The sparsely populated Patagonia region, shared between Argentina and Chile, is like nowhere else on earth. Truly incredible steppe landscapes, ice fields and mountain ranges, whales and the Welsh – a trip to Argentinian Patagonia is one you won’t forget in a hurry.
Spellbinding Los Glaciares National Park, reached via the gateway town of El Calafate, is a must: trek on the awesome Perito Moreno glacier, the world’s only advancing glacier, and watch giant blocks of ice crash into the water. An incredible expanse of lakes, ice and mountains, including the well-known Mount Fitzroy, Los Glacieres is astoundingly beautiful, and the area attracts many trekkers keen to explore this remote corner of South America. Los Cerros above the town of El Chalten is a trekkers’ paradise.
The Valdes Peninsula on the north-eastern corner of Patagonia is home to a huge array of wildlife, including penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, and whales. There’s also, unexpectedly enough, a Welsh community dating back to 1865, which as part of a conscious effort to establish a Welsh-speaking diaspora away from the influence of the English language. It worked, after a fashion, and Welsh speakers across Gaiman, Trevelin and Trelew number in the thousands. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, the Valdes Peninsula is a haven for anyone who enjoys seeing animals in their natural habitat; southern right whales visit from June to November, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot beaching orcas from December to April.
Just off the Patagonian coast lies Tierra del Fuego, a desolate island group with a rugged and barren beauty. The intended destination of many a doomed expedition during the Age of Discovery, this was long something of an icon of frontiersmanship and exploration. The main island, Isla Grande, lives up to its name and is the biggest island in South America; the city of Ushuaia, ‘the end of the world’, is the departure port for trips to Antarctica. Catamaran tours depart from Ushuaia into the Beagle Channel, where you’ll spot sea lions, the little-understood pygmy right whale, and a diverse array of bird life – you’ll also visit the remote Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, made famous by Jules Verne.