Patagonia has something for everyone. Scenery lovers will marvel at Patagonia’s heady mix of glaciers, mountains, fjords and fields. Wildlife spectators have penguins, whales, cormorants and sea lions (that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg) to keep their binoculars glued to their eyes. Activity seekers will find no shortage of hikes and treks on which to catch a breath of fresh mountain air. And even gastronomes get a taste of paradise among the barbecuing culture of the gauchos.
Therefore, whittling this vast, diverse region down to four must-see spots is a sizeable challenge.
Here, let's try for a healthy mix of destinations. You'll find a couple of off-the-beaten-path picks alongside more popular locales. And you’ll also find a city in the mixture, underscoring the fact that – while it is undoubtedly known for its natural scenery – Patagonia’s urban centres are also compelling.
Let’s begin with a less-well-known, but no less majestic, headland in the famous Tierra del Fuego archipelago.
The Cape Horn biosphere contains “miniature forests” inhabited by a plethora of small epiphyte plants, mosses, liverworts and lichen. While most of the world’s forests require you to bring binoculars, the diminutive forests of Cape Horn require a magnifying glass! Additionally, Cape Horn is home to several bird species.
But the real adventure here is the sailing. Cape Horn is etched in history as a hazardous, end-of-the-known-earth route for mariners. Because it stands at the axis of three major oceans (the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern), it features intense wind and waves. Be sure to join a professional Patagonia expedition to see this underrated world wonder up close.
The second stop in Terra del Fuego on this list is Glacier Alley. Situated on the Beagle Channel (so named for the famous ship Darwin rode to visit Patagonia), Glacier Alley boasts an astonishing stretch of ice sheets and waterfalls. If you can take your eyes of the towering glaciers and sub-Antarctic forests (which is hard to do), you may even spot an Andean condor circling the sky.
Like Cape Horn, Glacier Alley is a little off-the-beaten path owing to its location, and the fact that it’s primarily a ship passage. The best way to view it is by joining a Patagonian cruise.
Torres del Paine
UNESCO recognizes Torres del Paine as an important Biosphere Reserve, noting the “great scenic beauty” of its lakes, rivers, waterfalls and glaciers. But the National Park offers more than just beautiful scenery. Stroll the perimeters of its glacier-fed lakes, hikes its ridges and scale toward its many lookouts. Food-lovers can also catch whiffs of nearby traditional barbecue around Torres del Paine.
If you join a Patagonian glacier cruise, chances are you will start in Ushuaia. Resist the temptation to view this charming resort city as "just a jumping-off point." Set amid a backdrop of the Andes Mountains, Ushuaia buzzes with life and activity. Explore its patchwork of colourful houses along steep streets. Dine on South Atlantic king crab and smoky Chilean barbecue. And trade tales of adventure with the locals.
The best time to visit Patagonia is March, as the South American summer winds down. Book your Patagonian glacier expedition now to secure a spot among the world’s most unique regions.