Official Name: Patagonia (Region includes Republic of Chile and Republic of Argentina)
Government: A quarter of the region belongs to Chile and the rest to Argentina
Population: Argentina & Chile — 1,999,540
Total Area: Argentina & Chile — 1,043,076 sq km
Time Difference: Chile GMT -4 hours; Argentina GMT -4 hours (-3 hours daylight saving)
Peak Season: December to February (Land tours operate November to February, Expedition Cruises operate late October to early April).
Electricity: 230/240 volts, 50 hertz
Airports: International – Santiago (Chile) & Buenos Aires (Argentina). Local connections – Punta Arenas (Chile), Rio Gallegos (Argentina), Ushuaia (Argentina).
Where is Patagonia?
Patagonia is difficult to define but is generally considered to be a rugged, mountainous area of southern Chile and Argentina including the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateaux and low plains to the east. The region covers more than a million square kilometres (some 540,000 square miles), with about a quarter of the region in Chile and the remainder in Argentina. About a third of Argentina is part of the Patagonia region. Broadly speaking, Patagonia starts at the southern edge of Buenos Aires province or Río Colorado and descends through the Andes to the southern tip of the continent.
Patagonia is characterised by long rugged coastlines, giant glaciers, fjords, and extensive windswept steppe. Sparsely populated but rich in natural resources and flora and fauna, Patagonia’s economy relies on sheep herding, oil, mining, agriculture, and tourism. Patagonia is a magnet for nature lovers, hikers, ice climbers and photographers due to its varied, spectacular landscapes and abundant wildlife.
There is an outdoor attraction to represent almost any region of Patagonia. The two most famous national parks are Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), famous for its austere beauty and historical romance, and UNESCO World Heritage listed Torres del Paine National Park, which attracts hikers from all over the world. Other highlights include the Lake District, petrified forests, various volcanoes, Fitzroy National Park, Perito Moreno Glacier and the Beagle Channel.
Expedition Cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the South American continent, and perhaps the world.When to visit Patagonia
When to visit Patagonia?
Patagonia is in the southern hemisphere, so if you’re from the northern hemisphere, you need to think of the seasons in reverse. This means that the warmest months are December, January and February, while the coldest are in June, July and August.
It is best to visit in the summer months of December through February as temperatures are generally warmer and the days are longer. Shoulder months, October, November, March, and April tend to have cooler temperatures, but also less wind and fewer visitors. The weather is unpredictable all year round and strong winds and sudden storms are common.
Apart from seasonal variations, the climate is moderated by the Andes mountains to the west, and the Atlantic ocean to the east. Southern Chile is very cloudy and wet to the west of the mountains, while Argentine Patagonia is almost desert-like and is sheltered from westerly winds. Rainfall exceeds 2,000mm a year to the west of the Andes and it gets drier toward the Atlantic zone in the east where the average rainfall is only 200mm.
In the Beagle Channel, temperatures rise to 18ºC in summer and -14ºC in winter, however, in the plateaus, temperatures are even more extreme.
|Average Temperature||6.9 °C||10.6 °C||6.8 °C||2.0 °C|
|Maximum Average||11.2 °C||15.3 °C||10.0 °C||5.8 °C|
|Minimum Average||2.5 °C||5.5 °C||2.3 °C||1.3 °C|
What to Eat?
In Patagonia, there are plenty of unique and delicious things to eat. As in all of Argentina, beef is important, but particular to the area is the cordero, lamb, which is of a very unique flavor (supposedly because the Patagonian lamb eats a unique mixture of herbs found only in Patagonia) especially when grilled in the typical parrilla (grill).
Dulce de leche, similar to caramel and made by adding sugar to milk and cooking it, is used on nearly all desserts, including facturas (pastries eaten for breakfast or tea, or to accompany mate, filled with dulce de leche, dulce de membrillo, crema pastelera, roquefort, or many other things), alfajores (traditional cookies that consist of tiny biscuits stuck together), and many other Argentine desserts.
Patagonia Tour Highlights
Torres Del Paine National Park (Chile)
One of the world’s most beautiful national parks, Torres del Paine is named after the massive granite towers that rise out of the earth. Covering more than 180,000 hectares, the park boasts stunning scenery with snow covered peaks, glaciers, beautiful lakes and valleys with a diverse variety of unusual flora and fauna. Some of the varied and amazing creatures you might spot include skunks, Andean condors, black-chested buzzard eagles, chilla foxes, culpeo foxes, guanacos (a relative of the llama), Chilean flamingos and rhea (a type of emu). The best way to discover the national park is on foot and trekking here will take your breath away. Some of the walks are quite demanding, but there is a good range for all grades of walkers. Options include a full day trek with incredible views of the famous ‘towers’ (this walk can be demanding with the final section walking in scree, however it is well worth it), a full day trek and catamaran trip across Lago Pehoe for a full view of the Grey Glacier and a more sedate 3 hour scenic boat trip (dependant on boat availability).
Perito Moreno Glacier, El Calafate (Argentina)
Los Glaciares National Park is located 80 Km from El Calafate, south east of the Province of Santa Cruz, Argentina. The park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981, and the outstanding Perito Moreno Glacier is one of its most outstanding attractions. With a height of around 60 metres and a front of five kilometres and an ice expanse covering some 250 km², the Perito Moreno Glacier is an incredible sight. Named after Argentine explorer Francisco Merino, the glacier is coloured in a variety of hues from blue to grey to white. It continually creaks and cracks. Advancing at a speed of around 2m per day, it can put on a spectacular show when giant chunks of ice at the outermost edges crack under tremendous pressure, rupture and crash into the water. Visitors have the chance to walk around some paths and terraces where you can get some great views of the glacier. You can also take a boat cruise almost the full width of the glacier for amazingly close-up views.
Tierra del Fuego National Park (Argentina)
Tierra del Fuego National Park was founded in 1960 on the Argentine part of the island of Tierra del Fuego, in the Straight of Magellan, Patagonia. Located close to the city of Ushuaia, the national park stretches 60 km north from the Beagle Channel along the Chilean border. The park has dramatic scenery, with waterfalls, forests, mountains and glaciers, and features animals such as guanacos, foxes and beavers, rabbits and muskrats and 90 species of birds including carancas, torrent ducks, Austral parakeets, condors and oystercatchers. A popular way to get to the National Park is to take the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo) a tourist steam train running over 5 km from Ushuaia.
For more information and a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Accommodation in Buenos Aires.
- View the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park from El Calafate.
- View the Patagonian Ice Sheet from an airplane or nearby mountain.
- Visit penguin colonies near Ushuaia, the southermost city in the world. While there, visit the prison museum which explains the areas history as a penal colony.
Patagonia Cruise Highlights
Tucan Travel Expedition Cruises in Patagonia travel the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel, to explore one of the most breathtaking wilderness regions in the world: Southern Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego. Cruises are a fantastic way to explore one of the most beautiful and remote wilderness regions in the world. Take in channels, bays, fjords, glaciers, mountains, islands and unexplored forests of incomparable beauty.
Expedition Cruises that start in Ushuaia (Argentina) take in the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan, Cape Horn National Park (UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve), Gunther Plüschow Glacier, Chico Sound, Magdalena Island (120,000 Magellanic penguins) and finish in Puntas Arenas (Chile).
Expedition Cruises that start in Puntas Arenas (Chile) take in Ainsworth Bay, Tucker Islet, Pia Glacier, Glacier Alley, Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay and finish in Ushuaia (Argentina), the southernmost city in the world.
This glacier is located on the northwestern arm of the Beagle Channel, embedded in the Darwin mountain range. Visitors can listen to the astonishing sound caused by the calving of massive chunks of ice which fall into the bay.
Gunter Pluschow Glacier
Günther Plüschow glacier was named after the region’s pioneering German aviator, arrived at Punta Arenas in 1928 on board his vessel “Feuerland”. Weather permitting, visitors disembark in zodiacs to observe the ice masses of Piloto and Nena glaciers.
One of the most famous channels, Cape Horn is also one that sailors fear the most due to its difficult weather conditions and heavy swells.
Once the settlement of indigenous Yamana Indians, this is now an area of special historical and archaeological value. Spectacular views can be seen from the lookout.
Located 25 miles north of Puntas Arenas in the Straight of Magellan, Magdelana Island is particularly noted for its colony of 120,000 Magellanic penguins return year after year to nest here. The penguins co-exist peacefully with cormorants and sea lions. Penguins cover the landscape from October to March.
The southernmost city in the world, capital of the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego or ‘Land of Fire’. This picturesque city is framed by forests and mountains, and is located on the banks of the Beagle Channel.