The Ultimate Patagonia Itinerary: 2 Weeks On A (Partial) Self-Drive Road Trip Through Southern Argentina and Chile

Gravel road with snowcapped mountains in the background in Patagonia Chile
When considering a Patagonia itinerary, it's hard to know where to begin. Spanning the southern section of South America across Chile and Argentina, Patagonia runs from Bariloche in the north all the way down to Tierra del Fuego and the Strait of Magellan in the south. Airports are few and far between and road quality varies considerably. For those that do decide to tackle a trip to Patagonia, there are endless rewards: from stunning snow-capped peaks to luminous glaciers to the bluest lakes you'll ever see. We embarked on a 2-week Patagonia itinerary cutting across both Chile and Argentina. Read on for our recommendations on where to go and how to get there. We flew, drove, and took the bus to get around as we explored the great expanses of Patagonia.

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: 4-Days in Bariloche

Bariloche in Argentina is a solid entry point into Patagonia. Flights run regularly from Buenos Aires to Bariloche. We recommend spending about 4 days in Bariloche and renting a car in order to see some of the scenic drives in the region.

Day 1 - Drive Circuito Chico and Cable Car to Cerro Otto

Patagonia 2 Week Itinerary: View from Circuito Chico in Bariloche Argentina
Circuito Chico is a well-marked scenic drive that begins just outside Bariloche town. It takes about half a day to make the circuit which includes gorgeous lake views and a stop at the famous Llao Llao Hotel. On the return drive, look for Cerro Otto and take the funicular (450 Argentinian presos, about $22 USD at the time of writing) to the top of the hill for spectacular panoramic views of Bariloche town and Lake Nahuel Huapi. If you're afraid of heights like I am, the 10 minute ride was a bit disconcerting as the cable car does get buffeted about in the wind but if you can muster the courage, it's worth the trip!
Patagonia Itinerary (2 weeks): Cerro Otto Cable Car near Bariloche Argentina

Day 2 - The 7 Lakes Drive (aka Ruta de Siete Lagos)

Patagonia Itinerary: View on the Seven Lakes Drive near Bariloche Argentina
On your second day in Bariloche, drive further afield and do the Seven Lakes Drive (Ruta de Siete Lagos). We drove straight through from Bariloche to Villa La Angostura in about 90 minutes. We spent about an hour in Villa La Angostura and left wishing we'd had more time in this quiet Argentinian town. La Angostura is an ideal spot to stock up on chocolate from Argentina's Lake District. Check out awesome chocolate shops like Mamuschka and La Campiña Del Sur. It quickly became clear why Bariloche is known as the Switzerland of South America.

There is one super-important thing to note. We did not see any toilets anywhere along the Seven Lakes Drive outside of Villa La Angostura so make sure to use the bathroom when you pass through the town. Pop into Cafe Antibes for something to eat and to use the loo. We stopped here as we passed through Villa La Angostura in both directions.

The best bits of the Seven Lakes Drive are past Villa La Angostura. We pushed on all the way to Vullignanco waterfall and then turned back toward Bariloche to make sure that we completed the trip before the sun set. We saw some amazing views along the way. Pull off the road at any of the small parking lots dotting the route or just pull off onto the shoulder if you see something you like. 

Day 3 - Explore Bariloche

On the third day of your Patagonian itinerary in Bariloche, take a break from driving and set out to explore the town. Start the day with an amazing sunrise. The photo below was taken from the comfort of our room at Alma del Lagos Suites and Spa ($182 USD per night), a hotel situated on the shore of Nahuel Huapi Lake.
Sunrise over Bariloche Argentina
Check out the shops in Bariloche town and then tuck into some top notch steak washed down with a bottle of Argentinian Malbec at La Parrilla de Tony.
La Parrilla de Tony grill in Bariloche Argentina

Day 4 - Cau Cau Cruise on Nahuel Huapi Lake

Cau Cau cruise boat on Nahuel Huapi Lake in Bariloche Argentina
On your final day in Bariloche, get out onto the lake itself with a Cau Cau cruise. The cruise stops at Isla Victoria and Parque Nacional Arrayanes. A half-day lake cruise cost $1060 ARS per person ($50 USD at the time of writing). Visitors are also required to to pay a $250 ARS (foreigner price; about $12 USD) entry fee to get into the national park. 

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: 2-Days in El Calafate

2-weeks in Patagonia may seem like a long trip, but given the distances involved you'll need to be efficient. We took advantage of regular non-stop flights from Bariloche to El Calafate to make our way south as efficiently as possible. Spend two days in El Calafate to give yourself time to see Perito Moreno Glacier and explore the town. 

Day 5 - Laguna Nimez Reserve, Craft Beer, and Dinner at Mako

Patagonia Itinerary: See a spectacled tyrant bird in Laguna Nimez Reserve in El Calafate Argentina
Upon arrival in El Calafate, drop off your bags at Calafate Parque Hotel ($186 USD per night). Bundle up and head to Laguna Nimez Reserve to look for the birds of Patagonia. Definitely wear layers. The sun was shining but the wind was howling when we visited in November. It was absolutely amazing to see birds of prey nearly suspended in mid-air due to the strong winds as we walked a slow circuit around the reserve.
Patagonia Itinerary: Path through the grass at Laguna Nimez Reserve in El Calafate Argentina
Finish the day with a walk through El Calafate town. Try a sampler of craft beers at Chopen Cerveceria including an ale flavored with El Calafate's namesake berry.
Patagonia Itinerary: Beer sampler at Chopen Cerveceria in El Calafate Argentina
Enjoy a gourmet dinner at Mako in the heart of El Calafate before calling it a night.
Dinner at Mako Restaurant in El Calafate Argentina

Day 6 - Perito Moreno Glacier and the Glaciarium

Patagonia Itinerary: Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate Argentina
Work with your hotel to arrange transportation to Perito Moreno Glacier which is located about 90 minutes outside the town of El Calafate. We hired a private taxi to take us to the glacier through a travel agency that our hotel recommended for $1500 ARS (about $125 USD at the time of writing). Once you arrive at Perito Moreno glacier, take a couple hours to explore the boardwalk trails for amazing views over the glacier. Listen to the glacier creak and groan. You may even be lucky enough to see an iceberg calve off and crash into the stunning blue water below.
Boardwalk at Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate Argentina
On the return drive to El Calafate, stop off at the Glaciarium to learn about the science behind glaciers and the geology of this area of Patagonia. You can catch the free shuttle bus from the Glaciarium back to El Calafate town.
Exhibit at the Glaciarium near El Calafate Argentina

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: Day 7: 1-Day in Transit to Cross from Argentina into Chile by Bus at Rio Don Guillermo

El Calafate offers regular bus services to Puerto Natales, Chile. We reserved seats on Bus-Sur and embarked on a 5 hour ride from El Calafate to Puerto Natales. We were a little surprised when the bus turned from a paved road onto gravel. Road quality definitely varies in Patagonia. We were on Ruta 40, a national road. We bounced along until we came upon the border crossing at Rio Don Guillermo. We were really in the middle of nowhere. Be careful what you bring with you on the bus since the border-crossing involves a bio-security check. Fruit-sniffing dogs checked out the luggage hold of the bus and selected bags were chosen for extra screening. In all, it took about 30-45 minutes to get an exit stamp in our passport for Argentina and clear customs and immigration for Chile.
Bus-Sur from El Calafate Argentina to Puerto Natales Chile

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: 3-Days in Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales is a great home-base for exploring the natural attractions of Chilean Patagonia. Puerto Natales is a small town but given the big attractions nearby, it's worth devoting three days to the visit. We stayed at Hotel Costaustralis ($206 USD per night), a historic property right on the water. We rented a car upon our arrival in Puerto Natales because the rest of our Patagonia itinerary would be a self-drive road trip.

Day 8 - Condors at Lago Sofia

Soaring condor at Lago Sofia near Puerto Natales Chile
Take a drive to Lago Sofia from Puerto Natales. Make sure to take it easy when you turn off the main road onto unpaved gravel. The road narrows as you approach the lake. Park close to the lake and take the trail leading up and to the left around the lake. You'll see Andean condors soaring overhead whenever the wind picks up.
Gravel roads and mountains near Lago Sofia in Puerto Natales Chile

Day 9 - The Mylodon Cave

Patagonia Itinerary: Outside the Mylodon Cave near Puerto Natales Chile
Puerto Natales is known as the home of the Mylodon. A cave was discovered less than an hour outside the town with bones and a hide from a giant prehistoric mammal. Today you can walk through the cave where the bones were found. A recreated Mylodon will greet you at the entrance. The area around the Mylodon cave also offers a few short but scenic hikes. Once again, when the wind picks up, you may see the majestic Andean condor.

If you are short on time and have less than two weeks for your Patagonia itinerary, it is possible to combine Lago Sofia and the Mylodon Cave into a single self-drive day trip from Puerto Natales.
Patagonia Itinerary: Mylodon sculpture at the Mylodon Cave near Puerto Natales Chile

Day 10 - Take a Walk and Enjoy the Food of Puerto Natales

Swirling clouds over Hotel Costaustralis in Puerto Natales Chile
After two days of driving on bone-rattling roads, take a break and walk around Puerto Natales town. You'll find quaint shops, cool sculptures and a fantastic food scene in Puerto Natales.
Jumping people sculptures in Puerto Natales Chile

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: Day 11: Torres del Paine National Park in 1 Day

Cloud-covered mountains in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
You could probably spend a week or two in Torres del Paine National Park, especially if you wanted to do the W Trek. However, on a 2-week Patagonia Itinerary, you really only have time for a quick day trip to Chile's premier natural attraction. You can cover a lot of ground in Torres del Paine National Park in a single day. We drove a circuit around the main gravel road through the park stopping for a few short and scenic hikes along the way including the Salto Chico Trail and the trek to Mirador Cuernos.

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: Day 12: 1-Day in Transit: Drive to Punta Arenas

Alpacas at the roadside between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas Chile
Continue south from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas by car; a 3 hour drive on paved roads. I'll admit, this drive is pretty boring aside from the occasional alpaca farm that you'll encounter on the way. Driving is the most efficient way to get to Punta Arenas though since flying is not an option.

Patagonia in 2 Weeks: 2-Days in Punta Arenas

Spend the final two days of your Patagonia itinerary exploring Punta Arenas, the Chilean city on the shore of the Strait of Magellan. Stay at Hotel Dreams del Estrecho Casino ($184 USD per night) for spectacular views over the Strait of Magellan.

Day 13 - Fort Bulnes and Replica Ships

Wooden replicas of the original settlements in Fort Bulnes outside Punta Arenas Chile
Take a short drive from Punta Arenas to Fort Bulnes, site of the original colonial settlement in the region. Explore the re-creation of the wooden fort and take a hike through the forest and along the waters of the Strait of Magellan. Your visit to Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes cost 14000 Chilean pesos at the time of writing (about $23 USD).
Patagonia Itinerary: View over the Strait of Magellan at Fort Bulnes near Punta Arenas Argentina
On your return to Punta Arenas, keep going a little further until you reach Museo Nao Victoria. This fascinating museum features a replica of one of Magellan's ships, a replica of Darwin's Beagle and the lifeboat, Ancud, that Shackleton used to navigate across 500 miles of open ocean to seek rescue for his shipwrecked men.
Replica of Magellan's ship at Museo Nao Victoria in Punta Arenas Chile

Day 14 - Walk around Punta Arenas and Along the Strait of Magellan

On the final day of your 2-week Patagonia itinerary, explore the city of Punta Arenas and walk along the Strait of Magellan. Think about the history of this place at the southern tip of South America. In the early 1500s, Magellan's crew first circumnavigated the globe and sailed through these waters. At the end of two weeks in Patagonia, you deserve to think of yourself as a modern day explorer walking in Magellan's footsteps. Finish the day with a Hernando de Magellanes craft beer at the Shackleton Bar in Hotel José Nogueira and toast the end of an amazing 14 days in Patagonia! 
Rusty maritime equipment on the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas Chile

Patagonia Maps of Points of Interest for Your 2 Week Itinerary

Check out the maps below to better understand the points of interest highlighted in this post and the distances involved on this two week Patagonia itinerary across Chile and Argentina.

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The Ultimate Patagonia Itinerary: 2 Weeks On A (Partial) Self-Drive Road Trip Through Southern Argentina and Chile

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The Ultimate Patagonia Itinerary: 2 Weeks On A (Partial) Self-Drive Road Trip Through Southern Argentina and Chile
The Ultimate Patagonia Itinerary: 2 Weeks On A (Partial) Self-Drive Road Trip Through Southern Argentina and Chile
Explore our Patagonia itinerary and spend 2 weeks on an independently organized trip through Southern Chile and Argentina including some self-drive segments.
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