Patagonia is most definitely a contender for the most beautiful place in the world, boasting stunning vistas at every turn, paths untrodden by the masses, towering snow-capped mountains and a multitude of lakes varying in many colours. With so much to see, what are you waiting for?
Not far from Punta Arenas, Chile, is the popular penguin-spotting Magdalena Island where you can see Magellanic penguins waddling around and an estimated 60,000 breeding pairs migrating there each summer to raise their young. The lesser-known Parque Pingüino Rey on the coast of Bahia Inutil is where you’ll find the only colony of king penguins outside Antartica.
Hike up to the Torres del Paine National Park
The Torres del Paine National Park near Chile’s Puerto Natales will undoubtedly and literally blow you away with its spectacular views and strong, bustling winds. Its rugged green landscapes and snowy, towering mountain peaks offer plenty of hiking opportunities and the turquoise glacial lakes will leave you with rare and gorgeous views.
Horseback rides across a rugged landscape
Spend some time with a local gaucho (cowboy) at Estancia Huechahue in Neuquen, Argentina, who will take you galloping across Patagonia’s outstretched land as you sit back and enjoy the views. The cattle ranch’s riding itinerary includes visits to basalt canyons and the burial grounds of Tehuelche natives. The gauchos will also be able to tell you more about the area’s history, flora, fauna and wildlife.
Walk over the Grey Glacier
Found among the southern Patagonian ice field, Grey Glacier is one of Torres del Paine’s most monstrous glaciers, which you can see up close either by boat or by foot. Grab an ice axe and a harness and bundle up before exploring this blue-grey sheet of ice, which stretches six kilometres (almost four miles) wide and over 30 metres (98 feet) high.
Relax in thermal baths
You won’t be feeling any chills when you’re surrounded by forests and wonderful views of snow-capped mountains at Termas Puyuhuapi’s thermal baths. Located near one of Chile’s most important hot springs, its waters can reach temperatures of over 80 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit), though the resort also has pools for relaxation that don’t exceed 47 degrees Celsius and are filled with magnesium, chromium and zinc to exfoliate and ease you.
Kayak around the fjords
What better way to explore the fjords of Patagonia than by kayaking its rivers, traversing lagoons and getting right up against looming glaciers? If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, you can take on the waters of some of the world’s largest rivers. You can navigate your way through Pumalin Park in Chile’s Palena Province, off the Carretera Austral at the San Rafael Glacier, on the Baker River or further south through the Magellan Straits alongside humpback whales and penguins.
Cycle on the Carretera Austral
Popular during the summer months with avid cyclists, the Carretera Austral is a road that runs approximately 1,240 kilometres (771 miles) from Puerto Montt, a port city in Chile’s Lake District, to Villa O’Higgins in the Aysen region. The journey will take you through some incredible places, all of which are sparsely populated. Make sure to stop along its lush forests, icey fjords, commandeering mountains and towering volcanoes.
Enjoy world-class fishing
Fly fishing in Patagonia is the focus for many keen anglers, from the Junin de los Andes region in Argentina to Chile’s Tierra del Fuego. The sea-run brown trout along Rio Grande, Argentina, have reached record sizes and the abundance of fishing activity here really is a world of its own.
Visit the quaint village of Caleta Tortel
Found between the ice fields at the mouth of the Baker River (Chile’s largest river) is Caleta Tortel, a unique village with nothing but boardwalks and wooden walkways connecting its stilt houses. Though this charming place isn’t visited by many, it is definitely a worthwhile destination and experience, especially for keen fishers.
Conquer Cerro Castillo
Found south of Coyhaique in the Aysen region of Chile is the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, which offers some of the best hiking in the area. It spreads over 100,000 hectares and a multitude of the Andes Mountains’ soaring peaks. The Cerro Castillo’s 45-kilometre (28-mile) trail can take between four to five days to cover and runs through bushy forests, offers magnificent views of hanging glaciers and will bring you to Patagonia’s rich flora, fauna and wildlife.
Visit the Marble Caves
Whether you take a boat trip or a kayak tour, the Marble Caves are stunning natural wonders formed by over 6,000 years of freshwater waves washing up against calcium carbonate, then leaving swirling patterns on the cavern walls. The azure waters of the lake reflect against the cave’s walls, offering stunning views that change colours throughout the year depending on the water levels and season.
With Patagonia’s abundance of wildlife, spotting native Chilean animals will be easy, from guanacos (wild Andean mammals related to the llama) to pumas, both of which have been sighted in the Torres del Paine National Park. As you explore the more coastal areas like Punta Arenas, you will also be able to spot whales and penguins. Have your binoculars ready!
Admire the Queulat Hanging Glacier
Trek through the evergreen forests, snow-capped mountains and icy glaciers of Queulat National Park in Aysen, Chile. The largest glacier found here is the magnificent Hanging Glacier sitting at an impressive 1,889 metres (almost 6,200 feet) high between two peaks of the Andes Mountains. With plenty of hikes available, the surroundings are blissful and the perfect place for exploring.
Taste a local curanto
The traditional meal that’s prepared in the Chiloe archipelago along Chile’s coast has spread throughout the south of the country and is very popular. As locals gather together to prepare and eat curanto, it becomes quite the event. The ingredients include a variety of fish, meat, potatoes and milcao (a type of regional potato pancake), which are buried in a hole in the ground covered with leaves and dirt and left to cook among the hot coals.
Visit the end of the world
Not many can claim that they’ve been to the end of the world and back. Tierra del Fuego is the closest point to Antarctica, and you’ll definitely feel the cold! As the continent breaks into little islands, you’ll be able to spot seals and sea lions along the Beagle Channel as well as humpback whales in the open water.