A Beginner’s Guide to Patagonia

Guest Post by Mark Watson

Patagonia. A name synonymous with an ancient world, un-marred by time. It is a place which has escaped, remarkably unscathed, from the relentless advance of mankind. That’s not to say that there are no people there: such a notion would be ridiculous. Patagonia is a massive area, encompassing two countries, mountain ranges, rolling plains and even its own ice-cap. There are villages, towns and cities there, as you would find anywhere else in the world. One might describe Patagonia as being unique in its ‘atmosphere’. Travelling outward from the bustling city centres, things become quieter; modern human settlements peter-out, and you enter a world of unconquered mountains, sun-soaked steppes and frozen coastlines. It truly is nature’s final bastion.

Whether home to you is a rural cottage, or an apartment in the middle of a city, life can feel crowded and a tad overwhelming. It happens to the best of us. According to statistics from the C.I.A website, Patagonia has an average human population density of just 1.9 per km2, compared to the United Kingdom’s 225 per km2, or even the United States’ 32 per km2. If you’ll excuse the number-crunching for just a moment longer, and consider that this strange, primeval world stretches for over 260,000 square miles, you begin to get an idea of just how far from the hustle-and-bustle of your daily life you can get. Even if the idea of being away from people does not appeal to you, there is still plenty of room for a getaway. Cruises or city-breaks are perfectly feasible, provided you know what you want.

So vast and sprawling is the region, that Patagonia’s sights are impossible to see in one holiday. Thus, it is vital to research and choose what you want to get-out of the experience, beforehand. If your thing is hiking, then it’s just a matter of picking which of the area’s stunning backdrops you want to your outdoor experience: from the Patagonian Ice Cap, to the steppes and mountains of ‘Torres del Paine‘ national park, Patagonia is wide-open for you to explore.

Similarly, those interested in wildlife have a plethora of options: Patagonia contains a great number of wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas, and its coastlines boast breeding-grounds for an astonishing number of rare, endangered or simply beautiful creatures, including Southern Right whales and Magellanic penguins.

Generally, the easiest way of reaching Patagonia is by air. Both Chile and Argentina offer a large number of airports in convenient locations, and the area to which you fly will be entirely dependent on what it is you are to see. If, for example, Torres del Paine national park was to be the centrepiece of your trip, then El Tepual Airport in Chile’s Puerto Montt is the closest entry point.

If you are headed to one of the many coastal nature reserves, then Argentina’s city of Trelew would be an ideal destination. Check maps and try to decide which side of Patagonia you will be spending most time in. Whilst it is entirely possible to cross the Chilean/Argentine border, and there are even agencies which specialise in cross-border trips, there is little point concerning yourself with such an endeavour unless your dream holiday calls for it.

In fact, to make your journey even less of a hassle, why not book a bespoke tour with a travel-group? Specialist agencies like Swoop Patagonia can provide valuable ‘on the ground’ information to help plan your trip, and can offer assistance with hotels or other forms of accommodation, should you require it. If even the idea of flying and booking-into hotels does not appeal, then a cruise along the strikingly beautiful Patagonian coastline may be more to your taste. Some such cruises even offer the opportunity to walk atop icebergs, and trek through the Antarctic region beyond the southernmost tip of Argentina.

However you choose to enjoy Patagonia, it is, without a doubt, one of the most breath-taking places on Earth, and certainly among the last of its kind: a fragment of a world which vanished millennia ago. The opportunity to travel to and experience such a place is not a right, but a privilege, which I highly advise you to exercise.