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Our new Destination at the end of a Continent – Travelling to Patagonia

There is no doubt that South America is such an interesting continent due to the variety of landscapes and ecosystems that it embedded: from the driest desert on earth such as the Atacama which stretches from northern Chile to southeastern Perú, to the largest tropical rainforest represented by the Amazon which extends through 8 countries of the continent; Ecuador is home to one of the most amazing and unique natural ecosystem of the planet such as the Galapagos archipelago, whereas Perú preserves incredible archaeological sites hidden in the Andes like Machu Picchu or the city-fortress of the Chachapoyas, Kuelap.

Among all these natural and cultural marvels the continent has to offer, certainly one destination is on every traveller’s bucket list: Patagonia.

Travelling to Patagonia Ruta 40

Defining Patagonia

Patagonia is not a country, instead is a geographical area. The region that comprehends the southernmost tip of South America, which is shared between Chile and Argentina. Both countries have their own Patagonia, therefore we can actually talked about an Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia, each of them sharing a common cultural and historical past, despite having a contrasting natural environment. The Argentine side is dominated by the Patagonia steppe, a dry and semi-desertic ecosystem in which the horizon stretches endlessly; but, as you approach the Andes to the West suddenly the craggy peaks of the longest mountain range in the planet begins to break the landscape monotony and you’ll find yourself in front of the Southern Patagonian Icefield with its pristine and azure glaciers flowing down into splendid turquoise lakes. Welcome to the region of world known Perito Moreno glacier, the Argentine and Viedma lakes and legendary mountains Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre.

The Chilean Patagonia is even more whimsical. Travelling in Patagonia from North to South along the Caretera Austral you’ll embark yourself on an adventure across the largest temperate rainforest of the southern hemisphere, the so-called “Valvidian forest” home of millenary trees such as the Alerce andino (Fitzroya cupressoides) small cousin of the North American Sequoia; you’ll drive past hanging glaciers and roaring waterfalls until getting lost in the maze of fjords and channels that forms the Chilean fjords system. In here you’ll need to hop on hop off numerous ferries until your final journey will lead you to Puerto Natales, the backdoor of Torres del Paine National Park; a paradise for trekking lovers and mountain photographers.

The Chilean Patagonia is even more whimsical. Travelling in Patagonia from North to South along the Caretera Austral you’ll embark yourself on an adventure across the largest temperate rainforest of the southern hemisphere, the so-called “Valvidian forest” home of millenary trees such as the Alerce andino (Fitzroya cupressoides) small cousin of the North American Sequoia; you’ll drive past hanging glaciers and roaring waterfalls until getting lost in the maze of fjords and channels that forms the Chilean fjords system. In here you’ll need to hop on hop off numerous ferries until your final journey will lead you to Puerto Natales, the backdoor of Torres del Paine National Park; a paradise for trekking lovers and mountain photographers.

Southern Patagonia Icefield Travelling In Patagonia, Argentina

How to Get to Patagonia

As you might have understood there are therefore two ways to get to Patagonia. Either you fly into the town of El Calafate in Argentina, or to the city of Punta Arenas located on the banks of the Magellan Strait. In both cases there are so far only national flights operating from the respective capitals, which mean you first need to flight into Buenos Aires or Santiago. Both of them are big cities filled up with cultural activities, museums, restaurants and represent a fine introduction to the culture of each of their own countries.

Either you fly to El Calafate or to Punta Arenas you can then easily travel from one country to another at any moment by car or by public bus. This gives you the chance to start your journey in one airport and fly back from the other, making it for a one way organized trip. For next year we have partnered up with a local company in order to provide local based arrangements for private transportation as well as trekking and tour guided programs.

If you’re holding an American or Canadian passport travelling for tourism in both Chile and Argentina is for free and both countries grant you with a 90-day Visa on arrival. For Australians the same rule is applied to visit Argentina, whereas since May 2020 you’ll be required to apply for a e-Visa to visit Chile with a single or multiple entry option; the reciprocity fee has been removed since December 2019.

Suspension Bridge Trekking In Torres Del Paine, Patagonia

Trekking in Patagonia

Just as in the Peruvian Andes, Southern Patagonia is a hiker paradise. The small town of El Chaltén, situated 220km north of El Calafate, has been baptized as the national capital of trekking in Argentina. Options for hikers in here span from easy-to-medium day hikes as the classical trails to Laguna Torre and Laguna de los Tres which can be done from the commodity of your hotel; to more intense and challenging multi-day programs such as the 4-day Huemul Circuit which brings face to face with the second largest glacier of the Southern Patagonian Icefield, or the more technical and adventurous 8-day Circo de los Altares trekking and glacier crossing adventure (last one for experienced trekkers only).

On the other side of the border, Torre del Paine National Park awaits you with countless opportunities for outdoor lovers. Those who enjoys short and scenic half day hikes can move freely across the park to meet their expectations and walk the two-to-three-hour trails that the protected area has to offer with its own different ecoregions. On the other hand if you’re looking for a multiday easy-to-medium trekking circuit then Torres del Paine W trek awaits for you; this is a 5-day guided or self-guided one way itinerary which brings you face to face with the most spectacular valleys and peaks of the national park, like the French valley, the Base of the towers and Grey glacier trail and boat tour. Last but not least and for bold trekkers, Torres del Paine O Circuit grants you with the solitude and wilderness of Torres del Paine backstage, plus the opportunity to hike across John Garner pass feeling the roaring wind of these extreme latitudes of the continent and enjoying a trail which winds up and down on the side the majestic Grey glacier and the other countless ice tongues of the Southern Patagonian Icefield.

 

Travelling to Patagonia Ruta 40

A trip to Patagonia is a journey stimulating every senses of the human body; the vast landscape and the endless skies filled up with rolling clouds contrast with the craggy peaks of the Andes making every possible corner a good location for incredible photography. Untamed wildlife roams free in the Patagonian steppe, so that a close encounter with the native South American camel, the guanacos or the critically endangered Andean Deer the Huemul and with their main predator, the Puma, has become increasingly popular.

The sense of taste will be used while sipping the maté, a traditional beverage made out of yerba mate and hot water which is normally drank together with your friends any time during the day, used to create strong social bonds among people; not to forget the incredible asado al palo, a fresh and tender lamb cooked in the traditional style between 3 to 4 hours on a metal structure similar to a cross. If you’ve tasted lamb before, this is a completely different story!!

While hiking or boat riding the roaring wind gusts and the whirls of the williwaw which sweep across the lake and the steppe will dry your skin, ruffle your hair, make your hat flying away and your whistle in your ears. Welcome to the southern tip of the continent where you’ll never feel so alive!

Ayni Peru would love to plan your South American adventure!  Contact us today to get started.