How to Plan an Epic Patagonia + Antarctica Trip

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A trip to Antarctica is a bucket-list-worthy adventure, and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to some of the farthest reaches of the world. Learn why combining Antarctica and Patagonia, two incredible and dramatic regions, is an excellent choice making the most of your investments and also making your trip that much more spectacular. 

When combining Patagonia and Antarctica, you will find that these regions share some incredible landscapes and wildlife, while still offering two complementary experiences. Being at the far south of the Americas, (and beyond) it can take a significant amount of travel, time, and expense just to get there, so there is also a convenience factor in combining Antarctica and Patagonia together.

To put together this combo itinerary there are a number of important considerations to take into account, particularly in terms of timing and trip duration. Antarctica cruises generally mean a minimum of two weeks door-to-door if that’s all you were doing on your trip, so extending your trip into Patagonia does mean additional time can add up quickly. Patagonia is also a huge region, comprised of approximately the southern one-third of both Chile and Argentina and offering a variety of climates and landscapes. Flight routes between cities in Patagonia are limited, so there is strategy involved in mapping the best route for you based on what you want to see and do.


Planning a Patagonia & ANtarctica Trip

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Your Antarctica cruise is generally the focal point around which you’ll build your itinerary. (Find out more about how to choose the best Antarctica cruise for you) Antarctica cruises port out of Ushuaia in Argentina, and out of Punta Arenas in Chile. Cruises are almost entirely round-trip journeys, so your point of cruise departure will be the determining factor on the possible ways to include Patagonia in your itinerary.


Porting Out of Ushuaia, Argentina

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The vast majority of cruises begin and end in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in Argentina and capital of Tierra del Fuego. Cruises departing from Ushuaia are more frequent and varied, beginning around 9 to 10 days in length. For longer cruises, you can also look at an itinerary that crosses the Antarctic Circle or visits the huge wildlife colonies of South Georgia and the Falklands.

  • Short on time? The simplest way to add a taste of Patagonia to your Antarctica cruise is to extend your stay a couple of nights in Ushuaia to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park and beyond.
  • With a few additional days, add in some time in El Calafate. El Calafate has good flight accessibility to Ushuaia, and gives you access to much of Southern Patagonia in Argentina. From El Calafate you can visit the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier, the hikers’ paradise of El Chalten, remote estancias, and more.
  • For an extended time in Patagonia, take advantage of the hub of El Calafate, which can also give you overland access to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. To combine Torres del Paine with an Antarctica cruise porting from Ushuaia you’ll want to spend at least two nights in El Calafate in order to allow time to see Perito Moreno, then it’s an approximately 5- to 6-hour drive through the Andes to get to Torres del Paine. Due to the amount of travel to get to the park, Torres del Paine stays of four nights are recommended. All in, in order to combine Torres del Paine with Antarctica you’ll need at least three weeks to travel, and more is recommended to allow for sufficient buffers on the front and back ends of your trip.
  • El Calafate can also connect you to Northern and Atlantic Patagonia. Bariloche is a highlight of the northern Patagonia Lakes District in Argentina, with a more temperate climate, lots of options to be active, and a great food scene. The primary focus of Atlantic Patagonia is marine wildlife. Because there are many similarities to the wildlife you’ll likely see in Antarctica, spending additional time in Atlantic Patagonia is mostly a fit for those who want their trip to have as much of a wildlife focus as possible.


Porting out of Punta Arenas, Chile

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There are a limited number of cruise departures from Punta Arenas, Chile, as this city is more often the base for fly/cruise Antarctica adventures (where you fly from Punta Arenas across the Drake Passage before meeting your boat and exploring Antarctica via cruise once there). Flying across the Drake can shave some time off of your trip length and is great for travelers who suffer from seasickness; although, fly/cruises do add a fairly significant cost.

  • From Punta Arenas, it’s very easy to connect overland to Torres del Paine National Park, one of southern Patagonia’s crown jewels, where you can experience the park while staying in one of the incredible all-inclusive lodges in the region. With breathtaking mountain views, Torres del Paine is a hiker’s dream, and staying at an inclusive lodge allows you the maximum flexibility in planning your excursions while enjoying top-notch accommodations.
  • From Torres del Paine, you can extend your exploration of southern Patagonia by way of overland transfer to Argentina through the Andes to El Calafate where you can see Perito Moreno, or onward to El Chalten for even more incredible hiking and great lodges.
  • Or to experience the contrasting natural beauty of Chilean Patagonia, you can take advantage of direct flights between Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt in the northern Patagonia lakes district. Here you can access multi-sport adventures in Puerto Varas, experience the unique culture of Chiloé, or even connect onward through the Andes to Bariloche in Argentina.

Combining Patagonia and Antarctica is a wonderful way to experience some of the most pristine nature in the world along with incredible wildlife. These regions not only offer experiences that complement each other well, but it can also logistically make sense to design an itinerary that includes both. For those who have the time and budget, Antarctica and Patagonia are an incredible combination that together make for an extraordinary adventure!


To learn more about the logistics of or options for planning your own custom Patagonia + Antarctica trip, reach out to a Knowmad Trip Specialist today at 612-315-2894, or fill out the short form below to begin planning your personalized South America itinerary.


Krista Erdahl, Trip Specialist - Knowmad Adventures Custom Travel Krista is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She has lived in six countries on four continents and visited more than fifty countries, but is now settled back in her home state of Minnesota where she loves sharing her passion and knowledge with fellow travelers.