On the southern frontier of South America, in Patagonia, nature is wild and marvelous. These are large spaces filled with haunting yet beautiful silence. For those who have never faced such vastness and “emptiness,” the sight of the region’s pristine rivers, dusty oases, and jagged peaks can be breathtaking. With 2000 kilometers (1243 miles) of mountain ranges, dazzling lakes, ancient forests, and astounding glaciers, Patagonia is the ideal destination for nature lovers, hikers, and bikers.
Since it’s such a vast area, we have cherry-picked some must-see attractions and prepared some tips for this trip that can be somewhat challenging.
Consider the Vastness of Patagonia and Take Your Time
When planning a trip to Patagonia, you need to consider how huge this region is. It stretches across two countries – Chile and Argentina, where it has five provinces. This calls for slow travel because even though only ten percent of the region is in Chile, there are some amazing sights there. The easiest way to get around would be to fly into Buenos Aires and out of Santiago de Chile, and then to travel short distances by bus.
Make sure you find places to rest in between bus travels because some rides, like the one from El Chalten to Bariloche, can take up to 24 hours. There are even some tours you can book if you would feel more comfortable if someone else does the planning for you.
Prepare for the Climate in Patagonia
The weather in Patagonia can be skittish. Patagonian summers are mild, with temperatures ranging from 10°C (50 °F) and 21°C (70 °F) during the day. The nights are significantly cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 5°C (40°F). This can be quite a shock for those traveling directly from Buenos Aires, where the summers are warm. June and July are the coolest months.
At any time, you can expect rain and strong winds in this region. You’ll definitely want to dress in layers and be prepared for anything.
Also, since this region has one of the largest ozone holes directly above it, the sun can be very strong, even if you cannot feel it. This can cause serious sunburns very quickly. So make sure to pack your sunscreen and apply it to all exposed skin areas. There are other things you should do to keep your skin healthy while traveling – including moisturizing and drinking plenty of water – especially because the winds and the temperature change can also affect it.
Experience the Gaucho Culture
The most authentic experience you can have in Patagonia is to get to know the famous Gaucho culture and their working farms (Estancias). These isolated ranches are excellent starting points for all your hiking adventures and field trips. Many of these farms offer horse-riding trips, but you can also enjoy observing the horsemanship of the Gauchos, as well as go fishing, hunting, or rafting. On these farms, Gauchos grow and raise everything they eat, so you’ll get a true farm-to-table experience.
We can’t stress enough how huge Patagonia is, but let’s get through some of its must-see spots to make this trip easier for you:
- Parque Nacional los Glaciares (Argentina): In this National park, you can see a 30km long, 5km wide, and 60m high glacier – Glaciar Perito Moreno.
- Parque Nacional Patagonia (Chile): This park features mountains, forests, steppe, lakes, and lagoons. The wildlife here is amazing, and you can see fox, puma, guanaco, viscacha, flamingo, and others.
- El Chaltén (Argentina): If you are in the mood for outdoor adventures, you won’t find a better place than El Chaltén. This is an ideal place for rock climbing, horseback riding, and hiking. Also, there are ice treks and ice climbing courses available.
- Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Chile): Winding forests and howling steppe of this park will leave you in awe, especially when you find yourself in front of the sculpted surface of Glacier Grey. Here, you can also ascend Paso John Gardner and kayak the calm Río Serrano.
- Puerto Madryn (Argentina): Here, you’ll find something a little different – whale-watching in Puerto Madryn.
- Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes (Chile): This privately managed park offers an excellent insight into regional history. In the museum, you’ll get the opportunity to see how the indigenous inhabitants and intrepid settlers have lived. There’s a restored wooden fort, barracks, and a chapel.
- Cueva de las Manos (Argentina): The rock art of Cueva de las Manos dates from about 7370 BC. There are free guided walks.
- Camarones (Argentina): This is Patagonia’s most charming coastal village. The beaches are empty and serene. The locals are friendly. Nearby, there is a lesser-known Cabo Dos Bahías nature reserve, which is also worth a visit.
- Península Valdés (Argentina): This is Argentina’s diving capital. There are night dives, diving courses, kayaking, and multi-day diving excursions.
- Patagonia is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so take your time planning the trip. Prepare for the weather and the long-distance traveling, but most of all, prepare to be amazed by the astonishing nature of this region.
About the Author
More Places to Visit in South and Central America
About the Photo
The photo in the header above is of the Perito Morena Glacier in southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, South America, and is one of the most important tourist attractions in Argentine Patagonia. The glacier is in Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Image by Vincent Croos from Pixabay
About the Author
The article was written by Hannah Thomas, an Australian freelance writer.
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