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Patagonia Trek: Exploring the Natural Wonders of Patagonia, South America

Updated on February 12, 2018
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Paul is an avid outdoor enthusiast. In the past worked as an outdoor instructor, and now delights in sharing his outdoor knowledge.

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Rugged mountains surrounded by dense forests, magnificent glaciers and cascading waterfalls are just a few of the inspiring natural wonders waiting for avid adventurers to discover in the Patagonian region.

The region comprises the southern area of the Andes mountain range, in addition to a myriad of environments, including deserts, pampas, and swathes of grassland. which lie to the east of this strip of the Andes.

It's an incredibly desirable location for passionate hikers wanting to explore the world, and it’s no wonder that Patagonia is considered one of the most beautiful places to visit in South America, or even the entire globe.

Patagonia is a vast region, located at the southern end of South America. Spanning 1.043 million km² and with an estimated population of just under 2 million residents, Patagonia has been able to maintain it's famed natural beauty and wonders.

“The real home of man is not his house but the road. Life itself is a travel that has to be done by foot.”

- Bruce Chatwin

History of Patagonia

Human habitation of the Patagonia region dates back thousands of years. Some early archaeological findings in the area date back to at-least the 13th millennium BC.

The regions native Tehuelches received competitions from the Mapuche speaking agriculturalists who set up in the area during the 16th century. European explorers however had arrived by the late 17th century.

Patagonia was visited on the Voyage of the Beagle 1832–1836, in which the mountain of Fitzroy was visited at the same time, and named after the leader of the expedition.

Natives of the area were comparatively very tall compared with European explorers and settlers, which led to the myth that Patagonia was a land of giants.

In the 19th century colonisation was escalated from Western nations, including people from Spain and even Wales. Wales established a colony which to this day continues to speak the Celtic language of Welsh.

To this day Patagonia is considered one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes in the world, and is a highly coveted travel location due to being a cultural melting pot and stunning scenery.

Patagonian Glacier
Patagonian Glacier

Beginning the Trek: El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Huemules

Typically, the starting point of any Patagonia trek is the small town of El Calafate. This small, charming town has since developed from its origins as a wool trading shelter, and offers accommodation and museums for visiting tourists.

The Glaciarium museum located in the town gives tourists a scientific insight into Patagonia's glaciers and even features an ice bar - a visitor favourite! Guests are given a jacket upon entry of the bar and are only allowed to stay and enjoy their drinks for up to 30 minutes, due to its icy temperature!

El Calafate serves a hub for some of Patagonias most famed sights. From El Calafate, the Los Glaciares National Park can be reached. As the parks name suggests, this area is surrounded by frosty azure glaciers and snow-capped mountains.

Within the national park, resides the Perito Moreno Glacier. Trekkers are able to explore the top of the glacier, with private guides available. 1 hour or 3 hour guided treks are available, depending on your fitness level.

Fans of forest hikes will enjoy the Los Huemules Private Reserve. Lush foliage, waterfalls and an abundance of wildlife can be found in this forest. Five walking trails lead you through wild forest sights, with the Fitzroy mountain range serving as a picturesque backdrop for your hike.

Visitors of the private reserve must register before entering, to ensure that they are kept track of and recognised should any emergencies occur while they are exploring. Taking food with you is essential, however, the water in the reserve is said to be clean and safe to drink.

Forests in Patagonia
Forests in Patagonia

Fitz Roy Mountains and the Cerro Torre

Due to its vertical granite faces and stretches of technical climbing, the Fitz Roy mountain is considered to be one of the most challenging mountains to ascend. It is suggested that any attempt to climb this daunting mountain range should only be considered by incredibly experienced climbers.

Due to the extreme landscape of Patagonia, guided treks make it easier for you to plan your holiday. Travelling in a group also makes it safer, especially for those who don't enjoy travelling alone. A planned Patagonia Trek allows you to spend 12 days trekking the vast landscape of Patagonia with other keen explorers.

For avid photographers, the Fitz Roy range provides an excellent opportunity to take fantastic shots of the harsh yet remarkable mountains. Surrounding the mountain range are clear icy blue lakes, adding to the awe-inspiring landscape.

West of Fitz Roy stands the Cerro Torre mountain. An upright rocky spire reaching 3128 metres in height, the Cerro Torre is also known as the 'impossible mountain'. Claims from climbers who have reached the top of Cerro Torre have had their credibility widely disputed, with many determining that it is a truly impossible feat.

The Fitz Roy range
The Fitz Roy range

Paso del Viento and Lake Toro

Paso del Viento, which translates as 'windy pass' is a trek which involves wading through the ice cold Túnel River before reaching the top.

Rocky terrains set the scene for this steady uphill climb. At the top (1550 metres above sea level), trekkers efforts are rewarded with a view of the vast Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This ice field, spanning 16,800km², is the second largest in the world and a sight that is not to be missed.

After descending from Paso del Viento, taking time to relax and set up camp at Lake Toro is a good idea. After resting, head back to El Chalten via 'Pliegue Tumbado'. This route takes you through the marsh, burnt forests and eventually into a lush beech forest.

Impressive lakes can be discovered on Patagonia treks
Impressive lakes can be discovered on Patagonia treks

El Chalten

Cabins in El Chalten provide a warm retreat after a busy adventure. For people who typically buy souveniers for their families, El Chalten is a great opportunity to find something memorable.
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the local chocolate and ice cream shops that El Chalten has to offer.

Fans of beer can sample local ales in La Cerveceria, a brewery which also serves hot food. A perfect place to visit after a long days trek!

El Chalten Views
El Chalten Views

Buenos Aires

After catching a flight from El Chalten to El Calafate, Buenos Aires will be your last stop before returning to the UK.

Buenos Aires is considered the Paris of South America and is home to 13 million residents. After being in the sparse Patagonian wilderness for so long, exploring this city may feel slightly intimidating. However, there are plenty of exciting things to see and do here before getting a flight back home.

Map of Patagonia Trek Locations

A
Buenos Aires:
Buenos Aires, Argentina

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The capital and most popular city in Argentina.

B
El Chalten:
El Chaltén, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

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A village within Los Glaciares National Park, a site of interest in Argentina.

C
Paso del Viento:
José Antonio Rojo 218, El Chalten, Santa Cruz, Argentina

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Part of South Patagonian Ice field

D
Lake Toro:
Del Toro Lake, Torres de Paine, Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile

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Lake located in the Magallanes Region, southern Chile

E
Fitz Roy Mountains:
Fitz Roy

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Patagonian Mountain, on the border between Argentina and Chile.

F
Perito Moreno Glacier:
Perito Moreno Glacier, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

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A glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province

G
El Calafate:
El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

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Town near the edge of the South Patagonia Ice Field, in the Argentinian province of Santa Cruz

Patagonia Glacier and Ice Cap Trek

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