list items in mind such as the W Trek in Chile, seeing Mount Fitz Roy in Argentina or visiting the end of the world in Ushuaia (and even setting sail to Antarctica if they have the budget).

Some memorable places to include in your solo Patagonia itinerary include…

Puerto Natales for Torres del Paine Nat Park (Chile)

Torres del Paine National Park

Hiking in the majestic Torres del Paine National Park was the highlight of my solo travels in Patagonia!

Although I just explored the national park during a day hike to the Base of the Towers and a highlights day tour, plenty of people stay longer doing the W Trek (typically 4-5 days) or the O Trek (7-8 days).

Things to do include

  • Day tour in the park – small mini buses tour the park stopping at points of interest like scenic lakes, Glacier Grey and Miloden Caves. I took this tour.
  • Walk on Glacier Grey – although the W Trek offers spectacular views, the easier way to visit this 30m glacier is during a boat trip. You can catch a bus to the starting point or pre-book a tour from Puerto Natales (park day tours include a glimpse from the shore but not a close look).
  • Hike to the Torres Base – the first day of the W Trek is the hardest but if you don’t want to spend 5 days on your feet, I suggest doing this incredible day hike to the laguna at the base of the towers. You can go by bus or take a group tour including pick up and drop off. I chose the tour because I wanted some support for the 18km hike with 1000m of elevation, plus you head back to town when you’re done rather than waiting for the 8pm public bus.
Torres Base hike solo travel in Patagonia chile
Feeling accomplished at the Torres Base (although we still had to hike 9km back)

Puerto Natales is a decent base for exploring the national park. The best hostel is Hostel Last Hope run by the friendly Diego and only costs around $17 a night including breakfast, served from 5pm to fit around guests’ early hiking schedules. I slept well in the 4-bed female dorm. It’s worth noting this was the only place I found during my solo travels in Patagonia with a female dorm.

Where to eat and drink in Puerto Natales

  • El Taller – don’t miss this chilled cafe for a healthy, veggie feast
  • Yume – next door to El Taller is an incredible Japanese restaurant. The seafood ramen was so good I returned twice and the sushi looks good, too
  • Adventure Cactus – the best speciality coffee in town. They even do cakes in the shape of the Torres although sadly they weren’t available when I visited
  • Last Hope Distillery for gin cocktails run by an enthusiastic Aussie couple. They do free distillery tours with tastings each afternoon!

Punta Arenas for penguins (Chile)

Punta arenas penguin colony

There’s not much to do in Punta Arenas town but given that it’s only a 3-hour bus ride from Puerto Natales and a gateway to Tierra del Fuego and several penguin-viewing opportunities, it’s worth visiting for a couple of nights. It’s a safe and pleasant place for solo travel in Patagonia.

Since it was off-season for the Magellanic penguins seen between November and February on Magdelanas Island, I just spent 2 nights in Punta Arenas to see the king penguins on Tierra del Fuego as a day trip. The colony at the reserve are well cared for by the knowledgeable rangers. Entry is 13,000 pesos.

I took a day tour to see the penguins but it’s worth noting that it’s a long day with pick up at 7.30am and drop off after 9.30pm – and only 1 hour with the penguins! It was a lot of driving but made bearable by the captivating landscape of Tierra del Fuego with animals like guanacos (in the llama family) and rhea.

I recommend avoiding Wednesdays and Fridays as the ferry schedule means you get back even later.

Tierra del Fuego penguins

Punta Arenas has an interesting history, largely settled by Croatian immigrants. After my solo travels in Croatia and stint living there, I was keen to visit Cafe Inmigrante which is a shrine to their history (although they did try to serve me a cup of tea by putting a tea bag in a cup of hot milk – as a Brit, I nearly fainted in horror!).

There aren’t many hostels in town but Backpackers Paradise is a decent base and affordable at $10 a night.

Pucon (Chile)

Pucon chilean patagonia

The adventure capital of Chilean Patagonia is the beautiful town of Pucon, surrounded by volcanos and lakes. The best hike is the San Sebastian route in Huerquehue National Park, referred to by many travellers as the best hike of their lives (although extremely steep).

Providing there isn’t an alert to its volcanic activity, the Villarrica Volcano hike is a real bucket lister in Pucon although physically demanding as you often have to summit in snow and partly slide back down!

Another great hike is in a private park called El Cani full of monkey puzzle trees, reaching a stunning three-waterfall viewpoint. The hike is around 18km long with 1100 metres of elevation (most in the first 3km).

Other activities in Pucon

  • Hydrospeeding is a fun activity resembling whitewater rafting but on bodyboards. Tackling level 3 white water rapids, it’s suitable for capable swimmers only as there’s a high chance of falling off
  • Kayaking – if you’re like me and hydrospeeding sounds like hell, opt for a more leisurely kayak ride, drinking in the spectacular surroundings
  • Take a tour to the Geometric Thermal Springs including a 3-hour valley hike finishing with the chance to relax in the springs. For a budget DIY option, there are plenty of closer springs accessed by local bus.

Where to stay in Pucon: stay at Chili Kiwi, one of the best hostels for solo travel in Patagonia. It’s a social base to meet other travellers and book tours to the main attractions.

The best way to reach Pucon is via the larger city of Puerto Montt (5 hours away by bus) which has an airport with regular flights to Santiago and southern Patagonia. Charming Puerto Montt is worth visiting in its own right, surrounded by lakes and volcanos, as is nearby Puerto Varas.

Ushuaia (Argentina)

Train Ushuaia argentina patagonia solo female travel

Even if you’re not setting sail on a once-in-a-lifetime voyage to Antarctica, the fin del mundo (end of the world) is worth visiting during a solo trip to Patagonia.

Things to do in Ushuaia include a boat tour of the Beagle Channel (a half-day trip is enough unless you want to see the penguin colony, then opt for a full day), exploring other parts of Tierra del Fuego island and riding the famous Fin del Mundo train.

For hikers, the best option is Laguna Esmeralda. There are a few glaciers you can hike to: Martial Glacier is the easiest while Ojo de Albino and Vinciguerra are striking, challenging routes.

Ushuaia has an airport or you can catch an 11-hour bus from Punta Arenas. The best hostels are Cruz del Sur and El Refugio.

El Calafate for Perito Moreno (Argentina)

Perito moreno glacier

Although I didn’t love El Calafate town (everything is spread out and the main street is touristy and void of charm), it’s worth it for the incredible Perito Moreno glacier, 78km from town.

Options for getting to Perito Moreno from El Calafate:

  • Mini trekking – this is a full-day activity including an hour trek on the glacier, time on the boardwalks and a whisky served over glacier ice. It costs $250 USD with Hielo & Aventura.
  • Big Ice – spending 4 hours on the glacier (a more physically demanding option) costs $500 USD with Hielo & Aventura.
  • Shuttle to the boardwalk area – this costs around 40,000 pesos ($45) return. Use bus companies CalSur or Tasqa.
  • Group tour – to have everything organised for little more than the bus price, take a group tour inc. hotel pickup from $55.
  • Taxi to the boardwalk area – we got this for 80,000 pesos ($90) return and split it between 4 of us at the hostel, equally $22pp, half the price of the bus!
  • Note – park entry is an extra 30,000 pesos.

It’s worth noting this is one of the worst-value glaciers in the world to walk on even compared to countries more expensive than Argentina such as Iceland and New Zealand. I walked on Fox Glacier in NZ for a similar price including a helicopter ride! Saying that, if you want to treat yourself, why not?

There isn’t loads else to do in El Calafate. I went to the Glacier Museum for 10,000 pesos (accessed by a free shuttle from town) which was just ok. You can also wander around the nature reserve by the water and spot flamingos.

Where to stay: Easily the best El Calafate hostel for solo travellers in Patagonia is America del Sur with beds from $20 including a buffet breakfast and great views of the town – and sunset – from the deck.

El Chalten for hiking (Argentina)

El Chalten hiking fitz roy

Just a 3.5-hour drive by car or bus from El Calafate is THE Argentine hiking hub. In the shadow of majestic Mount Fitz Roy (the logo of THAT brand), El Chalten is a small town that’s undeniably expensive without particularly good accommodation options.

Still, it’s worth visiting for the many amazing hikes. If you only have time for one, the Laguna de los Tres trail to the lake at the base of Fitz Roy is the winner. It’s an 8-hour return hike that’s flat and beautiful most of the way with a tricky final kilometre of more than 400m elevation. It can be icy and slippy so be careful!

There don’t seem to be group tours for this hike but I got together with two other travellers from my hostel; I always prefer hiking with others!

Overall, I found the hike pretty comparable in difficulty to the Base of the Towers in Torres del Paine but perhaps slightly easier since the tricky uphill section is so condensed. The total elevation gain is similar; around 1000m for each.

For an easier hike, opt for Laguna Torre. For a lovely viewpoint of the town and Fitz, head over to Mirador de los Cóndores; it takes about 30 minutes to walk up the hill.

Best hostel: easily the best hostel is Aylen-Aike with sparkling reviews but at $35 a night, I couldn’t justify it for a dorm bed! So I stayed at Rancho Grande for $20 which was ok.

Bariloche (Argentina)

Bariloche argentina solo traveller patagonia
A stunning place for solo travel in Patagonia

Bariloche town in the Argentinian Lake District is worth a visit for the endless chocolate shops thanks to Italian and Swiss immigrants who settled here. The best is Mamuschka with an Instagram almost as aesthetic as the (seriously boujee) chocolates themselves!

Other things to do from Bariloche include:

  • The Cerro Llao Llao hike (easily accessed by bus)
  • Riding the cable car up Cerro Otto
  • Walking 40 minutes up to Cerro Campanario
  • Completing the Circuito Chico loop by car or bus for amazing Patagonian scenery.

However, the journey to and from Bariloche is also special. Many travellers hire cars and take the multi-day trip on Ruta 40 between Bariloche and El Calafate in the south.

North of Bariloche, you can spend 1-3 days on the Scenic Seven Lakes Route with an overnight stop in San Martin de los Andes, a cute port town and the gateway to Lanin National Park.

Solo travellers in Patagonia may choose to DIY Bariloche with public transport rather than hire a car; get a rechargeable SUBE card, also used in Mendoza and Buenos Aires.

Getting to Patagonia

Most commonly, travellers fly. From Santiago, you’re well connected to Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales in the south or Puerto Montt in the lakes region. From Buenos Aires, flights connect to Ushuaia, El Calafate and Bariloche.

To arrive in the northern lakes, you can bus from Pucon/Puerto Montt to Santiago in 11 hours. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights.

Getting around Patagonia

It’s easy to get around Patagonia for solo travellers even if you don’t have a car. There’s an efficient bus network between all the popular places. I used Busbud to book the day before, however you’ll want to book in advance in peak season.

You can also use day tours booked through GetYourGuide and Viator to get around, for example to explore Torres del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales. I also took one from Punta Arenas to the Tierra del Fuego penguin colony.

Of course, a popular option is hiring a car and road-tripping around. The route from El Chalten to Bariloche is one of the most popular road trips in the world! But hiring a car solo is never the most economical option.

You can also fly within Patagonia. These are cheaper in Chile: from Punta Arenas to the Lakes Region (Puerto Montt), flights start from $40, whereas flying the same distance across the border (for example from El Calafate to Bariloche) starts from $70 and the flights are less frequent and only in peak season.

Punta arenas patagonia
Colourful Punta Arenas: accessed from Puerto Natales by $10 bus!

Average prices in Patagonia

Chilean side (in USD):

  • Hostels: $12-18 a night
  • Budget private room: $25
  • Meal in a restaurant: $12
  • Speciality coffee: $4
  • Cocktail: $7
  • 3-hour bus ride: $10

Argentinian side (in USD):

  • Hostels: $20+
  • Budget private room: $40+
  • Meal in a restaurant: $15+
  • Speciality coffee: $4-6
  • 3-hour bus ride: $20.

Is Argentinian or Chilean Patagonia better?

In my opinion, they’re both as good as each other. Pucon (Chile) and Bariloche (Argentina) are fantastic adventure capitals in the Lake District. Lower down, Puerto Natales (Chile) is a great launching spot for Torres del Paine while El Chalten (Argentina) is ideal for hiking near Fitz Roy. However, if you want to do the W Trek, obviously Chile is the winner!

If you like a nice and affordable town with good accommodation and food options, I liked Puerto Natales more than the nearby Argentine hubs of El Calafate and El Chalten especially since everything was half the price. Undeniably, the Chilean side is cheaper than the Argentine side, perhaps because it’s smaller and less popular overall.

Of course, if you want to visit the end of the world and depart on an Antarctica cruise, then Argentina is where it’s at!

It’s easy to do both Chilean and Argentine Patagonia in one trip because you can bus between Puerto Montt and Bariloche in the Lake District in 7 hours and, lower down, from Puerto Natales to El Calafate in 6 hours.

Thanks for reading!

Read more solo travel guides:

Solo travel in the Americas:

Guides to solo female travel in Asia:

Guides to solo travel in Europe:

TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR PATAGONIA

Getting around by air – the quickest (and often cheapest) way to travel between Chilean & Argentinian cities is by flight. I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.

Getting around by bus (environmental option) – buses are comfy and regular. I use Busbud to find the best prices.

Car hires – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals (and all around the world)

For hotels, use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.

Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I always check Viator in case they have a better price.

To stay connected, download an e-SIM with Airalo and connect immediately. Browse their packages for Chile and Argentina.

Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.

For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

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