Far away, at the fabled ‘edge of the world’ the natural wonders of Patagonia await.
This last frontier of South America slopesdown from The Andes towards Antarctica, covering the sparsely inhabited southern regionsof both Chile and Argentina.
No destination captures the imagination likePatagonia.
This is a land of legendary beauty, whereMother Nature runs the show.
Prepare to feel dwarfed by the mighty volcanoes, towering glaciers and floating icebergs thatare sure to cross your path.
In this remote region, even the most firmlyplanted human footprint is soon covered under blanketsof snow, erased by westerly winds, or washed away bylapping waves.
With its mosaic of green steppe plains andblue mountain lakes, framed by wooded hills of ever-changing colors, Patagonia paints a mesmerizing picture.
White-capped peaks of silvery mountains puncturethe horizon, while soaring condors and solitary ‘gauchos’ bring this seemingly spellbound landscapeto life.
This untamed land has moods as changeableas the weather and can be rugged and desolate as well asbreathtakingly beautiful and inviting.
Everything south of here is too harsh forhuman settlement and it’s this “Edge of the World” feelingthat has captivated intrepid souls for centuries… First to arrive was the 16th-century Portugueseexplorer Ferdinand Magellan, who named the region “Patagonia”: “theland of the bigfeet”.
Some 300 years later, a young Charles Darwincontributed to the myth that this was once a land of giants by collectingthe remains of huge extinct animals.
Now, almost two centuries later, Patagoniais still a place of discovery.
While the region has become much easier toreach, its mythical appeal remains.
Whether you setout on a road trip, or explore its far corners by cruise shipor plane, this is bound to be the journey of a lifetime.
On the Argentinean side, one of Patagonia’s most relaxing day tripstakes you from sleepy San Martín de los Andes to Villa La Angostura.
Simply follow the scenic Road of the 7 Lakes, which takes in two water-rich national parks.
This road trip will bring you to San Carlosde Bariloche, a popular mountain resort on the shores ofLake Nahuel Huapi.
The town has all the facilities and outdoorpursuits of the Swiss Alps… without the price tag.
When roaming south along the famous Ruta 40, take a detour to the town of El Chaltén: Argentina’s trekking capital in the southernAndes.
Hike to the idyllic Laguna Capri or to even higher lookout points to gaze upat the moody Fitz Roy mountain.
Other trails provide scenic views of the jaggedpeaks of Cerro Torre, which only few dare to climb.
Spend the night in El Calafate, just a few hours to the south.
Stock up on supplies and try the regionalspecialty of “asado”, whole lamb grilled over an open fire.
El Calafate is nestled on the southern shores of Lago Argentino, the gateway lake to Los Glaciares NationalPark.
Embark on an epic journey to one of the nature’sgreatest gifts: the Perito Moreno glacier.
If ice trekking over its slippery surfacedoesn’t warm you up, perhaps a whiskey “on the rocks” will… From the safety of a nearby viewing platform, observe the ever-changing face of its terminus, which reaches some 200 feet above sea level this glacier is the world’s third-largestfreshwater reserve.
Most Perito Moreno tours also take in themilky waters of Canal Upsala, nature’s own exhibit space for some themost spectacular sculptures on Earth: floating icebergs shaped by water and wind.
All the way south, the Strait of Magellan separates the far cornerof Patagonia from mainland Argentina.
When Magellan first arrived here, he spottedthe camp fires of native tribes and named the archipelago “Tierra del Fuego”, the “Land of Fire”.
You can get there by boat, but most visitors simply fly to the province’scapital Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world.
This former penal colony was once a cold andbrutal place of punishment, but now extends a warm welcome to all newcomers.
In the morning, board the 'End of the World Train’ for an unforgettableday trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
An even more scenic way to reach this reserveis joining a cruise along the Beagle Channel, the closest you can get to experiencing Antarcticawithout actually going there.
See the Magellanic cormorants flock to BirdIsland and then observe the lazing giants on SealIsland.
The nearby Les Éclaireurs lighthouse has marked this passageway to Chile for abouta hundred years.
Once you’ve reached the wondrous domainof Tierra del Fuego National Park, you have come to the end of your Argentineanexplorations.
From here, you can either return to Ushuaia and fly toBuenos Aires, or cross over into Chile to explore the westcoast of Patagonia, where more adventures await.
On the Chilean side, you can find fascinating historic and culturalattractions in pretty colonial cities, such as the regional capital Punta Arenas.
After a day of sightseeing in the outdoors, warm up with the local flavors that awaitin the region’s inviting restaurants.
In much of Chilean Patagonia, forests, lakes, snow-capped mountains, rivers and volcanoes dominate the landscape.
With more than half of this gigantic regiondeclared a Protected Wilderness Area, you’ll find untouched nature everywhereyou go.
On your way north, take a little detour tothe Milodón cave.
This prehistoric shelter held the remains of a giant ground-dwelling sloth and other hugeextinct species.
It was discoveries like these that sparked Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
Not far from the cave, the granite peaks of Torres del Paine loomover Chile’s wind-swept tundra like toweringcastles in the sky.
This dramatic national park is brimming withlakes in many shades of blue and green; some with distinctive white banks and othersthat spill out into gorgeous waterfalls, such as Salto Grande.
Continue north until you spot the spectacularoutline of the Osorno Volcano.
This fearsome giant is the focal point ofLos Lagos, the lake region that forms the northern borderof Chilean Patagonia.
Straddling the opposite shore of Lake Llanquihue is the small town of Puerto Varas, a good place to end your Patagonia expedition.
After collecting some mementos, you can either return to Bariloche in Argentinaby crossing the border via the lakes, or drive north for a stopover in Pucón and Villerica before flying outfrom the capital Santiago de Chile.
Travel to the land that time forgot, to walk in the footsteps of early explorersor make a new discovery all of your own.
This magical wilderness at the far edge ofthe world reminds us that we are just temporary spectatorsof nature’s infinite beauty.