What are the five best things to see and do in Patagonia?

Narrowing down a list of the best things to see and do in Patagonia, an area that spans two countries and over 600,000 square miles, is no easy task. In a perfect world, you'd have a couple of months to roam about Patagonia as you see fit, stopping to watch whales in Puerto Madryn, eat berries in El Bolsón and take in countless vistas of postcard perfect mountains and lakes. Since most travelers don’t have the time for that kind of leisurely stroll around some of the most beautiful and diverse topography on the planet, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do in Patagonia, all of which are worth planning a trip around:

1. Beach with the penguins in Camarones. A pleasant distance from the more trafficked towns of Chilean Patagonia, this sleepy coastal village is where you'll go to unwind amongst friendly locals, endless expanses of beach and tens of thousands of penguins. Depending on the time of the year of your visit, you might spot newly born penguins huddling with their parents.
 
2. See glaciers move at Parque Nacional los Glaciares in Argentina. Or more specifically, one very special glacier: Perito Moreno, a massive formation slowly creeps forward each day, and is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that’s still expanding. What this means for you: the chance to see luminous turquoise-white ice inch forward across a breathtaking terrain, occasionally stopping to shed pieces of ice, which tumble dramatically into the water below.  
 
3. Experience the wonder of Torres Del Paine. Located on the Chilean side of Patagonia, these stunning jagged peaks stand out against the deep blue Patagonian sky and have inspired awe in countless daredevil climbers and naturalists. The entire national park that houses them is worth exploring, whether it's a day trip, a hike through the wildflowers, or the chance to swim in some of the most beautiful lakes in Patagonia.  
 
4. Bird watch at Punta Tombo. This stretch of Argentinian beach is often packed with travelers who come to see this lively rookery, which is home to a half-million Magellanic penguins and plenty of other varieties of bird, including kelp gulls, oystercatchers, and cormorants.  
 
5. Explore Bosque Petrificado Sarmiento. Located about 20 miles from Argentina’s Sarmiento, you'll find one of the most stunning petrified forests in Patagonia, with gigantic petrified logs strewn about (they landed there 65 million years ago when river currents dragged them to their current location). The non-petrified surroundings — striped bluffs with deep oranges and reds — only add to the surreal nature of the experience. While not as famous as the glaciers and other icons of Patagonia, this is still very much worth a visit.

  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where can I go skiing in Patagonia?

    The real question is where can't you go skiing in Patagonia — the endless flow of mountains attracts travelers from around the world who want to take a tumble in some of the finest powder anywhere. There is also the surreal experience for those from the northern hemisphere of being atop a snowy mountain in the middle of July. While there is plenty of excellent backcountry skiing in Patagonia, it’s best to stick to one of the well-trafficked resorts with abundant groomed trails. The best bet, regardless of level of expertise, is Cerro Cathedral, about 12 miles outside of Bariloche, Argentina. As the most complete ski resort in the country, Cerro Cathedral offers modern lifts, amazing views, regular bus service and plenty of places to stay at the end of a long day of skiing.
  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best thing to bring home from Patagonia?

    One of the best and most unique things to bring home from Patagonia is a bottle of locally-produced wine, particularly the fine pinot noirs grown in the region. The cool Patagonian climate has a similar effect on the grapes as those grown in the Pacific Northwest, resulting in some of the finest varieties out there today, and at prices that are truly budget-friendly. Visit Familia Schroeder’s local winery — near Neuquen in Argentine Patagonia — to taste and purchase their outstanding Patagonian-grown Saurus pinot noirs, malbecs, cabernet sauvignons and more (you can also view the dinosaur fossils found on the property that gave their name to the producer’s wines). Artisanal food products are also a great souvenir found throughout Patagonia, particularly the various paté varieties — we're sure you'll impress someone back home with wild boar in a can.
  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best food experiences in Patagonia?

    1. El Bolsón’s farmer’s market. What started out as an experiment in sustainable living has blossomed into one of the most quaint and friendly towns in all of Patagonia. The fields surrounding this small slice of heaven are golden with barley being grown to make artisanal beer, and the nearby lakes are ideal for summer swimming, provided you're willing to brave the cool waters. The real appeal of a visit to El Bolsón is hitting up the town farmer's market on weekends, when cheesemakers and farmers from the valley descend on the town square with the ripest raspberries, tangiest yogurts and tastiest vegetables this side of paradise.  
     
    2. Ice cream at Jauja. As if the natural selection of El Bolsón wasn't enough, the town also has the best restaurant shop in Argentina — Jauja. Sourcing the finest ingredients Patagonia has to offer, this shop is the only place in the country where you can get creamy cinnamon ice cream or the house special, goat's milk with fruits from the forest. We think this might just be the best ice cream you've tasted.  
     
    3. Patagonian lamb. This can be tried practically anywhere — it takes a lot to ruin a something as fresh and flavorful as this local specialty, so upscale restaurants and down-home parillas are equally worthy options. Because the lamb in Patagonia roams freely and dines on sweet grasses, the end result is something truly special, and strikingly delicious. 

    4. Rainbow trout. Rainbow trout isn’t native to the lakes and streams of Patagonia, but it ended up there nonetheless, and has become a major part of dining in southern Argentina and Chile. Coming from such crisp, clean waters, it's no surprise that the fish tastes so delicious, so try it served at an upscale bistro or a rustic hunting lodge and the results will be just as satisfying.  
     
    5. Local brews. Patagonia is the land of delicious, well-made beer, and so it should be the place where you try ambitious porters, exciting IPAs and other varieties that simply don't exist further north. Berlina right outside of Bariloche is part brewery, part bar, and entirely impressive. Stop at this lively, sprawling brew house and have a pint or three.
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  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best nightlife in Patagonia?

    With its reputation as a destination for unspoiled wilderness and captivating natural beauty, Patagonia is not known as a center for raucous nightlife. Those looking for a clubby Ibiza-like scene will be disappointed; others who are interested in a lively night at the local bar will be far more contented. Because the focus down south is more on nature and being awake (and not hungover) in the morning, things are considerably more low-key than in big cities up north — though you will find some revelry in Patagonia’s Tierra del Fuego. Dublin nightclub in Ushuaia is usually jam-packed and open late, and Club Nautico imports DJs from Buenos Aires and is the heart of Patagonian nightlife. Chances are, finding a place to sip a pint with fellow travelers and locals is going to your best bet after dark. One of the best places to do that in all of Patagonia is Berlina, a short drive outside of Bariloche, where the beer is brewed onsite and plenty of international types are there ready to strike up friendly conversation.
  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best way to see Patagonia in one day?

    Patagonia is a gigantic expanse of space that spills over the Argentine-Chilean border and takes up hundreds of kilometers, and as such, it's not the kind of thing you can actually experience in a single day. The best way to see Patagonia in a day is to figure out what's most important to you — whether that be skiing, hiking, tasting local wines, or any of the many other varied activities you could pursue here — and plan accordingly. If you want to explore a local town with a bohemian vibe, start in El Bolsón. If you want the chance to set foot on a glacier or hear the awe-inspiring sounds of sheets of ice falling hundreds of feet, Calafate is where you should head. For stunning skiing in the winter and hiking and swimming in the summer, Bariloche is your best bet.
  • On June 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Patagonia?

    From unexpected Mexican restaurants to hearty, game-heavy meals in hunting lodges, you’ll find a wide range of cuisine in Patagonia. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ tips for the five best places to grab a meal in Patagonia.  
     
    1. Dias De Zapata. While the idea of feasting on Mexican food in Patagonia might raise a few eyebrows, this adorable cantina manages to fit right in with the Swiss chalet look and feel of Bariloche, Argentina. It gets packed for margarita happy hour, serves up generous portions of authentic Mexican cuisine like enchiladas and burritos, and appears to be winning over just as many locals as it does tourists. And yes, those in charge did relocate from Mexico, which means the food served here is authentic as well as tasty.  
     
    2. La Tabilta. There's no shortage of touristy spots to grab dinner in El Calafate, but this parilla is one of the best, featuring an extensive menu of grilled Argentine cuts, some of the most tender filet mignon you're likely to find in the city, and other dishes such as grilled sausages, chicken with lemon or fresh made ravioli and gnocchi.  
     
    3. Familia Weiss. The Weiss family’s smoked meats and cheeses are famous throughout Argentina, but this restaurant is where it all began. It's a historical landmark, an iconic dining experience, and a filling and hearty meal all rolled into one. Familia Weiss is also a good place to go to dinner with the entire family, since it's an atmosphere inviting to all ages. 
     
    4. Maria Lolo Resto. Literally a house on a hill, this modern take on Argentine cuisine offers great views of the end of the world, clean lines and hardwood floors, and a great balance of meat and seafood. Try to choose from the wild boar, Patagonian lamb or local trout, and be sure to save room for dessert.  
     
    5. Tarquino. Feel like you're dining in an upscale treehouse at Tarquino, a popular spot off the beaten path of Bariloche's main tourist drag. Tucked into a residential neighborhood, this is the place to go for Patagonian lamb, fondue and an extensive list of local beer and wine. Plus, the entire restaurant is literally built around a tree — and locals deign to dine there.
  • On June 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Patagonia?

    Being a place that’s surrounded by natural beauty, it’s only fitting that Patagonia has a spate of new, geo-friendly resorts where you can indulge in luxurious amenities and superb service all while keeping your environmental impact to a minimum. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for a few of the best places to stay in Patagonia.

    1. For nonchalant elegance and breathtaking views, Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa in Torres del Paine, Chile delivers in droves. The low-slung, curved structure seems to rise out of nowhere on the Patagonian landscape; inside you’ll find the kind of blonde wood-clad streamlined interiors design magazines are filled with, and little to distract from the captivating views of the lake and mountains beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows.
     
    2. A two-story lodge situated on the edge of a sparkling lake, Río Hermoso is a choice spot to retire to after exploring San Marín de los Andes and the picturesque lakes and mountains of Neuquén. Surrounded by the natural park, it's a modern take on a country home, with rooms that combine warm colors and natural materials like stone and wood.  
     
    3. A small, elegant mountainside retreat with only 10 rooms, Hotel Aldebaran in Bariloche is located on a pine-dotted slope on the San Pedro Peninsula, and is a short drive to nearby ski slopes and the city center. You might not want to leave, though, when you see the hotel’s cozy fireplace in the common area or the picture-perfect views from your bed.  
     
    4. A resort for all seasons, Llao Llao Hotel & Resort, located around the corner from Bariloche, is its own self-contained wonderland of horseback riding, golfing, hiking, skiing and sledding, depending on the season. Gourmet meals, a wide array of lodging options, and an international reputation for polished service are all reasons that this is a popular spot for couples and families.  
     
    5. If your preferred method for exploring Patagonia is to have someone else make all of the arrangements for you, check into PatagoniaCamp, where you’ll stay in tent-like luxury yurts (complete with real, comfortable beds) and have an array of outdoor activities to choose from each day. Located in Chilean Patagonia, PatagoniaCamp is a perfect combination of pitch-perfect planning for nature excursions and top notch amenities.
  • On June 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Patagonia?

    A trip to Patagonia will be as awe-inspiring for youngsters as it will for adults. With incredible landscapes and endless natural wonders to take in, kids will be enthralled with the new discoveries they find in Patagonia. When it comes to nature-oriented activities, remember to always bring extra layers, since weather can change here without notice, and try to pack water to avoid dehydration in the summer months. Here are five good activities for the whole family when visiting Patagonia.  
     
    1. The Paleontological Museum. Because children and dinosaurs go together like peanut butter and jelly, it only makes sense to head to Bariloche, Argentina's fossil museum to discover a bit more about the excavation of dinosaur bones that has taken place in Patagonia throughout the years. The museum is a good spot to see fossils that have been recovered in the area, though those looking for entire full-scale skeletons will have to go elsewhere.  
     
    2. Punta Loma Reserve. Located in Chubut, Argentina, this reserve is home to countless contented sea lions, who can be spotted frolicking happily in the shallows, much to the delight of children (and adults who still have a sense of wonder).  
     
    3. Egidio Feruglio Paleontologic Museum. For those in search of big game in the dinosaur world, this Chubut, Argentina museum has collected countless skeletons and has some wondrous exhibits that talk about the history of the region, while allowing visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the most important fossil findings in all of Patagonia.  
     
    4. Puerto Madryn's Doradillo Beach. Patagonia is home to tons of whale-watching opportunities, but one of those stunning spots is this beach, where, if travel times are planned properly, right whales can be spotted shockingly close to shore. You can see them leap into the air, blow water out of their blow holes, and even hear them making noise, if your timing is right.  
     
    5. Canadon Escondido. This hidden canyon is the best place to look for dinosaur footprints, and the ease of access makes it a good choice for even the youngest of children, considering how little hiking is actually involved until the pay-off of seeing a gigantic dinosaur footprint immortalized in the ground forever. Located in Neuquen, Argentina.
  • On June 5, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to see and do in Patagonia?

    Narrowing down a list of the best things to see and do in Patagonia, an area that spans two countries and over 600,000 square miles, is no easy task. In a perfect world, you'd have a couple of months to roam about Patagonia as you see fit, stopping to watch whales in Puerto Madryn, eat berries in El Bolsón and take in countless vistas of postcard perfect mountains and lakes. Since most travelers don’t have the time for that kind of leisurely stroll around some of the most beautiful and diverse topography on the planet, here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to see and do in Patagonia, all of which are worth planning a trip around:

    1. Beach with the penguins in Camarones. A pleasant distance from the more trafficked towns of Chilean Patagonia, this sleepy coastal village is where you'll go to unwind amongst friendly locals, endless expanses of beach and tens of thousands of penguins. Depending on the time of the year of your visit, you might spot newly born penguins huddling with their parents.
     
    2. See glaciers move at Parque Nacional los Glaciares in Argentina. Or more specifically, one very special glacier: Perito Moreno, a massive formation slowly creeps forward each day, and is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that’s still expanding. What this means for you: the chance to see luminous turquoise-white ice inch forward across a breathtaking terrain, occasionally stopping to shed pieces of ice, which tumble dramatically into the water below.  
     
    3. Experience the wonder of Torres Del Paine. Located on the Chilean side of Patagonia, these stunning jagged peaks stand out against the deep blue Patagonian sky and have inspired awe in countless daredevil climbers and naturalists. The entire national park that houses them is worth exploring, whether it's a day trip, a hike through the wildflowers, or the chance to swim in some of the most beautiful lakes in Patagonia.  
     
    4. Bird watch at Punta Tombo. This stretch of Argentinian beach is often packed with travelers who come to see this lively rookery, which is home to a half-million Magellanic penguins and plenty of other varieties of bird, including kelp gulls, oystercatchers, and cormorants.  
     
    5. Explore Bosque Petrificado Sarmiento. Located about 20 miles from Argentina’s Sarmiento, you'll find one of the most stunning petrified forests in Patagonia, with gigantic petrified logs strewn about (they landed there 65 million years ago when river currents dragged them to their current location). The non-petrified surroundings — striped bluffs with deep oranges and reds — only add to the surreal nature of the experience. While not as famous as the glaciers and other icons of Patagonia, this is still very much worth a visit.