Patagonia is large, so large in fact that it spans 2 countries – Argentina and Chile. Difficult to define geographically, it’s believed to start south of the Río Colorado in Argentina and the Río Biobío in Chile, and goes on right to the very tip of South America. Between the two countries, the Andes make a natural border.
It has something of an alluring appeal – conquistadors, explorers, bandits, travel writers and tourists alike have all been taken with Patagonia. The name is meant to have come from the Portuguese explorer, Magellan, who described the natives as patagónes, or giants.
Darwin was another famous visitor when HMS Beagle sailed by in the 18th Century, the distinctiveness of the area was not lost on him. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are famous Patagonian residents, they travelled there in 1901 to seek refuge and ended up buying a 15,000 acre estate. They were there for 5 years before their previous life started to have repercussions and they had to move on.
Famous writers who have enjoyed a Patagonian experience include Paul Theroux who wrote The Old Patagonian Express in 1979 and Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.
As to be expected the terrain you can find in Patagonia is very mixed indeed. The Argentinian side is more or less flat pampas (home to many estancias) which become less flat nearer the mountains. The awe inspiring Los Glaciares National Park is also on the Argentinian side and is a must see for any visitor to the region. The Chilean side is mostly fjords, glaciers and peaks and here they have the Torres del Paine National Park. Both also have their own Lake Districts.
Although they are different countries it is fair to say the residents of both have more in common with each other than they would of citizens in their respective capitals – there is even a Patagonian flag marked with the Southern Cross.
The weather here is varied and often unpredictable, the main tourist season is from October to March. Out of these months the weather is colder, wetter and windier.
Patagonia has an incredible appeal and for tourists it can be the highlight of any trip to Argentina or Chile. It should be included on any itinerary to the region. And the best place to enjoy it fully, appreciate the Patagonian way of life and experience nature at it’s most spectacular is to stay on an estancia. Have a look at Historic Haciendas for some accommodation inspiration.
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