Patagonia is a land of contrast and surprises, and for nature lovers it is a veritable paradise. This lesser-known region of South America contains territory from both Chile and Argentina and is located at the far South ‘tail’ of the continent.
As a largely uninhabited part of the world, Patagonia’s scenery is dramatic and contains a cornucopia of wildlife, from hairy armadillos to pumas, penguins and hummingbirds to condors and elephant seals. There really isn’t enough space to list them all here! Speaking of lists of animals, Charles Darwin’s ships landed on these shores twice to marvel at the wildlife – and conservation projects there are trying to preserve all of what he saw.
There are myriad ways of exploring this unique landscape; you could take a canoe trip, throw yourself down white-water rapids or cover the area on horseback. The two most popular ways to see Patagonia are on a trek or on a cruise, so here’s our guide to both.
Trekking in Patagonia
Trekking in Patagonia can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, although employing a guide is advisable if you are not an experienced trekker. Not only will you get to see spectacular wilderness that would be inaccessible by road, but the feeling of standing atop a mountain you have conquered cannot be matched.
To make the experience more comfortable there are ‘refugios’ that you can stay in mid-trek to rest in and be fed. You may want to take these options even if you are a seasoned camper -winds can get very high in Patagonia, reaching speeds of up to 70mph in some places! The weather here is notoriously erratic- sometimes you will get weather from four seasons in one day, so make sure to come prepared.
Torres del Paine
This national park in Chile contains spectacular scenery from plains to mountains scarred by deep fjords and glaciers and overlooked by momentous granite spikes the size of skyscrapers.
Tierra del Fuego
The ‘land of fire’ is an archipelago of islands, although most trekking is done on the main island. Sea lions and king penguins can be found here as these islands are among those furthest South before the Antarctic.
Taking a cruise in Patagonia can be an un-missable experience for those who want to get close with nature without breaking a sweat. Being high up on a boat deck provides a unique perspective for a panoramic view of the coastline from the viewpoint of an explorer.
Spotting penguins and whales is usually a high-point of any cruise in Patagonia, probably because these creatures are so happy and eager to entertain us with their antics. The right whale is the second-largest whale in the world can commonly be seen slightly further away from the coast. These gentle giants are curious and unafraid of boats- although when you see their size you might be a little scared yourself!
Punta Arenas Cruises
This port close to Tierra del Fuego is the perfect place to start your cruise as it offers the best views of the smaller uninhabited islands in the archipelago. If you time the cruise in spring you will get to see the return of the Magellan penguins after their winter holidays to Brazil.
You can access the Antarctic regions from a number of ports in Patagonia, and we highly recommend that you do. Most people say the most awe-inspiring part of these cruises is seeing icebergs up close and finding out that icebergs aren’t always white, they can be pink, orange or even green.
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