Continuing south from the Chilean Lake District, we took the car ferry from Puerto Montt to step into the vast wilderness of Patagonia. Our objective was to avoid air travel as much as possible, and to immerse ourselves in the changing landscapes and climates – from the surprisingly lush (and wet) temperate rainforests of Patagonia Verde in the north, to Parque Patagonia and the Patagonian steppe, across to the Argentine Patagonia of El Chalten and El Calafate (skirting the desert of Ruta 40), then dropping further south to explore Torres del Paine, including Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, before finishing at the “end of the world” in Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego national park.
In total, we completed a 4,300 km road trip (from Santiago de Chile) in four weeks that included 15 hikes, several glaciers, ice bergs, mountain peaks and many, many forests. This also included an extraordinary number of accessible wildlife: Andean condors, curacura (similar to a falcon), Chilean flamingoes, guanacos (a local llama), scarlet-headed Magellan woodpeckers, grey geese, hares and foxes.
The changes in landscape, eco-systems and climate were dynamic: and there are many different types of rain in Patagonia, a local feature. And while Patagonia Verde was practically dense jungle and could be mistaken for the Amazon, the parks further south became progressively more remote and intolerant, with deciduous beech forests giving way to moorlands, grasslands and alpine landscapes. Two plants to look out for are the burgundy-red berries of the Calafate bush (making a local variation on the ubiquitous Pisco Sour), and the graceful “nothofagus antarctica” tree elegantly shaped by the Patagonian winds.
Carretera Austral from Puerto Montt to Coyhaique
Carretera Austral from Coyhaique to Cochrane & Chile Chico
Ruta 40 from Los Antiguos to Paso Casas Viejas
Torres del Paine
Ruta 9 – Ruta del Fin del Mondo – Puerto Natales – Parque Nacional Torres del Paine
Tierra del Fuego
Punta Arenas – Strait of Magellan – Ushuaia – Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego – Beagle Channel