It is no secret that for a landscape photographer Patagonia is a dream come true. From magnificent snow-capped peaks to miles-long glaciers, ice-blue lakes, and gorgeous waterfalls, there are all imaginable landscapes here. The opportunities for a stunning picture are endless. Honestly, you could go almost anywhere in Patagonia and get fantastic results. However, some locations are just so remarkable that they deserve to be in the landscape photography hall of fame. These are, in my opinion, and that of others, the absolute best places to visit and photograph in Patagonia.
A Timeless Classic – Torres del Paine National Park
Voted the eighth wonder of the world, Torres del Paine is probably the most renowned part of Patagonia. And deservedly so. It is home to some of the region’s most prominent landmarks and its most popular hiking trail – the W-Trek. It is hardly surprising that every year the area attracts thousands of adventure seekers from all over the globe.
For landscape photographers, there is a lot in store here too. Torres del Paine is where you will find one of Patagonia’s most iconic sites – Mirador las Torres. At the end of a strenuous climb, you will be treated to a breathtaking view of the very cliffs that the park is named after. A favorite sunrise destination for landscape photographers and hikers alike, it is a real Patagonian classic. In fact, when you search for images of Patagonia, the photos from Mirador las Torres will be among the first ones to come up.
But of course, Torres del Paine is so much more than a single viewpoint. There are dozens of stunning photo locations and numerous hiking trails to explore. If you are serious about landscape photography in Patagonia, Torres del Paine just has to be on your itinerary.
A Hike to Remember – The French Valley
Technically, the French Valley is located within Torres del Paine national park. However, I was so impressed by it that I figured it deserved a separate mention. French Valley is a hiking trail connecting the Paine Grande station with Mirador Británico viewpoint. Although it is normally passed as part of the W-Trek, you don’t need to do the entire multi-day hike to experience it. Instead, you can visit French Valley as a day-trip from Torres del Paine or even Puerto Natales.
And that is great news indeed. French Valley is a fabulous route, and many call it their favorite segment of the W-Trek. The path takes you deep into the mountains of Torres del Paine. This allows you to see its familiar features from a totally different angle. For landscape photographers, there are countless photo opportunities all along the way. The famous Cuernos peaks absolutely steal the show, but the views of the valley and lake Skottsberg are equally lovely.
If you get a chance, I highly encourage you to try and hike the French Valley. Even if you don’t plan on doing the whole W-Trek (in fact, for photographers it is not at all necessary), consider a day-trip to French Valley. It is one of the most beautiful places in Chilean Patagonia. Seeing it in person will definitely be a worthwhile adventure. You can read more about my French Valley day hike here.
The Best of Argentinean Patagonia – El Chalten
Moving across the border, El Chalten is easily my number one choice for landscape photography in Argentinean Patagonia. The sleepy town on the outskirts of civilization might not look like much. But believe me when I say it is surrounded by some of Patagonia’s most remarkable sites.
The area around El Chalten is home to two of Patagonia’s most recognizable peaks – Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The hikes to Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre originating in El Chalten rank among the best in Patagonia. And that is only a tip of an iceberg. For seasoned adventurers, there is an immense Southern Patagonian Ice Field nearby. And then there are numerous waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, and lakes to explore. Need I say more?
First-time visitors to Patagonia often make the mistake of only touring the Chilean side. Personally, I think it is a grave omission. Argentinean Patagonia is extraordinaire, unique, and every bit as striking as its Chilean counterpart. And for a quick taste of everything it has to offer, head no further than El Chalten.
Patagonia’s Most Famous Glacier – Perito Moreno
The Perito Moreno is another signature location in Patagonia and arguably its most famous glacier. And yes, that means huge crowds of tourists on any given day. And yet, I still recommend it as one of the top landscape photography spots in Patagonia. Here is why.
Not only is Perito Moreno one of the most impressive glaciers in Patagonia, but it is also extremely accessible. A bus or an hour-long drive from El Calafate will get you straight to it. And then there is the view – it is insane. Miles upon miles of ice, for as far as the eye can see. It truly is a sight to behold. There is simply no other glacier in Patagonia that you can photograph from so close without extensive hiking. There are even tours that will let you walk the surface of the glacier itself!
You might be thinking that Perito Moreno has been shot to death. That is certainly so, but then again, I would not worry about it too much. The glacier is not static. It is always moving, shifting, and changing. Every so often, large chunks of ice break away and fall into the water below. If you are lucky enough to catch the moment, it is a spectacle in its own right.
All of this is to say that as a landscape photographer, you still have plenty of options here. Your experience at Perito Moreno will differ drastically from mine or anybody else’s. It is therefore entirely up to you to find a unique and interesting angle on it.
The Charming Side – Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas
The two cities of Chilean Patagonia are hardly ever mentioned as landscape photography hotspots. In fact, most visitors tend to overlook them in a rush to see the more iconic landmarks. And yet, both are charming and full of hidden little treasures that are well worth exploring.
Located on the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas is a common gateway to Patagonia. Indeed, for many, it will be their first taste of Patagonia. While Punta Arenas is not exactly known for grand vistas, it more than makes up for that in vibe and atmosphere. And for those who try to get to know it, Punta Arenas has some ace locations up its sleeve. I especially love the shipwrecks both in town and down the coast from it. And when visiting between October and March, a tour of Isla Magdalena is a great addition.
As the closest town to Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales is a frequent base for exploring the national park. Of course, as a photographer, you will likely want to spend every available minute in Torres del Paine. But don’t write off Puerto Natales just yet. It is a cool little town with some fantastic views of its own. Head down to the coast for a classic shot of an old pier or climb the local peak of Cerro Dorotea for some smashing panoramas of the surrounding fjord.
Beyond the Classics
Granted, Patagonia would never be such a landscape photographer’s playground if it could be summarized in a single blog post. There are countless incredible destinations, wonderful hikes, and spectacular landscapes to discover. What I have talked about in this article is just the beginning of a miracle that is Patagonia. I urge you to look beyond these basics and find your own special spots and corners.
To help you with this, I have created Photography Guide to Patagonia. It is an ebook that I wrote specifically for landscape photography enthusiasts thinking of a trip to Patagonia. In the guide, I go deep into everything the region has to offer. With dozens of photo locations, shooting advice, and travel tips, our Photography Guide to Patagonia has everything you need to get amazing photos. The images from this article are in there too, complete with coordinates and helpful details on when and how I took them.
Sunset Obsession Photography Guide to Patagonia
Other than that, I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of some of Patagonia’s highlights. Feel free to have a look at my other articles as well as my Patagonia series on YouTube. Come say “Hi” on Instagram and Facebook, and consider subscribing to not miss any future content!