Whether hiking, wildlife watching, mountain biking, horseback riding, kayaking or simply taking in the magnifi cent scenery, a journey to land’s end will stay with you forever...
South of the island of Chiloé is a wild, rugged, fractured coastline of fjords, glaciers, whitewater rivers, cobalt-coloured lakes, rain-drenched forests and lonely roads. The Carretera Austral (La Ruta 7), fast gaining ground as one of South America’s great highways – and fast acquiring a hard asphalt top, too – runs for more than 1,000km between Chaitén and Caleta Tortel. It has opened up, in dramatic style, one of the least populated, least discovered corners of South America. Parque Pumalín and the new Parque Patagonia protect precious habitats for puma, native huemul and pudú deer, as well as herds of guanaco. The fast-fl owing Río Baker and immense Lago General Carrera are two of the most mind-blowingly beautiful bodies of water on the planet.
Chilean Patagonia also includes Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego. The former is firmly established as one of the most popular natural wonderlands in the American continent and is ideal for hiking of all grades, glacier walks, camping (there are lodges if you like a soft bed) and wildlife watching, with condors wheeling high up off the peaks. On the fringes of the park you can do mountain biking, horse riding and kayaking. But the Paine massif can also be enjoyed from the comfort of a luxury property. Top choices are the Explora hotel inside the park and the new Singular hotel at Puerto Bories; alternatively, there’s the acclaimed eco-camp in the park, with its sustainable and very stylish geodesic domes, it certainly is camping at the glam end of the spectrum.
If you’ve come this far south, why not go all the way? Stop by in Punta Arenas to explore the human geography of this remarkable region. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, the city was one of the most important ports in the world, providing a stop-off on one of the main routes linking Europe and the east coast of America with California, Asia and Australasia. That heyday is long gone, but Punta Arenas remembers
its moment with some grand old buildings and museums, and the cemetery is well worth a visit to read the names of the settlers – from Britain, Yugoslavia, Germany and Scandinavia – who worked at the port or raised sheep on the many nearby estancias.
Sample itinerary A 14-night Patagonia group tour travels through four national parks in Chile and Argentina revealing the region’s distinct cultures and landscape.
‘Patagonia: Untouched Wilderness’ starts from £3,895. Call Cox & Kings for other itinerary ideas on 0845 619 6094.
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