Bucket List: Patagonia

Bucket List: Pictures of Patagonia

Where amazing vistas, welcoming wildlife, and natural wonders await. 

By Richard Varr

South America’s Patagonia region stretches from Chile’s Pacific Ocean fjords through Argentina’s mountainous terrain and to the crashing Atlantic Ocean surf. Along the way, mountaintop glaciers feed torrent waterfalls while waterside glacial walls collapse with dramatic splashes. Penguins waddle along rocky outposts and on rocky beaches. At the so-called “End of the World,” cruise boats launch from the bustling port of Ushuaia, Argentina — the world’s southernmost port — for excursions to Antarctica.

Rugged and wild, craggy mountains, chunky-ice glaciers, and milky glacial lakes dominate Patagonia’s windswept vistas, which you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Double rainbows hover over fjords flanked by forest-topped islands and sandy shores where elephant seals slumber. Mountain peaks pierce swelling gray cloud bands bursting with soft and driving rains. One tour guide once told me, “Patagonia can have four seasons in one day.”

Spending any time in this region of the world is time well spent. Here are my suggestions of what not to miss.

Cruising the Fjords

Seemingly countless waterways weave in and around jagged and leafy islands along Chile’s southern Pacific coastline. Ferries, tour boats, and fast-moving catamarans whisk sightseers across the fjords to Northern Patagonia’s wide-mouthed San Rafael Glacier and national park with the same name. Passengers often zip around blue-streaked icebergs on inflatable boats for a closer look.

More than 100 miles north in Queulat National Park, gliding across a glacial lake leads to the edge of Ventisquero Colgante, the Hanging Glacier. Inch closer by boat and feel cold downdrafts from the mountaintop’s ice field, from which water streams down like fingers gripping the mountainside. The rapidly receding glacier, now several miles from the shoreline, was nearly at the sea just 200 years ago.

Avenue of the Glaciers

Cruising Southern Patagonia’s fjords is like a history and geography lesson that follows the routes of naturalist Charles Darwin, Ferdinand Magellan, and Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Entering the Beagle Channel, named after the sloop HMS Beagle of Darwin’s early 19th-century journey, is…

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