Located at the southernmost tip of South America and spanning across portions of Chile and Argentina lies Patagonia, a land full of sprawling snow-capped mountains, lush flora and fauna, icy lakes and glaciers, and countless penguins and other wildlife. Sail around the pristine inlets and waterways in Tierra del Fuego and through the Strait of Magellan. Look in awe across the rough waters of the Drake Passage. Hear the low groaning and creaking of towering glaciers, and maybe witness large chunks of ice detaching and falling down to the waters below. Patagonia is full of natural treasures, fascinating beauty and exciting adventures that will entice travelers alike.
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- Destinations: Patagonia
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There are a handful of outstanding glaciers that are must-sees in Patagonia. The Pia Glacier settles in Tierra del Fuego along the Chilean Patagonia coast embedded within the Darwin Mountain Range. Listen closely, and you may here the creaking of ice move -- or even witness one of the large ice chunks fall into the water below! Regarded as one of Chile’s most beautiful glaciers, the Garibaldi Glacier is only one of three glaciers in Patagonia that is continuously growing. The Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, spans across over 120 square miles, and is still growing! This glacier is another in Patagonia that is continuously growing, over 6 feet per day. While not one of the most famous of the Patagonian Glaciers, the Águila Glacier is still a beautiful sight to see! This massive piece of ice is situated at the end of a calm lagoon and surrounded by towering mountains.
- Cape Horn
Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition, Cape Horn is a 1,394-foot high rocky headland overlooking the Drake Passage, marking where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. This lookout point was named after the Netherlands' West Friesland town of Hoorn. Cape Horn was often referred to as the "End of the Earth" as it stands as the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile. and was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. Cape Horn used to be a major trading route where ships would travel from around the world carrying their traded goods. The waters surrounding Cape Horn, Drake Passage, are especially rough due to strong winds and currents, bulky icebergs and massive waves.
Gauchos, or Argentine cowboys, are skilled horse riders, outdoorsmen and hunters that frequent estancias (ranches). These gauchos have a reputation dating back years ago of being brave, generous and unruly men. The gaucho stands as a national symbol mainly in Argentina and Uruguay. Gauchos emerged during the War of Independence as rural men took advantage of their incredible horse riding skills and knowledge of the land to provide support to the patriots in war. They played a vital role in the war, and though the war ended in 1818, the gauchos still remained legends. Today, gauchos have created a new industry of tourism. Travelers can visit estancias and learn about the way of life of gauchos. Just like in the olden days, gauchos still muster cattle, brand horses, and sheer sheep today.
Often referred to as the world's most southernmost city, Ushuaia is the most important city on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Situated on a steep hill, Ushuaia overlooks the Beagle Channel and is surrounded by the snow-capped Martial Mountains. Since this city is located at the southern most tip of Argentina, it serves as the ultimate gateway to Antarctica cruises and tours to "Penguin Island", Isla Yécapasela. Back in the early twentieth century, the Argentinians started to recognize Ushuaia as a city when it was decided to build a prison upon its grounds. In fact, Ushuaia's "first settlers" were the prisoners themselves! Today, the prison stands as a museum, and Ushuaia is regarded as a tourist city with an international airport included and the closest deep-water port to the Antarctic.
- Magellanic penguins
Named after the explorer, Ferdinand Magellan, whose crew first discovered these small birds back in 1520, the Magellanic penguins are a South American breed located in coastal Argentina and Chile, with some migrating north to Brazil. The Magellanic penguins are the largest example of the Spheniscus (the genus that also includes Galapagos, Humboldt, and African penguins). It is common to find an enormous amount of penguin colonies on Magdalena Island, located between Tierra del Fuego and the mainland of Chile. With over 3,600,000 Magellanic penguins throughout the world, there are an estimated 1.7 million pairs of them that make Patagonia their home for at least part of the year. These penguins flock together when they hunt for food, and can live an average of up to 25 years in the wild.
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The best time to visit Patagonia is from October to March, which is the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Even in these months the weather can be unpredictable and you may experience the legendary Patagonian winds. In April, though the temperatures drop, you will be able to admire the intense colors of the foliage. Average temperatures in the summer range from lows in the 30s to highs in the 60s. The best strategy is to wear layers that you can take on and off as the changing weather may warrant.
The Patagonian steppes are known for beef and lamb, which are staples of Patagonian cuisine. While near the coast, don't miss an opportunity to savor the King Crab, a true Patagonian delicacy.
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