Stretching across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a land of rugged and untamed wilderness. You can fly to the southerly city of Punta Arenas, facing the Straits of Magellan and drive for approximately 3 hours to the town of Puerto Natales on the shores of the Last Hope Sound. From there, it is another 2.5-hour drive to the world famous Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most iconic and unspoilt places of this windswept region. The soaring granite towers and cuernos (horns) of the park are surrounded by shimmering lagoons and glaciers, dense forests and tumbling waterfalls. This strikingly beautiful area is home to a wealth of wildlife including guanacos, flightless rheas, condors and flamingoes, and can be explored by vehicle, on foot or by boat. There are plenty of hiking opportunities ranging from easy nature walks around the milky Lake Grey or Lake Azul to the more arduous hike up to the base of the famous towers to see them at close range.
The wild and pristine landscapes of northern Patagonia are the least populated and least visited parts of Chile. The remote Aysén region straddles the Andes in a fragmented wilderness of mountains, fjords, islands covered with ancient forests and interspersed with turquoise lakes, vast ice-fields and glaciers, and grassy steppes. The largely unpaved Carretera Austral highway winds its way through this breathtaking area and offers the one of the most challenging and rewarding self-drive journeys on the continent.
At the southernmost end of Patagonia is the Chilean Tierra del Fuego, once settled by the Yaghans. Visit the Island of Navarino for excellent treks in this most remote region and take a boat trip through the Beagle Channel.
Patagonia cruises sail through the countless Chilean fjords and austral channels and offer 3- to 4-night journeys to the northern and southern ice fields, including the stunning San Rafael glacier, across the Strait of Magellan in search of humpback whales, and around the southern tip of the continent to the infamous Cape Horn and Ushuaia, in Argentina.
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Places to Visit
Puerto Natales Settled in 1911 on the shores of Seno Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound) as a port for the sheep industry, nowadays Puerto Natales is a quaint town with views out over the mountains. Located 160 miles from Torres del Paine, it is a major gateway to the world famous national park
The Chilean port of Puerto Williams is situated on the Island of Navarino, facing the Beagle Channel. Since its foundation in 1953 the settlement has served primarily as a naval base and with a population of a little over 2,000 it really looks and feels like the end of the world. The town has an anthropological museum depicting the lives of both the Yahgan and Selknam peoples who once inhabited Tierra del Fuego and is a starting point for excellent treks in the surrounding areas as well as voyages to Cape Horn
Punta Arenas is the most southerly city in Chile. It lies on the eastern shore of the Brunswick Peninsula, facing the Straits of Magellan. It is a centre for local sheep farming and fishing industries.
Torres del Paine
The spectacular Torres del Paine National Park is part of the United Nation’s World Biosphere Reserve system. Here, pumas, foxes, guanacos and rhea coexist in what is nothing if not Patagonian “Eden”, a rich landscape of lengas and coigues, fragrant heather, legendary calafate (it is believed that those who sample this regional berry always return) and other amazing flora.
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"Some excellent memories from each of the areas in Chile we visited – Santiago, the Atacama Desert, the Lake District, Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Williams and Easter Island. The two highlights were Torres del Paine and Puerto Williams – in the former you felt as if you really were at the bottom of the world, almost like the outback in Australia. The daily activities in Puerto Williams were excellent."