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Patagonia: Land of the Giants – Argentina or Chile?

Jacob | Expert Page | Ultimate Travel Company

Jacob

Jacob specialises in travel to South and Central America

Covering an area of over one million square kilometers, Patagonia spreads itself over the deepest parts of Latin America’s Southern Cone with majestic breadth. 

With steppe, fjords and coniferous rainforests, ice-capped peaks and surging rivers, glaciers and ice fields, it can be difficult to decide where you will follow in the steps of explorers past. Especially as the entire area is spread across Argentina and Chile, and divided almost in two by the formidable Andean Cordillera.

Chile has the grandeur of Torres Del Paine National Park, Argentina has the Los Glaciares National Park. Lionel Messi attacks with hiking in the mountains of El Chalten, Gary Medel blocks with the crystalline waters of Aysen. Borges suggests whale watching, Neruda answers Puma tracking. When one country strikes, the other is ready with some beautiful, counter-riposte of wildlife, nature, culture or adventure. 

Deciding between Argentinian Patagonia and Chilean Patagonia can be tricky, with each offering a plethora of incredible experiences. The experts at the Ultimate Travel Company are well versed in each, and this particular specialist would say: why not both?

Landscapes: Chile

The magnificent peaks of Torres del Paine, Chile

Anybody with even a passing interest in visiting Latin America has seen photos or heard tell of the incredible spectacle of the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile. It certainly sits up in the pantheon of Latin American treasure alongside the likes of Iguassu Falls, Machu Picchu and the Uyuni Salt Flats. The Paine Massif rises like a crown of granite thorns from the earth – reflected in a stunning kaleidoscope by the azure lakes dotted around the national park. Sandwiched so brutally between the fierce mountains and the roaring Pacific Ocean, this place exists almost in a fiery oasis. 

Lake Pehoé, Torres del Paine
Guanaco grazing in Torres del Paine

Caught in the middle of one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, Torres Del Paine offers fantastic trekking for those of all abilities in two famous trails, the W and O, and rolls with serene forest and calm waters. Far from the endless expanse of Argentina, this relative enclave is full of riches for explorers and thrill-seekers alike.

Landscapes: Argentina

Beautiful view of Mount Fitz Roy on the Laguna de los Tres trail

While Argentinian Patagonia may not have that one site that catches every photographer’s eye, the region matches Chile easily with its vast scale encompassing a rush of urgent steppe that reaches from the Atlantic Coast to the foothills of the Andes. A well-planned day can begin at the foot of a towering glacier, hearing the earth-shattering crack of ice calving from its face and into the steel blue waters, and end at the edge of the Patagonian desert, watching penguins frolic and whales breach.

Perito Moreno Glacier

The Glaciers National Park (Los Glaciares National Park) is the most distinctive of Argentinian Patagonia’s many treasures, with the famous Perito Moreno Glacier at its very heart. In fact, no trip to Patagonia is complete without a trekking expedition along this glacier. Only when you are atop this great caravan of ice drawing down from the mountain ice fields do you feel the isolation and surreal beauty of walking through a city painted in the Albiceleste of the Argentine flag by whorls of ice and snow.

Trekking in Perito Moreno

These two vastly different shapes of wilderness are what make Patagonia so beautiful, and a trip here is incomplete without experiencing both. Argentina and Chile may be constantly bickering about wine, football, language, poetry, politics (and everything in between), but the truth is that they complement one another, and nowhere is this more evident than in Patagonia.

This Consultant’s Highlight: The solitary beauty found on horseback above Estancia La Peninsula, across the water from Puerto Bories.

Hotels: Argentina

EOLO, El Calafate

In Argentina, there is comfort to be found in even the most rugged and authentic hacienda experiences. By eschewing a traditional hotel stay, any traveller will benefit by getting far off the beaten track and onto one of the many estancias that dot the vast landscape of Argentinian Patagonia.

Estancia La Maipu, a family-owned sheep ranch dating back almost a century, is accessible only by a long lonely stretch of gravel road cutting its way through the landscape and winding up to the lodge. In this simple but beautiful hacienda perched above rolling lenga forests, sweeping steppe and the sawtooth peaks of the Andes, you can get the lay of the land from the perspective of a true gaucho. Eat home-cooked freshly caught trout from the plancha, ride horses through the craggy land in search of condors, and hike the wilderness at the world’s edge.

Hotels: Chile

The Singular Patagonia

While Argentina boasts EOLO, one of the most prestigious estancias in the country, it’s hard to beat Chilean Patagonia for luxury and style. The fascinating Singular Patagonia doubles as a museum and artifact of Chilean industrial history. It also serves some of the most delicious food in the region, with locally caught wild hare and fresh crab as two unmissable meals.

Explora Patagonia

Within the Torres Del Paine National Park, Explora Patagonia is unmatched in its location. Stay here and you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Paine Massif from your room, as well as close access to the lakes, hiking trails and glaciers that form the jewel of Chile’s natural highlights.

Awasi Patagonia

The crown, however, is usually claimed by Awasi Patagonia, a clutch of fourteen luxury villas located on a private reserve just outside the park. With private tours (from puma trekking to fly fishing) curated by your own personal experts at the height of their professions, this remarkably located slice of luxury vies with the best as one of the finest hotels on the continent. 

This Consultant’s Pick: The Singular Patagonia

Connecting the two

Without a doubt, the most breathtaking way to connect Argentinian and Chilean Patagonia is to take a cruise around Cape Horn from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, or vice versa, and tame the waters of the Land of Fire. The Australis four-night cruise through the fjords explores the very end of the world from the staggering ice walls of Glacier Alley to the uncompromising vistas of the Cape Horn National Park.

If you don’t have the extra nights to spare, you can take the winding road north from Puerto Natales across the Andes and through the boundless desert to El Calafate, where the flatlands erupt into mountains and bare earth into forests.

Travellers’ Notes

You could travel the length and breadth of Argentina and Chile for months and barely scratch the surface of what the two countries offer to the intrepid traveller, wine connoisseur, sophisticated city-break seeker or wildlife lover. Patagonia alone warrants weeks of exploration. But for an in-depth exploration of the area on an Ultimate Travel Expedition, I recommend spending four nights in Torres Del Paine, four nights in El Calafate (connected by a cruise) and a couple of nights exploring the Tierra Del Fuego National Park outside Ushuaia. 

Unless, of course, the end of the world is not far enough for you, in which case, across the waters of the Drake Passage, you can explore the great white south of the world, Antarctica

 

Get in touch with Jacob to start planning your bespoke Patagonian adventure.