Trekking in Patagonia - Best National Parks - Chile and Argentina
Huerquehue National Park
While the iconic peaks of Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia are well known, Patagonia itself is actually a vast area covering about a million square kilometres of both Chile and Argentina combined. In all the area has 29 national parks, some offering better trekking than others. Here are five of the best.
1) Torres del Paine National Park in Chile
Chile's most famous National Park offers world-class trekking amid surreal ice-clad peaks, ancient forests, dazzling lakes, immense glaciers and its very own ice cap. Choose from the four-day W Trek or the longer Torres del Paine Circuit, which may take up to 10 days. Both treks come with Torres del Paine's legendary weather - high-speed winds, yoyo temperatures and sideways rain.
2) Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina)
Just across the ice cap from Chile's Torres del Paine is Los Glaciares National Park and the Fitzroy Massif. Treks are just as mind-blowing as Paine's but shorter, with day treks taking in a broadly similar landscape of sharp peaks, glaciers and luminescent lakes of many colors. El Chalten in the north of the park serves as a trekking hub. Head south to El Calafate for day trips (by coach) to Perito Moreno, Patagonia's only advancing glacier.
3) Huerquehue National Park (Chile)
Popular and easy to get to, Huerquehue is about 30km from the adventure capital of Pucon in Chile. With a highest point of just 2000 metres, it's a good choice if you don't like long climbs, but you do like trees - forests of araucarias (Monkey Puzzle Trees), lengas and coirón are here. That 2000 metre point is atop Cerro San Sebastián, from where stunning views take in lakes, volcanoes and forests.
4) Villarrica National Park (Chile)
The slightly hair-raising trek to the crater of Volcan Villarrica is this Park's main attraction. If you don't fancy that, you can trek to volcanoes Quetrupillán or Lanin instead or plod through ancient forests of araucarias, lengas and coigüe, keeping an eye out for cougars, chilla foxes, and Harris's Hawks.
Nahuel Huapi National Park Argentina
5) Nahuel Huapi National Park (Argentina)
This is Argentina's biggest and most popular national park. Some 7000 square kilometres of lakes, mountains and rainforests as well as two large towns - Villa La Angostura and San Carlos de Bariloche - mean there's plenty to do all year. For trekkers, the refugio-to-refugio hike to Cerro Catedral (2,388m) offers some of the best views, while the two-day Paso de Las Nubes Trek through rainforest has some of the best wildlife. Or, you could have a go at the Nahuel Huapi Traverse, a challenging three-day trek around some of the Andes' highest peaks.
Other National Parks
Conquillo (Chile) is a strange but beautiful landscape of black volcanic earth, monkey puzzle trees and lagunas; Lago Puelo National Park (Argentina) is Patagonia's warmest, with lakeside beaches and campsites to go with the weather, where you can recover from treks through Valdivian rainforest and high Andean Steppe; and Tierra del Fuego National Park (Argentina), which offers solitude and magical scenery at the end of the earth.