Global Gems: Patagonia
Part Two of our Global Gems takes us to Patagonia. Often referred to as “the end of the world,” it is the most Southern region of South America, shared between Argentina and Chile. Full of glaciers and ice fields, mountain peaks, rivers and lakes, the incredible landscapes in the area seem endless.
At over 400,000 square miles, the sheer size of Patagonia means it’s impossible to see it all in one trip. Trekking routes, options and alternatives are countless. So to help out, we’ve hand-picked a few of our top recommendations, which really should be included in any itinerary.
Glaciares National Park
The Glaciares National Park is the largest national park in Argentina. Since 1981, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to arguably the most famous glacier in the world, Perito Moreno, thousands of travelers flock to the Park each year. Starting points for the trek include the village of El Calafate. Treks in the Park include walking along the shore of the Lago Argentino. The true adventurer can get up close and personal with a glacier hike: making your way along the frosty surface with crampons and ice axes!
Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park is set in the southern Chilean Patagonia. Over 180,000 hectares of ancient forests, granite peaks, glaciers, lakes and rivers make up the Torres del Paine.
Famous treks include the W Trek, Full (or O Circuit) Trek as well as a plethora of off beaten routes. While primarily popular for these hiking trails, you can add to your experience by kayaking, horse riding or mountain biking. The park is a must in any visit to the Patagonia.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
Established in 1934, Nahuel Huapi National Park is the oldest national park in Argentina. Starting in Bariloche, a mountainous resort town, you can make your way through the region to the national park. Whether it’s the high mountains of the Andes, the many lakes, waterfalls, glaciers or forests – views are guaranteed to be spectacular.
Some call El Chaltén the trekking capital of Argentina. The popular Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy mountains, as well as the Viedma glacier, can be reached easily from the village. If you prefer horseback riding or taking a bike, there’s plenty for you too!
The Huemul Circuit is quite possibly the best hike in Patagonia. It is technically very challenging and should only be considered by experienced hikers. Half the trail is unmarked, rivers need to be crossed and the weather is unpredictable.
Marble Caves, Chile
The Marble Caves are a hidden wonder set in Chile’s Lake General Carrera. Accessible only by boat, the marble caves and rock formations formed after thousands of years of erosion. The unique shades of blue, green, turquoise, and gray actually change in intensity, depending on water levels and time of year.
A boat tour or ferry (from Puerto Rio Tranquilo) really is the only way to go; well worth it as you meander in amazement through the caves and tunnels.
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego
Referred to as “The End of the World,” Ushuaia is the world’s southernmost city, at the tip of Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Don’t miss out on Tierra del Fuego National Park and Lapataia Bay. The National Park can be reached by highway, or instead, by taking the End of the World Train directly from Ushuaia. What’s more, if you’re keen on spotting sea lions or penguins, head over to a nearby island: Alice Island or Isla Martillo, and keep your eyes peeled!