Patagonia Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia


Far away, at the fabled ‘edge of the world’ the natural wonders of Patagonia await. This last frontier of South America slopes
down from The Andes towards Antarctica, covering the sparsely inhabited southern regions
of both Chile and Argentina. No destination captures the imagination like
Patagonia. This is a land of legendary beauty, where
Mother Nature runs the show. Prepare to feel dwarfed by the mighty volcanoes, towering glaciers and floating icebergs that
are sure to cross your path. In this remote region, even the most firmly
planted human footprint is soon covered under blankets
of snow, erased by westerly winds, or washed away by
lapping waves. With its mosaic of green steppe plains and
blue mountain lakes, framed by wooded hills of ever-changing colors, Patagonia paints a mesmerizing picture. White-capped peaks of silvery mountains puncture
the horizon, while soaring condors and solitary ‘gauchos’ bring this seemingly spellbound landscape
to life. This untamed land has moods as changeable
as the weather and can be rugged and desolate as well as
breathtakingly beautiful and inviting. Everything south of here is too harsh for
human settlement and it’s this “Edge of the World” feeling
that has captivated intrepid souls for centuries… First to arrive was the 16th-century Portuguese
explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who named the region “Patagonia”: “the
land of the bigfeet”. Some 300 years later, a young Charles Darwin
contributed to the myth that this was once a land of giants by collecting
the remains of huge extinct animals. Now, almost two centuries later, Patagonia
is still a place of discovery. While the region has become much easier to
reach, its mythical appeal remains.Whether you set
out on a road trip, or explore its far corners by cruise ship
or plane, this is bound to be the journey of a lifetime. On the Argentinean side, one of Patagonia’s most relaxing day trips
takes you from sleepy San Martín de los Andes to Villa La Angostura. Simply follow the scenic Road of the 7 Lakes, which takes in two water-rich national parks. This road trip will bring you to San Carlos
de Bariloche, a popular mountain resort on the shores of
Lake Nahuel Huapi. The town has all the facilities and outdoor
pursuits of the Swiss Alps… without the price tag. When roaming south along the famous Ruta 40, take a detour to the town of El Chaltén: Argentina’s trekking capital in the southern
Andes. Hike to the idyllic Laguna Capri or to even higher lookout points to gaze up
at the moody Fitz Roy mountain. Other trails provide scenic views of the jagged
peaks of Cerro Torre, which only few dare to climb. Spend the night in El Calafate, just a few hours to the south. Stock up on supplies and try the regional
specialty of “asado”, whole lamb grilled over an open fire. El Calafate is nestled on the southern shores of Lago Argentino, the gateway lake to Los Glaciares National
Park. Embark on an epic journey to one of the nature’s
greatest gifts: the Perito Moreno glacier. If ice trekking over its slippery surface
doesn’t warm you up, perhaps a whiskey “on the rocks” will… From the safety of a nearby viewing platform, observe the ever-changing face of its terminus, which reaches some 200 feet above sea level this glacier is the world’s third-largest
freshwater reserve. Most Perito Moreno tours also take in the
milky waters of Canal Upsala, nature’s own exhibit space for some the
most spectacular sculptures on Earth: floating icebergs shaped by water and wind. All the way south, the Strait of Magellan separates the far corner
of Patagonia from mainland Argentina. When Magellan first arrived here, he spotted
the camp fires of native tribes and named the archipelago “Tierra del Fuego”, the “Land of Fire”. You can get there by boat, but most visitors simply fly to the province’s
capital Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. This former penal colony was once a cold and
brutal place of punishment, but now extends a warm welcome to all newcomers. In the morning, board the ‘End of the World Train’ for an unforgettable
day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park. An even more scenic way to reach this reserve
is joining a cruise along the Beagle Channel, the closest you can get to experiencing Antarctica
without actually going there. See the Magellanic cormorants flock to Bird
Island and then observe the lazing giants on Seal
Island. The nearby Les Éclaireurs lighthouse has marked this passageway to Chile for about
a hundred years. Once you’ve reached the wondrous domain
of Tierra del Fuego National Park, you have come to the end of your Argentinean
explorations. From here, you can either return to Ushuaia and fly to
Buenos Aires, or cross over into Chile to explore the west
coast of Patagonia, where more adventures await. On the Chilean side, you can find fascinating historic and cultural
attractions in pretty colonial cities, such as the regional capital Punta Arenas. After a day of sightseeing in the outdoors, warm up with the local flavors that await
in the region’s inviting restaurants. In much of Chilean Patagonia, forests, lakes, snow-capped mountains, rivers and volcanoes dominate the landscape. With more than half of this gigantic region
declared a Protected Wilderness Area, you’ll find untouched nature everywhere
you go. On your way north, take a little detour to
the Milodón cave. This prehistoric shelter held the remains of a giant ground-dwelling sloth and other huge
extinct species. It was discoveries like these that sparked Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Not far from the cave, the granite peaks of Torres del Paine loom
over Chile’s wind-swept tundra like towering
castles in the sky. This dramatic national park is brimming with
lakes in many shades of blue and green; some with distinctive white banks and others
that spill out into gorgeous waterfalls, such as Salto Grande. Continue north until you spot the spectacular
outline of the Osorno Volcano. This fearsome giant is the focal point of
Los Lagos, the lake region that forms the northern border
of Chilean Patagonia. Straddling the opposite shore of Lake Llanquihue is the small town of Puerto Varas, a good place to end your Patagonia expedition. After collecting some mementos, you can either return to Bariloche in Argentina
by crossing the border via the lakes, or drive north for a stopover in Pucón and Villerica before flying out
from the capital Santiago de Chile. Travel to the land that time forgot, to walk in the footsteps of early explorers
or make a new discovery all of your own. This magical wilderness at the far edge of
the world reminds us that we are just temporary spectators
of nature’s infinite beauty.

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