How To Visit Patagonia With Kids
Costs, Timing and Best Places to Visit
Have you ever been scrolling on Instagram and come across a photo of jagged mountains, bright blue lakes and icy glaciers? You can almost taste how beautiful the landscape is…You add the photo to your “Wanderlust” board on Pinterest and discover that this beautiful place is in Patagonia, but then your next thought is, “Where exactly is Patagonia?” followed by, “I bet it’s really expensive to go there.” and “We could never go to Patagonia with Kids.”
I never dreamed that we’d be able to visit Patagonia with our family and medically complex kids until I started researching the epic area of South America myself. The more I researched, the more opportunities I saw available to travel safely and on a budget with the whole family. The wheels started to spin and before I knew it I was planning a trip to Patagonia!
Where is Patagonia?
Like most people when you hear the word “Patagonia”, your mind probably wanders over to the sleek, conscious, outdoor brand… Patagonia. You can see the logo with it’s jagged mountainscape and colorful sky. That logo is in fact a stylized version of Mount Fitz Roy, a picturesque and popular mountain in the Patagonian Region. So where is this picturesque region?
Patagonia is made up of about 400,000 sprawling square miles of southern Chile and Argentina. Breathtaking mountains, vast ice fields, cold deserts, windswept plains, majestic fjords and ocean coastlines all provide nature’s playground for those seeking adventure in the most southern area in the world… sparing Antarctica of course.
What is the best time to visit Patagonia?
Generally speaking, the best time to visit Patagonia is from October to March. During these months temperatures range from the low 30s to upper 60s F. Being so far south you’d think it’s always freezing in Patagonia but it’s not. The weather can however be very windy and change quickly. We had days in November where we started in warm jackets, transformed into short sleeves and then ran for our rain jackets.
What are the best places to visit in Patagonia?
You could spend months wandering around Patagonia trying to see all of the beautiful sights but most people don’t have that amount of time so I’ve narrowed it down to the 4 Best Places to Visit in Patagonia with Kids.
1- Penguins at Isla Magdalena
What kid doesn’t dream of seeing Penguins in the wild? Near the city of Punta Arenas, Chile you can hop on a boat, head out into the Strait of Magellan to Isla Magdalena where Penguin Natural Monument is the home to the largest colony of penguins in south Chile.
Inside Travel Tips-
- The best time to visit is December through January after the new chicks have hatched. Females typically lay their eggs in October and males help taking turns incubating the eggs in their burrows so in October and November the penguins are not as visible.
- You are only allowed on the island for 1 hour so budget your time accordingly
- There are many companies that offer tours out to Isla Magdalena but Solo Expediciones was the most cost effective, having the lowest price for adults, kids 4-12 years old pay half price and 3 and under are free
- Tours can be cancelled due to rough waters/weather. Head out first thing in the morning for the best chances for smoother waters. Be prepared for windy weather conditions!
How to Get to Isla Magdalena-
- The closest city to Isla Magdalena is Punta Arenas, Chile. Pretty much all flights into Punta Arenas come from Santiago, Chile. We were able to find great deals on flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas on Sky Airline. They are a budget air carrier, but if you’re traveling light and willing to fly at more odd times of the day, they are for sure your go to. You can save hundreds of dollars per ticket!
- If you’re traveling with a family, grabbing a taxi from the Punta Arenas Airport to the city center is your best option. It costs about $9.00 USD. We usually use Uber but they do not operate at the airport, only in the city center. Bus is also an option to the city center but a taxi ends up being more economical with a group and they can drop you right where you are staying.
- From the city center, locate your tour company and meet at their desired location. Almost everyone provides transportation to where you board the boat out to Isla Magdalena.
2- Torres del Paine National Park
If you’re looking for breathtaking views, sparking glaciers and active wildlife this is the place for you! The most visited park in Patagonia and largest in Chile will not disappoint. Famous for its Paine Towers and Horns, there’s so much more to see!
Inside Travel Tips-
- Book your accommodations early! Places to stay fill up very fast in Torres del Paine, even camp sights so get a jump and reserve your spot. We stayed at Hosteria Pehoe and couldn’t have had a more picturesque view. The hotel is set on and island with a footbridge as its only access.
- If you can stay inside the park or right outside it I would highly recommend it. The closest town to the Park with more housing is Puerto Natales, Chile which is still over an hour drive away or a 2-4 hour bus ride away.
- It is easy to get to Torres del Paine, but it is hard to get around the park unless you’re hiking it. There is no regular bus that goes around the park stopping at different destinations so if you’d like to see it all you NEED to rent a car. We wish we would have known this ahead of time, but we got lucky and hitched a ride with a nice German couple. We ended up spending a whole day with our new friends.
- If you do rent a car, be sure to fill up your gas in Puerto Natales since there is no gas in the Park!
- You can buy tickets to Torres del Paine National Park online, at the Puerto Natales bus station or at the entrance gate of the Park. If you wait to buy them at the park, bring cash incase the card system isn’t working.
- Bring your own snacks. Places to eat are few and far between and often close in between meals so it’s a good idea to bring some of your own food to snack on and plan for meals accordingly.
- Hikes can be long and remote. If you’re traveling with kids be sure to check out the length and difficulty before heading out. Also be sure to have proper gear as the weather can change quickly.
How To Get To Torres del Paine National Park-
- Most things in Patagonia are fairly remote and spread out. The most common way to reach Torres del Paine is to fly into Punta Arenas, Chile and then either rent a car or travel for 3ish hours via bus to Puerto Natales. Bus tickets are about $10 USD each from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales.
- You then have to hop on another bus to the Park which costs another $11 USD each. Depending on where you are headed in the park it is another 2-4 hours by bus. There are 3 spots where you can get off, Laguna Amarga, Pudeto, and the Administration Building. Be sure you know where you need to get off as these are very far apart from each other and there isn’t a great way to get around the park if you don’t have your own transportation.
- If you can buy your bus tickets ahead of time online. They sell out quickly, especially in the high season, and weekend schedules are often limited. Also some bus companies will only take cash in person.
- There is a small airport in Puerto Natales that has limited flights in and out. If you can snag a ticket it’s totally worth skipping the extra 3 plus hours, especially if you’ve been hiking and doing more travel beyond Torres del Paine.
3- Perito Moreno Glacier- Glacier National Park
El Perito Moreno Glacier is located in southwest Argentina, closest to the town of El Calafate. This glacier is one of 48 fed by the southern Patagonian Ice Field and it’s part of the world’s third largest reserves of fresh water.
Perito Moreno Glacier is unique in that it is one of very few glaciers in the world that is not decreasing in size. It is about 97 square miles. Where the glacier meets Lago Argentino, it stands about 3 miles wide and about 240 feet above the water, with and additional 558 feet submerged under water.
If you’re lucky, during your visit you’ll get to see part of the glacier fall into the lake! A truly life changing experience!
Inside Travel Tips-
- You can purchase your Perito Moreno, Parque Los Glacieres entrance tickets online, or if you choose to purchase them at the entrance gate, be sure to have CASH with you. They do take card but the portal system is very unreliable and often doesn’t work due to weak signal.
- Many different companies in town and online are happy to sell you a tour with admission tickets included, but we found the best way to explore the glacier was on our own.
- Perito Moreno is about 48 miles away from El Calafate, the closest town. Instead of taking the bus out to the glacier, it was more cost effective for our family to take a private taxi. We were able to get there before the rush of the buses and leave basically when we wanted.
- I HIGHLY recommend taking the boat ride out on Lago Argentino to get a closer look at the glacier. Tickets run about $15-20 USD, can be purchased same day inside the park. Like park admission, be prepared with cash as the card portal system is unreliable.
- Take your time hiking along the boardwalk. You may be able to see part of the glacier fall into the lake! This was one of the coolest experiences we’ve ever had!
- Be prepared and dress for all weather!
How to get to Perito Moreno Glacier-
- Unfortunately there isn’t a bus that goes from Torres del Paine National Park to El Calafate, Argentina. If you have a car this is where you are especially in luck. You can skip the ride back to Puerto Natales and just head straight to El Calafate.
- Traveling by bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate, Argentina, you’re looking at a $19-24 USD one way ticket and 5-6 hour bus ride including the border crossing. At the Chilean crossing, they have a family priority line, so if you’re traveling with your family, look out for this. It may cut down your waiting time!
- Once you get to El Calafate you need to catch another bus out to the glacier or you can hire a private taxi, as it’s about another hour and a half to get there.
- A private taxi can be more economical with a group and you have some room to negotiate price. Uber does not operate in El Calafate.
- If you choose to bus out to the glacier, be sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time. They sell out quickly! Also, The bus station is on the outskirts of town so if you are staying in town and need to depart from the bus station, be sure to factor that into your costs and plans.
- If El Calafate is toward the beginning of your trip, it does have an International airport that gets flights in from Buenos Aires.
- It is quite a trek to get out to the glacier, but it goes easier if your break up your travel, and it’s totally worth it once your see the majesty and beauty of Perito Moreno!
4- El Chaltén- Glacier National Park
Three hours north of El Calafate, also in Glacier National Park lies the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. Typically known for it’s magnificent granite peaks and excellent trekking, you may think it impossible to enjoy with kids.
The Condor Lookout hike provides a great way to get the whole family out to a breathtaking viewpoint of Mt Fitz Roy above El Chaltén. You can even walk to the trailhead from town.
Inside Travel Tips-
- El Chaltén is a very small and remote town. Be sure to have cash on hand for what you need.
- Multi day admission is an option if also visiting Perito Moreno Glacier since it is also in Glacier National Park
- It’s also a good idea to have arrangements for accommodations set ahead of time. We love using Airbnb.
How to get to El Chaltén-
- Pretty much all travel to El Chaltén originates from the town of El Calafate
- If you have a car you are set! Head north on the 40 and west on the 23and you’re sure to see breathtaking views of Mt. Fitz Roy along the way.
- Buses depart from the station in El Calafate for around $20 USD one way and arrive in El Chaltén about 3 hours later. If you can, book tickets ahead of time…they sell out quickly.
- Uber does not operate in El Chaltén