Often described as “the end of the world,” this Southern region of Argentina is full of natural wonders. It spans several Argentinean provinces, a portion of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, and part of Chile and is a truly magical place. Jagged mountain peaks, primeval glaciers, quaint seaside villages, rich pastoral steppes, and crystalline lakes make this part of the world unique. The area’s undisturbed beauty speaks of thousands of years ago, and it is protected within the confines of several national parks.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Spanning 250 square kilometres of ice formations, the Perito Moreno Glacier is the third-largest freshwater reserve on Earth. It is part of the Los Glaciares National Park in the Argentinean province of Santa Cruz. A strategically placed observation deck offers breathtaking views of the spectacular ice rupturing and floating away of giant icebergs. Visitors can also walk on ice wearing cleats. This is one of the top natural attractions in all of South America. The best time of the year to visit is between late October and early April, but January and February, in the middle of the Argentinean summer are generally the most crowded. Tourists looking to visit the glacier often stay at nearby Calafate, which offers excellent accommodation options.
The Fitzroy is a high peak that rises out of the Patagonian ice caps towards the East. There are several peaks in the region, but the Fitzroy is undoubtedly the most spectacular, with its rocky pinnacles that offer thrilling challenges for rock climbing enthusiasts. Fitzroy is also located inside the Glaciares National Park. Its ascension is considered one of the greatest mountain climbing challenges in the world, not only because of its height (3,375 mts), but also because of the area’s extreme weather conditions.
The six-hour hike to Laguna Torre is completely worthwhile. The path is rather flat and offers magnificent views of the Cerro Torre peak along the way. There are enough signs along the way that a tour guide is not needed, and the arrival at the lake is quite breathtaking. During the winter, the lake is frozen, covered with surreal-looking ice blocks, as far as the eye can see.
The Escorial is a river of dried lava that goes from a volcano to a lake. It is located on the way to the lahuenco hot springs, near Laguna Verde. The best time to visit is late Spring and Summer. A narrow path leads to this spot of breathtaking beauty, which can be visited as a day trip from San Martín or Junín de los Andes.
The Upsala Glacier can be visited by taking a day trip on a catamaran cruise, leaving early in the morning and returning in the evening. Cruises are not cheap, but they are worth every penny, as the views of the glacier are quite spectacular and the service is top-notch. Photography enthusiasts will thoroughly appreciate this excursion.
Nahuel Huapi National Park
Created as far back as 1934, this National Park offers a number of interesting touring circuits. One of them connects the Limay and Trafuls rivers by way of the fairy-tale-like Enchanted Valley. The valley takes its mystical name from the strange shapes that the region´s powerful winds have carved on the stone. On the other hand, the Seven Lakes circuit is close to the Andes. Each one of the seven lakes has a little something that makes it unforgettable.
Punta Tombo Penguin Reserve
Only two hours away from Puerto Madryn by bus, this is a common tour for passengers on South America circumnavigating cruises. It’s a beautiful place to visit in Patagonia and a unique opportunity to see large numbers of nesting penguins in their natural habitat. There are so many penguins in the reserve that visitors often have to stop on their way to let them go by. The walk along the trails towards the beach is not strenuous at all, and there are plenty of opportunities to take some amazing close-ups of the penguins.
San Martín de los Andes
This is a charming village on the banks of Lake Lacar, at the foothills of the majestic Andes, San Martín de los Andes is encircled by savage forests and numerous waterways. Enthusiasts of water sports, horseback riding and birdwatching will be especially delighted by everything this magical town has to offer. The place is also home to a number of interesting local artists, whose workshops are open to the public. San Martín de los Andes is located a three-hour drive from the popular ski resorts of Bariloche.
Adventure Park Calafate
This is a great option for people who want to enjoy Patagonia’s beautiful scenery is a slightly different way. The park is the top attraction in the region and offers some extra excitement, in the shape of thrilling activities, such as ziplining, rappelling, and rock climbing. Patagonia offers some spectacular views for those who dare to observe its beauty from above. The park has often been praised for its excellent guides, who can make the offered activities fun even for absolute beginners. Prices are quite convenient compared to other activities in the glacier area.
Villa La Angostura
A small mountain village nestled among the Andes and a number of crystalline lakes, Villa La Angostura offers some of the best skiing in all of South America. The town is quite charming with very nice restaurants and hotels. There is plenty to do in terms of water sports and outdoor activities, such as hiking, skiing, mountain biking and kayaking. The popular Argentinean film ¨Life according to Muriel¨was shot here.
If you visit Patagonia you’ll realise why I think it’s unparalleled beauty is reminiscent of the beginning of the world. With volcanic mountains and massive glaciers, Edenic lakes and fantasy-land valleys, it gives visitors the feeling of being constantly surrounded by imposing natural wonders, of treading on undisturbed territories that hold, perhaps, the key to some of the planet’s greatest mysteries.