A star-riddled sky and snarled grasses dwarf the rider on the steppe as his horse closes the gap on the horizon. In South America’s southern frontier, nature, long left to its own devices, grows wild, barren and beautiful. Spaces are large, as are the silences that fill them. For those who come here, an encounter with such emptiness can be as awesome as the sight of jagged peaks, pristine rivers and dusty backwater oases.
The paving of Ruta Nacional 40 (RN 40) is well under way, but it remains among the world’s loneliest stretches, a spellbinding road to nowhere that has stirred affection in personalities as disparate as Butch Cassidy and Bruce Chatwin. On the eastern seaboard, RN 3 shoots south, connecting oil boomtowns with the remains of ancient petrified forests, Welsh settlements and the spectacular Península Valdés. The map will tell you that Patagonia is a very large place, but motoring its distant horizons offers a whole other level of insight.
Then there is the other, trendy Patagonia: the tourist hubs studded with Ray-Ban shops and reggae bars, where you will meet a dozen other travelers before one local. El Calafate and El Chaltén boast spectacular sights, but they remain a world apart from the mythical RN 40.
Best places to stay in Patagonia
Chile & Easter Island - Southern Patagonia (Chapter)
Pounding westerlies, barren seascapes and the ragged spires of Torres del Paine – this is the distilled essence of Patagonia. The provinces of Magallanes and Última Esperanza boast a frontier appeal perhaps only matched by the deep Amazon and...
Top 10 things to throw yourself off
Have you had a good plummet lately? No? Well, if you'd like to add an adrenaline rush and an element of danger to your next trip, we've pulled together a list of ten of the best places around the world to enjoy the feeling of weightlessness you can only get from the perfect fling. Are you ready to take the plunge? 1...
Trekking in the Patagonian Andes - Southern Patagonia (Chapter)
This is the Southern Patagonia chapter from Lonely Planet's Trekking in the Patagonian Andes guidebook.
Named for the berry that, once eaten, guarantees your return to Patagonia, El Calafate hooks you with another irresistible attraction: Glaciar Perito Moreno, 80km away in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
Top 10 iconic travel experiences
Yoga in India, cooking in Vietnam - in this extract from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Experiences, we find those 10 iconic experiences that are as special as the place they're from. 1. Surfing in Hawaii, USA Learning to surf here is special...
Trekking in the Patagonian Andes
Our expert author has chosen the best of Patagonia's trekking, from the luxuriant rainforests of the Lakes District to the spectacular wildernesses of Tierra del Fuego. Whether you are an experienced trekker or a first-timer, you're sure to find...
Become an adventurer in the Patagonia Wilderness - one of the most remote and beautiful environments in the world. Visit the best of nature's attractions in Argentina before heading to Chile to marvel at the Patagonian wilderness.
End of the Earth
Perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to experience one of the world’s most pristine wilderness settings, this challenging two-week adventure packages the region’s essential highlights into one incredible journey. Explore Torres del Paine, encounter the Perito Moreno Glacier, and hike Glacier National Park.
10 things to do in Patagonia
Coastal treasures, ancient forests, dazzling glaciers and incredible wildlife - Patagonia's captured your imagination, but where do you start? We've cherrypicked a few Patagonian delights from the latest Argentina guidebook to get you started: 1...
Chile & Easter Island - Nothern Patagonia (Chapter)
For a century, Northern Patagonia has been the most rugged and remote part of continental Chile. Exuberant rainforest, scrubby steppe and unclimbed peaks crowd the horizon, but the essence of this place is water, from the clear cascading rivers...