If you love hiking and the outdoors, then you’ll be thrilled at the prospect of snowy peaks, rugged landscapes and glacial fjords – but there’s more than one place to find them! While Iceland is half a world away from South America’s Patagonia region, both areas are known for their incredible trekking and wild, dramatic landscapes.
Which destination is right for you? We’re comparing the two so you can decide on the perfect spot for your next touring adventure in the wilderness.
|Area||103,000 km²||1,043,000 km²|
|Currency||Icelandic Króna||Chilean Peso, Argentinean Peso|
|Highest Mountain||Hvannadalshnúkur (2,110m)||Cerro San Valentín (4,058m)|
Remote, sparsely populated and stunningly beautiful, Iceland is a bucket list item for many travellers. The island nation boasts impressive wilderness including geothermal springs, glaciers and active volcanoes. Combine these with its small, charming cities and rich Nordic history, and you’ve got a destination not to miss.
Find your next tour to Iceland here.
When to go to Iceland
Iceland’s warmer months are June to August. For hiking and nature enthusiasts, this is the best time to visit, as all the trails and mountain roads are open. This certainly doesn’t guarantee blue skies and sunshine, though, as Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable. Locals like to joke that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.
Getting around Iceland
- Iceland is well connected by road. In fact, its major highway, the Ring Road, circles the entire island! Many visitors choose to rent a car and explore that way. Be prepared for changing weather conditions, and make sure you hire a 4WD if you want to drive on anything but the major highways.
- Domestic flights are a quick way to get from one side of the island to another, but inter-city buses are also comfortable (and often very scenic). Prefer the train? Sorry, but you’re out of luck – Iceland doesn’t have a public railway system.
Let’s eat: food in Iceland
Traditional Icelandic food is heavy on fish, meat and preserved foods. Try hangikjöt (smoked lamb), feast on fresh seafood and taste skyr, a yoghurt-like dairy product.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might want to try hákarl (fermented shark) or súrsaðir hrútspungar (sour ram testicles). Be warned, though: they’re not to everyone’s taste!
Highlights in Iceland
This region within the Fjallabak Nature Reserve in Iceland’s Southern Highlands is known for its geothermal hot springs and rhyolite mountains and is ideal for camping and multi-day hikes.
Iceland’s capital is small, but it has a vibrant, quirky character all its own. The harbour city is full of galleries, museums and theatres, and enjoys a surprisingly active nightlife.
Harsh but beautiful, Iceland’s Central Highland region is the most remote area in the country. It’s home to a striking series of calderas (collapsed volcanos) and the Thorsmork mountain ridge.
Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, Westfjords
Hornstrandir is a peninsula in Iceland’s north. Its dramatic seaside cliffs are home to the arctic fox (the country’s only native mammal) as well as plenty of birdlife, including puffins.
Víknaslóðir Hiking Trails, Eastfjords
This Víknaslóðir area in southern Iceland’s Borgarfjörður Eystri is perfect for those who love to hike. Choose from plenty of clearly marked routes across hugely varied landscapes and make the most of great facilities.
This enormous South American region spans across the southern parts of Chile and Argentina. It offers pristine waterways and windswept steppes as well as fjords, volcanos and glaciers – so it’s little wonder the destination is a must-see for adventurers from across the globe. Nature lovers can’t get enough of its diverse wildlife and excellent opportunities for hiking.
Find your next tour to Patagonia here.
When to go to Patagonia
Head to Patagonia during the southern hemisphere’s summer months, November to March. While you may encounter more fellow travellers, you’ll be able to access routes that close in winter due to safety concerns. While summer is relatively warm, the winds are still fierce, and the weather in Patagonia is changeable all year round – so make sure you’re prepared for all conditions.
Getting around Patagonia
- Patagonia’s huge scale means that travel time between destinations may take up more of your vacation than you’d like – particularly when you’re travelling across the border between Argentina and Chile. Shop around for good prices on domestic flights, and make sure you book as far in advance as possible.
- Take advantage of the modern long-distance coaches that connect the region’s towns and cities, or rent a car and drive yourself. Got your sea legs? Consider seeing the fjords from a different angle with a ferry or cruise.
Let’s eat: food in Patagonia
Patagonian cuisine is hearty and meat-centric – perfect for refuelling after a day of trekking. Savour the region’s famous cordero al palo (spit-roasted lamb) or enjoy Argentine parrillada (a slow-cooked mixed grill. For something quicker, grab a sweet or savoury empanada, or if you want to try something truly unique, try filete de guanaco (filet of guanaco, a native lama-like animal).
Perito Moreno Glacier
This massive, pristine glacier is the third largest in the world, and growing! It’s a definite highlight of Los Glaciares National Park – and you can even hike on the glacier itself.
Whale Watching in Puerto Madryn
Catch a glimpse of the enormous mammals from the beach in Puerto Madryn, or take a boat tour to get up close and personal. Whales can be spotted in the area between June and December.
Nibepo Aike Estancia
This authentic Patagonian ranch within Los Glaciares National Park gives visitors a taste of gaucho life on a working farm. Go horse riding, try sheep shearing or just take in the mountain views.
Bariloche and the Road of the Seven Lakes
A picturesque town perfectly situated on the banks of Lago Nahuel Huapi. Once you’ve tasted the chocolate the town is famous for, continue along the Road of the Seven Lakes to discover more of the region’s lake district.
Phrases and Words
- Thank you
- Excuse me
- Thank you
- Un momento!
- Wait a minute!
- Lo siento
- I’m sorry
- No entiendo
- I don’t understand
Both Iceland and Patagonia have so much going for them – but which destination takes your fancy? Let us know where you’ll be heading next in the comments!