'IN PATAGONIA' is an English Travel Book by Bruce Chatwin, travel writer, novelist, art and antiques advisor. The book is an outcome of his four month sojourn in Patagonia. In his words Patagonia is “the farthest place to which man walked from his place of origin”. Decades have passed. Patagonia retains its status without much ado. Amidst the snow capped mountains, pristine landscapes and rivers, world's seventh largest desert, rain forest, glacier studded edges, wild life, flora and fauna, adventure sports, culture and Patagonia Cruises - the mystical pristine beauty remains serene and raw.
Patagonia could be your dream South American vacation destination. Invest time in reading 'IN PATAGONIA' before embarking on travel to Patagonia. While on a cruise, you are equipped to contemplate on the unceasing panorama.
Plan travel to Patagonia
Plan your travel to Patagonia at least four to six months ahead of time considering the huge demand for Patagonia Cruises. There is also the minimum prior reservation period. Be it solo travel or travelling in small-groups or self-guided tour, gather Patagonia cruise travel details. Medium-budget group operators or high-end bespoke holiday companies, talk to tour operators allowing for personal budget and tastes. You can book on the phone or via e-mail. Agents who specialize in Patagonia Cruises offer premium advantages.
- Located at the southern end of South America.
- Shared by Argentina and Chile.
- Both Argentineans and Chileans speak Spanish or Castellano.
- Patagonia spans over a million square kilometers.
- Patagonia is twice the size of California.
- Sunset as late as 10.15 pm (December and January)
- Summer time in Patagonia is December through February.
- Shoulder months are October, November, March and April, cool temperature and less wind.
- In winter, cruise companies hibernate.
- Whale watchers go in June and July (Atlantic Patagonia).
- Ski Season is May to September in Southern Patagonia.
- Over all best time to visit is November to March.
Cruise Travel to Patagonia
Cruise travel to Patagonia is all about an entirely new relaxing experience. Cruise passengers can travel in unlimited options of leisure, luxury, comfort, recreation and entertainment.
There are many reasons to consider Patagonia cruise. Firstly, a cruise would be much cheaper and secondly the time factor (unless you have lots of time to travel) and thirdly cruise is less of a hassle sans the checking in/out of hotels, rushing to/from airports etc. If you aren't into hiking, cruising is the best way to see glaciers, wildlife, peaks, landscapes etc. From the comfort of the vessel through large windows dining flavorful Patagonian lamb, you get exclusive close views which are otherwise impossible.
Panoramic views from the lounge or from outside the promenade deck, Patagonia cruise travel is awe-inspiring. Shore excursions, both general as well appealing to special or specific interests are organized. There are on-board experts. Lectures by geologists, historians, biologists, wild-life experts aid in appreciating and connecting with what you see. Additionally there is the advantage of avoiding frequent packing and unpacking. You pack once, visit the ports on the ship's itinerary and repack only at the end of cruise.
The geographical region of Patagonia extends from the Rio Colorado to the Strait of Magellan and from the Andes mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. Spread across is an unending stretch of stunning landscapes. Regular Patagonia cruises to choose from are:
- Cruises 'around the horn' between Santiago and Buenos Aires
- Cruises of the Chilean northern and southern ice fjords
- Cruises from Ushuaia to Antarctica, the South Shetland Islands and more.
- Cruises from Santiago to Punta Arenas
- Lake crossings in catamarans between Puerto Varas and San Carlos de Bariloche.
- Northern Argentina for whales, the welsh and the lakes.
- Southern Argentina for hiking and glaciers.
- Fjord Cruise taking in the glaciers of the Andean ice fields.
Cruise operators embark on Travel to Patagonia either from Argentina or Chile. Expedition Cruises that start in Ushuaia (Argentina) steer through the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan, Cape Horn National Park (UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve), Gunther Plüschow Glacier, Chico Sound, Magdalena Island (120,000 Magellanic penguins) and conclude in Puntas Arenas (Chile).
Expedition Cruises that start in Puntas Arenas (Chile) take in Ainsworth Bay, Tucker Islet, Pia Glacier, Glacier Alley, Cape Horn, Wulaia Bay and finish in Ushuaia (Argentina), the southernmost city in the world. Prevailing season, ice and weather are linked to determining travel destination. For example, to enjoy spectacular wildlife, any time at the back end of the year is regarded as good to travel to Patagonia. The peak months are September through November.
Check which Patagonia cruise interests you. You can customize your travel. Learn more about cruising to Patagonia before embarking on Patagonia travel. Read cruise itineraries. If you are particular about traveling in a small group, choose a Patagonia cruise catering to small cruise vacationers. Small ship cruising has its advantages. It provides access to some exclusive hotspots. Check with the cruise line about policy. Compare costs. Learn about components of the cruise fare. Prices vary according to ship, cabin category and itinerary.
Cruising in Patagonia
Channels, bays, fjords, glaciers, mountains, islands and unexplored forests – what better destination to cruise through unlimited narrow channels and towering fjords! You can appreciate in close quarters the diverse richness of Patagonia's wildlife- dolphins, whales, seals and seabirds.
When it comes to cruising in Patagonia, consider two Patagonian regions – Atlantic and Andean. Cruise passengers are more exposed to Atlantic Patagonia which is arid, tundra-like landscapes sweeping down to the shores.
The Chilean Patagonia is formed by islands and archipelagos, beginning in Puerto Montt and finishing by the Antarctica. In this area the scenery is different, and big blocks of ice become the usual surrounding of a privileged place on Earth, filled with water and animals. The journeys made by cruise companies in Chile include San Rafael Lagoon, Puerto Natales, Tierra del Fuego, and Antarctica. No matter which itinerary you choose, the duration or the average number of days is a minimum of 5 days and a maximum of 8 days.
Patagonia offers a varied travelling experience. There are regions catering to trekking, hiking, wildlife, glaciers, road trips, boat trips, remote landscapes, volcanoes etc. A single trip would hardly suffice to explore the entire region. A vacation can be selective. The place is so enticing that travelers are eager to plan their next vacation and continue exploring the region.
Top travel attractions in Patagonia
Torres del Paine National Park: This is rated as the number 1 attraction in Patagonia. Most Patagonia cruise itineraries allot three days to explore the park's natural wonders. An organized tour isn't necessary as this park is more of a do it by yourself.
This park is the center piece of Chilean Patagonia. The park is a World Biosphere Reserve since 1978. The park is famous for W-trek which demands 5-7 days trekking for 5-8 hours per day. The park also provides other wide range of outdoor adventures like kayaking, hiking, rafting. The more adventurous would opt for puma tracking trips.
Spread across 242,000 hectares, you are in an uninhabited, unspoiled, untouched environment offering spectacular views and experiences. The attraction is the beautiful panoramic of Paine mountains (summit reaches 3050 meters), glaciers. Lakes such as Sarmiento, Nordenskjold, Grey and Pehoe accentuate the beauty. The rich fauna is represented by guanacos and foxes and other animals as well as dozens of species of birds. The park provides great photo opportunities. The temptation to video record or photograph the beauty is unstoppable.
There are many rivers, lagoons and lakes within the Park. The source of water is from the defrosting of glaciers.
Salto Grande waterfall: A short walk within Torres del Paine National Park takes you to the breathtaking Salto Grande Waterfall. The waterfall is powerful. The sound of water thundering down the 30 meters is deafening. It connects two large lakes within the park.
Mirador del Lago Nordenskjöld: At a particular outlook point, you can enjoy the stunning Patagonian nature and big waterfall Salto Grande.
Paine River: Kayaking in Paine River is famous. Remote locations offer spectacular sights. The river supposedly bends in a horse shoe shape.
Sarmiento Lake: Sarmiento Lake is located at the access of Las Torres del Paine National Park. It is the largest lake in the region with an area of 86.2 km2 and maximum depth of 312 m. The lake is surrounded by exotic Patagonian steep vegetation. Besides the deep blue colored water, look out for viewpoints of Cordillera Paine.
Amargo Lagoon: This is one of the three access point to Torres del Paine National Park. It is a brilliant green-blue lake which is also home to red foxes and condors. At the backdrop is the dramatic Paine Mountain. The strange stones on the shoreline are interesting. After all, they are colonies of bacteria definitely not dangerous.
Punta Arenas: The most appealing activity in Punta Arenas is a visit to the penguin colonies. Penguin reserves are spread throughout Chilean Patagonia including Magdelana Island, Marta Island and Chilean Tierra del Fuego all of which are accessible from Punta Arenas. Of the three, Chile's largest and most important Magellanic penguin breeding sites is situated on Magdalena Island in the Straits of Magellan.
You can walk around the reserve and can get close to the Magellanic penguins. Reserve staff caution visitors not to touch or disturb their movement. Depending on the time of visit during the day, you could see mating pairs and molting babies as well. A penguin population census of Magdalena Island conducted between 1998 and 2014 has recorded 65,000 breeding pairs.
Puerto Rio Tranquilo, Chile: Looking at the remarkable Marble Caves of Puerto rio Tranquilo, one is left to wonder about its natural formation. Located in the region of Asien in Chile, the marble caves were created by the clear waters of Rio Tranquilo that dug into a giant limestone peninsula thereby creating an impressive labyrinth of caves. A thirty minute boat ride on the waters of Lake Azure takes you very close to the walls of the caves.
El Calafate: Here is an irresistible attraction – Glacier Perito Moreno. It is a spillover of Parque Nacional Los Glaciers. Part of Argentina's Patagonia; visiting Glacier Perito Moreno during January and February can prove to be expensive. Shoulder seasons are comparatively economical. Don't let go of an opportunity to take a guided hike across the glacier. Stroll along the series of walkways and terraces leading down the glacier to get a closer look of chunks of ice 'calving' off into the water. Ice trek on the glacier is yet another added attraction.
Combine the trip with a visit to El Chaltén which is regarded as the trekking capital of Argentina. Discover Glacier Upsala, Viedma glacier, Walicho Cave and Tehuelche culture, fish at Lago Roca. The Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are the most popular mountains in this area. The Fitz Roy is a jagged, granite-walled mountain towering 11,000 feet over El Chaltén. Hiking in The Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre is popular. While enjoying amazing views there is also spirit of adventure watching huge chunks of ice in the lake. The steep vertical walls of Cerro Torre make reaching the summit challenging.
Impressive peaks in the Andes which are at the far end of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares extend a host of activities to engage in - trekking, flying in an aerostatic balloon, back horse riding, rafting and much more.
Futaleufú, Chile: Sans any prior rafting experience, even a novice can raft several sections of the Futaleufú River safely while enjoying the gorgeous scenery that unfolds. There is an activity for all ages and experience levels. Rafting is not the only option to traverse. A horseback and hiking trail follow the entire length of the river. Besides these, you can try rock climbing, biking, fishing, yoga, massage, hot tub, and reading or even take kayak lessons.
The cave of the hands: It is in Rio Pintura, Argentina. Not really caves but more of a depression in the canyon wall, the site is protected since 1999 and is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage. A guide accompanies tourists and explains the painting. A first look at the thousands of hand prints in orange, black, yellow, white, red and purple may convince you that these are graffiti. But these paintings of mostly hands and also of different animals and symbols explain the times and culture of the specific tribes. They depict the history, prevalent hunting and survival techniques that existed between 9000 to 13000 years.
Puerto Madryn: Besides being the diving capital of Patagonia, the specialty of Puerto Madryn is Right Whale watching and dolphin spotting. Right Whale is one amongst rare marine mammal species. Southern Right Whale is one of the three species of Right Whale. They migrate to breed and feed. June to December, southern right whales arrive in Puerto Madryn. El Doradillo Beach is choc-a-bloc with tourists enjoying the natural viewpoints and observing from close quarters the slow movements of the southern Right whale.
Tourists combine day trips to Puerto Madryn with Punta Tombo to visit the penguin colony. Boat trips to spot the small black and white Commerson's dolphins during the months of June through March prove to be exhilarating.
Not just Punta Tombo, travel to Peninsula Valdes to get close and personal with exciting sea life. Penguins, sea lions and elephant seals live in their natural environment. There is a lot of other wildlife as well like the indigenous species rhea (a relative of the African Ostrich), the guanaco (related to the llama, killer whales, elephant seals and Magellenic Penguins etc.
Travel seventeen kilometers southwest of Puerto Madryn to arrive at Punta Loma, a sea lion reserve. Most Patagonia cruise operators include these places and arrange travel by car. You will pass deserted rocky beaches like El Pozo, Paraná, Punta Este and Kaiser. Soak up in the scenery that unfolds continuously - spectacular views of the cool blue waters. From special viewpoints in the 34 km stretch, view sea lion colonies and other black neck cormorants also known as Rock Shags as they nest on the cliffs over the sea.
Travel to Patagonia tips
- If combining Chile and Argentina, fly into one and fly out through the other.
- Learn a few Spanish travelling phrases.
- Dress for destinations. Choose appropriate clothing.
- Make sure you have appropriate footwear (hiking boots).
- Choose the right months to travel according to your interest.
- No network coverage in certain villages. Opt for a satellite phone.
- ATMs are minimal. Consider other alternatives.
- Certain vegetables and fruits are hard to find.
- Sea conditions can be dicey. Co-operate with the captain and crew.
- Some regions have limited health care facilities. Make arrangements for emergency, if any.
- Never vie for campfires as it is illegal in many of the parks.
- Choose books about the ports of call which are part of itinerary
- Make use of the opportunity to indulge in food feasting.
- Sample the country's legendary steak and traditional dishes like Asado, Chimmichuri, Chilean Empandas, Curanto etc. Both in Argentina and Chile, each province has many specialities.
- Capture captivating scenery and create personalized visual souvenirs.