10 Mind-Blowing Reasons to Explore Patagonia in Argentina & Chile
At the southern end of the South American continent, Patagonia extends its vastness in a natural landscape like none other.
Populated since ancient times but discovered by Europeans just 500 years ago, this region is a land of legendary hardness and mythical beauty.
Stay with me while I take you on a trip to the mysterious Patagonia, including a bit of its history and geography, as well as the meaning of its exotic name. Plus, discover 10 reasons to explore it that will make you wonder why you haven’t been there yet.
What is Patagonia?
Patagonia is a region of wide-open landscapes, stunning glaciers, snow-covered mountains, fjords, lakes, deserts, and steppes. It’s a land of extreme weather sandwiched by the two largest oceans in the world and its nature is uniquely beautiful.
Where Is It?
Located at the southern end of South America, Patagonia covers an area of just over 1 million square kilometers distributed between Chile and Argentina. Patagonia’s northern borders are the Colorado and Barrancas rivers, while its southern end is the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. To the east lies the Atlantic Ocean, to the west the Pacific.
The geographic marvels in this most extraordinary of regions include the Andes mountains, the Perito Moreno glacier, the Strait of Magellan, and the Beagle Channel.
The Meaning of Patagonia
When the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in this region during his famous Spanish-led expedition—the first ever to circumnavigate the world—he used the word patagón to describe the inhabitants of this region. The word loosely translates to “big-footed people,” as they were taller than Europeans at the time.
As a consequence of Magellan’s term, a legend about a race of giants living in the area was told in Europe for decades, and the Patagonia name to refer to this region stuck.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, Patagonia was populated by ethnic groups including the Tehuelche, Cuncos or Veliches, Huiliches, and Mapuches.
Although nominally a territory of the Spanish Crown during centuries, the extreme weather and secluded location of this region led to its neglect by Spanish colonizers. Welsh settlers took advantage of this situation and established there.
In 1881, the boundary treaty signed by Chile, Argentina, the United States, and the United Kingdom defined the limits and boundaries of Patagonia and recognized the rights of the different peoples that populated it.
Today, Patagonia has a population of nearly 2 million people who speak Spanish, English, Welsh, or Mappudungun.
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10 Mind-Blowing Reasons to Explore Patagonia
Let’s turn our focus on the top 10 reasons to visit and explore the spectacular region of Patagonia!
1. Visit the Glaciers
El Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Los Glaciares National Park) in Patagonia Argentina is one of the most visited natural landmarks in the region. Extending over a surface of over 600,000 hectares, the park has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
It hosts the impressive Perito Moreno glacier and its stunning ice wall with a height of up to 60 meters.
2. Watch the Whales
Puerto Madryn (also in Patagonia Argentina) is the best place to embark on a whale-watching expedition through the waters of Golfo San José, Golfo Nuevo, and Caleta Valdés.
This area is a favorite of whales who come to its warm waters to breed from June to December. Watching these enormous creatures jumping around in the ocean is a truly unforgettable experience.
3. Explore the Cueva de las Manos
Another of Argentina’s World Heritage sites, the Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) features spectacular rock art dating back 13,000 years. If you’re into prehistorical explorations, be sure to visit this stunning ancient cave.
4. Visit the Southernmost City in the World
Ushuaia is the beautiful name of the southernmost city in the world and the capital of the Argentinian Tierra del Fuego province. The city is branded by the Argentina Tourism Ministry as the “End of the World.”
Make Ushuaia your practical base to explore the rest of Patagonia—hop on the End of the World Train and visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park.
5. Go Penguin Watching
Reserving a day to go and watch the penguins in their natural habitat is a must for kids and animal lovers who visit Patagonia.
On the Patagonia Chilena (Chilean Patagonia), the best option is to embark on Punta Arenas and head to the famous Magellan Strait and the large colony of Magellanic Penguins there. From Argentina, Punta Tombo is a good departing spot.
6. Explore the Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes
Also on the Chilean side of Patagonia, visit the Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes (Magellan Strait Park). It features the best museum in the region, a historic fort, and a spectacular trekking route.
7. Hike One of the Best Treks in the World
If you are hiking enthusiast you can’t miss the famous W Trek located in the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Paine Towers National Park) in the Patagonia Chilena.
Considered by trekking connoisseurs to be one of the best treks in the world, the full W Trek is 7 days, or there is a reduced 5-day version. The natural landscapes are breathtaking, especially the iconic natural granite towers that are the park’s namesake.
8. Visit the Parque Nacional de Patagonia
Patagonia National Park, set in the Chilean side of Patagonia, is a 690-square-kilometer area of extraordinary natural diversity and stunning views.
Watch flamingos, pumas, and the endangered huemul, which is an Andean deer species. Go hiking, birdwatching, and canoeing, and check out some of the 100+ archaeological and cave painting sites.
See also: Argentina’s Train to the Clouds: One of the Highest Railways
9. Discover Bariloche and the Seven Lakes
Set in a dream location, Bariloche offers a ski station, seven lakes to visit and practice water sports, and many trails to explore the natural surroundings.
The atmosphere is similar to that of the Swiss Alps, but with an Argentinian accent.
10. Experience the Gaucho Life
Stay in one of the several estancias (residences) located throughout Patagonia to live like a true gaucho for a few days. Enjoy a day at the ranch, take a horseback ride to the hidden glaciers, and recreate a way of life that’s set in the past.
Curiously, one of the most popular estancias, the Nibepo Aike one, was founded by a Croatian immigrant back in the 1920s.
Learn Spanish and Visit Patagonia!
They say that travel makes you richer by doing it, and traveling to Latin America is certainly an experience like none other. The continent is full of extraordinary places like Patagonia which will be better enjoyed if you actually speak the language of the locals.
Sign up for a free class to prepare for your trip to Patagonia, with one of our certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. They teach more than 24,000 actively enrolled students every month and offer flexible scheduling and tailored Spanish packages. Try it out today and start talking in Spanish about your next trip to Latin America!
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