True wilderness is becoming more and more scarce in our world with so few places left that can be called truly wild. When we speak of wild places what comes to mind is untouched land, pristine natural features, remote corners where few have traveled, and amazing indigenous people who call the place home. Patagonia, located in the far south west of South America, is most definitely a wild place in its most pure sense. Covering huge swaths of Chile and Argentina, this region is vast, remote, and truly awe inspiring. Because of its rugged and remote nature you can still find paths untrodden by the masses surrounded by towering snow capped mountains, blue lakes lakes upon lakes, and solitude that would please even the most ardent hermit.
Sadly this place is one of the fastest changing regions on Earth due to climate change. The loss of glacial ice and the misuse of the abundant water systems that exist there is rapidly altering the landscape of this amazing place. To feel connected to this natural wonder and to work to protect it, one must see it for themselves. There is really no better time to visit this place and see why it is so important to protect this treasure of our Earth. Here are some highlights of so many amazing things to do when you go.
Torres Del Paine National Park
This true gem of the world is one of the largest parks in all of South America, located just north of the town of Puerto Natales. Within its boundaries are incredible natural features that have been forming and changing for millions of years. The trekking infrastructure in the park is fairly robust and you can visit most of the park on your own using the well kept trail system. Take 10 days and complete the entire loop, feasting you eyes on all the park has to offer. For shorter trips you can do the “W” circuit and take in the highlights on the south end of the park. With massive glaciers, deep green forests, and the native Guanaca there is much to experience in this magical place.
The gaucho culture in Chile and Argentina generally refers to people who descend from Portuguese or Spanish ancestors who live a nomadic lifestyle centered around the raising and using of cattle and horses. These people are often referred to as “South American Cowboys” and today are a proud people who live close the land and are known to be hearty and crafty. When you visit the Patagonia region it is possible to spend some days living on a gaucho ranch and learning about the way of life of these people. It is an awesome way to really get a sense of some of the people who call this land home and the history of the area.
This quaint fishing town about 2 hours south of Torres Del Paine is known as the gateway to the Patagonian wilderness. Most all excursions into far southern Patagonia will go through this town. It is worth spending a day or two here before heading out to sample some local food, gather any last minute supplies, and get in touch with the adventure community in this area. There are worthwhile hikes just outside of town as well if you are looking for a warm up before your trek. Ask a local about a hike that begins on a nice families’ ranch just outside of town, they will direct you where to go and it will definitely be worth your time.
What better way to explore the fjords and rivers of Patagonia than by human-powered boat. Patagonia boasts world class sea and river kayaking as well as white water rafting and fishing as well. Where else can you paddle yourself right up to the foot of one of the world largest glaciers?! If you’re more of an adrenaline junkie, you can take on the waters of some of the world’s largest and most challenging rivers. You can navigate your way through Pumalin Park in Chile’s Palena Province, challenge the Carretera Austral at the San Rafael Glacier, or paddle the Baker River or further south through the Magellan Straits alongside humpback whales and penguins. No matter what boating activity you are looking for Patagonia has got you covered.
With Patagonia’s abundance of wildlife, spotting native Chilean animals will be easy. One of our favorite animals to observe is the Guanaca, a wild Andean mammal closely related to the llama. This inquisitive creature definitely has some personality! You would be lucky to spot a puma as well, some having been sighted in the Torres del Paine National Park. As you explore the more coastal areas near Punta Arenas and further south the Puerto Williams you will also be able to spot whales and observe vast colonies of penguins. For the animal lover Patagonia has animals that don’t live anywhere else in the world.
Relax in a Thermal Bath
You’ve walked beneath the massive spires of Torres Del Paine, you’ve paddled next the great glaciers and churning rivers, and you’ve tracked Pumas across the high plateau. Now it’s time to treat yourself to some relaxation. Visit the Termas Puyuhuapi thermal baths located in the heart of the Patagonian Region. A bit remote and hard to get to, this place treats the intrepid traveler to natural pools that can reach a bit over 80 degrees. This place is beautiful with views of the amazing peaks as your backdrop.
No matter your desired activity, fitness level, or familiarity with outdoor activities Patagonia has something for everyone. The adventure that awaits you there will truly transform your sense of being and bring you closer to the Earth far after you return home.