In Patagonia, wilderness reigns. Stretching across the southernmost tip of Chile and Argentina, the ~400,000-square-mile area is a spellbinding region of rugged peaks, windswept grasslands, and coastal fjords. The region is also home to two icefields that together span 10,563 square miles and include more than 70,350 glaciers, some with walls reaching 300 feet high. Options for adventure abound. Hike through old-growth forests on the slopes of the Andes, mingle with thousands of Magellanic penguins on Isla Magdalena, or go on a puma-tracking trek in Torres del Paine. Just don’t miss out on the audiovisual thrill of hearing a tower of ice break off of a glacier and crash into the water.
Spend a few nights at Estancia Cristina, a former sheep ranch only accessible by boat. Built along Lago Argentino (Argentino Lake), in 1914, the ranch now has 20 guest rooms and offers a variety of outdoor activities, including horseback riding, mountain biking, and fishing in glacial lakes. But the biggest draw is the boat ride to see the 336 square mile Upsala glacier. On the way there, you’ll sail between craggy icebergs, some nearly a mile long.
Did you know? Lago Argentino has a milky gray-green hue due to “rock flour,” a white powder created by glaciers scraping against the ground as they move downhill.
To experience a glacier up close, clamp on some crampons and venture onto Perito Moreno, a 97-square-mile glacier and popular ice-trekking destination. Feel the crunch under your feet and marvel at the shimmering expanse. Then toast your trek with a whisky on the rocks. Tour operators often set up makeshift bars, where they pour drinks over freshly harvested glacier ice. If you want to delve further into the glacier, book one of the tours that takes you into its belly. Wander through ice tunnels and past deep blue pools as the behemoth sighs and rumbles around you.
Did you know? Perito Moreno is one of the only glaciers in the world that is advancing, growing an average of seven feet a day.
Located on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, El Calafate offers a respite from the wilderness. Named after the legendary (see Eat) calafate berry, the town’s quaint main street is dotted with shops selling calafate gelato, calafate liqueur, and calafate jam, as well as handmade wool ponchos dyed with the berry. Trekkers tired of trail mix can stock up on other creature comforts like artisanal alfajor cookies and chocolates, too. Before returning to the icefields, dinner and a glass of malbec at La Tablita is in order. The stalwart restaurant has been serving hungry hikers its famous spit-roasted lamb for 50 years.
Did you know? Just outside town, thirsty travelers can down a very cold cocktail at GlacioBar, the only bar in the world made out of glacial ice.
Covering around 1,000 square miles, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re a hardcore mountain climber or leisurely walker, the park has a trail for you. Head out on the 43-mile “W” Circuit for four or five days or opt for a day-long hike to the base of the park’s namesake peaks, where imposing walls of granite scrape the sky and a teal glacial lake shines below. As you explore the area, keep an eye out for wildlife, including pumas, llama-like guanacos, the ostrich-like reah, and flamingoes. After a day of adventure glamp at EcoCamp, a series of geodesic domes tucked among the beech trees. The tent-like structures keep guests snug while skylights let them gaze at the stars as they drift to sleep.
Did you know? Modeled after the huts of Patagonia’s nomadic Kawésqar people, EcoCamp’s domes can withstand 150-mile-per-hour winds.
Power up with mate, a hot tea made from yerba mate (a species of holly) leaves. The caffeine-rich tea is steeped in a hollowed gourd and sucked through a bombilla, or metal straw. Drinking mate is often a social ritual, and proper etiquette is not for germaphobes. If someone offers to share their mate with you, it’s considered rude to refuse or to wipe the straw first.
Did you know? Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, has numerous hot water filling stations so that residents can refill their thermoses for making mate on the go.
1. Starting with Ferdinand Magellan in the 1500s, European explorers reported that Patagonia was inhabited by ______ more than twice as tall as the average person.
2. Estancia Cristina was once home to ______ sheep, 30 cows, and some 50 horses.
3. In the mid-1800s, 150 people from ______ settled in Patagonia. The dialect that they eventually developed is still spoken by more than 5,000 of the region’s residents.
4. Glacial ice absorbs every color of the spectrum except ______.
5. Annual consumption of yerba mate in Argentina is around ______ pounds per person.
6. In 2013, the European Commission recognized ______ as the original home of pisco.
7. “Flowing” at a speed of over ______ miles per year, San Rafael is the fastest-moving glacier in Patagonia and among the fastest in the world.
8. In May 2015, 51-year-old German Freya Hoffmeister became the first person to ______ around South America.
9. Perito Moreno is the world’s third largest source of ______ ______.
10. Patagonia was once home to the largest ______ that ever walked the earth. The behemoth is thought to have weighed around 76 tons — or as much as a space shuttle.
Play answers: 1.giants 2. 12,000 3. Wales 4. blue 5. 22 6. Peru 7. 4 8. kayak 9. fresh water 10. dinosaur (or animal)
Our favorite foods to pair with Cocofloss
A trip to the tip of South America is no easy weekend getaway, but you can sip on a pisco sour, a favorite local cocktail, any day of the week. The frothy, citrusy beverage — made from pisco (a brandylike distilled wine), lemon or lime juice, sugar, and egg whites — has become popular around the world. Its official birthplace, however, is the source of a spirited rivalry between Peru and Chile. Just as France’s Champagne region is the only place that can rightfully make champagne, Chile claims a similarly specific provenance for pisco and the cocktail that bears its name. Unfortunately, so does Peru. Both countries have declared the concoction their national drink, and neither seems willing to back down.
Although the debate over its origins rages on, the drink is decidedly delicious. Follow this simple recipe and taste for yourself.
Did you know? The Patagonian twist on the cocktail includes the sweet tang ofcalafate berry juice. Indigenous to the area, the bluish-black fruit imbues the elixir with mythic powers as well: ingesting it purportedly ensures you’ll return to the region.
(Makes 1 cocktail)
Did you know? There isn’t really a word for lime in Chile, because limes aren’t grown or eaten there. Chileans often use a small green lemon called limón de pica in their pisco sours.
Hugged by the ocean on three sides and crisscrossed by fjords and glacial rivers, Patagonia is a perfect place to explore by kayak. Inland, paddlers can float through ice floes, get up close to glistening glaciers, and wind through deep canyons and evergreen forests. The coast offers a chance to see adorable Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, and the endangered southern right whales that come here to breed and nurse their young.
If there’s water where you are or where you’re headed, kayaking is a great way to experience areas you’d never reach on foot. As long as you won’t be tackling heavy rapids, a quick tutorial on how to paddle and water safety is normally all you need before you launch. The icing on the kayak cake: it’s great for your health, too.
Kayaking is a super powerful upper body workout. Most people average around 500 strokes per mile at a speed of three miles an hour. At that rate, you’ll execute a whopping 1,500 repetitions in an hour. That’s one powerful upper body workout!
Each stroke is like a mini-crunch. You engage your core every time you turn your torso to the side and push the paddle through the water.
Bobbing on the water may be much easier on the knees than pounding the pavement, but that doesn’t mean your legs don’t get a workout. To maneuver and stay balanced, you must frequently tighten and relax your leg muscles, too.
Intense cardio requires plenty of oxygen, and research has found that elite kayakers breathe more efficiently.
It’s easy to burn more than 350 calories an hour kayaking. Over the course of an afternoon outing, those spent calories really add up.
Getting out on the water elevates your mood and provides a sense of calm like few other activities. Studies have shown that being near water lowers stress and anxiety, increases an overall sense of well-being and happiness, and boosts creativity.
Submarine Smiles: The ocean is full of fearsome and fascinating grins. This issue, we cast our line into the water and reeled in some fishy facts.
Brain Freeze: Ever experience a sharp pain in your teeth after gulping down an icy drink? Well, don’t complain about it to a narwhal. Despite living in frigid Arctic waters, the unicorn of the sea’s “horn” is actually a super sensitive front tooth. The antenna-like tusk has 10 million nerve endings on its outer surface, and scientists speculate that it can detect changes in water pressure, temperature, and salinity.
Shark Bites: As powerful underwater predators, sharks don’t have the most dental-friendly diet. Many sharks lose around one tooth a week. Luckily, if one breaks off while they’re munching on crunchy fish bones, it’s quickly replaced — sometimes within only a day. While we’re stuck with a single set of adult chompers, some sharks replace more than 20,000 of their pearly whites during their lifetime.
Ring Around the Tooth: A dolphin’s age is hidden in its smile. The seemingly ageless marine mammals are born with one set of permanent teeth that continue to grow over the years. To determine how old a dolphin is, scientists count the growth rings inside a tooth, much like you’d count a tree’s rings.