Exploring Patagonia: What To Expect

Carlos Quezada/La Tercera/AP Photo

A Patagonia trip is not about ease and comfort.

The Chilean airlines Latam and Sky fly routes that go south but not always north (and vice versa), and there isn’t a helicopter culture to ferry travelers across great distances. This means a two-week trip, for example, could include at least seven grueling drives—between two and eight hours each, sometimes on unpaved roads—to get from airports to lodges. Even flying private doesn’t guarantee easy access. SUVs haven’t made their way to all of the remotest areas; a pickup truck can be considered a luxury ride. It’s often a two-hour drive from a lodge to the start of an excursion, whether it’s hiking, horseback riding, fishing, or cycling. Meanwhile, the terrain is rugged. The wind, which can reach up to 80 miles per hour in Torres del Paine, is challenging. All four seasons can be experienced in one day. There are times when, even at a $2,000-per-night lodge, you will feel at nature’s mercy. This means that the right gear is essential. At minimum a spring (October) or summer (December through February) traveler needs hiking boots, a down jacket, a layering fleece, long underwear (pants and top), hiking pants, a rain jacket, rain pants, a hat, mittens, wool socks, a hiking pack, and a water bottle.