When we spur of the moment bought plane tickets to Santiago, Chile (thanks again Orbitz and your error fare!) I had no intention of going to Patagonia. Between cost and the limited amount of time we had, it didn’t seem like it was even an option.
After I did a little bit of research I quickly realized it was 100% possible (the fact that our flights from Los Angeles to Santiago were only $200 were definitely helping the budget factor).
We booked flights on SKY Airline – a budget airline in Chile that didn’t seem all that different from Spirit – but got the job done. We took an early morning flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas, grabbed some lunch at the airport and then set off on a two-and-a-half hour bus we had prebooked with the bus company, Bus Sur.
I know what you’re thinking. That’s A LOT of travel already. And it was. But the plane and bus both make great spots for extra naps (I can pretty much sleep anywhere) and the scenery was pretty great on the bus ride as well. Alternatively, you could rent a car, but the option for sleeping, gazing at the scenery, and a $10 bus ride appealed to me more.
Where to Stay
If you’re not doing one of the Torres del Paine treks it’s pretty expensive to stay within the gates of the national park. Most people stay in the town of Puerto Natales, about an hour and a half from the park. We opted to stay at a hotel right outside of town (about a $3 taxi ride) called Altiplanico Sur (thanks, Chase Sapphire Reserve points!). Every room had a beautiful view of the mountains and water, the bathroom had heated floors and a heated towel rack (some personal home dreams of mine), a standard breakfast was included, and all of the staff was overwhelmingly nice. I definitely recommend!
Where to Eat & Drink
Afrigonia – A yummy fusion restaurant located right in town. A mixture of Chilean and African food. Definitely on the pricier side but everything we had (including a bottle of Camenere) was delicious.
The Singular Patagonia – While located slightly farther outside of town than our own hotel, I feel like this is a must do, even if it’s just for a drink. It’s an old meat refrigeration plant that was converted into an amazing hotel a few years ago. They have a gorgeous restaurant and bar area with beautiful views. We went for a few sunset drinks and charcuterie board, relaxed, and enjoyed the views.
Santolla – can you say King Crab? Our hotel recommended this place and we were not disappointed! Located in Hotel IF in Puerto Natales, the restaurant is actually made out of shipping containers that have been constructed together. But, in addition to the aesthetically cool factor, the food was delicious (plus some more wine, of course!).
Baguales Brewery – if you find yourself needing a break from wine and Pisco Sours, head here. Fun little microbrewery that seemed to be the popular place to hang out in town.
Torres del Paine
Of course, one of the main reasons you probably flew down to Punta Arenas, and definitely the main reason you’re hanging out in Puerto Natales, is to go to Torres del Paine National Park. Many people opt to do one of the multi-day treks but with our limited amount of time, one day was all we could manage.
Although we typically try to avoid tours at all costs, this was one time where it seemed to be the easiest way to see the most sites in our limited amount of time. We went with Patagonia Adventure. Being outside of town we were the last pick up around 9am. We made a stop at a little country store on the border of Argentina to pick up snacks, lunch, coffee, and make a bathroom stop and off we went. We made it back to the hotel around 7pm. While we had incredibly wonderful weather, the scenery was magnificent regardless. I’ll let the photos below do the rest of the talking.