In the years 1878- 79 Lady Florence Dixie a native of Scotland sought refuge in travel as an escape from daily Victorian life. She chose none other than Patagonia as her destination and subsequently wrote her beguiling read “Across Patagonia”. To this very day, people still seek that refuge in the wide-open spaces of this land at the ends of the earth.
Patagonia is a divinely landscaped region situated at the end of the Southern Cone countries of Argentina and Chile. It is home to eleven national parks comprised of lakes and fjords, the Andes Mountains, steppes, grassland, desert, and glacial topographies. The very best parks in Patagonia to see are Tierra del Fuego, Los Glaciares, Nahuel Huapi, and Torres del Paine.
Totally Latin America are destination experts in creating luxury Patagonia tours. We have been creating pioneering experiences for over a decade in these lands. Over this time, we have curated many vacations for senior travelers in Patagonia and they often ask our advice. The prime question is: “what are the best tours for seniors in Patagonia?” The truth is, hiking and other outdoor activities for seniors in Patagonia are easily accessible when they can be adapted to your ability by your expert travel planner at Totally Latin America. We create a tailored itinerary filled with lasting memories for each of our clients. To offer some inspiration for your 2024 Patagonia adventure before we help you create an itinerary, let us show you the best tours you can do in Patagonia’s top four national parks in the coming year.
- Tierra del Fuego National Park
- Los Glaciares National Park
- Nahuel Huapi National Park
- Torres del Paine National Park
Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego (meaning the Land of Fire), is located about 8 miles (13km) from Ushuaia, the City at the End of the World and the gateway to Antarctica. It is a wonderful synthesis of marine life, alpine lakes, and forests all wrapped into one destination of pure escapism. Although its beauty is undeniable, it is not as visually impressive as some of the other parks. That said, it offers something they can’t: a sense of stillness, remoteness, and freedom that comes from being at the end of the world.
Of course, there are plenty of hiking routes to choose from throughout the park to suit your preferences and abilities. The easy mile-long De la Isla Trail is great for spotting petrels, albatross, and cormorant soaring above. Those with greater stamina can try the four-mile (6.5 km) Cerro Guanaco Trail across the Fuegian highlands or the popular six-mile (10 km) La Roca trail to the Argentina/ Chile border which offers magnificent mountain scenery, abundant flora en route, and a crystalline lake as a befitting reward.
The park’s most rewarding hike is the Martial Glacier half-day hike. It begins from Ushuaia and although it is relatively short, it ascends 800 meters making it quite challenging. However, the strenuous hike is rewarded with views of a mountainscape split by a mighty glacier.
Tierra del Fuego Patagonia is a particularly ideal destination for seniors because it offers many non-exercise-based activities including the End of the World Train. This is a day excursion from Ushuaia across the picturesque Pisco Valley and onward to the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Along the way, you visit the 10,000-year-old Yámana tribe, of which only 1,600 in total remain today.
Another exciting excursion in Torres del Fuego for 2024 is a boat trip across the Beagle Channel. It allows you to explore the uninhabited islands of the Fuegian archipelago and get up close to the penguins, sea lions, rock shags, and other unique wildlife colonies in the area. The boat sails all the way to Cape Horn where you can climb to the top of the hill to see the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet below.
In between excursions, use your downtime to explore Ushuaia, the base for most visiting Tierra del Fuego. Here, you can visit the museums that immerse you in the area’s maritime and the cultural history of its indigenous people, sample whiskey at the local distillery, and taste the hearty southern cuisine at local restaurants.
Los Glaciares National Park
Los Glaciares National Park is a vast UNESCO World Heritage park that covers 1,720 square miles (4,455 sq. km) of the province of Santa Cruz. It stretches from the base towns of El Calafate on the shores of Lake Argentino upward to El Chaltén, the threshold to the famous Fitzroy and Cerro Torre mountains. This park is ideally situated just a three-hour drive from Torres del Paine making it easy to combine the two on your trip.
One of the most iconic yet doable hikes for a senior tour in Patagonia is the 1.5-hour Perito Moreno Glacier hike which can be combined with a short ice trek across the glacier or a nautical safari to get up to this magnificent spectacle of nature.
Those with less mobility might prefer a cruise across Lake Argentino. Not only does it afford stunning panoramas of the lucid blue lake, but it also takes you up close to the Upsala Glacier, the largest in South America at 230 feet high, and onward to Spegazzini Glacier which is smaller but has towering walls of ice up to 440 feet high.
The towering Fitzroy and Cerro Torre, two of Patagonia’s most revered mountain peaks, stand at the northern end of the park. There are myriad day and multi-day treks of varying difficulty that allow even exercise-averse seniors to see these fairytale sights. The 15-mile Laguna de Los Tres trek is one of the best but most challenging treks whereas the Vespignani Glacial Reserve tour and Mirador del Torre Trek are much easier but equally rewarding.
Although the park is heavily focused on hiking, there are lots of activities in Los Glaciares that take a more glacial pace. Why not spend a day or two on a fishing tour to Rio Caterina or roaming the Patagonian steppes on horseback? To make the experience all the more easy-going, book a stay through us at a rustic Argentinian estancia (ranch house) where you can enjoy living like Patagonian gouchos.
You can view a sample tour which includes El Calafate and the glaciers here.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
Nahuel Huapi is a 2,900 square mile (7,510 sq. km) lake district in western Argentina often likened to the Alps for its dense forests, crystalline rivers and lakes, waterfalls, and lofty peaks. From its base town Bariloche you’ll find a host of lake excursions, watersports, and cycling and hiking routes. The diversity and range of things to do in Nahuel Huapi in 2024 is ideal for senior travelers in Patagonia because they allow you to experience the best of the region without having to push your physical limits.
For a start, the best views of the famous Lake Nahuel Huapi can be found from the summits of Cerro Campanario and Cerro Llao Llao which take just 2-3 hours to reach (or less if you take the cable car!). Combine Llao Llao with the lake’s other highlights including Moreno and Tacul beaches, Escondido Lake, or Los Arrayanes Forest for the ultimate scenic excursion.
Meanwhile, the five-mile-long Cerro Bella Vista hiking route awaits those who are still feeling fit as a fiddle. With a 3,000-foot ascent, it is one of the most challenging day hikes in Nahuel Huapi. The 14-mile return Refugio Frey route is an excellent alternative for those who enjoy a long hike but prefer a slower pace. There is a basic but wonderfully rustic lodge amongst majestic mountains along the way where you can stop for the night to break the hike into more manageable chunks.
As well as a few mountain refuges, the lake district is sprawling with rustic farm retreats, ultra-luxe spa hotels, and impressive golf resorts. Offering a luxuriously leisurely side to life, these slices of alpine paradise make Nahuel Huapi one of the most relaxing places for seniors to visit in Patagonia in 2024. After days spent hiking, kayaking, and sightseeing, the retreats, and resorts offer a much-needed respite with indulgent interiors, nourishing meals, and casual activities like golfing, spa therapies, and horseback riding.
While Nahuel Huapi is a popular hiking destination in the summer, it transforms into an increasingly popular skiing destination when snow blankets the mountains in winter. The slopes at Cerro Catedral offer the perfect conditions for able senior skiers to shred their way along the snow as the lake glistens below. What better way to ring in 2024, we say!
Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is perhaps Patagonia’s most renowned park because of its famous mountain peak, Torres del Paine. Identified by its three towering rock pillars lined in a row, it is best known as ‘Cleopatra’s Needles’, a term coined by Lady Florence Dixie in 1878. The park is also known for its beautiful Pehoé, Sarmiento, Grey, and Nordenskiöld lakes. Encompassing 700 square miles (1813 sq. km), the national park is accessible from Chile’s Punta Arenas in five hours or Argentina’s El Calafate in 4.5 hrs. We recommend a minimum stay of three days at the park to tap into the vastness of its splendor. In December and January, there are limited spaces, so it is common to book tickets at least a year in advance!
There are a number of ways to take Torres del Paines main hiking routes (the ‘W Route’ and the ‘O Route’) which range in length and difficulty. While there isn’t really an easy way to the top, it’s definitely doable for seniors with reasonable health and mobility. The ‘French sector’ of the W Route is an eight-mile (13.5 km) medium-level hike that takes between 4-6 hours to complete, much like the ‘Central sector’ of the O Route. Alternatively, we can arrange a slower-paced multi-day hike with relaxing luxury accommodations to counter the physical strains of hiking.
Entranced by its beauty, people forget there is so much more to this park than its famous peak and there are many more scenic hiking trails to try out. The 7.5-hour Salto Grande Waterfalls and Lookouts Trail is the most rewarding. Along the way, expect to feast your eyes upon the Salo Grande Waterfall, Paine Grande Mountain, Lago Nordenskjöld viewpoint, Amarga Lagoon, Laguna Azul (Blue Lake) and a picture-perfect sunset at Hostería Pehoé lookout.
While hiking in Torres del Paine is the main attraction for most who visit this national park, its reputation for alternative outdoor adventure and wildlife exploration is gaining traction. The good news is that many of these adventures are ideal for senior travelers in Patagonia. We recommend a scenic boat or kayak excursion to Lago Grey and the Grey Glacier where you can experience the majesty and might of nature up close. Then, watch giant condors dance with the wind on a two-hour Condor Lookout hike or go puma-spotting with an experienced wildlife guide, and go fly-fishing along Rio Serrano.
How long should I Stay in Patagonia?
We suggest a minimum of seven days in Patagonia, but deeper experiences require perhaps 14 to 21 days or more. As the most easily accessible national park from Buenos Aires, Los Glaciares is the best destination for a shorter Patagonia trip. Meanwhile, 10-12 day trips could include Torres del Paine National Park too. For more diversity, opt for Nahuel Huapi National Park in Chile followed by Torres del Paine or Los Glaciares in a seven to 10-day adventure. Of course, Patagonia is your oyster and you can contact your travel expert here to create a journey that perfectly fits your time frame and ticks off your bucket list.
Although we are highlighting four of Patagonia’s best national parks, we don’t recommend you visit them all in one trip. When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime experiences like this, it’s all about quality over quantity.
Best Time to Visit Patagonia – Weather in Patagonia
Patagonia is best visited from October to April. The months of December to February are peak season and early booking is a must — especially in Torres del Paine. Weather is always changeable in Patagonia and it can be four seasons in one day. Strong winds and showers of rain or snow can appear from almost nowhere. Always venture out prepared with warm and waterproof clothing. Your expert travel adviser will advise on specific regional variations in weather and packing advice in addition to the above guidelines.
Senior travelers in Patagonia can feel confident to make that first step into our trusted hands. Escape today and let your adventure begin. Contact your Totally Latin America expert here.
…nowhere else are you so completely alone. Nowhere else is there an area of 10,000 square miles which you may gallop over, and where…you are safe from the persecutions of fevers, friends…telegrams, letters and every other nuisance you are elsewhere liable to be exposed to.”
Lady Florence Dixie, Across Patagonia (1879).