Upon visiting Patagonia, one can understand the inspiration Yvon Chouinard must have felt to name his now global clothing brand, Patagonia. Located in both Chile and Argentina, the geographic region contains the southernmost portion of South America. This stunning area is incredibly diverse. Classic dry southern plains, Andean highlands, Lake Districts, the moist Pacific coast, and rocky Tierra del Fuego are all tied together by the Andean Cordillera, the longest continuous mountain chain on the planet.
The name Patagonia comes from the word Patagon, used by Magellan to describe the native people, who were a foot taller than the Spaniards of the time. They fiercely kicked the Spanish colonists out of the area in the early 1600’s. This prevented Europeans from arriving in mass until the nineteenth century. Around the same time the U.S was warring against the Plains Indians, the governments of Chile and Argentina were wiping out the indigenous people of Patagonia. They almost succeeded, and today, unlike most of the rest of South America, many of the people are descendents of European countries such as Spain, Italy, Germany, Wales, England and Ireland. Similar to the American West and Alaska, to which Patagonia is often compared, the Patagonians are known for their independence of spirit.
Even though Patagonia covers one third of the land mass of both Chile and Argentina, less than five percent of their populations live there, good news for those who like their outdoors wild and free. Both countries have set some of their most special areas aside as national parks or natural reserves. There is an outdoor attraction in every region of Patagonia. The two most famous national parks are Tierra del Fuego, famous for its beauty and historical romance, and Parque National Torres del Paine, which has UNESCO World Heritage status. Hiking in Torres del Paine is a must for South American adventurers. The Puerto Marino Glacier is another of the many sites worth seeing. The glacier is 30Km long, 60 meters high, and you can take a boat to within 150m of the face itself.
Just a few of the many animals found in Patagonia include pink flamingos, guanacos (related to the llama), condors, penguins, rheas (related to the ostrich) and seals. If you are really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a puma (mountain lion).
Easy connections to Patagonia can be found thru Santiago, Chile, as well as Buenos Aires, Argentina. Transportation around the area is offered by comfortable coach buses similar to tour buses found in the U.S. Taxis are available in nearly every city, and car rentals can be an option too.
Between the Lake District and Patagonia region, there is no lack of things to see or do. If you have any questions about visiting this magnificent region, please let me know.