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The Gap Year Blog

Travelling Patagonia

5 Oct 2017 13:30 PM

Patagonia is the name given to a region of southernmost South America that spans parts of Chile and Argentina; it includes the most southerly land on the plant other than the Antarctic. It is a sparsely populated area and therefore it is largely unspoiled by human activity and full of natural wonders for travellers to explore.

Argentinian Patagonia

Three quarters of Patagonia lies within Argentina, with much of it being vast expanses of steppe or desert. The overwhelming ‘emptiness’ of the area might seem intimidating to a visiting city dweller, but despite this there is much to explore here. The Atlantic coast offers some amazing sights and chances to see some incredible marine life, from groups of orcas that hunt the resident fur seals to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins anywhere in the world!

Flickr | Michele Vascellari

The Andes are another attraction here and include the beautiful lake district. There is a famous driving route known as ‘The Route of the Seven Lakes’ which allows you to take in many of the lakes in the forest area of the Andes. The route is around 107km long and is named after the seven biggest lakes along the route. The scenery of blue lakes surrounded by looming peaks will definitely take your breath away.

Also located in the Andes is the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which feeds a total of 48 glaciers and is the 3rd largest reserve of fresh water on the planet. One of the glaciers that is fed by this ice field is the Perito Moreno glacier, which is 30km long and a popular attraction with tourists in the area. Interestingly, this is one of the few glaciers worldwide that is advancing rather than retreating and is a truly impressive sight!

Chilean Patagonia

Although not as vast as its Argentinian counterpart, Chilean Patagonia is home to the Torres del Paine national park, which boasts beautiful scenery including lakes, glaciers and mountains. This park is also a fantastic place to view some of Patagonia’s native wildlife, including the guanaco, pumas, the Andean condor and the rhea to name just a few. Guanacos are one of the easiest species to spot, as they live in groups of up to 50 individuals.

Flickr | Davide Zanchettin

This national park is home to the small mountain range, Cordillera Paine which boasts some incredible rock formations, including flat tower-like structures known as ‘Torres del Paine’ of which there are three. These peaks are a spectacular sight and are one of the main attractions within the mountain group. This area also includes lakes and glaciers and many popular hiking routes.

Another area of interest is the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, which translates to ‘land of fire’. These islands are split between Argentina and Chile, with the majority belonging to Chile. They are situated at the very southern tip of South America. The islands are separated by beautiful stretches of green-blue water and sea lions can be observed in many locations, as well as many species of whale.
When to visit

The best time to visit Patagonia is during the southern summer, which is from November through to March. During this time the temperatures are mild, generally between the low teens and the low twenties, depending on where you are in the region. However, those who brave the winter months will be rewarded with certain perks, such as enjoying the whale watching season in Argentinian Patagonia!

The wilderness of Patagonia is something that is hard to come by in the modern world, its untouched natural beauty is sure to charm any visitor. So if you’re looking for a trip where nature takes centre stage and you can immerse yourself in the elements, Patagonia is definitely worth consideration.

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By Gabrielle Brooks - Online Journalism Intern