Patagonia Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia

Far away, at the fabled ‘edge of the world’

the natural wonders of Patagonia await.

This last frontier of South America slopes down from The Andes towards Antarctica,

covering the sparsely inhabited southern regions of both Chile and Argentina.

No destination captures the imagination like Patagonia.

This is a land of legendary beauty, where Mother Nature runs the show.

Prepare to feel dwarfed by the mighty volcanoes,

towering glaciers and floating icebergs that are sure to cross your path.

In this remote region, even the most firmly planted

human footprint is soon covered under blankets of snow,

erased by westerly winds, or washed away by lapping waves.

With its mosaic of green steppe plains and blue mountain lakes,

framed by wooded hills of ever-changing colors,

Patagonia paints a mesmerizing picture.

White-capped peaks of silvery mountains puncture the horizon,

while soaring condors and solitary ‘gauchos’

bring this seemingly spellbound landscape to life.

This untamed land has moods as changeable as the weather

and can be rugged and desolate as well as breathtakingly beautiful and inviting.

Everything south of here is too harsh for human settlement

and it’s this “Edge of the World” feeling that has captivated intrepid souls for centuries…

First to arrive was the 16th-century Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan,

who named the region “Patagonia”: “the land of the bigfeet”.

Some 300 years later, a young Charles Darwin contributed to the myth

that this was once a land of giants by collecting the remains of huge extinct animals.

Now, almost two centuries later, Patagonia is still a place of discovery.

While the region has become much easier to reach,

its mythical appeal remains.Whether you set out on a road trip,

or explore its far corners by cruise ship or plane,

this is bound to be the journey of a lifetime.

On the Argentinean side,

one of Patagonia’s most relaxing day trips takes 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 Carlos de Bariloche,

a popular mountain resort on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi.

The town has all the facilities and outdoor pursuits 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 southern Andes.

Hike to the idyllic Laguna Capri

or to even higher lookout points to gaze up at the moody Fitz Roy mountain.

Other trails provide scenic views of the jagged peaks 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 regional specialty 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 National Park.

Embark on an epic journey to one of the nature’s greatest gifts:

the Perito Moreno glacier.

If ice trekking over its slippery surface doesn’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-largest freshwater reserve.

Most Perito Moreno tours also take in the milky waters of Canal Upsala,

nature’s own exhibit space for some the most spectacular sculptures on Earth:

floating icebergs shaped by water and wind.

All the way south,

the Strait of Magellan separates the far corner of Patagonia from mainland Argentina.

When Magellan first arrived here, he spotted the 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’s capital Ushuaia,

the southernmost city in the world.

This former penal colony was once a cold and brutal place of punishment,

but now extends a warm welcome to all newcomers.

In the morning, board the

'End of the World Train’ for an unforgettable day trip to Tierra del Fuego National Park.

An even more scenic way to reach this reserve is joining a cruise along the Beagle Channel,

the closest you can get to experiencing Antarctica without actually going there.

See the Magellanic cormorants flock to Bird Island

and then observe the lazing giants on Seal Island.

The nearby Les Éclaireurs lighthouse

has marked this passageway to Chile for about a hundred years.

Once you’ve reached the wondrous domain of Tierra del Fuego National Park,

you have come to the end of your Argentinean explorations.

From here, you can either return to Ushuaia and fly to Buenos Aires,

or cross over into Chile to explore the west coast of Patagonia, where more adventures await.

On the Chilean side,

you can find fascinating historic and cultural attractions 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 await in 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 region declared a Protected Wilderness Area,

you’ll find untouched nature everywhere you go.

On your way north, take a little detour to the Milodón cave.

This prehistoric shelter held the remains of

a giant ground-dwelling sloth and other huge extinct 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 loom over

Chile’s wind-swept tundra like towering castles in the sky.

This dramatic national park is brimming with lakes in many shades of blue and green;

some with distinctive white banks and others that spill out into gorgeous waterfalls,

such as Salto Grande.

Continue north until you spot the spectacular outline of the Osorno Volcano.

This fearsome giant is the focal point of Los Lagos,

the lake region that forms the northern border of 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 Argentina by crossing the border via the lakes,

or drive north for a stopover

in Pucón and Villerica before flying out from the capital Santiago de Chile.

Travel to the land that time forgot,

to walk in the footsteps of early explorers or make a new discovery all of your own.

This magical wilderness at the far edge of the world

reminds us that we are just temporary spectators of nature’s infinite beauty.