The end of the earth

Patagonia isn't a country, a geopolitical region, or a state. If anything, it's more a state of mind; its identity disputed, its borders contested.

The story behind the name is also unknown. Some say the explorer Magellan, on his 1520 voyage, saw a giant 'naked and dancing, jumping and singing' and that he christened him Patagoni, in homage to the literary giant of Primaleon. Others say it comes from Pata gao - Portugese for big foot....

Indeed, this wilderness of glacier-carved mountains and endless plains, captured the imagination of everyone from Darwin to Chatwin.

Our tours explore the pioneer's Patagonia, staying on beautiful estancias, and we always opt to take the road less travelled, be it by jeep or horseback.

The Torres del Paine massif on a rare blue sky day

Of course, no trip to Patagonia would be complete without a hike at either Paine in Chile or Fitz Roy in Argentina. Mountainous rivals, both places vy for a top spot in the list of South America's most dramatic places, and harbour some of mountaineering's most sought after prizes.

Estancia Los Toldos, by the UNESCO Protected Cave of the Painted Hands

East of the mountains, the gaucho steppe country spreads out under vast skies. This is the real Patagonia, and although wild and bleak, is the often the place that captures the imagination most powerfully. It had a lifelong pull on Darwin, who as an old man reminisced; 'In calling up images of the past, I find the plains of Patagonia frequently cross before my eyes'.

This attraction is just as powerful today, so little has life here changed.

For two sample itineraries exploring Patagonia, check out our deep south and volcano lands trips.

 

 

The region in yellow defines the original 'Kingdom of Patagonia'.

Mataguanco, a bright red burst of colour on the plains

On Valdez, a Southern Right Whale breaches dramatically

A traditional Patagonian asado should always be lamb.