|Access Country :||Argentina, Chile|
Patagonia is a geographic region containing the southernmost portion of South America. Mostly located in Argentina and partly in Chile, it comprises the Andes Mountains to the west and south, and plateaus and low plains to the east.
Patagonia is for the most part a region of vast steppe-like plains, rising in a succession of abrupt terraces about 330ft at a time, and covered with an enormous bed of shingle almost bare of vegetation.
Argentine Patagonia has 3 main provinces: Neuquen, Rio Negro and Chubut.
Chilean Patagonia is home to Palena, Aysen and Magallanes (the southernmost, largest and second least populated region of Chile).
In addition, Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago at the southernmost tip of Patagonia, divided between Argentina and Chile. It consists of the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and several minor islands.
The guanaco, the cougar, the zorro or Brazilian fox, the zorrino (a kind of skunk), and the tuco-tuco (a subterranean rodent) are the most characteristic mammals of the Patagonian plains. Bird-life is often wonderfully abundant. The carancho or carrion-hawk is one of the characteristic objects of a Patagonian landscape; the presence of long-tailed green parakeets as far south as the shores of the strait attracted the attention of the earlier navigators; and hummingbirds may be seen flying amidst the falling snow.
Signature marine fauna include the Southern right whale, the Emperor penguin, the Orca and elephant seals. The Valdes Peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance as a nature reserve.
The high season in Argentina elapses in the months of January and February (summer vacations) and July (winter vacations). In these periods there is a great deal of local tourism and prices in general are higher. Remember this is the southern hemisphere where the seasons are opposite to those in the north. Summer (mid-December, January, February and part of March), with its mild temperatures and long days, is the most favorable season in Patagonia, both Andean and Atlantic.
Where to Visit
It is a difficult decision of where to go in Patagonia where you must balance time with the kind of adventure you want to experience. Some travel ideas are detailed below to help you decide where you will prefer to spend your time.
» The Valdes Peninsula - The nearest large town is Puerto Madryn. The coastline is inhabited by marine mammals, like sea lions, elephant seals and fur seals. Southern right whales can be found in Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San Jose, protected bodies of water located between the peninsula and the Patagonian mainland. These baleen whales come here between May and December, for mating and giving birth, because the water in the gulf is quieter and warmer than in the open sea. Orcas can be found off the coast, in the open sea off the peninsula. In this area, they are known to beach themselves on shore to capture sea lions and elephant seals. While staying in Puerto Madryn, head to Punta Tombo - the most important continental colony of Magellan Penguins. In order to get to it, you need to travel a typical Patagonic route, mostly a gravel one, through the steppe. At the end, you will get to an extensive beach, the ocean, and more than a half million penguins. In this area you can walk freely along the paths, literally beside the penguins. Also close by, stop in Trelew to visit the Egidio Feruglio Paleontological Museum, regarded as the most important museum in South America, due to its collection of Patagonian Paleontology samples.
» Bariloche - situated at the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by lakes (Nahuel Huapi, Gutierrez Lake, Moreno Lake and Mascardi Lake) and mountains (Tronador, Cerro Catedral, Cerro Lopez). This area is famous for skiing but also great for sight-seeing, water sports, trekking and climbing. Cerro Catedral is one of the most important ski centers in South America. Check out Port Blest and Cascada Los Cantaros - one of the most beautiful places in Nahuel Huapi National Park, navigating along the Blest arm up to Puerto Blest (Port Blest), just a few miles from the Chilean border. This area is located in the Valdivian jungle, with lush vegetation due to the abundant rains. The landscape is similar to the far Norwegian fiords or the Tierra del Fuego Channels. The Nahuel Huapi National Park is famous for its rich wildlife and it covers many biotopes, due to altitudes ranging from 700 to 3,000 m and precipitation from rain forests on the western slopes to steppes.
» Travel to the extreme south: Beagle Channel, Perito Moreno Glacier, Lake Argentino, Lake Escondidio, Lake Fagnano, and Ushuaia.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park in the south west of Santa Cruz province, Argentina. This icefield is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water. Perito Moreno Glacier appears immense and majestic before the amazed eyes of the visitors. It is one of the few glaciers in the world which is in constant advance and growth. Its front is 3.1 miles wide and its height reaches 260ft above sea level. The glacier and its surroundings officially became Perito Moreno National Park in 1937, with the aim of protecting the lenga forests and two important lake systems that include glaciers, waterfalls and a portion of the Patagonian steppe. Ice blocks of different sizes continually detach from Perito Moreno glacier and fall into the waters of Lake Argentino, causing spine-chilling sounds and amazing waves on the surface that make of this view an unforgettable sight. To get there, you should take Provincial Route 11 that connects El Calafate (closest town) with Punta Bandera. A few miles before getting there, there is a road toward Magallanes Peninsula leading to the footbridges in front of the glacier.
The Beagle Channel is a strait separating islands of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, in extreme southern South America. Sailing the Beagle Channel can be the experience of a lifetime, particularly in autumn because this is the time when the southernmost city in the world and its surroundings offer a breathtaking view from the boat, wrapped in forests that have not lost their leaves yet. There are various circuits that allow travelers to watch the sea lion and bird colonies on the small islands or the crabs submarine world by means of an underwater camera. Ushuaia is the capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego, and claims to be the world's southernmost city. It is located on the southern coast of the island of Tierra del Fuego in a wide bay, guarded on the north by the Martial mountain range and on the south by the Beagle Channel. The Tierra del Fuego National Park is the country's only park with an ocean shoreline. If offers historical and wild attractions, and borders with Chile to the West and the Beagle Channel to the South. The park boasts a typical glacial landscape, with a mountainous area and deep valleys washed by rivers and lakes, and mountains ranging from the northwest to the southeast.
» San Martin de los Andes is the most important tourism center in Neuquen province. San Martin de los Andes is within a natural habitat that is characteristic of the humid Patagonian Andes, consisting of mountains blanketed with dense forests of colihue, pires, oaks and cypresses, crystalline streams and great biodiversity, constituting a high quality environment for its inhabitants that lead a privileged life, surrounded by forests. In addition to the environmental beauty and peace and quiet of its great stretches of greenery and the Lanin National Park, San MartÃn de los Andes is the "jewel" of the "Corredor de los Siete Lagos" (Seven Lakes Belt).
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