At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
We help families take meaningful vacations so that they can escape everyday life, show their kids the world and make lifelong memories - with care, confidence and peace of mind.
Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Are you a nature junkie, all-around adventurer, or hiking fanatic? Then, we’d wager a Patagonia family vacation ranks at the top of your travel bucket list. From snow-capped peaks to crystal-clear glacial lakes, towering waterfalls to breathtaking icebergs, the land at the bottom of the world doesn’t disappoint. And the same holds true when it comes to scoping out wildlife.
From penguins to pumas, whales to condors, there’s no end to the incredible animal life that calls Patagonia home. But, of course, that’s just a small sampling of the incredible critters you may see at the tip of South America. Keep reading as we explore the top wildlife experiences in Argentina and Chile and how your family can experience them.
Before we dive into specific travel experiences your family should consider in Patagonia, let’s cover some of the most unique species native to the region. That way, you and your kids will know what to keep your eyes peeled for. Remember that Patagonia covers a massive 260,000 square miles in Argentina and Chile, and it contains hundreds of bird and mammal species.
Native to North and South America, pumas go by various regional names, from cougars to mountain lions and panthers. But the highest concentrations in the Americas exist in Patagonia. Besides large cats, you’ll also see camelids, including guanacos and vicuñas, ancestors of modern-day llamas and alpacas. One of the more surprising critters is the Patagonia Mara, likened by many to a cross between a deer and a rabbit. And there are also plenty of diminutive critters like Patagonian culpeo foxes, dwarf armadillos, and Geoffrey’s cat.
The largest woodpecker in South America, the Magellanic woodpecker, prefers wooded habitats, as do austral pygmy owls. The Patagonian skunk is native to Argentina and Chile and boasts the same foul odor you’d expect from their North American counterparts.
Chilean flamingoes flock to the lakes and fjords of the region, and austral peregrine falcons and Andean condors soar sky high. Darwin’s rhea, a large flightless bird, has seen dropping population numbers in recent years. But they prove especially plentiful in Chile’s Patagonia National Park.
Besides the land and air animals of Patagonia, there are also plenty of coastal and marine species. They include a wide variety of penguin species: Magellanic, Humboldt, gentoo, king, and southern rockhoppers. Other coastal animals include southern elephant seals and South American sea lions. And marine species include humpback whales, southern right whales, orcas, and Commerson’s dolphins.
From October through March, the Strait of Magellan comes to life as humpback whales migrate up to 16,000 miles, feeding in the cold waters of Patagonia along the way. Other marine life abounds, too. So, get ready to see penguins, sea lions, Commerson’s dolphins, and albatrosses.
There’s also no better way to discover Cape Froward, the Americas’ southernmost mainland point. Characterized by towering mountain peaks, southern beech forests, and glaciers, it provides a dramatic counterpoint to a sea-based whale-watching adventure.
Small group trips can prove challenging when the waters of the Strait are choppy and rough. But it makes for an exhilarating expedition with plenty of whale watching opportunities.
Torres del Paine National Park is the perfect spot to launch countless outdoor adventures. It’s also a vast location, requiring at least four to six days to explore sufficiently. In addition, the park contains some of the most sublime landscapes in Patagonia and can be explored in many ways.
Above the park, the massive granite peaks of the Torres del Paine tower. Consider staying in the world’s first geodesic dome hotel, EcoCamp Patagonia, to capitalize on your vacation. Every morning, you’ll awaken in the shadow of this mountain range. Prepare for epic, expansive surroundings, stunning sunrises, and the harmonious tunes of songbirds.
Wildlife safari options abound, ranging from leisurely walks to rigorous hikes. Nature observation tours focus on specific Patagonia wildlife and portions of the park. For example, the park’s eastern side allows you to explore Laguna Azul, where eagle-eyed visitors may see guanacos, armadillos, and condors. Or head to the Southern Patagonian ice fields and nearby forests, where you may find south Andean deer, Magellanic woodpeckers, and austral pygmy owls.
With so many wild animals in Patagonia and, more specifically, Torres del Paine, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the park is also a sanctuary for pumas. The Western Hemisphere’s most widespread terrestrial mammal, these big cats range from Alaska to Patagonia.
But you’ll find the highest concentration of these kitties in Patagonia. Moreover, Patagonia’s felines are easier to spot because they tend to be larger than their North American counterparts, with some weighing 180 pounds! Fortunately, the menu remains so diverse and plentiful at the bottom of the world that puma attacks on humans are virtually unknown.
What’s one of the best ways to see them? A Puma Tracking experience. With the help of a professional guide. You’ll explore the roads and trails of the park on the lookout for these extraordinary predators. The tour also provides ample opportunities to see other wildlife and hone your nature photography skills.
Tierra del Fuego translates as “Land of Fire” and is a large archipelago situated at the southernmost tip of the South American continent. Like Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego is divided between Chile and Argentina. The capital is Ushuaia, famous as the planet’s southernmost city.
On a penguin-watching tour, head to Martillo Island to visit Magellanic penguin breeding grounds. Along the way, sail through the Beagle Channel, where you and your kids will also stand an excellent chance of seeing Magellan cormorants and sea lions.
The forests of Tierra del Fuego are also worth a visit on a Patagonia vacation. Hikes are generally easy, but you’ll nonetheless be well-rewarded with incredible views and more chances to explore local flora and fauna.
Tierra del Fuego also comes with incredible opportunities to check out king penguins, the globe’s second-largest species of penguins. King penguins only breed in a handful of locations outside of Antarctica, which makes observing them in Tierra del Fuego a special treat.
Cross the Strait of Magellan on a ferry ride to Chilota Bay. From there, a 90-minute drive brings you to Bahía Inutil and King Penguin Park. Pack your binoculars to get the best views of these incredible birds with their characteristic saffron-yellow head, chest, and beak markings.
Although visiting the king penguins of Tierra del Fuego takes a full day, it’s well worth it. What’s more, you’ll gain a comprehensive overview of the Chilean side of the island. Best of all, it’s one of the most accessible ways to observe king penguins on the planet, making it suitable for the whole family.
When planning the perfect Patagonia family vacation, wildlife experiences should feature front and center. Of course, choosing the best ones for your family involves considering interests and ages.
For example, tracking the elusive puma will likely require more strenuous hiking and more ground covered than checking out the king penguins of Tierra del Fuego. Whale watching can be an incredible experience. But if rough seas lead to over-the-top motion sickness for some family members, you might want to consider other options.
We can help you craft an unforgettable adventure with your kids to some of the world’s most intriguing locations. Our expert family adventure advisors will make travel planning a breeze. Start here to plan your one-of-a-kind itinerary to see Patagonia, where wildlife experiences abound.