Straddling Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is a picturesque land of mountain ranges and glacial fjords that sweeps across the southernmost portion of South America. Follow along Brittany from Boston on her adventures with solo travel in Patagonia in today’s Women Who Travel Solo.
How did you get started traveling?
When I was in high school, my family went on safari in Africa! This was a mind-boggling experience to my 15-year-old self, who had grown accustomed to my small white Catholic suburban world, had never tried Thai food or Mexican food, and could never imagine a world outside my own. My family didn’t go on any other international vacations, but this one was enough. It flipped a switch for me, and made me realize what a great big world there is out there. And since then I’ve been obsessed with traveling!
Why did you decide to pursue the adventure of solo travel in Patagonia?
Patagonia is a famously beautiful area of the world, largely untouched because the forces of nature there are far greater than that of man. And for that reason I think it draws in a lot of people, who want to see something different, want to work for the reward of a beautiful mountaintop view, and want to push the limits of their physical abilities. For me it was all of that, and the personal challenge of taking it on alone, which few people dare to do.
Tell us about your experience with solo travel in Patagonia.
I hiked through Patagonia alone for a month at the beginning of 2016 (Happy New Year! Haha). It was THE MOST physically and psychologically demanding experience of my life, but I ultimately walked away feeling so confident in my abilities. I completed this crazy hike, and I did it all on my own! If I can do that, I can do anything.
What recommendations do you have for solo travelers in Patagonia?
There are five main towns in Patagonia that serve as entry points to the various parks that make up this region: El Chalten, El Calafate, Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas, and Ushuaia. Move through these either north to south, or vice versa. They’re all small sleepy mountain towns so don’t expect anything beyond the basics, but you’ll find hostels, grocery stores, and hiking/camping gear stores in all of them.
Definitely book your hostels ahead of time. You’ll be crossing the Chile/Argentina border a few times so make sure you have enough blank pages in your passport. And don’t forget to buy your Argentina visa ahead of time!
Lastly, don’t overpack your backpack, you’re carrying around 50 pounds on your back for eight hours a day for a month…less is more. If you want specific advice on the different parks and trails in Patagonia, I’ve written a lot of material to help you out that you can find on my blog here.
What was the best part of your solo trip to Patagonia?
I was hiking the W trail in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. It was the middle of the night at basecamp for Las Torres, and my alarm clock went off. I DID NOT want to wake up. But the sunrise at Las Torres is supposed to be great so I roll out of my hammock and reluctantly lace up my boots. I’m the first one out of camp this morning, and I start up the steep trail to the viewing point.
This trail is the most difficult hike I’ve encountered in all of Patagonia, and I’m doing it in the dark of night with a flashlight on my head. Finally, I make it to the top though I can’t see anything. I find a nice spot and I set up my viewing station, my sleeping bag and extra layers to stay warm, some cookies to snack on. And then the magic happens.
As the sun begins to rise up from behind me, the light creeps over the mountaintops and casts the most luminescent pink hue onto the Las Torres peaks. In contrast to the blue skies and the teal blue lake, the mountains glow so beautifully I think they’re going to sing! It was so incredibly difficult to get here, but it was also the most magnificent show I’ve ever seen (courtesy of mother nature).
What was the worst part of the trip?
Like a rookie, I got dehydrated. You have to seriously drink like 6 liters of water a day on these hikes. I ran out and couldn’t find any streams to refill at. I got dizzy and lightheaded and nearly passed out on the side of the trail. I was sure I was going to die here, alone. But I mustered every ounce of strength in my body to get myself moving until I could find more water. It was a miserable experience, but I definitely learned my lesson!
Are there any safety concern for women traveling alone in Patagonia?
Patagonia is actually a pretty safe area to visit for solo female travelers! There’s virtually no crime in these small sleepy towns and there are no dangerous animals on the trail (just beautiful wild horses!). Just learn from my mistake, and make sure you always have plenty of water on hand! Sometimes your biggest safety concern can be your own dumb mistakes 😉
What advice do you have for women who are traveling alone?
It’s kind of funny to me that this is a thing. Why should it even be noteworthy that a WOMAN is traveling by herself? Ugh, residual societal sexist undertones. There’s nothing to worry about, you can do this. You can travel and see the world and experience life through different cultures and have daring adventures. And you can do it all by yourself! If you don’t believe me, give it a try and you’ll be surprised how independent and strong and badass you are.
Do you have anything else to add to inspire women solo travelers?
I sometimes wonder if the media tries to scare us all into staying at home, sitting on our couch, watching tv forever, with the way they cover news around the world. (They’re not, they’re just trying to keep ratings up.)
But the truth is that the world outside your home country is NOT a scary place. I’m 25 years old, I’ve traveled to 29 countries on 5 continents (most of them by myself), and I can count on ONE HAND the number of times I’ve ever felt uncomfortable or unsafe in my travels. And when I did, it’s almost always because I was doing something dumb like walking around alone at night in a sketchy part of town. Please don’t take these news stories to heart. Go out and see the world, and form your own opinion of people and places and cultures!
About Brittany from Boston
Brittany from Boston is on a mission to see every last corner of this big beautiful world of ours, and is taking you with her on her blog at BrittanyfromBoston.com. Follow along as she shows you what the destinations you’ve always dreamed about (AND the ones you’ve never even heard of) are like!
About Women Who Travel Solo
Women Who Travel Solo is a weekly column that shares the stories of women’s solo travel adventures in hopes of spreading the message that traveling alone is not only safe, but wildly rewarding. Inspire other women to travel solo by sharing your story with Something In Her Ramblings. Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.