The Land of Adventure and Breathtaking Beauty
Written by guest blogger, Alison Spencer.
For any lover of adventure and nature, Patagonia undoubtedly sits at the top of the bucket list. Whether traipsing through Chile or Argentina, the 400,000+ square mile region offers travelers a bit of everything. From vineyards to jagged mountain peaks, lush forests to expansive glaciers, Patagonia boasts some of the most spectacular landscape in the world. And with the creation of new parks and new roads, it is more accessible than ever.
Many visitors launch their Patagonia explorations in the capital city of Santiago. Wandering through Plaza de Armas you quickly learn about the country’s rich history. A visit to La Moneda Palace provides insight into the country’s governance. Entire days could be spent exploring Santiago’s side streets and markets, stopping to enjoying delicious Chilean food. At all hours of the day (and yes Latin Americans sure like to stay up late) the city bustles.
From there, it’s an easy flight to the Lakes District, considered the gateway to the Chilean Andes and the Patagonia region. Here, take a day to hike up active volcanoes like Villarica. Wearing crampons and carrying ice axes, you’ll make your way toward the cone, from which steam often rises, a clear indication of its continued activity. You can raft rivers filled with epic white water, dropping to the floor of your boat as you cascade down multimeter waterfalls. Or, spend your time exploring the many trails leading into the Andes and around the turquoise lakes for which the district is famous. Any and all adventure activities you might desire can be found here, whether your in Pucon, Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas or any of the other quaint towns.
Saving the best for last, you then must head as far down as land allows, to Punta Arenas, the southernmost tip of Patagonia. If you thought you’d seen beauty previously, exploring this region will forever change your perspective. Here the weather changes in an instant. The wind whips because no other continental land sits at this latitude. Low hanging clouds instantly vanish to reveal mountains once hidden. Rays of sun illuminate the lakes and glaciers that dot the landscape. Here, the wilderness satisfies any traveler’s desires, be it an appreciation of or complete immersion in the scenery.
You can visit the Strait of Magellan, named for the Portuguese explorer named the waters back in 1480. By boat, pay a visit the nearby islands that Magellanic penguins call home. Walk amidst the tuxedoed birds as you explore the local ecosystems. Further afield lays Torres del Paine National Park, home to the famous W Route. As you drive toward Torres, the massif rises as if from nowhere, punctuating the otherwise flat farmland, or Pampas. Well maintained hiking trails take you up to sage green lakes and the Towers or deep into the French Valley, where your neck cranes to glimpse the peaks surrounding you. Icebergs float across Grey Lake, having broken off directly from nearby Grey Glacier. Some chunks are as transparent as glass, bluer than any shade previously seen. Simply wandering the flatter land brings you into contact with guanacos, a relative of the llama and alpaca.
The Patagonia region remains one of the most wild and picturesque places on earth and certainly warrants at least one visit in a lifetime. Its natural beauty draws people from far and wide but not every visitor can or will have the same experience. Much depends on when you go, with whom you travel and what you see. Wilderness Inquiry, a Minnesota-based nonprofit offers the whole package. A thoughtful itinerary, paired with the company’s passion for and love of the wilderness, make it the perfect outfitter for a Patagonia adventure.