This article is part of the Complete Guide to Photography in Patagonia
There is so much to photograph in Patagonia, you could spend a month there without running out of subjects or excitement about the landscape. However, most photography trips come with compromises, and we must always find a balance when deciding how long to travel.
Most photography tours spend 3-4 days in each of the main photography areas of Torres del Paine and El Chaltén, and a day visiting Perito Moreno Glacier. That's enough time to visit the most iconic photography locations; you'll get more out of a longer trip but likely be unsatisfied with a shorter one.
This article of suggested Patagonia trip itineraries will help you determine what you'll see and what you might miss with visits of various lengths to help plan your travels.
10 Day Patagonia Travel Itinerary
Depending on where you live, it might take a long time to get to Patagonia, and you'll want to make the most of the journey. A 10-day itinerary is enough time to get a good overview of the area and visit some of the best locations for photography. However, you'll also have to allow for getting around the region, which will take up some of your limited time.
Patagonia in 10 Days: Recommended Route
Day 1: Fly to Punta Arenas and drive as soon as possible straight to Torres Del Paine; it's a long drive, but there's no time to waste! You may need to plan to pick up supplies for Torres del Paine on the way.
Days 2-4: Explore Torres Del Paine, making the most of sunrise when you can. You'll have to choose between focusing on the best locations for photography around Lago Pehoe and exploring some distant spots to the East of the park or bigger hikes such as to Mirador Las Torres.
Day 5: Photograph sunrise in Torres Del Paine, then drive straight to El Calafate and spend an evening in the town to rest and visit a nice restaurant. This will be more affordable than anywhere you might have eaten in Torres del Paine.
Day 6: Visit Perito Moreno Glacier in the morning. It's a beautiful spot, but you don't need more than a few hours to photograph the glacier. Afterwards, drive straight to El Chaltén.
Days 7-9: Photography and hiking in El Chaltén. You'll have time to do a couple of day hikes, and I recommend going to Laguna Cerro Torre and the Secret Waterfall if you have the conditions and chance to hike. Longer excursions, such as to Laguna de Los Tres, will make your visit more about the hiking than the photography.
Day 10: Photograph sunrise on the road out of El Chaltén, then drive back to Punta Arenas to finish the trip. Be aware of your fuel on the way: there are a few petrol stations, but there is always a risk they will be unexpectedly closed or empty in rural areas.
Patagonia in 10 Days: Itinerary Options and Variations
This is a challenging itinerary and could feel like a rush to fit in the best locations. Variations on this kind of trip should be about simplifying to make for a more relaxing time.
Skip Perito Moreno Glacier. You could drive directly from Torres Del Paine to El Chaltén in one (long) day and miss Perito Moreno Glacier: it's a popular attraction but less rewarding for photography. This would also simplify your accommodation and require one less move between places to stay.
Skip a National Park. If you'd prefer to maximise time on great landscape photography rather than seeing as much of Patagonia as possible, you could miss one of Torres Del Paine or El Chaltén. If you are more interested in the best landscape photography in Patagonia, go to Torres Del Paine. If hiking in Patagonia would make for a more rounded visit for you, go to El Chaltén.
Patagonia in 10 Days: Advantages
This is a short itinerary, but it might work better for those with busy schedules and without as much time to dedicate to travel and photography. You would see some of the best locations in Torres del Paine, where many of the great photography locations are close to the side of the road.
In El Chaltén, there would still be time to do small hikes and capture some of the best locations, which are close to the town and easily reachable with only day hiking. You can even reach Laguna Cerro Torre or the Secret Waterfall for sunrise.
If travel is your priority and photography is a great addition, this could be a rewarding itinerary, and you'll get a good sense of what Patagonia is like.
Patagonia in 10 Days: Disadvantages
The weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable, and this short itinerary would mean that you may not see some of the best landscape photography locations in good conditions. With only 3 days in each of the major photography areas, there is a chance your entire visit to El Chaltén or Torres del Paine could be disrupted by weather.
This would also not be enough time to do some of the longer hikes around El Chaltén, and you may have to miss some great spots in Torres del Paine. It also gives less flexibility for wildlife photography, where patience and time make the most difference for a successful image.
2 Weeks + Patagonia Travel Itinerary
A longer trip to Patagonia will make your visit more efficient, with the time spent travelling and moving around taking up a smaller proportion of your journey. 18 days is long enough to give you some choices: you might add excursions or longer hikes, visit more locations, or spend more time developing compositions at the best spots.
I think this is the ideal length of visit, with enough time for a thorough exploration, but still viable for photographers with other priorities or limited budgets.
Patagonia in 2+ Weeks: Recommended Route
Day 1: Fly to Punta Arenas and drive to Puerta Natales, where you can rest for an evening to gather supplies and make enquiries about tours or excursions in the town. Puerta Natales is a gateway for Torres del Paine, with plenty of resources to help make your trip better. There's a great photography spot by the old pier to make the most of the evening light.
Day 2: Drive to Torres del Paine and explore a part of the park near your accommodation. Find somewhere for sunset for photography and scope out a place to visit for your first sunrise the next day.
Days 3-9: Explore Torres Del Paine, and always try to arrive on location for sunrise whenever the conditions are right. You'll have time to visit all the major spots around Lago Pehoe, but you could also explore more distant photography locations to the East of the park. Consider doing a puma-watching tour or taking on one of the longer hikes, such as Mirador Las Torres.
Day 10: Photograph sunrise in Torres Del Paine, then drive straight to El Calafate for 2 nights and spend an evening in the town to rest and visit a nice restaurant. This will be more affordable than anywhere you might have eaten in Torres del Paine.
Day 11: Visit Perito Moreno Glacier. You can spend all day around the glacier and consider taking a boat tour or excursion to hike on the ice.
Days 12-17: Drive to El Chaltén for the next phase of your photography adventure. If you don't want to go hiking on day one, visit Chorillo del Salto, which is easier to reach by car. For the rest of your visit, get to Laguna Cerro Torre and spend plenty of time in the hills around Laguna Capri. You'll have enough time for a longer hike, such as the one to Laguna de Los Tres.
Day 18: Photograph sunrise on the road out of El Chaltén, then drive back to Punta Arenas to finish the trip. Be aware of your fuel on the way: there are a few petrol stations, but there is always a risk they will be unexpectedly closed or empty in rural areas.
Patagonia in 2+ Weeks: Itinerary Options and Variations
There is some flexibility in this itinerary, which will give you options to add more locations or to spend more time exploring. These are some choices you should consider:
More excursions. If you prefer to keep your trip simple, this route minimises the need to change accommodation. However, you could add variety with more day trips on the way. In Torres del Paine, this could be a puma-watching tour, a boat tour to Lago Grey, or a multi-day hike, depending on the time of your visit. In El Chaltén, you'd have time for more challenging hikes.
Camping in El Chaltén. To see more of the area around El Chaltén and to escape the larger groups of visitors, it's best to camp in one of the many sites around the mountains. You can rent equipment in El Chaltén for a night or two in the hills for astrophotography or different locations for sunrise.
South of Punta Arenas. At the beginning or end of the trip, if you are flying in and out of Punta Arenas, you could spend a few days exploring the landscape to the south. Tierra del Fuego is within easy driving distance and is less explored by photographers.
Patagonia in 2+ Weeks: Advantages
This is a realistic journey for many photographers who must fit travel around other priorities. It would allow you to thoroughly explore Torres del Paine with a car and even revisit and photograph some spots in different conditions and light.
In El Chaltén, you'd have time to do some of the longer hikes. These do not necessarily have better photography opportunities, but they are less visited and make for rewarding experiences. You could also take more time to relax in El Calafate (near Perito Moreno Glacier) to break up the journey.
This trip length in Patagonia would give you some resilience against bad weather. This gives you another shot at some of the best locations if part of your trip is disrupted by the conditions.
Patagonia in 2+ Weeks: Disadvantages
Some people may find this trip too long to fit into their lives. Parts of Patagonia, particularly Torres del Paine, can be expensive places to travel, so this longer journey would also need a larger budget.
If you are unlucky, this trip could be disrupted by bad weather in the best photography areas. To provide some resilience to the trip, it would be worth planning for as much time as possible in Torres del Paine and El Chaltén as insurance against the weather, rather than packing your itinerary with additional locations and excursions and finding that you lose the best photography to the conditions.
28 Day Patagonia Travel Itinerary
This trip of almost a month has huge advantages for photography. It's also a good amount of time to spend somewhere such a long way away for many people. Not everyone can take such a long time out of their other priorities, and there are plenty of other places in the world where we might invest our photography time. However, you can get a lot out of Patagonia in a month if you have the time and the budget.
Patagonia in 28 Days: Recommended Route
There are two main options for such a long trip to Patagonia, and you'll need to choose your approach before planning your trip.
The first is to follow the 2 week Patagonia itinerary above but add a visit to Tierra del Fuego in the South and Bariloche in the north. To get to Tierra del Fuego, drive a circular route from the area around Punta Arenas whenever is sensible for your flights and journey. To get to Bariloche, you can drive, get the bus, or fly from El Calafate in Argentina. Bariloche is a beautiful town set among beautiful mountains, and well worth some time with the camera.
The other option is to plan a deep and thorough trip to the best photography locations elsewhere in this guide, where you can revisit spots to improve your images, explore some of the more unusual places in Torres del Paine and El Chaltén, and spend more time working directly on developing your photography. A full breakdown of this itinerary is below.
Patagonia in 28 Days: Recommended Route
Day 1: Fly to Punta Arenas and drive to Puerta Natales, where you can rest to gather supplies and make enquiries about tours or excursions in the town. While Puerta Natales is a pretty town and a great place to pick up supplies, you might not want to linger here if you are eager to focus on photography.
Day 2: Drive to Torres del Paine and explore a part of the park near your accommodation. Find somewhere to photograph the sunset and scope out a place to visit for your first sunrise the next day.
Days 3-12: Explore Torres Del Paine, and always try to arrive on location for sunrise whenever the conditions are right. For such a long visit, you might consider staying in two different parts of the park: I recommend Rio Serrano or Lago Pehoe for stop one and then somewhere in the East of the park for stop two. This will allow you to capture and revisit many of the best locations around Lago Pehoe, and explore some unusual areas in the East. You could also take on a dawn hike to Mirador Las Torres.
Days 15-18: Photograph sunrise in Torres Del Paine, then drive straight to El Calafate for 3 nights for a break. El Calafate is a tourist town, but it is more affordable than Torres del Paine and an interesting enough place to get a break from the camera. This will be important for such a long time spent on photography. You should visit Perito Moreno Glacier while you are here, but there is little need to go more than once; you could also take a boat tour or excursion to hike on the ice.
Days 18-27: Drive to El Chaltén for the next portion of your trip for hiking around Mount Fitz Roy. You only need to stay in one place in El Chaltén, it's too small to need to move accommodation. However, you have enough time to rent camping equipment and spend a few nights near the mountains out of town. Some of the longer hikes are not necessarily better for photography, but they are great experiences; you'll also get more unusual shots of the area, only accessible to the hardy willing to camp.
Day 28: Photograph sunrise on the road out of El Chaltén, then drive back to Punta Arenas to finish the trip. Be aware of your fuel on the way: there are a few petrol stations, but there is always a risk they will be unexpectedly closed or empty in rural areas.
Patagonia in 28 Days: Itinerary Options and Variations
It's tough to plan such a long trip ahead of time, and you may need to leave some flexibility to change as you go. However, if you are going in peak season or Autumn, be aware that Torres del Paine has limited accommodation, so you'll still need to book portions of your trip in advance. These are some ways you can vary or add to this itinerary:
More or Fewer excursions. There are plenty of outdoor activities in Patagonia besides photography and hiking. From Puerta Natales, you can get boat tours around the fjords and ice fields, or experience wildlife-watching trips in Torres del Paine. Around El Chaltén, you should consider longer or multi-day hikes that can only be done with plenty of time in the area.
Additional locations. The areas around Torres del Paine and El Chaltén are the most popular with photographers, but there are less explored places further north in the mountains, especially around Bariloche in Argentina and the lakes north of Puerto Montt in Chile. Consider two stages: returning your first car after visiting Torres del Paine and El Chaltén, then flying north to try another part of the region.
Patagonia in 28 Days: Advantages
With so much time to focus on photography, any trip of this length can lead to improvements in skills, the chance to revisit and perfect compositions, and significant insurance against bad weather. Patagonia has plenty to offer, and you won't get bored. I have completed this trip myself, and my photography improved considerably with so much time to focus on growing as a photographer and becoming immersed in the landscape.
You may have to choose between a deep trip, focused on extended periods in the most rewarding locations, or a broad one that includes areas outside the photographic hotspots. Either way, such a long time allows you to choose exactly what you want to do with fewer compromises.
Patagonia in 28 Days: Disadvantages
A trip like this requires a lot of time and a significant budget, so it might represent a major investment in your photography and travel. This is the main argument against such an adventure for most people.
If you plan to focus on photography for the whole trip, you'll need to pace yourself and remember what it means to you as a hobby. On trips this length, I need entire days or weekends away from the camera to recover my energy and find inspiration again. A long journey can be an incredible experience, and you'll capture some of the best images of your life. However, it will be easy to get burned out if you don't manage your energy.
I recommend 18 days as the ideal amount of time to get the most out of landscape photography in Patagonia, especially if you live somewhere several days' travel away. A shorter trip will mean compromising on some locations, and you might miss some of the best spots if you don't get consistent good conditions. A longer trip would give you many more options, but it is a significant investment of time and money.