The terre sauvage (“wild earth”) of Patagonia has lured intrepid travelers for centuries. Great explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, Sir Francis Drake, and Charles Darwin (at right) all left their footsteps—and their names—in this corner of South America. And luckily for us, aside from those early explorers, the indigenous Patagonian peoples who came before them, and a few hardy gauchos who ranched these windswept ranges, very little other human impact has registered on this landscape. As a result much of Patagonia is just as wild, and just as stunningly beautiful, as when Robert FitzRoy—captain of the HMS Beagle on Darwin’s momentous voyage—first cast his spyglass upon its shores.
There are more reasons to choose Patagonia as an adventure destination than we could possibly list here. But these are a few of our favorites:
1. When you’re standing before all 50 square miles of impressive Perito Moreno Glacier—witnessing massive chucks of ice calving off, sending enormous rolling waves into the water with a boisterous roar—you feel humbled by nature and at the same time incredibly lucky to be able to experience this. Not to mention the thrill of strapping on a pair of crampons for an optional and totally safe mini-trek on the glacier itself.
2. Los Glaciares National Park is home to two of the world’s most notorious and desired rock spires among climbers all over the world: Mount FitzRoy (11,073′, at left), a sheer-walled granite tower rising from glaciers at its base, and the nearby, jagged Cerro Torre (10,280′). On your hikes in Los Glaciares National Park you’ll see them both (weather permitting) and they are a truly striking sight. Make sure to bring your binoculars. From your lunch site, you may be able to spot a climbing party en route to the top.
3. When you think you’ve seen all the possible colors of a glacial lake, think again. We’re willing to bet that you’ll find a shade or two of blue, green, or turquoise in Patagonia’s bountiful lakes—like Lago Pehoe and Lago Nordenskjöld—and lagoons that you have never seen in a lake before.
4. The Patagonia Ice Cap, at more than 10,000-square-miles, is the largest body of ice outside the polar regions. All but one glacier in Patagonia (Cerro Tronador, in Bariloche) originate in the Patagonian Ice Cap, and you will be able to take in the view of this seemingly endless ice field from several locations on your hikes in Patagonia.
5. You can’t help but be awed at your first sight of the chain of mountains known as the “Paine Massif. Emerging suddenly from the vast Patagonian steppe, its dramatic granite spires and great aesthetic beauty make the Paine Massif (at right) one of the most spectacular geographic wonders of the world. And, if you’re fortunate enough to be on your way to do the classic trek around the massif, you’ll barely be able to wait for the up-close views you know you’ll get.
6. Pure and simple! With so many glaciers and snowcapped peaks, there is always fresh ice cold glacier melt to refill your water bottle on the trail. And even better, if you like you can safely drink the water directly from the rivers or streams, something that’s been inadvisable in North America for many years! Oh, and it’s also a lot more interesting to have “fresh-picked” glacier ice in your happy-hour drink!
7. Patagonia is a lot more than granite spires, glaciers, lakes and lagoons. The region’s wildlife includes charming creatures such as the Magellanic penguin (at left), guanaco, puma, Patagonian fox, flamingo, and the Andean condor. Some people may not find the Andean condor especially charming (with its feather and down less head), but you will be impressed when you see this bird – with the world’s longest wingspan – glide gracefully through the air above you.
8. Where else can you experience all possible weather systems within one hour? From clear sunny skies, to light rain turning into snow, to stormy weather with winds so strong they might knock you off your feet. Some even claim this can happen in 15 minutes! It’s all part of what makes Patagonia such a unique and special experience.
9. When you’re hiking in Patagonia, don’t forget to look down once in a while, too. The array of brightly-hued wildflowers lining the trail and coloring the forests, steppes, and Andean desert is a sight to behold. Our Patagonia guides agree that the best time for wildflowers is late November/early December, but no matter when you go the show will be eye-catching.
10. Patagonia is a remote and relatively untraveled wilderness area.Besides your fellow hikers, trekkers, and a few local horsemen there will often be times when you’ll feel you have the entire world to yourself. Patagonia must still be one of the world’s best kept secrets!
To learn more about our Patagonia adventures or to book your adventure today, email us or call 1-888-831-7526
Photos: ©MTS Photo File