Patagonia

December 1, 2014


Patagonia


Patagonia

Patagonia is a large region in the southern part of Argentina and Chile and renowned among hikers for its ethereal beauty. Within Patagonia, Él Calafate and Él Chalten are two popular towns on the Argentinian side, the former as a base for visiting the Perito Moreno glacier and the latter for its proximity to several gorgeous trails leading to lakes and high peaks.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

In Chile, Torres del Paine national park is synonymous with Patagonia and attracts thousands of visitors from around the globe. While I was there in November 2014, one intrepid traveler from China showed up there speaking neither English nor Spanish or any language except for her native Mandarin. Somehow it all worked out, thanks to accommodating park officials.

The parts of Patagonia I mentioned above will remind seasoned hikers of Denali National Park or the Yukon and even of Banff and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. But here one does not have to ascend steep trails to be amid snow-capped peaks or to view turquoise-colored lakes and waterfalls. Altitude is not a problem either. In Torres del Paine a gentle stroll from the parking lot is all it takes to be amid almost unbelievable splendor.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

Patagonia

The two famous parks in Patagonia - Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and Torres del Paine in Chile - may be too famous for their own good. I encountered a steady stream of people on the well-known trails on the Argentinian and Chilean side; hiking was very much a social activity.

Patagonia

Patagonia

Apart from its exceptional beauty, Patagonia is notorious for fierce winds. On a calm, sunny day, on a trail just outside of Él Chalten, sudden gusts of wind knocked me flat to the ground, sending my hat flying into the wilderness. I was better prepared the second time around: sensing the wind picking up, I turned my back towards to it and assumed a semi-crouch position, with feet squarely planted and pressing down. Even then, the wind lifted both my heels clean off the ground. Indeed, the wind was so fierce it skimmed water off nearby ponds and streams and, even though I was several yards away from the water, I could feel the sting when the moisture slammed against my face and eyes.

Patagonia is one of the most beautiful places in the world and Argentina and Chile are well aware of it. Park rangers in both countries understandably take a firm line with visitors, requiring them to attend brief orientation lectures in which they emphasize the do’s and don’ts of their treasured parks.