The southern Chilean portion of Patagonia, South America's southernmost region (it spans both Chile and Argentina), is normally reached by air through the city of Punta Arenas or, alternatively, overland through Argentina. Patagonia's rugged and varied scenery, including fjords, vast pampas, lakes and glaciers, is filled with coastal wildlife, such as elephant seals, sea lions and penguins. The weather can be harsh—a lot of rain and wind—but snow is uncommon at lower elevations, at least in the southern hemisphere's summer months.
The top attraction on the Chilean side is Torres del Paine National Park, but the magnificent architecture of Punta Arenas, the penguin colony of Magdalena Island, the fjords and glacier of Tierra del Fuego, and the fjords of Ultima Esperanza near Puerto Natales are no less worthwhile. Activities include boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and sea kayaking. Patagonia can be seen by charter plane, four-wheel-drive vehicle, foot, mountain bike or horseback.
A four- to seven-day cruise through the Straits of Magellan visits the ice-clogged fjords of Tierra del Fuego and even goes ashore at Cape Horn. Sailing through the spectacular landscapes, it's sobering to realize that, for centuries, it was Europe's main passage to the Pacific via the Americas—thousands perished in storms there. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana gives an idea of the rigors of traversing the strait and Cape Horn. Travelers should spend at least a week in Patagonia to do justice to its enormous expanses.
Patagonia begins in central Argentina, about 450 mi southwest of Buenos Aires, and stretches from the Rio Colorado to the Strait of Magellan. This vast, beautiful region is a haven for naturalists and adventure travelers. It comprises almost 30% of Argentine territory and is filled with a rich diversity of plants and animals, including guanacos, penguins and elephant seals; windswept and barren terrain; lakes; and unspoiled nature
It's a popular destination for those who like to fish, especially November-May, when trout, salmon and native species, such as trahira, can be hooked in the rivers and streams flowing through the Andean foothills. Big-game hunting is also a popular sport in Patagonia.
There are three major sections: the Rio Negro and Neuquen Provinces (access via Bariloche); Chubut Province (includes Puerto Madryn, Gaiman, Los Alerces National Park and Comodoro Rivadavia); and Santa Cruz Province (Rio Gallegos and Glaciers National Park).
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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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