Discover the top adventure attractions of Patagonia such as Torres del Paine National Park and Grey Glacier.
Patagonia is synonymous with intense rugged beauty and you won't be disappointed. With wildly diverse landscapes and 2000 kilometres (1243 miles) of mountain ranges straddling the Argentine/Chilean border, this is where to go for some of the best hiking and trekking in the world. Patagonia can be divided into three distinct latitudinal regions - the Araucanía and Lakes District, central Patagonia and southern Patagonia. Working from the bottom up, each area is around 600 kilometres (373 miles) in length and has its own special attributes and geographical characteristics.
We've naturally included our favourite Patagonia attractions in our 'Condor' trip, a 14-day Patagonia adventure where you hike, trek, kayak and bike from Punta Arenas.
In the extreme south, the scenery of southern Patagonia doesn't get more dramatic than this - with spectacular vertical granite peaks, immense rivers of ice, wind-swept plains and native beech forest. The Andes of southern Patagonia are covered by the most extensive area of glaciers outside the world's polar regions. The main attractions of this region include the beautiful scenery of the Laguna de los Cisnes and Cueva del Milodón Natural Monuments and the Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
This National Park became the world's southernmost national park when it was created in 1960 to protect 63,000 hectares (240 square miles) including the southernmost tip of the Andes Mountain Range. It features lenga and guindo tree forests covered with lots of moss and ferns. Wildlife viewing is a main attraction as this is home to some unusual creatures including the 2-metre long black-eyebrowed albatross, steam duck, diving petrel, red fox, and the rare chungungo otter. This is Argentina's only coastal national park, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, so water-based activities are also popular here.
Los Glacieres National Park, Argentina
Los Glacieres National Park covers approximately 600,000 hectares (2317 square miles) of land and gives origin to 47 major glaciers. Found in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz, this national park straddles the Hielo Sur - the largest icecap outside the Earth's polar regions - making it a glacial wonderland of turquoise lakes, stunning valleys, and majestic ice rivers. It covers an area of 4460 square kilometres (1722 square miles) and public access is tightly controlled and restricted to certain areas. One of these areas is the stunning Fitz Roy sector, an awesome trekking location that is home to the legendary diorite peaks of Cerro Torre and Monte Fitz Roy. Other highlights of the park include Perito Moreno Glacier and Lago Argentino.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of Argentina's most popular attractions and a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is one of the only places in the world to observe an advancing glacier.
Cerro Torre is one of the highest mountains of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, just west of Monte Fitz Roy. Its iconic dagger-like peak still has a stake in climbing folklore as one of the most challenging summits anywhere. The first controversial summit claim was made in 1959, but it took well over a decade later for the first undisputed ascent to be recorded in 1974.
Torres Del Paine National Park is without a doubt one of the most astonishingly beautiful places on Earth and the setting for the well-known 4-day "W" trek.
Grey Glacier, Chile
This is the largest glacier located in Torres del Paine National Park and it's a beauty. Located at the south end of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, it has formed massive, ice blue crystal-shaped ice floes travelling southward into Grey Lake. Tours are available to hike on the glacier itself.
Heading further north, the fertile plains and valleys give way to the temperate rainforest and sparsely populated reaches of central Patagonia. Of all the Patagonian regions, this area is the most wild with the least amount of infrastructure. On the Argentinean side, it includes the southern province of Chubut and on the Chilean side the long coastal plains that lie between the Andes and the ocean narrow and the coast becomes punctuated by numerous islands, bays and fiords.
Northern Patagonia: Araucanía and Lakes District
The Araucanía and Lakes District is the northernmost region of Patagonia, and is characterised by fertile green farmlands, snow-crowned volcanoes, forest and of course, dozens of beautiful deep blue lakes. Small and major volcanic eruptions are quite common in this area, with two major eruptions in 2008 - Llaima volcano in January and Chaiten volcano in May.