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The "End of the World"

Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego – sounds like pioneer spirit, adventure and wind in the hair…
The island at the very „End of the World“ was named „Tierra del Fuego“ by the Europeans, because navigating the Magellan Strait, the only thing they could spot from their ships were the camp fires of the natives. When they finally set foot on land and met them in person, the Europeans were surprised to see that the natives were quite tall and big-footed. Hence, the Spanish called them „Patagones“, meaning „people with big feet“ and their land „Patagonia“.
Until today, it is an unforgettable adventure to tour the vast Patagonian Pampa or Tierra del Fuego with your own rental car – and well planned with the right partner, it is safe and uncomplicated.
On our sample itinerary you traverse large parts of this wild land by car – with many options for interesting visits and wonderful excursions. The focus of this trip is on getting to know the country by car – for those who like to be active, we have included tips and of course, where ever you like to add extra excursions, you can just stay a little longer – with your own rental car, you are flexible!

A transfer of the rental car to Argentina is only allowed with a comprehensive collision insurance and liability insurance, valid in Argentina, as well as a special permission. We gladly do the paperwork for your when booking your rental car. Unfortunately, spontaneous trips to Argentina without these papers are not possible.

It’s best to plan your trip in Chile with your own rental vehicle in stages and to cover the long distances with domestic flights. Car-Rental-Chile makes it possible: We will be happy to advise you on domestic flights and assist you with the booking process.

First of all, a few tips on trips with a rental car in Patagonia:
Many roads in Patagonia are very remote gravel roads where you rarely see other vehicles. There may be poor cell phone reception, so in case of a breakdown you should be well prepared. In order to make sure you do not have to worry about emergencies, Car-Rental-Chile offers additional accessories such as emergency kits, extra spare tires, and tools.
Please drive very carefully on gravel, sand or stones, and keep in mind that on gravel roads you can only go about half as fast as on asphalt.
Also, make sure to fuel your rental car at every opportunity, because gas stations are few and far between in such a remote area. Please be sure to choose a suitable vehicle category for this route!

The accommodations in Patagonia range from simple campsites, small hostels and guest houses to first class lodges and luxury hotels at some places. The villages and hamlets along the road are very small, so you never find the whole selection in one place.
The accommodations in and around the Torres del Paine National Park are usually open from September to the end of March, only a few hotels open all year round.
IMPORTANT: Book your accommodations on the Carretera Austral with quite some time in advance, since capacities are limited.
With your own rental car you are flexible and can adapt to the rough and changing weather.

Locals say, if you don’t like the weather in Patagonia, just wait about twenty minutes. And it’s true: In Patagonian summer you can experience all four seasons in just one day! Snow, rain, gusts of wind, clouds, blue skies and bright sunshine within a few hours are quite common. So, make sure to wear several layers of light, yet windproof clothes and to have rain gear as well as sunscreen, a hut and sunglasses always at hand.

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Sample Itinerary for a Rental Car Trip to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego:

Punta Arenas
Pick up your rental car at the airport in Punta Arenas. Please have your driver’s license and a credit card ready, since a copy of the card must be deposited as a guarantee. The copy will be erased upon return of the car, if there is no damage. When taking over the rental car, make sure you also get the Argentina permit (needs to be reqested in advance).

Take the rest of the day to discover Punta Arenas. The first attraction is located just on the way from the airport to the city: The inspiring open air museum „Nao Victoria“, lies on the banks of the Magellan Strait just outside Punta Arenas. There you can board a faithful replica of the vessel Nao Victoria, the ship with which Hernando de Magallanes circumnavigated the world in the 16th century. Take the steering wheel and imagine what a journey over the ocean in wind and weather must have been like in the ancient times! There are replicas of historic Chilean ships as well.
Once arrived in Punta Arenas, stroll along the Plaza de Armas with the marvellous surrrounding buildings from the days when a lucky few got very rich through sheep farming. Next to Plaza de Armas is the Museo Salesiano, explaining regional history. The cementery of Punta Arenas is worth a visit as well, since it is considered the most beautiful one in Chile.
We recommend to try the regional specialty Centolla (king crab) for lunch, best in the upper floor of the market building.

Overnight stay in Punta Arenas. Distance covered: about 25-30 km on asphalt.

Around Punta Arenas
Explore the surroundigs of Punta Arenas with your rental car today.
The Reserva Forestal Magallanes is located only 9 km west of Punta Arenas. Five different hiking trails go through local Lenga and Coigüe forest. Hiking is rewarded with a wonderful view over the city, the Magellan Strait and in case of good weather, even Tierra del Fuego.
Anyone interested in the colonial history of Patagonia, should drive from Punta Arenas about 60 km to the south to the open-air museum Fuerte Bulnes. There you can catch a glimpse of the hard conditions the pioneers lived there for several years at the first Chilean outpost in this area.
If you would like to leave your rental car behind for a day, you can do sea kayaking on the Magellan Strait or a boat excursion to the penguin islands of Magdalena and Marta (book in advance!). These islands in the Magellan Strait are home to a huge colony of about 150,000 Magellan penguins. On the way, you will also encounter sea lion colonies and other local fauna. Be aware, that the sea can be rough there!

Overnight stay in Punta Arenas. Distance covered: depending on excursion 0-120 km. If you would like to experience more than one of these options, stay for an extra day in Punta Arenas.

Punta Arenas – Porvenir
Today you go to the “real” end of the world, to Tierra del Fuego!
In the morning take the ferry to Porvenir, on the other side of the Magellan Strait. Departures are daily except Mondays and the crossing takes about three hours. With a little luck, you might see dolphins escorting the ferry. At arrival in Porvenir, drive south and later east, always along the shore of Bahía Inútil, the “useless bay” to a colony of king penguins „Parque Pinguino Rey“. Shortly before reaching the penguins, you will pass a small old English cementery. It is impressive to be remembered of the vastness and power of nature and how insignificant we are in comparison. The penguin park is still a very young highlight on Tierra del Fuego, because only in 2010 a small group of king penguins began to settle there. Today they are under protection and have proliferated. Watch these beautiful animals in their natural environment (closed on Mondays).

Overnight stay in Porvenir. Distance covered: about 230 km on a gravel road (the road between Porvenir and Onaisín is currently being paved and is due for completion in September 2020).

Porvenir – Torres del Paine National Park
Today’s journey is long and leads you through the vastness of Tierra del Fuego and the Patagonian Pampas – an opportunity to philosophize and feel the power of nature …
Get up very early to see the small but very interesting Museum Fernando Cordero Rusque in Porvenir. Here you will find rare archaeological and photographic exhibits about the indigenous people of Tierra del Fuego, the Ona. When gold was found on their territory, the Ona were mercilessly eradicated by the Europeans. The museum opens at 8:00 in the morning.
Then start your journey heading northeast. Stop just outside the city for a photo stop at Laguna Los Cisnes, where you can spot beautiful black-necked swans. After about 130 km take the car ferry to cross the Magellan Strait (about 20 minutes) and when arriving on the northern shore, head west until you reach Ruta 9, which leads you to the Torres del Paine National Park via Puerto Natales.
Puerto Natales offers many good restaurants for a rest. The closer you get to the park, the more likely you are to see herds of wild guanacos and ñandu families near the road!

Overnight stay at Torres del Paine National Park or surroundings. Distance covered: about 550 km, mostly on asphalt.
If this route seems too long to you, you can a) spend a night in Puerto Natales or b) take the ferry back from Porvenir to Punta Arenas and then drive north to the Torres del Paine National Park (about 360 km). Before planning this, inform yourself about the departure times of the ferry.

Conquer “Base las Torres”
The hike to „Base las Torres“ is considered a must do. However, quite some fitness is required, since it covers about 20 km on partly difficult terrain and takes an average time of about 8 hours, depending on the physical condition. Starting at The Hotel Las Torres in the Laguna Amarga Sector, the first couple of hours lead you upwards into the Asencio Valley, stopping occasionally to admire the marvellous views of Lake Nordenskjöld and Almirante Nieto Mountain behind you. Refugio El Chileno is a great place to rest and have a picnic.
The hike continues along the river to the tree line and from there over steep, rocky terrain until finally the deep blue glacier lagoon appears behind the last moraine. Beyond the lagoon, the “Torres del Paine” rise steeply into the sky – the wonderful sight and the feeling of “having made it” are simply amazing!
If you don´t feel like walking all the way up, you can also reach the Torres del Paine on horseback (book in advance in the hotel!).

Overnight stay at Torres del Paine National Park or surroundings.
An extra day in the park is worthwhile!

Torres del Paine – El Calafate
Leave Torres del Paine National Park heading south, then east, cross to Argentina at Cancha Carrera. Be sure to have the Argentina permit at hand.
After crossing the border, continue north on Ruta 40 to El Calafate at the shore of Lago Argentino. Stroll through the town and relax in a nice café or restaurant.
Just outside El Calafate, visit the “Glaciarium Museo del Hielo Patagónico” – a modern glacier ice museum with a bar made of ice!

Overnight stay in El Calafate or surroundings. Distance covered about 265 km, mostly on asphalt.

Perito Moreno Glacier
Today you will see glacier ice not only in a museum, but live and close up! The Perito Moreno glacier is probably the most impressive glacier in Patagonia – not at last because of the very well developed touristic infrastructure. It is part of the Argentinean southern ice field: an immense ice mass covering a huge area, like in Europe during the ice age. Visitors can walk along safe and well sign-posted footpaths to see this natural wonder from various view points. With a bit of luck, columns of ice break away from the glacier and fall into the lake «Lago Argentino» with a thundering crash! If you want, you can join a guided hike on the glacier or cruise with a kayak in front of it (book in advance!).

Overnight stay in El Calafate or surroundings. Distance covered about 150 km on asphalt.

El Calafate – Puerto Natales
Drive back to Chile on the same route you came from, crossing again at Cancha Carrera and from there, take Ruta 9 south to Puerto Natales. There are many options for half-day excursions there, such as horse riding, kayaking, a hike to the Cerro Dorotea viewpoint or a tour with rental bikes. You might as well just enjoy a stroll through the nice little town, enjoy the excellent gastronomy and go souvenir shopping – Puerto Natales is full of options.

Overnight stay in Puerto Natales. Distance covered about 270 km on asphalt.

Puerto Natales – Punta Arenas
Return through the Patagonian Pampa to Punta Arenas. Distance covered about 230 km on asphalt. Drop off your rental car at the airport in Punta Arenas and take your return