Patagonia is a region of commanding wilderness. Famous for its glaciated Andean peaks, inland lakes, and large dormant volcanoes. Patagonia has gained a huge amount of cultural attention. Its captivating beauty – and this reputation is more than well deserved! Patagonia also holds a rich cultural history.
Originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, the Spanish would later conquer the region as part of New Leon. Early legends about Patagonia references its volcanoes and fields of ice. This myth was persistent through Spanish occupation that the region was inhabited by giants.
Today Patagonia is a tourist hub. People travel from around the world to experience some of the earth’s most stunning frontiers. Our Patagonia hiking trek will take you through the region’s most beautiful and luxurious villages. You will visit hidden and forgotten locations that remain authentic to Patagonia’s culture and history.
Location and Geography
The Lakes District is a mountainous region in northern Patagonia straddling the border between Argentina and Chile. The jagged Andean volcanoes rise steeply against the horizon. They are surrounded by deep pine forests and the massive mountain lakes that give the region its name.
Lago Nahuel Huapi is the largest lake, named after its Mapudungun name which translates to “Jaguar Island.” Lago Nahuel Huapi is a bucket list destination, flanked by the ever impressive Nahuel Huapi National Park.
Between Argentina and Chile, we cross the lake by ferry to approach the Chilean frontier. San Carlos de Bariloche sits on Lago Nahuel Huapi’s southernmost shore. Mountaineers, tourists, and locals gather to relax and tell stories of their adventures in the Patagonian wilderness. While Bariloche was first inhabited by Mapuche people, the town was “discovered” when the Spanish explorer Francisco de Villagra explored the region during the conquest of Chile.
Bariloche became the target of multiple settlement missions by the Spaniards. They were looking to gain a foothold in the rugged Patagonian wilderness and begin the process of converting the Mapuche people to Christianity.
The first constructed building in Bariloche was a small general store and shop, around which the village’s center was constructed. In modern times, the village serves a similar purpose, providing a welcome watering hole where modern explorers can provision themselves for daring alpine ascents. You can also find more relaxingly world-class lodging and food to enjoy on a lakeside vacation.
Culture and Cuisine
Ryder Walker has designed The Patagonia Lakes District trek to be split between the Argentinian and the Chilean region of Patagonia. This itinerary allows you to experience the cultural differences between the two historically polarized countries. In Argentina, we will feast on the famous Argentinian “asado” – generous helpings of expertly grilled meats.
In Chile, the food involves cooking with corn as well as some seafood. Specialties here include Humitas, a corn leaf wrapped casserole similar to tamales, and of course empanadas!
Experience two unique environments between the sweeping plateaus of the Argentine Lake District, and the lush forests of the Chilean Tierra. In Argentina, we split our time between the villages of Bariloche and Bosson.
In Chile, we visit Puyehue and Puerto Varas. Puyehue is a smaller village on the outskirts of the massive Puyehue national park. The park is home to the two volcanic massifs Puyehue and Cordon Caulle.
Puerto Varas is a town which feels as though it has fallen out of a fantasy novel. The romantic architecture and a sweeping coastline looks out at the snow-capped summit of the Osorno Volcano.
Hiking in Patagonia is a wonderful mixture of the excitement of a natural frontier, and the comfort of the best eco-lodges, inns, and huts. Patagonia also supports an impressively well-maintained trail system. There is good signage for hikers as well as climbers huts which serve local foods, tea, and homemade beers!
Hiking in Patagonia can be a high altitude affair. While our trip doesn’t venture into the highest reaches of the Andes, we still climb to just below 8000 feet on the Cerro Piltriquitron, a beautiful granite peak with panoramic views of the entire lake district.
Much of the hiking is on well-established trails or peaceful forest roads, with some excursions into the mountains, where the trails become slightly more rugged and rocky. Some connection can be drawn to Switzerland here, partly because of the quality of many of the trails, and also because of the existence of the Colony Suiza, or Swiss Colony, a village settled by Swiss immigrants!
Why You Should Book Now
Overall Patagonia is a region that must be visited by any lover of the mountains. Everything between the enthusiastic locals who run excellent eco-lodges devoted to sharing the Patagonian wilderness, to the excellent hiking and otherworldly lakeside views makes Patagonia a jewel of outdoor travel and trekking.
We are excited to invite you on this ever-evolving trip, as we work to find the best trekking in Patagonia as well as its most charming villages.