Last December, I was lucky enough to spend two weeks in the depths of wild Patagonia, the vast, almost-unpopulated area found in the very southern end of South America. This unique area is known for its varied landscapes, amazing birdlife, and the feeling of being completely cut off from reality. One could easily spend months exploring this part of Chile and Argentina, but here, in no particular order, I have outlined my top five, unmissable Patagonian experiences.
1. The Perito Moreno Glacier
If you only see one glacier in Patagonia (and there are many), make sure it’s Perito Moreno near El Calafate in Argentina. This enormous glacier can be viewed from a series of walkways, ensuring that you see it from every angle, peering into deep blue crevasses and watching icebergs glide through the water. Pictures cannot do it justice, and it’s impossible to appreciate the size of the glacier until you are standing beneath it. Taking a boat trip is the perfect way to get up close and personal with the glacier. This offers a perfect view of huge chunks of ice falling into the water with a thunder-like crash. 10 points if you can guess which piece of ice is going to fall next. An extra 10 points if you’re quick enough to photograph it!
2. Puerto Natales
It would be easy to dismiss Puerto Natales as simply being the gateway to the incredible Torres del Paine National Park, but this beautiful little city is a great place to explore in its own right. Take a day exploring shops and cafes before settling in at the harbour to watch an incredible sunset (or even a sunrise!) over the sound. If you’ve forgotten anything you might need for your time in the national park, you will be spoilt for choice with outdoor and hiking gear shops.
3. Torres Del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is all the reasons to visit Patagonia rolled into one: stunning scenery, wonderful wildlife, and wild weather. The guides will tell you that you can experience all four seasons in a day in the park, and they’re not wrong, but whatever the weather, the park’s scenery is incredibly beautiful. Whilst in the park, I spent a day hiking to Las Torres, the granite towers watching over the park. The scenery switches from impressive glaciers, to glimmering lakes, to thick forest. The final push up steep rock was absolutely worth it when, suddenly, the towers and a bright green lake appeared in front of me.
El Fin del Mundo: you will not forget that you really are at the end of the world in Ushuaia. During the summer months, the sun can be seen until 11pm, and the surrounding mountains remind you just how detached the city is from the rest of Argentina. However, this once tiny town has thrived in recent years from tourism, meaning that time can easily be spent perusing gift shops and sheltering from the wind in coffee shops.
5. Beagle Channel
If you only do one thing in Tierra del Fuego, make sure it’s a boat trip through the Beagle Channel to see the sea lions, cormorants, and, of course, penguins. I took a tour on a small sail boat and spent several hours marvelling at the clear water, snow-capped mountains, and an enormous array of wildlife, like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else in the world. Just one piece of advice: wrap up warm! Remember, this is only a stone’s throw from the Antarctic, and you won’t forget it.
If you would like to experience Patagonia for yourself, you can view our Chile and Argentina holidays here, or make an enquiry online.