It’s the end of the world, and it has a grip on many people’s imagination: Patagonia.
My Mom and I traveled there for four nights. We flew from Santiago to Punta Arenas (4 hrs). Punta Arenas is two hours by plane north of Antarctica. From there we took a five hour shuttle to our hotel in Torres del Piene national park.
Torres del Paine is a park that contains glaciers, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, island formations, giant rocks. There are dozens of possible excursions within the park: hikes through treacherous terrain en route to a massive glacier; a gentle horseback ride through green grass fields; a stroll around a still lake and through fields of lupines (flowers).
The sights are stunning, of course.
On our first full day we hiked to the French Valley. It was in total an 8.5 hour hike, at times through fierce wind and pelting rain. We ate lunch on some rocks and watched an avalanche on the glacier in front of us. I didn’t have waterproof hiking boots so my feet got soaked and that was a downer. But we felt adventurous, and now we can tell people that we hiked through fierce wind and pelting rain en route to a glacier, so all is well.
On our second day we ate Chilean barbecue (delicious) near Laguna Azul, and then walked around the lake. It was a gentle day as we were still recovering from yesterday’s long journey.
On our third day we explored a different part of the park. It looked very much like Yosemite at times, and at other times like the Marin Headlands. We ascended a tall mountain and enjoyed views of all of the park. So beautiful. It was a five hour hike in total.
Bottom line on Patagonia: It’s very beautiful. The diversity of sights you can see is impressive. Downsides: You pay a premium for the “brand” of Patagonia and the sights are not unlike those you can see in the Southwest U.S. The glaciers are massive and some of the views one-of-a-kind, but the overall feeling didn’t seem totally different from other places. Nevertheless, I highly recommend Chilean Patagonia if you are in South America.