The Best of Patagonia and Mendoza wine country - a 14-day travel itinerary
Updated: Oct 29, 2021
There are so many active travel areas to explore in the Patagonia region. But being mountain lovers and experienced hiking enthusiasts, we decided to thoroughly explore Torres del Paine National Park only on this trip. We plan to come back to explore the Lake district, Chalten and Calafate another time. After much research, we also chose to stay at Explora Ecolodge – an all-inclusive property with a prime, central location to all the treks in the park. Explora is not cheap. There is no getting around it. But we feel that the value it provided, as well as its exquisite location and level of service, optimized the time we were there and was a perfect hybrid travel choice. We’d do it again in a heartbeat. Read about our full experience at Explora Eco Lodge and why we think its The Best Option for Trekking in Torres del Paine here.
We also knew that after seven days of cooler weather hiking over some pretty rugged terrain, that relaxing in sunshine and 80+ degrees would be just what we needed. Since our flight path passed through Santiago, and being the food and wine lovers that we are, Mendoza was the obvious solution.
First, its important to understand that Torres del Paine National Park is located far south in Chile, five hours north of Punta Arenas, the closest airport. Puerto Natales also has a small airport but flights there are fewer and harder to schedule in advance. To get to Torres del Paine National Park, your best bet is to drive or transfer from Punta Arenas, passing through Punta Natales en route. Explora includes this round-trip transfer by van with every booking. If you opt to stay somewhere other than Explora, and cannot arrange private transfer, your second best bet is the daily buses than run from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales (3 hours) and then Puerto Natales to the National Park (2 hours). There are no direct buses, you must stop in Puerto Natales.
Hiking is the best way to see the park! There are over fifty trails that vary from 1-2 hours to full day treks. With wide-spanning glaciers, high valley vistas, towering geological anomalies, fields full of guanaco and fabulous waterfalls, this area is a truly magnificent part of the world.
No one does leisure travel quite like Explora. After you exhaust yourself hiking for 6-8 hours and kick of your sweaty active wear, you can soak in a lakeside hot tub while sipping champagne, go get a a massage at the spa and then enjoy a three course gourmet meal complete with white linens & full bar. And the rooms - they have twice a day maid service, terrific products and rooms with fabulous views.
Go here to see my full review of this spectacular lodge
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The Patagonians we encountered were very passionate about the preservation and stewardship of the land. There are few other places we have traveled that have such large areas of land set aside for Conservation Projects working hard to sustain the natural environment. We hope your experience here will move you in a way that compels you to support its preservation.
Trip Rating - L3 - see full description of ParadoxTravel trip ratings here.
Month of travel - We chose the second half of January, which is the beginning of summer in Patagonia (still cooler weather, less tourists, but also less rain). However January is also the end of summer in Argentina, before harvest season.
Length of trip - 13-17 days
(13 if only 4 nights in Torres Del Paine National Park but if you are going that far, why not stay longer?)
Our Outgoing Route
LAX >SCL(Santiago)> PUQ(Punta Arenas) > overnight stay> 5 hr ride to TdP
Our Return Route
5 hour ride from TdP > PUQ >SCL > overnight stay > MDZ (Mendoza) > 4 night stay >SCL> overnight stay > LAX
Our chosen Airline - LATAM
TIPS for booking flights - For more International Travel Tips – see here
1. LATAM is an American partner. But purchasing the ticket directly through the LATAM website was significantly cheaper when we booked, and we still got the mileage credit.
2. We purchased the RT ticket between Santiago & Mendoza , as it was cheaper to buy a ticket ‘within a ticket’, than to link them all together. So we purchased the USA <> Punta Arenas Ticket , allowing time for the Mendoza trip in between. Then purchased our Mendoza trip ticket.– see below.
Days 1 & 2 Getting to Puenta Arenas, Chile
Flight - 3:15p Depart LAX LATAM Airlines 603, 7:00a Arrive Santiago/SCL (flight duration 10 hr, 45 min)
Flight - 1:45p Depart SCL LATAM Airlines 285, 6:25p Arrive Punta Arenas/ PUQ (flight duration 4 hr, 40 min)
Accommodation suggestion - Hotel Isla Rey Jorge
Day 3 - Getting to the National Park
Drive - 8am - Picked up by Explora Rep > 5-hour van transfer to Torres del Paine.
Days 4 – 10 - Torres del Paine Exploration
Explora Ecolodge (7 days, 8 nights total, there is an option for a 4 night stay as well)
Read my detailed description of Explora and why I think its The Best Option for Trekking in Torres del Paine here
Day 11 - Back to Puenta Arenas
Drive - 12pm depart Explora Ecolodge, 5pm – arrive Punta Arenas airport/ PUQ
(van transfer back to airport/Punta Arenas included with stay)
Flight - 7:35p – depart PUQ LATAM Airlines 284, 10:55p – arrive Santiago/SCL
Accommodation suggestion - Holiday Inn Santiago - Airport Terminal (walking distance from terminal, nice hotel with great lounge)
Day 12 - Mendoza, Argentina
Flight - 11:25a – Depart Santiago/SCL LATAM Airlines 934, 12:25p - Arrive Mendoza
Taxi - Mendoza to Lujan du Cuyo 30 minutes
NOTE on location - Similar to Napa Valley’s location to San Francisco, wine country here is dispersed over three regions 20-60 minutes drive outside of Mendoza. We chose Lujan de Cuyo as it was central to the others.
Accommodation suggestion - Villa Mansa Wine Hotel and Spa (beautiful, very private B&B, with nice restaurant, small pool area. Very quiet and romantic. You will need to taxi to meals. There is a small ‘downtown’ area but we preferred the location of this B&B. We also hired a driver for two days to take us around wine country, so we could drink and didn’t need to rent a car and drive. See details here on 3 Reasons to Hire a Wine Guide in Mendoza.
TIP - Try to get Argentinian Pesos in the Santiago airport. The airport in Mendoza did not have an exchange there when we went and the taxi drivers did not have ability to make change or take credit card. You will need local cash currency for taxis in and around wine country. Getting cash from an ATM is also an option.
Day 13 - Wine Tasting
Uco Valley Wine Tour – Cinthia Zeverini at Mendoza Wine Tours
(Read our 4 Reasons to Hire a Guide in Mendoza here)
Winery suggestions - Pulenta Estate, Andeluna Cellars, Gimenez Riili Winery (lunch here was terrific!)
Dinner suggestion - at Villa Mansa – very nice! They have their own wine cellar that you can go into and select your wine for dinner.
Day 14 - Day to Relax
Activity suggestion - lounge by pool and drink some local sparkling wine from Bodega Cruzat
NOTE - If you are short on time, you can skip this day, shorten your trip by one day.
Dinner suggestion - Brindillas – wonderful 5-course menu and one of the best meals that we had on the trip.
Day 15 - Wine Tasting
Lujan de Cuyo Region Wine Tour - Cinthia Zeverini
Winery suggestions - Kaiken Winery, Septima Winery ( the lunch here was amazing! 4-course with wine pairing) Renacer Winery
Dinner suggestion - at Silos – a contemporary local, casual restaurant, upscale bar food, indoor/outdoor seating. Nice selection of beers if you are wined out.
Day 16 - Santiago
Taxi - From Lujan du Cuyo back to Mendoza airport - 2p
Flight - 4:55p Depart Mendoza/MDZ LATAM Airlines 933, arrive Santiago/SCL 5:55p
Accommodation suggestion - Holiday Inn Santiago - Airport Terminal
Day 17 - Head Home
Flight - 9:15a Depart Santiago/SCL LATAM Airlines 600, 6:00p Arrive LAX Flight duration 13 hour, 45 min
Flight - 9:15p depart LAX LATAM Airlines 8232, 10:39 – arrive SFO
Have fun! See more photos from this area below in our Gallery.
"Our organization is part of the Tompkins Conservation family of organizations, established by entrepreneurs-turned-conservationists Kristine and Douglas Tompkins to establish new protected areas, recover imperiled species, implement organic agriculture, support leading-edge activism, and promote healthy communities. Conservacion Patagonica itself is a small team, but many thousands more throughout the world have joined in this project in one form or another, be it volunteering with ecosystem restoration, donating, spreading the word, serving as supportive neighbors, or lending expertise." - Conservacion Patagonica