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Planning on taking off this winter but unsure of where to go? Perhaps you fancy skiing in the Alps, or browsing the Christmas markets in Germany. Maybe you hadn’t considered South America’s Patagonia, an incredible region of nature and activity in southern Argentina. Here’s why Patagonia should be your top pick for a winter destination.
Winter can be overwhelming in the northern hemisphere – short days, long nights, extreme cold and the panic of wrapping everything up before the year ends and the holidays begin, not to mention Christmas parties and endless boozing! Well, in Patagonia, you will experience the carefree summer of South America, where the days are hot and long and the drinks of the day are ice cold beers to quench your thirst in the searing heat. Patagonia is huge, but whether you are down in the deep south of Ushuaia, up north in El Bolson or out east in Puerto Madryn, you are guaranteed hot, dry days to beat those winter blues.
Patagonia really consists of a few central hubs such as El Calafate or Bariloche, but in between is a vast expanse of nothingness. Many of the cities and towns themselves are rural settlements that are a far cry from the urban madness of Buenos Aires or Cordoba, and as such, Patagonia is the perfect place to come and reconnect with both nature and your inner self when the city begins to take its toll. Stay at an estancia for the real Wild West of the South experience.
In Argentina, Christmas really isn’t that big a deal, and even less so in Patagonia. If you’re the kind of person who gets irritated by the onslaught of the holiday season before Halloween is even cold in its grave, Patagonia is the ideal place for you. Gone is the rush of shoppers on Black Friday looking for those early bargains, and there is a notable lack of the decorations and advertising associated with Christmas in the northern hemisphere. So sit back, relax and forget about putting up the tree.
Speaking of trees, the closest thing you’ll find to a Christmas tree will be in the swathes of forest that can be found all over Patagonia. Whether you are hiking in the Andes, visiting the Lakes District or following the routes of the adventurers in Ushuaia, natural landscapes abound, and are some of the most well kept and untouched on the planet. Patagonia is a hiker’s paradise, and it’s not for nothing that this is where the world’s most ardent trekkers come to experience some of the best trails and routes on earth.
One thing in particular these hikers come for are the mountains. It is impossible to mention Patagonia without almost in the same breath referring to the incredible Andes mountain range that runs along the border between Argentina and Chile, effectively becoming the spine of South America. This imposing mountain range is home to some of the world’s most impressive peaks, including Mount Fitz Roy and the Paine Massif. Trekkers delight, for there is no better place to explore the wonder of the Andes than Patagonia.
Argentine Patagonia is also home to Glaciers National Park, whose biggest attraction, and one of the major destinations in the country, is the formidable Perito Moreno Glacier. Forming part of the Southern Patagonian Ice field, which is made up of 48 glaciers in total, the Perito Moreno is 30km long. It is also the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water, making it an important natural and geological entity. It is also notable for being one of the only glaciers in the world that is still growing, while many are receding due to climate change.
Patagonia is the natural habitat of both native flora and fauna, but also of lots of animals that come south to breed in the spring and summer. While in the northern hemisphere the winter months are a time of hibernation for many animals, the fact that the seasons are reversed in the south means that an incredible array of wildlife migrate south to mate in the waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Argentine Patagonia. Head to Puerto Madryn in Chubut until December to see penguins and the Southern Right Whale.
For many of us, winter is synonymous with Christmas, and Christmas is synonymous with turkey. But how many of us actually enjoy the giant bird? Often is comes out overcooked and dry, so at Christmas in Patagonia, why not try some mouth-watering Patagonian lamb that is cooked in a traditional way over an open fire, “a la cruz”, or on the cross, as they say here. Lamb is a typical Patagonian dish, and it is a challenge to find such a delicious morsel of this meat anywhere else on the planet.
Christmas and winter are often a time of over indulgence, of sitting by the fire and eating mince pies and drinking wine until you fall asleep. However, Patagonia in summer is the farthest thing from couch-sitting you can find. Instead of engaging in the battle of the bulge, hit the hiking trails and trekking routes that can be found all over the region. You won’t need to feel guilty about eating a hearty feed afterwards, because you will have earned it. And you’ll head back to work in January feeling amazing, the envy of all your colleagues.
Patagonia is as much a spiritual destination as it is a touristic one, because the energy that vibrates from the mountains and the forest and the rivers can be felt everywhere you go. Coming to Patagonia will give you a new lease of life, wiping the slate clean and leaving you feeling like you can conquer anything that life throws at you on the other side. There are lots of yoga retreats and work away programs for those looking to nurture their spiritual side, especially in places like El Bolson.
Forget buying the gym membership and promising to be a better person next year. Most of our New Year’s resolutions only serve as disappointments to us when we don’t fulfill them. But if you spend the season in Patagonia, you are pretty much guaranteed to have a once in a lifetime experience, something that will stay with you forever. There is no better way to start the year than with a summer spent in Patagonia, and you will be ready to face the year ahead with renewed vigour and zeal. Try it, you won’t be sorry.