Penguins in Chilean Patagonia

Penguins in Patagonia

Penguins in Patagonia

We recently spent a week in Patagonia, which is our usual vacation time, and thought we’d share some of the highlights of our trip, as well as tips for other travellers to the region. Travellers generally try to cram too much into each trip, which results in their minds getting so overloaded with info that it can’t process it all. This makes for much less memorable trips. On the other hand you don’t want to spend too long in the same place and take the lazy man’s approach to travelling. We try to strike a balance between the two, and here’s how we did so in Chile. Our trip to Chile began in earnest in late February, as we hopped aboard a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Ushuaia. Our trip began right around the time the busy season ends, which is the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, December, January, and February, and just before all the March Break travellers. Coming at this time of the year is perfect for getting discounts on your travel related expenses. By saving the extra money, you can also use flights to travel around regions, and not have to rely on time consuming bus travel, which can take literally days in some cases. It might be nice to see some countryside, but believe me, it gets old after the first dozen hours. So we began in Ushuaia, tucked into the Beagle Channel, and the largest city in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina. It’s considered the southernmost city in the world, which is why many visitors come here, as well as for it being the port of many ships heading out to Antarctica.

Isla Magdalena

Isla Magdalena

The island actually used to be a penal colony, where Argentine prisoners were sent, much like the British with Australia. As much as we wanted to take the 10 day cruise to Antarctica, it was out of our price range. We stayed in a great little hostel near the town’s edge here called La Posta. The location wasn’t great, but we actually weren’t all that impressed with the downtown area anyway, as it’s heavily populated by expensive tourist shops and restaurants. We walked around the town for our first day there, then spent the next day hiking in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, another popular travellerdestination. Our last day here saw us hike up into the mountains and glaciers behind the city, which gave us a great view over the city, harbour, and sea beyond. While this city was an interesting stop, we wouldn’t recommend coming here unless you’re here for a boat out, in which case you could spend a nice day or two exploring the area before your trip. From Ushuaia we had to travel 12 hours by bus to Punta Arenas. It’s only 200 km from Ushuaia, but a ferry crossing is necessary, accounting for the additional time. This is the perils of bus travel as I mentioned, though the sights were nice, especially the river crossing on which we got to see some river dolphins. In most cases if you’re flying into the southern region of Patagonia, you would just go straight to Punta Arenas, which also has an airport.

Lago Grey

Lago Grey

Punta Arenas, Chile is a great city, which we enjoyed much more than Ushuaia. We mainly wanted to see the penguins on Isla de Magdelena, and took a tour out there, and this was the highlight of thetrip for us. An hour on an island teeming with 100,000+ penguins, all of whom go about their routines without a care in the world that a bunch of people on a boat have just shown up. The penguins were so cute, and watching them was such a pleasure, I really could’ve stayed there all day and just watched. After the trip to Isla de Magdelena, and another day spent touring around Punta Arenas, we were off to Puerto Natales a few hours northwest by bus. This of course is one of the points of entry or exit for the famous W trek, which takes about 4 or 5 days to do in its entirety. We didn’t have that much time, but did spend a couple of days hiking around the Torres del Paine National Park, returning afterwards to Puerto Natales to continue onwards. Since we couldn’t hike the whole trail, we took a shuttle service on the first day, which zips you around to many of the major sites in the park. The tour we took brought us to the Grey Glacier, the French Valley, and the Torres among others. One of the most notable things we noticed while here was the ferocious wind, which we’d heard about in many accounts of the region.

It’s truly horrendous at times, and becomes a battle just to walk a few feet while fighting it. They should advertise this region as a great way for people to loseweight. Try walking in that wind for just a hundred meters at its worst and you’re getting a great workout. With only two days here, it was nice that the sun sets so late, giving you plenty of daytime to explore the park. After this we were back to the city, and the ending days of our journey in Patagonia. We spent just one week here, but felt like we had the perfect experience of seeing and doing things, while resting and enjoying the sights. We’ll have fond memories of this trip in the future, and wish anyone else travelling to the region the same success.