Patagonia is one of the most exciting places in the world for active families. Think giant outdoor adventure park where the theme is nature, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and icebergs. With such a variety of activities to choose from, and suitable for all ages, exploring Patagonia is the perfect way to thoroughly enjoy any family holiday to Argentina or Chile. Here are our top tried and tested activities to experience in Patagonia with kids.
Patagonia with kids – Our Top 12
1. Trekking in Los Glaciares National Park
Get those hiking boots on and head to the base of the jagged towers of Mount Fitzroy and Mount Torre, the highlight of any trip to Patagonia with kids. Awe-inspiring – with emphasis on ‘spire’. These are classic full-day walks that any active young trekker should be able to manage – with perhaps the right bribery… Why not enjoy the knowledge and company of a mountain guide one day then follow the well-signed trails on a self-guided hike the next. Shorter walks to stunning viewpoints on both these treks are options for little legs. Afterward, enjoy the delicious local ice cream or craft beer at one of the many convivial bars in the trekking capital of Argentina, El Chalten. The views – and the infamous Patagonian wind – will take your breath away. See our Buenos Aires, Patagonia & Lakes itinerary which includes trekking for all levels.
2. Experience the Perito Moreno Glacier
Be warned, this glacier is HUGE! Kids might moan at the thought of spending all day staring at a glacier but when they see the massive 70m face and glistening blue ice towering above the aquamarine water they will be completely transfixed. Just how many photos can you take of one glacier?!!! A living geology lesson – watch how everyone runs to the nearest viewpoint on the boardwalk circuit when they hear the loud crack from ice calving into the lake.
Older ones can get up close and personal on an ice trekking tour, donning crampons to wind their way through a maze of crevasses on top of the ice. Or enjoy this spectacular scene from the water on a Perito Moreno kayak trip (min age 14yrs). A really ‘cracking’ way to enjoy one of the few stable glaciers in the world and a key reason to experience Argentine Patagonia with the children.
Check out some facts and figures about the Perito Moreno Glacier.
3. Horse riding from an Estancia
The ultimate Patagonian image. Remote ranches where gauchos in their distinctive beret-shaped hats herd the cattle on horseback through the vast Patagonian steppe. An absolute must on any trip to Patagonia with kids. Stubborn Mule thinks one of the best tours in Argentina is to join a catamaran cruise on the beautiful Lake Argentino, stopping at various jaw-dropping icebergs and glacier viewpoints before arriving at the very remote Estancia Cristina. Here you can either take a 4WD to the Upsala Glacier or trek through an ancient glacial valley filled with fossils.
However, the quintessential option for us is the gentle 4hr horse ride (no experience required – the horses know the way!) through the stunning mountain scenery, crossing rivers and moorland, climbing ridges to a distant shelter. Here you can enjoy barbecued steak (and a cheeky glass of Malbec) before returning back to El Calafate. Or why not stay in one of the homely chalets here – a guaranteed peaceful night’s sleep.
4. Meet penguins in Tierra del Fuego
Better known as El Fin del Mundo or the End of the World, this remote region at the southernmost tip of Argentina is an exciting addition to a family holiday in Patagonia. How about the Happy Feet combo – from Ushuaia, head to Tierra del Fuego National Park for walks amongst stunning snowy mountain scenery, then cruise the Beagle Channel to view the huge colonies of penguins and sea lions (see Places to Visit in Argentina). Or for a really special family adventure holiday, you could join an expedition ship to Antarctica – definitely the ultimate way to round off a trip to Patagonia with children.
5. Los Nativos excursion with dinner in a cave
For something completely different (that doesn’t involve a glacier or a mountain trek) take the children on a fascinating trip through time on the evening Los Nativos tour. A 4WD truck will drive you high into the hills outside El Calafate in Argentina where you will learn about the original Mapuche inhabitants of the area. Ancient rock art is clearly on view (with interestingly the same symbols as those found in Australia) and a living natural history lesson can be enjoyed before a rather fun surprise – dinner in a cave! Dine on typical regional food whilst watching a stunning sunset over Lake Argentino. Definitely a meal to remember. Swap posh frocks for down jackets as that Patagonian wind is ever-present.
6. Multi-activity in the Argentine Lake District
Between the Tyrolean-like lakeside town of Bariloche and the boutique resort of Villa la Angostura, lies an arena of dazzling aquamarine lakes and rivers, lush wooded hills and snow-capped mountains. Hike, ride or bike the trails and make full use of the network of cable cars and chair lifts to reach those stunning viewpoints. Spend the day cruising the calm waters of Tristeza Bay from where you can meander through a bamboo forest then slither down smooth waterfall rock slides, enjoy a picnic on the beach and try your hand at fly fishing or stand up paddleboarding. End the day indulging in some chocolate tasting for which this alpine region is renowned.
Bariloche is one of our favourite places in Patagonia – check out our Argentina itineraries to see how you can include it on your trip.
7. Cruising Lago del Desierto
A great option for those needing a gentler day in between challenging hikes, this is a lovely day out in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park – without the trekking poles. Drive north from El Chalten on a rough track beneath the dramatic spires of Mount Fitzroy to the peaceful shores of Lago del Desierto. Cruise past various viewpoints of hanging glaciers and waterfalls to the last Argentine border post before Chile. Disembark and enjoy a self-guided meander through the forest up to a stunning viewpoint looking directly on to the huge Vespigniani Glacier. A cosy dome cabin provides hot drinks out of the wind whilst you await the boat home. Just in time for Happy Hour in El Chalten! You can easily include this excursion on our Buenos Aires and Lake District itinerary.
8. Take the W-Walk challenge in Torres del Paine
The famous ‘Towers of Paine’ symbolise Chilean Patagonia. This stunning national park offers everything from cruises on turquoise lakes (‘Lake Grey’ has to be the ultimate misnomer), and gentle walks to glacier viewpoints to challenging multi-day hikes stopping at cosy mountain refuges along the way. Any fit teenager would be able to make the renowned 4-day W-Walk which takes in all the key sights of the park. Or enjoy a series of day treks – our favourite is the hike to the base of the Torres del Paine themselves. Easily combined with Los Glaciares just across the border in Argentina, these two parks provide the ultimate mountain experience for any trip to Patagonia with kids. See our Best of Argentina and Chile itinerary which takes in Torres del Paine National Park.
9. Climb a live volcano
Chile’s Lake District is an adventure playground for outdoor-loving families and what better way to gain kudos back at school than by summitting a live volcano. From the quaint Germanic town of Puerto Varas you can either experience the rainforest-filled slopes of Volcan Osorno with its lava cones and stunning views of Lago Todos Los Santos or tackle the snowy cone of Volcan Villarrica. Throw caution aside and embrace your inner child sliding back down on your backside! Check out our Best of Argentina and Chile family itinerary.
10. White water rafting
Both Chile and Argentina offer superb rafting options for all the family to enjoy when holidaying in Patagonia with kids. From raging class IV Rapids (min age 14) to gentler grade II-III, you can paddle through the stunning Lake District scenery in both countries. Full or half-day options are available from either Puerto Varas in Chile along the Petrohue River or on Bariloche’s River Manso in Argentina. Be warned though, that backflip off the raft lands you in very cold water.
11. The Andean Lakes crossing
Push the boat out and take this famous crossing between Chile and Argentina. Enjoy dramatic alpine scenery from the water with either one-day or two-day options overnighting in the scenic lakeside town of Peulla. Form a loop with the overland southern Patagonia crossing between Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine National Parks. Or combine it with the Australis cruise between Ushuaia in Argentina and Punta Arenas in Chile to create the perfect multi-country marine circuit on a holiday in Patagonia with kids.
12. Treat the family to some Patagonian luxury
Patagonia is home to some fabulous hotels, lodges, estancias, and even glamping sites. The Hotel Llao Llao near Bariloche is a legendary Argentine institute where you can enjoy high tea, take a tango class, enjoy an abundance of included activities or simply have fun in the stunning in/out infinity pool. Fall asleep beneath the spires of Torres del Paine in either an eco-dome tent or the exquisite Explora Patagonia Hotel. Enjoy a traditional Argentine asado barbecue watching the sunset on the shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake at the intimate Correntoso in Villa la Angostura. Or enjoy the ultimate remote experience flying into a luxury estancia, in the depths of the Patagonian steppe.
More about holidaying in Patagonia with kids
If you and your family love the outdoors, and this blog has piqued your interest, get in touch. With a necessary number of internal flights and sometimes challenging mountain weather conditions, this region may be better suited to slightly older or more adventurous families. Helene Cooper, our Latin America manager, recently returned from Patagonia with her 9yr old, and would love to chat about the many activities on offer and what to expect when travelling to Patagonia with the children. Call us on 01728 751752 or email using our website contact page.
We always love to hear from families who have travelled with us, so please do send us your photos and reviews of holidaying in Patagonia with kids.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel