Patagonia: South America's land of extremes

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The film 'Patagonia', released this week, will bring this remote wilderness to the big screen – and inspire adventurous travellers says Lucy E Cousins



What's the attraction?



Patagonia is an area at the southern cone of Argentina and Chile, which covers around 300,000 square miles.



It is dotted with deep blue lakes, white glaciers, endless grassy plains, long-forgotten roads and some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.



The immense space, dramatic ice fields and mountainous scenery have attracted travellers for centuries – Charles Darwin travelled through here in the 1830s, outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid bought a remote Patagonian cattle farm 70 years later and more recently, Bruce Chatwin's travel novel, In Patagonia, was set among the plains.



This Friday, Patagonia's dramatic landscape hits the big screen with the release of the eponymous movie starring Duffy and Matthew Rhys.





Fly me there



From the end of this month, non-stop flights from Heathrow to Buenos Aires resume with British Airways (0844 493 0787; www.ba.com); at present services touch down in Sao Paulo. Direct flights between London and Chilean capital, Santiago, have been abandoned, but there are connections on Iberia (0870 609 0500; www.iberia.com/gb) from Heathrow via Madrid. Aerolinas Argentinas (0800 0969 747; www.aerolineas. com.ar), LanChile (0800 977 6100; www.lan.com) and regional LADE ( www.lade.com.ar) operate internal flights. Air gateways into Patagonia itself are Bariloche, San Martí* de los Andes, Trelew (in Argentinean Patagonia) and Punta Arenas (in Chilean Patagonia).





Extreme Measures



What better way to experience the wild heart of Chile than plunging down the white-water rivers near the small border town of Futaleufu? Bio Bio Expeditions (001 530 582 6865; www.bbxrafting.com) runs nine-day tours from December to March that incorporate rafting, kayaking, yoga, mountain riding, horse riding and fishing. Prices start at US$3,100 (£2,065) per person, excluding flights but including accommodation in a riverside safari-style tent. Alternatively, take a deep breath, adjust your crampons and climb out along the icy ledge of the enormous Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina. This ice mass is over 19 miles in length and three miles wide. The Big Ice trek offered by Hielo y Adventura (00 54 2 902 492 205; www. hieloyaventura.com) from mid-September until the end of April will take you deep into the heart of it. Climb through ice crevasses and caves and enjoy magnificent views over a strenuous three-and-a-half hours. Prices start at 820 pesos (£125) per person, including national park entrance fee.



UK-based Swoop Travel (0117 369 0196; www.swoop-patagonia.co.uk) offers an array of adventurous options across the region, from kayaking to horse-riding and mountaineering.





White out



The mighty Andes form a rugged, if slightly off-centre, spine down the back of Patagonia, creating some of the best snow fields in the southern hemisphere. Cerro Catedral (00 54 2944 409 000; www.catedralaltapatagonia.com) has a season that runs from mid-June to early October and offers more than 70 miles of slopes, more than 50 runs and an array of jumps, rails and obstacles for boarders. The exclusive Cerro Castor (00 54 2901 499 301; www.cerrocastor.com) is the southernmost ski resort in the world, located in Tierra del Fuego at the continent's tip. A five-day ski pass starts at 378 pesos (£58). In Chile, Big Mountain Trips ( www.bigmountain-trips.com) runs heli-skiing adventures on unexplored Andean terrain.





Road trip?



Ruta 40 is Argentina's "mother road", and runs more than 3,000 miles from north to south. When it reaches Patagonia, it travels through miles of desolate, grassy steppe and is only fully accessible in the warmer months. Select Latin America (020-7407 1478; www.selectlatinamerica.co.uk) offers an eight-day trip called "Driving the Legendary Route 40".



The price of £1,442 includes accommodation, transport, most meals and all national park entrance fees, but excludes international flights. Journey Latin America (020-8747 8315; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk) has a 14-day "Argentina on the Road" trip for £2,125 per person, which includes trips to the region's lakes, the Perito Moreno Glacier, as well as a stay on a working ranch. Flights not included.





Hike and seek



After exploring the pristine Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, stay close to the torres (towers) at the luxurious Explora Hotel Salta Chico (00 56 2 395 2800; www.explora.com). It has an indoor pool, bathhouse, and Jacuzzi. Meals, including Magellanic lamb and southern king crab, will satisfy the hungriest hiker. Prices start at US$2,780 (£1,850) for four nights' full board, including a private guide and transfers.



Animal Kingdom



Península Valdés on Argentina's east coast is home to more than 1,000 fur seals, hundreds of sea lions, visiting southern right whales, herds of guanacos and more than 40,000 active Magellanic Penguin nests. See it and other local wildlife on World Expeditions' 18-day "Patagonia Parks and Wildlife" tour, which takes you from Tierra del Fuego to Puerto Madryn (the closest town to the peninsula). Prices from £2,990 include most meals, transfers, accommodation, guides and park entrance fees (020-8545 9030; www.worldexpeditions.co.uk).





What Google will tell you...



The town of Trevelin in the province of Chubut is the centre of Welsh culture in Patagonia. From organised irrigation methods and wheat production to Welsh tea houses and quaint B&Bs with rose gardens, Trevelin represents the hard work of its intrepid early settlers. A small group of Welsh immigrants, fleeing persecution in Europe, arrived in Puerto Madryn in 1865, then moved inland in search of arable land and potable water. They settled in the beautiful Chubut Valley, working the land and trading with indigenous tribes. The first flour mill in the area is now a fascinating museum; and don't miss the Casa de Te Nain Maggie tea house (00 54 2 945 480232; www.casadetenainmaggie.com





What Google won't tell you – until now



Despite what most guidebooks say, Patagonia is a year-round destination. Summer crowds at popular areas can be overwhelming and require early reservations and lots of planning. However, in spring and autumn there are fewer people, camping in Torres del Paine National Park isn't fully booked and most transport and accommodation options are still open. The weather can also be quite mild and pleasant. In winter, Patagonia's ski centres come alive and Perito Moreno Glacier looks magical covered in snow.





'Patagonia' is released on Friday

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England