There is not a unique Patagonia, but there are many. Patagonia is the snow-capped mountains, Alerces ancient forests and lakes of unrealistically crystalline water. And there is also a Patagonia of kilometers and kilometers of deserts, remote villages and empty roads. Marine Patagonia, with cliffs and whales that come from the north once a year to have their pups and the ancient glaciers that when broken sound like explosions.
With more than 1 million square kilometers -8 times the size of England-Patagonia is great and extensive, an area comprising five provinces and that amazes travelers arriving from around the world to admire its breathtaking landscapes, such as the Perito Moreno glacier, Mount Fitz Roy or the Catedral hill (the largest winter sports center in Latin America).
A bit of history: While there are records that indicate human presence for more than 10,000 years ago, when the Europeans arrived in the region they found it sparsely populated: indigenous people-Mapuches, Huarpes and Onas- they distributed the territory which is still quite uninhabited (around 2.2 inhabitants per square kilometer). Since the nineteenth century, naturalists were devoted to explore their wealth. One of the most famous was Charles Darwin who traveled the coast and mountains of Patagonia to study its fauna and animals, including Foxes, Condors and guanacos.
It is the star region of Argentina, with amazing postcard landscapes. Mountain, sea and glaciers: a glimpse of the natural treasures that make it unique
Considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Valdes Peninsula -located in the province of Chubut on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean is a natural sanctuary and one of the main places of whale watching in the world. Each year, more than two thousand franca-austral whales arrive to give birth and raise their babies. You can also see sea lions, elephants, penguins, dolphins and a variety of birds. Puerto Pirámides, a small Bohemian village, with a couple of restaurants and a few small hotels on the beach, is the only major settlement in the area and the site from where the majority of whale watching boats depart: cetaceans, reaching 16 meters high, they are friendly and jump, swim and raise their fins some meters from travelers.
Puerto Madryn, just 100 kilometers, but already out of the peninsula, is a larger and well prepared city to receive tourists. Among its highlights are the beach “El Doradillo”-a great place to keep feeling astonished with the whales, diving baptisms and the unforgettable trip to swim with sea lions. From Madryn you can also take trips in the area, for example the village of Gaiman, founded by Welsh settlers and a place famous for its tea houses and delicious cakes.
WHEN TO GO: the whale season goes from June to December, but September and October are the months where you can see more whales.
"Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything" is the motto of this city visited by tourists from around the world. Capital of the province of Tierra del Fuego is located on the Ushuaia Bay and surrounded by the Fuegian Andes. In winter, its days are just a few hours sunlight; and in summer, most of the day (up to 18 hours of light). Among its attractions the ski at Cerro Castor, the catamaran ride through the canals, the end of the world train and excursions to the old jail and the end of the world (turned into a museum in 1994). Sledding and eat crab-a unique species in the world- or Patagonian lamb are also part of the fun.
When to go: there are activities throughout the year.
In the province of Santa Cruz, at the south, they are the most impressive glaciers of Argentina. The city of El Calafate is the starting point to explore them and to hire most of the excursions: trekking, ice climbing, boat trips or old stays tour of old stories that keep history of the inhabitants of the region (most arrived from Europe). Every day the possibility of a different adventure. At a distance of 4 hours by car or bus from El Calafate, there is another must in the region: the small town of El Chalten, known as "the trekking capital of Argentina" -a paradise for hikers, who can walk in the mountains, streams, waterfalls and stunning views of Mount Fitz Roy, one of the most famous postcards of Patagonia Argentina.
When to go: from October to April to enjoy most of the tours (in winter the climate is hostile and many rides are closed).
Although they are in different provinces (Bariloche and Villa La Angostura in Río Negro, San Martin de los Andes in Neuquén) they are three of the most charming cities in Patagonia, located in majestic settings. Visited both in summer and winter-each has a ski center, offering all comforts for travelers: lodging, fine cuisine and attractions at every step. The route of the 7 lakes which runs the most beautiful lakes in the region is ideal to meet by car and get lost in its amazing landscapes. Since all three cities leave many trekking routes which allow even spend the night in shelters 3000 or more meters high. In Bariloche, in addition, there are museums, historic hotels -like the Llao Llao- and a fun nightlife.
When to go: There are activities throughout the year. Spring-summer is the best time for trekking.
The town of Esquel, in the province of Chubut, is the gateway to one of the most beautiful national parks in Patagonia: “Los Alerces National Park”. It is a magnificent protected area-from nearly 200,000 hectares- which was created in 1937 and where abound larches, one of the oldest trees on the planet. It also has 9 lakes, among which stand out el Verde and the Futalaufquen-, waterfalls, rivers and glaciers in height. Near Esquel, you can find the lovely village of Trevelin –you must visit the museum, founded by Welsh settlers. And 137 kilometers away, Cholila, a place in which was hidden the legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy during his years in Patagonia.
When to go: you can visit it all year, although its landscapes are best enjoyed in spring and summer.