Travel Solo to Patagonia: Top 10 Tips

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hiking patagonia without a guide

Noemie and me at the beginning of our hike.

I spent a lot of time figuring out how to travel to Patagonia.

There were lots of fabulous photos of where I was going but I found little on how to get there. There seemed to be many steps involved and transportation that was unfamiliar to me.

So I wrote this post and Tourism Chile pointed people to it from their website for many years.

Ah, but that solo trip to Patagonia was in 2011. Quite some time ago.

Since this post is still used by hundreds of people every month as they plan their travels to spectacular Torres del Paine in Patagonia I thought it wise to verify the information and give it an update.

So here you go…

The Navimag ferry runs from Porto Montt to Puerto Natales.

10 Tips for Traveling Solo to Patagonia

  1. Take the Navimag. I can’t recommend the Navimag Ferry enough. It’s an absolutely spectacular journey that goes through Chile’s southern fjords traveling between Porto Montt and Puerto Natales and it is perfect for solo travelers. A few details.
    • It takes four days and three nights.
    • It is car and truck ferry that takes foot passengers as well and offers a variety of sleeping accommodation. I chose a four-bed cabin with a bathroom down the hall. There was an upper and lower bunk on either side of the cabin. I shared it with a couple from the UK and a gentleman from France.
    • The food is basic and adequate. This is not a cruise ship.
    • There were many solo travelers on board and it seemed that most found a  partner to hike Torres del Paine with by the end of the trip. I ended up hiking and camping with Noemie, a woman from France.
  2. Book at least one night in Puerto Natales. The Navimag arrives in Puerto Natales later in the day so you’ll need to book at least one night there. There is a variety of accommodation from hotels to B&Bs to hostels. I stayed at Erratic Rock and it was just fine though I’m sure that there are others that are equally fine in the town. The benefit of Erratic Rock is that they rent equipment and have the Torres del Paine hiking seminar. See below.
  3. Plan your hike. Decide how you want to experience the park. There is a free seminar every day at 3pm at the Erratic Rock Base Camp that will help you decide how to approach the hiking options in Torres del Paine. They have greatly expanded their offerings since I was there and now have a variety of guided programs and expeditions you can sign up for. You don’t have to go with them which will save you hundreds of dollars. If you hike on your own you basically have five options:
    • The Full Circuit
    • The full W
    • Parts of the W
    • A bus tour (no hiking)
    • The ferry to the Grey Glacier (no hiking).
  4. Check the weather. The big prize of any hike in Torres del Paine is the North Towers and they are often in the clouds. Check the weather and plan your hike so that you are more likely to ascend this trail on a clear day.
  5. Getting to the park. There are two busses a day running between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine. They leave at  7:30am and 2pm and they take about 2 hours. If you’re planning to drive make sure you have plenty of fuel as the only gas stations are in Puerto Natales.
hiking patagonia solo

Noemie on the trail to the Grey Glacier on the other side of the W.

  1. Take cash into the park. Almost everything in the park is cash only so, unless you plan to hike every step of the way, carry your food and camp, you’ll need money. Here are some approximate costs.
    • 21,000 / US32 – park entry during high season.
    • 30,000 / US$50- shuttles, buses and ferries within the park. Given how much time we had we walked the two sides of the W and had to bus/ferry between the sides.
    • 6,500 / US$10 per person/night
    • 3,000 / US$10- Pisco Sours – of course!
    • 10,000 / US$15 – a meal at the Grand Paine Refugio.
  2. Rent or bring hiking poles. I know it sounds lame but they do make a huge difference and even young people use poles. They won’t only make the trek easier, but they  will save your knees for later in life if you’re an avid hiker. I couldn’t believe how great they were.

The Grey Glacier.

  1. Plan your accommodation. I rented camping equipment from Erratic Rock I which is the cheapest form of accommodation you can get. Once you have your equipment, there is no need for reservations. If you don’t want to camp, you can stay in a Refugio, though I would make reservations in advance to ensure that you have a bed. If you really want luxury there is the Las Torres Hotel.
  1. What/where to eat. At the Refugios, you have the option of full board meaning that, in addition to giving you your breakfast and dinner, they’ll pack you a lunch for your day hiking. Even if you camp you can go to a Refugio and buy a meal. At the Grand Paine campground there was a kitchen building with stoves and sink. At the campground near the Torres (and I’m assuming for most of the circuit) there were no restaurants or cooking facilities.
patagonia solo travel

Our spectacular accommodation.

The Towers is the grand prize of hiking Torres del Paine. The trail is a little rocky towards the top.

  1. What to pack. When you’re hiking, you need to keep what you’re carrying to a minimum. Scale down your luggage and, if necessary, leave a bag at a hostel before you go to the park. For four days I wore/carried:
    1. 2 t-shirts
    2. 2 long sleeve shirts
    3. 2 pairs of pants
    4. rain gear
    5. two pairs of high quality hiking socks, underwear
    6. toiletries…
    7. camera, sunglasses, passport…
    8. nuts, dried fruit, etc.
    9. hiking poles
    10. tent, etc. if needed

If you don’t have the time to take the Navimag Ferry, you can fly to Puerto Natales or Punta Arena. Before leaving on this trip I knew that I would have to fly back to Santiago due to lack of time. When I priced it via LAN it looked like it would cost about $500. When in Chile, I learned about SKY Airlines and booked for $178 all in.

Absolutely spectacular hiking.

Last updated: 10th December, 2017

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