Chilean Patagonia Travel Guide

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Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Patagonia © Francesco Paroni Sterbini
The fjords, glaciers and magnificent scenery of the Patagonian region are what attract visitors to this vast wilderness territory. The north, or Aisén region, can be likened to the Inside Passage of Alaska or New Zealand's Fjordland on South Island with its dramatic ice and waterway scenery. Southern Patagonia or Magallanes, is rugged, mountainous and stormy.

It was nearly 500 years ago that Ferdinand Magellan guided four ships through the treacherous passages that are still today thought of as the 'End of the World'. Today Patagonia is inhabited by nearly two million people, but the majority of these live on the Argentinian side and even there, the region is still almost entirely dominated by pristine nature.

The gravel highway known as the Camino Austral allows travellers access to one of the world's last great expanses of wilderness. It begins at the port of Chaitén and continues to the capital of northern Patagonia, Coihaique, both of which are good bases for explorations of Chilean Patagonia. The most popular attraction in this region, despite the difficulty and expense of getting here, is the two million-hectare (four million-acre), glacier-filled Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael, which has some of the world's most spectacular mountain and fjord scenery.

Magallanes features glacially sculpted mountains and harsh landscapes with Torres del Paine National Park the most famous of the southern region's protected areas. Even further south is the town of Puerto Natales, terminus of the extraordinary ferry trip through the fjords from Puerto Montt, and the main exploration base for the region. Beyond the continent lies the harsh and stormy archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, stretching towards icy Antarctica.




Attractions

Chilean Tierra del Fuego © Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero

Chilean Tierra del Fuego

In the farthest southern reaches of Patagonia, at the tip of South America, lies the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, which translates to 'Land of Fire'. It is a dramatic name for a dramatic place, as the harsh winds of the sub-polar climate...  see full details



Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve © Rachel Hobday

Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve

The Magdalena Island Penguin Reserve is a paradise for birdwatchers, or for anybody who is fond of penguins. Magdalena Island is located 21.7 miles (35km) south of Punta Arenas. The reserve is a natural bird sanctuary, and is home to more than 100,000 birds,...  see full details



San Rafael Lagoon © Vincent Huang

Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael

Created in 1959, Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael covers an area of 6,726 square miles (17,420 sq km) and includes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field. It was named after the San Rafael Lagoon that was created by the retreat of the San Rafael...  see full details



Parque Nacional Torres del Paine © Miguel Vieira

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this 180,000-hectare (442-acre) park is the pride and joy of southern Chile. The park takes its name from the towering granite pillars that rise over 6,560 feet (2,000m) above the Patagonian plains. It is a hiker's paradise with many excellent,...  see full details