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Beagle Channel cruise
If you visit Ushuaia, it is a definite must to cruise the Beagle Channel, and there are plenty of agencies at the port which offer sailing trips. It is beautiful to see the town from the sea flanked by snowcapped mountains / glaciers, and the many small islands inhabited by sea lions, penguins and lots of different bird species. You can also go ashore on several of the small islands and observe nature and wildlife up close. In the middle of one of the other small islands, Faro del Fin del Mundo is located. It is a famous lighthouse, that sailors throughout time have used to navigate by in the surrounding dangerous waters of Drake Passage and the Magellan Strait. Besides enjoying the area's rawness and beauty, it is a very special feeling to sail at world's end - literally.
Cueva de las Manos
If you happen to be travelling on Ruta 40, consider a stop at these magnificent cave paintings, or better said, ancient stencils of hands. The well-preserved paintings are on a rock face and were made over 9000 years ago. Most likely, the hands were made by the Tehuelche people, also known as Patagons. They were known as very tall people which you can notice by the size of the hand prints. Most of the prints are of left hands, probably because the paint was sprayed using a bone tube which was held in their right hand. Apart from the hundreds of hands, there are also a few paintings of guanacos and some other animals.
Horseback riding in Patagonia
Near El Chaltén
There is ample opportunity to rent horses in many parts of Patagonia – either alone but for the most part with a guide. In El Chaltén, for example, there are several ranches that offer half and full day excursions in the area. You can go riding on the Argentinian pampas with experienced guides and relatively calm horses. Both tours for experienced riders and beginners are offered, but you should be aware that safety is not a big priority here (no riding helmets and virtually no instructions). On the other hand, it is great to ride on the wide plains alongside herds of sheep, rivers, and with beautiful mountains in the background.
Mt. Fitz Roy
Los Glaciares National Park
Situated way down south on the Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the village of El Chaltén popular amongst hikers, campers and adventurers as a gateway to the Los Glaciares National Park. Stopping in at the ranger’s station close to the entrance of town, visitors can obtain a photocopied map of the national park and venture out by themselves on a number of day trip and overnight hiking trails. Don’t let the photocopied map on an A4 piece of paper discourage you as the trails are well marked and most lead to the same spot at the camp close to Mt. Fitz Roy. The mountain is the tallest in the area, standing at 3,375 m which is small by South American standard’s. It does however create a challenging walk for climbers taking the windy route to the glacial pool situated at the base of the mountain.
Patagonian Highway (Ruta 40)
National Route 40, RN40, Patagonia
National Route 40, or just Ruta 40, is more than 5000 km long and just one of these classic routes of the Americas. Nowadays a large part of it is paved so the trip might not be as rough and romantic as it once used to be but still, it's a great way to travel from Northern to Southern Patagonia. It gives you a better idea of how vast Patagonia actually is. The classic part of Ruta 40 is between Bariloche and El Chalten, roughly 1300 kilometres long and takes about two days. There is just no end to the infinite sceneries with hills, mountains, lakes and sometimes a farm with sheep or guanacos. The halfway point where many people end up staying overnight is Perito Moreno, an insignificant town not to be confused with the glacier that bears the same name further South.
All over Patagonia
The region of Patagonia (Argentina & Chile) is generally known for its amazing meat - not the least lamb. In the major steakhouses, you often see whole lamb "strung up" on round bonfire / barbecues in the windows. It looks somewhat grotesque and a little macabre, but it tastes fantastic, and the barbecue method makes it very tender. If you are in the region, it is a must to taste one of the specialties - "Patagonian lamb" - which is always accompanied by a very (too) sweet sauce.
Isla Martillo near Ushuaia
Approximately a half hour’s drive from Ushuaia, you can sail out from the small village of Estancia Harberton to the protected penguin colony Isla Martillo. There are two different species on the island - small black and white Magellan penguins and Gentoo penguins, that have orange beaks and feet. Here, you are lucky to get unusually close (maybe too close) to both penguins on the beach, and while they nest their eggs. Magellan penguins nest their eggs in small caves, while Gentoo penguins lie on open nests. If you are at Estancia Harberton anyway, you can visit the small and old-fashioned naval museum with different mammal skeletons - both inside and outside the building.
Perito Moreno Glacier
El Calafate, Patagonia
Braving the cold environment and the bitter wind of Southern Patagonia, the small town known as El Calafate is named after the small purple, edible berry found in the region. It is popular amongst hikers, walkers and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts (evident by the large amount of Land Rover Defenders) and due to its vicinity with the southern Andes, people flock to El Calafate to catch a glimpse of the giant Perito Moreno Glacier, which is one of the most active and accessible glaciers in the world. Fragments of the glacier brake off every hour creating a thunder through the valley and a popular sight with tourists standing at the ready with cameras rolling. The boardwalk system devised by the Argentines is first class allowing visitors to see the whole leading edge of the glacier from the safety of the opposing hillside.
Ushuaia - the end of the world
Tierra del Fuego
Ushuaia, located in the province of Tierra del Fuego, is the world's southernmost city. About 100,000 people live in the city, and it is from here that you sail south, if you want to travel to Antarctica. Ushuaia is an old prison colony, and you can still visit the city jail, now a museum. Besides the museum, there are plenty of activities such as trekking in the nearby national park, hiking in the mountains/glaciers behind town (you can take a ski lift up there all year round), horse riding and sailing. The city also has a lot of restaurants and you simply have to taste their delicious fresh king crab and beaver carpaccio, which are some of the area's specialties.
The Southern part of Chile has a very rugged coastline full of fjords. Within Chile there are not that many roads to travel between Central and Southern Patagonia so a great way to cover this distance is by taking the Navimag Ferry between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt. This three-day trip is a truly fantastic journey! You are treated with amazing scenery of volcanoes, snowy mountains, glaciers and whales - all if weather permits of course. If you get bored, there are lectures about the environment and bingo nights. This ferry is a combination between a basic cruise ship and a cargo ferry. Cheapest is to take dorm-style berths that are actually quite comfortable but you can move more upscale to private huts with bathroom. Even if it is all quite comfortable, the smell of manure from the cows that are being transported on the lower deck reminds you that it is also a cargo ship.