Patagonia, located in the southern region of Argentina and Chile, is one of the most ecologically diverse regions in South America. There you'll find the magnificent, snow-capped Andes mountains, grasslands, steppes, deserts, and a selection of beautiful blue-colored glaciers.
Having such variety, and such a wide territorial expanse, Patagonia has hundreds of sites worth visiting. Here I'm going to narrow it down to five places every traveler should experience when visiting this region.
While most glaciers have been receding these past few decades, the Perito Moreno Glacier has been growing at a healthy rate. This is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and one of the easiest to hike. There are 1.5-hour and 3-hour long hikes, and as much as you feel you've hiked with those two options, the reality is that you've only walked a minuscule portion of the glacier. Yes, it is that big! Just so you have an idea, this glacier is 30 km long (18 miles), and the wall that faces the lake is between 40 to 70 meters tall (130 to 230 feet).
From the viewing platform, you can see it is a big glacier, but it isn't until you get close to it that you realize how enormous it is. Also, from the viewing platform you can see and hear giant pieces of ice breaking apart and splashing into the water. It is something not to be missed.
Located on the southern side of Chile, Torres del Paine is considered to be one of the best national parks in the world for short and long hikes thanks to its varied landscapes, stunning panoramic views, and wide selection of hiking trails.
There you can hike next to glaciers, towering mountains and rock formations, emerald colored lakes, and evergreen forests, among other experiences. The most popular trail is known as the W, due to its shape resembling the letter. It takes four to five days to complete and the physical demand is average, as it is not strenuous but requires long hours of hiking.
You also have the option of hiking for up to 12 days doing the O or Q hikes, or simply a day hike by choosing a small portion of the W - like the popular 8-hour hike to Las Torres (roundtrip). Since it is located so far south, the hiking season is limited between October and March when the weather is milder.
El Chalten is a small mountain village located within the Los Glaciares National Park at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy. These two cerros mountains are the main draw for tourists coming to El Chalten since they are the culmination of their respective day hikes and are also popular mountains among climbers. This is why El Chalten is named Argentina's Trekking Capital.
Don't miss doing the Cerro Torre 6-hour hike (round-trip) and the Cerro Fitz Roy 8-hour hike (round-trip). And, if you're really looking to see the stunning beauty of the cerros in all their glory, start your hike at 3:00 am or 4:00 am depending on the hike to see the sunrise from the base of the cerros. You won't be disappointed.
San Carlos de Bariloche, most commonly known as Bariloche, is a city situated in the foothills of the Andes within the Nahuel Huapi National Park. It is famous for its 1930's Alpine-styled architecture and for being a convenient base for skiing, trekking, and mountaineering in its surrounding mountains.
Contrary to many other sites in Patagonia that are best visited during their summer (October to March), Bariloche is an excellent spot all year round. During summer, hiking, biking, and mountaineering are among the most popular choices, while skiing predominates during winter months. Don't miss mountain biking the Circuito Chico. It takes you around several beautiful lakes, forested trails, and uphill to a gorgeous viewpoint of the lakes and mountains that have made Bariloche one of the top places to visit in Argentina.
Also known as The End of the World, Ushuaia sits right at the bottom tip of South America. In fact, it is regarded as the southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia becomes a busy city during the summer months when thousands of travelers go down there to hop on a cruise to Antarctica or to enjoy the wonderful nature around the city.
Among the most popular activities is hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park, hiking to Glaciar Martial, taking a ferry along the Beagle Channel, and having an up-close encounter with penguins.
Also, if you feel adventurous and have the money and time, hop on a last minute trip to Antarctica to reach the 7th continent of the world!
Patagonia has many more places worth mentioning, but these are some of the sights that are easy to access and offer a varied perspective of the beauty of this region.
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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