Patagonia, Chile with Toddlers
Visiting Patagonia was top on our list when planning our trip to Chile and I’m so glad we were able go! The snow-capped mountain ranges, waterways, and plentiful wildlife makes Patagonia the perfect place to visit with kids! No, there isn’t a McDonald's in town or playgrounds around and most hotels don’t have TVs in your room. Instead, we took “hikes”, used our imagination and pretended the driftwood found along the side of a lake were dinosaur bones. We saw numerous wildlife including llama, rhea, deer, horses, fox, skunk, pink flamingo and other various bird species. The landscape is breathtaking and we were able to cross off ice capped mountain, glacier, iceberg, valley, forest, plain, waterfall, river and lake all on our geography vocabulary list.
Travel to Patagonia from Santiago
Flights: About a 3.5 hour plane ride from Santiago, it is necessary to plan at least a half day buffer in your itinerary for travel. We were able to find flights for $100 USD per person from Santiago to Punta Arenas. Be prepared to not have TVs on your plane and paying for all drinks and snacks as well as your luggage.
Rental Car: Punta Arenas is still a four hour drive to the main tourist attraction of Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park. Yes, we rented a car, which I would definitely recommend if you are traveling with small children. Many backpackers take busses to get into the park and hike their way around, however with small kids having a “home base” is so nice. We used our rental to get around to different sections of the national park that we wanted to see and we especially appreciated having our car for necessary bathroom “emergencies”, diaper changes, and car naps. Of course renting a car means you will need to either bring or rent car seats. Because we spent a few days in Santiago before arriving to Patagonia, we didn’t want to bring two big bulky car seats with us. We did, however, bring a booster seat for Dylan, which we normally wouldn’t use at home. He is still in a regular car seat, but the booster seat is so small and easy to carry and he does fit the weight limit so I don’t feel bad using it for the one week we are away. We rented a baby car seat, which I believe was an extra $12 USD per day. Be prepared to drive along a lot of gravel roads and make sure you brush up on your tire changing skills, just in case. J
|Road trip essentials Maty's Baby Ointment for diaper rash|
We traveled around the national park and stayed at a different hotel every night along the way. This way we never had to back track.
Simple Patagonia: Although not in the national park, Simple Patagonia, located in Puerto Natales, a 2.5 hour drive from the airport, was the perfect stop for our family. Because our flight got in so late in the evening; we didn’t even arrive at the hotel until close to midnight. The hotel was fantastic with an amazing view of the fjord and mountain ranges. Breakfast is included and it was one of the best breakfasts we ate in their lodge style cafeteria overlooking the beautiful landscape of Puerto Natales. Puerto Natales is a great town to fill up your car with gas and I would highly recommend picking up snacks for your kids at their local grocery store before heading into Torres del Paine because your options will be very limited when you get into the national park. *Be prepared to pay quite a bit extra for a crib if you need one.
Hotel Estancia El Ovejero Patagonia: Located in the Cerro Castillo, an incredibly small town, but conveniently located by the eastern entrance of the park. Our room and the breakfast included was definitely a no frills experience, but the location was great and the staff was very accommodating. It’s a good idea to brush up on your Spanish, because many staff members do not speak English. Hotel Estancia El Ovejero Patagonia also charges for a crib, however our room had three twin sized beds, so we pushed two beds together for Matt and me, Dylan slept in one twin bed and Christopher in his fold up KidCo tent.
Rio Serrano Resort + Spa: This hotel was fantastic! Located right near the main entrance of the park with a great view of the Torres del Paine mountain range. Our room was quite small, but we were given a king sized bed and pack’n’play. The hotel experience was superior and included welcome drinks, a live band at night, a number of excursions offered (such as horseback riding around the premises, kayaking, and trekking) a large buffet breakfast included and a spa with one of the best pools we’ve ever visited. The staff was so friendly and helpful; the hotel even employs adventure experts to help plan your day exploring the national park.
Hotel Illaia: We booked Hotel Illaia because it was located in Punta Arenas, close to the airport and we figured it would be easier to have a night in the city before our flight the next morning. One feature we really liked about the hotel was that they had a rooftop common area that overlooked the entire city and it was so fun to hangout there and watch the sunset (which wasn't until 10pm!!)
One of the main draws for backpackers is to hike the “W”, a four day hike, only assessable by foot and I’m sure some of the most breathtaking views you will ever experience. With a car, we were limited to only road routes but were still astounded by the various landscapes we were able to see. We spent two full days exploring the park by car.
Here are our highlights:
- Driving into the park from the eastern entrance, we were able to get a fantastic view of the main mountain range and pull over at numerous look out spots to take photos.
- Most wildlife can be found near the eastern entrance, so keep your eyes especially peeled for llamas, deer, and rhea. *There are boat excursions you can take to see penguins as well, however we opted not to do this because we had just seen wild penguins in South Africa the year before.
- Blue lake was one of our favorite stops. It didn’t hurt that we had fantastic weather,
so were able to get out of the car and go exploring. We walked near the water besides tame horses
roaming the field and along the lake’s shore.
The boys enjoyed throwing rocks into the water and finding “treasures”
along the way.
lookout stops are a must. The water’s
color is so beautiful and we were able to take so many amazing family photos at
These navy blue maternity pants are from PinkBlush and were perfect for travel and super comfortable in the car!
- Grey Lake: This 20 minute “hike” through a
wooded area takes you to a large beach overlooking icebergs in the water! This is the perfect hike for kids, but be
prepared for crossing a bridge suspended by rope (which is very shaky) and high
- Waterfall: We saw two waterfalls in Patagonia: Mirador Salto Grande and Cascada Rio Paine. Mirador Salto Grande is a short hike, about a kilometer, to reach it and Cascada Rio Paine you can drive right up to! Both were beautiful and we would definitely recommend visiting!
|Cascada Rio Paine|
· Mountain Glaciers: We were able to see glaciers on the mountains at various stop points, however there are boat excursions you can take to see them up close. (This was also something we opted not to do because we had just visited a glacier a few months ago in Banff)
Weather in Patagonia is extremely unpredictable and it seems almost always windy. As we drove, one minute we would be under blue skies and big puffy white clouds, and the next, under a grey sky with rain. I definitely wished we had packed warmer clothes, even hats and gloves, for the extreme weather changes and cold wind that occurred in different areas of the park and times throughout the day.
We only saw Chilean families with small kids traveling around the national park and I’m not sure why more people would not come with their kids! This experience was so enriching for our children and we really felt that being in nature together as a family without so many distractions helped our family grow closer together.