Top 10 Patagonia Attractions

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Top 10 Patagonia Attractions

Those dramatic, snow-capped peaks of the Torres del Paine make any avid hiker or adventure traveler long for Patagonia. With its 256 million acres, there are mountains, glaciers and icefields, plains and pampas and miles of rugged coastline. There are penguins and whales, sea lions and condors. There are sleepy villages where the friendly townspeople are eager to share their wilderness secrets. Carve out as much time as you can for this epic adventure-filled destination.
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1. Torres del Paine National Park
Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts dream of the snowy, granite peaks, massive glaciers, lakes, rivers and pampas of this epic park in southern Chile. It’s the best of Patagonia, all in one stunning package. You’ll glimpse unfettered Argentinean wildlife, including pumas, guanacos, condors and huemules as you hike some of the many trails, including the famous “W” and “O” backpacking circuits through the park.
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2. Los Glaciares National Park
Don’t leave Patagonia – it would be hard to, anyway – without marveling at a glittering glacier. Here in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Argentina, you’ll come face to face with Perito Moreno. The glacier – one of the last surviving glaciers in the world – measures 97 square miles. Don some crampons and traverse the ice field or watch from a nearby viewing platform as huge chunks of ice calve into the water.
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3. El Chalten
El Chalten will serve as your jumping-off point if you’re planning to trek in the Cerro Torre or Cerro Fitz Roy, or on the Viedma glacier. Local adventure specialists are eager to meet international hikers who want to attempt the well-marked trails in the region, ranging from three hours to full-day hikes. They’ll give you all the guidance you like and offer accompaniment if you wish. There are plenty of options for horseback riding in the Rio de las Vueltas valley, biking, rafting, ice climbing and more.
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4. Nahuel Huapi National Park
Visit Argentina’s oldest and largest national park, with a grand total of nearly two million acres. Take a road trip through the park to take advantage of its mountains, lakes, rivers and beaches, starting in Bariloche. The park’s namesake lake, Nahuel Huapi (in the Argentine Lake District) is a mesmerizing milky blue, a result of glacial runoff. Spend a day here sailing amongst the lake’s small islands or sunbathing on its scenic shores.
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5. Bariloche/Lake District
Speaking of Bariloche, this well-connected, European-style resort town – and the largest ski resort in South America – is a great outdoor destination year-round and the center of the Argentine Lake District. Snow sports enthusiasts flock here each winter, while summertime means a mountain paradise for hikers and climbers in the snow-capped peaks. There are seven lakes in the area – spend one or two days exploring all of them. Perhaps the best time to visit this region is November or March, when the crowds have thinned and the Andes views are as picture-perfect as always.
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6. Ushuaia
It’s not every day you can send a postcard home from the world’s southernmost city. Try to fit in a trip to Ushuaia, at the tip of the country’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago, otherwise known as “The End of the World.” Antarctica-bound travelers depart from here on their way to the White Continent 620 miles south. Explore Tierra del Fuego National Park, which boasts miles of trails winding their way through sub-Antarctic forests, glaciers and mountains. While you’re here, meet the resident penguins of Martillo Island and be sure to splurge on fresh-as-it-gets cuisine, like Fuegian lamb and king crab.
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7. Puerto Madryn
Experience some of the world’s best whale-watching at Puerto Madryn in Patagonia. Southern right whales migrate to the warm waters along the Golfo Nuevo, Golfo San Jose and Caleta Valdes coastline to breed from June to mid-December. There are plenty of outfitters providing whale-watching trips, ranging from an hour and a half to all day. The Valdes peninsula itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to sea lions, elephant seals and a huge variety of seabirds.
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8. Cueva de las Manos
Step back in time – way back – at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands). The rock art at this significant cultural site dates back to 7370 BC and covers the surfaces of rock walls with human hand imprints (believed to belong to the predecessors of the Teheulche tribe), images of guanacos and ostriches and abstract designs. There are free guided walks each hour.
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9. Camarones
Penguins, penguins and more penguins! The sleepy seaside village of Camarones is the closest town to the Cabo Dos Bahias nature reserve. You’ll feel as if you have the place all to yourself as you wander along empty beaches and get to know the friendly townsfolk. Hiking, fishing, diving, farm visits, photo safaris and more can all be arranged. The highlight of your Camarones visit, though, will be your time at the Cabo Dos Bahias rookery, home to thousands of penguin couples and their fluffy chicks. You’ll likely also see fur seals, sea lions, foxes, guanacos, rheas, orcas and other whales during the winter months.
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10. Atlantic Patagonia
East of the Argentine Lake District and above Southern Patagonia, the Atlantic Patagonia region is home to cute Welsh villages like Trelew and Gaiman and wildlife sanctuaries like Punta Tombo. It’s worth the trip – 154 miles south of Puerto Madryn – to meet the Magellanic penguins who wander along the shoreline of the reserve. Of the villages in Atlantic Patagonia, the quietest is Trelew. Pop into traditional teahouses, attend Eisteddfod, a Welsh literature and music festival and visit the Egidio Feruglio Museum of Paleontology.
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Bonus Destination: El Calafate
Move over, mountains. Argentina boasts impressive pampas, or plains, as well. Stay in one of several lodges found in this massive valley and you’ll be treated to outstanding views of the Andes in the distance. While you’re here, visit Perito Moreno glacier’s littler sisters, Upsala and Spegazzini – both impressive in their own right. For the best views, take a boat tour around Lago Argentino. To learn more about the natural history of the region, including the pampas and the glacier, visit the town’s Centro de Interpretacion Historica.

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