The Magic of the South
Patagonia, simply put, is an indescribable-jaw-dropping-fairy-tale like paradise found on Earth. My adventurous soul awakened just at the mere thought of embarking to this remote region located at the southernmost tip of South America in search of thrill and change of scene. I was blown away! I just couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing! No pictures would do justice…so if you have the chance, I truly recommend embarking on this journey yourself and fully immerse and connect with nature. You will not be disappointed!
“Patagonia” had always had a connotation of a very far, far away place for me. In the Spanish language we use this term to describe something/someone that is very remote, I wasn’t even sure if this was actually a real place growing up. Fortunately, it is a real place on earth and it has the most magical landscapes.
How to get there:
- First you need to get to South America and fly to Punta Arenas, Chile.
- 3100 km from Santiago, Chile to Punta Arenas (~4 hr flight)
- Second: 254 km from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales (~2hr bus)
- Third: 112 km from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (road is 50% unpaved)
I went to the Chilean side of Patagonia but heard the Argentinian side is also worth the visit. Perito Moreno located on the Argentinian side of Patagonia is definitely on my bucket list 😉
When to visit:
The best time to visit is during the summer (November – January in the South Hemisphere) but either way the weather can be very unpredictable as you can experience all 4 seasons in one day. It can get extremely windy and have the freezing mist and snow from the mountains and a few hours later it could be blazing hot. Preparation is key and be sure to bring extra layers 🙂
I did not choose the guided trek option and instead opted to trek on my own, and apart from a few km where I trekked with others, the majority of the 71km (44 miles) journey in the wilderness I did on my own in 5 days and 4 nights. This really allowed me to connect with nature and be blessed with the opportunity to feel the energy of creation and just have the space to admire its beauty. It was paramount to the experience to have those still moments.
At Torres del Paine I did the most popular circuit which is the “W” but there’s also the “O” circuit which is more challenging and requires more days & planning. Absolutely everything was booked through Fantastico Sur (Video) which included food and lodging to all of the refugios (camp sites) that I would need to stay in during the whole circuit. For the most experienced and prepared individuals, there’s the option of just renting a space outside each refugio to put up the tents and cook your own meals.
Refugio Frances – One of the camp sites
What to pack:
I packed as light as possible (and failed miserably lol) I probably could have done better. As I encountered other people along the way I was amazed at how light their bags were and on top of that they also had their own tents and cooking utensils. My bag consisted of just clothes as I didn’t have to bring my own tent; I booked all the refugios in advanced and one night I rented a tent because I wanted to have the experience of sleeping outdoors in Patagonia. I definitely learned a lot from other experienced hikers that I met along the way; there were lots of international people, nature junkies, and adventure enthusiasts.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t so bad for my first experience hiking at that scale. I was living in Chile at this time so I got everything from this Chilean outdoor store, Doite. Most important items to bring are: Hardcore trekking shoes, 1 pair of regular hiking shoes (it feels nice to change shoes after you have been trekking all day), sandals (for the showers inside the refugios), hiking pants/yoga pants (whichever is more comfortable), short-sleeve dry fit shirts, long-sleeve shirts, 1 rain jacket, gloves, beanies, windproof mask, trekking sticks, a second smaller backpack for shorter hikes (I brought one that would fit in a small pouch then expand) and microfiber towel. Additionally it’s important to bring a camera, sunscreen, lantern, kleenex, hand sanitizer, wipes, stainless steel bottle (keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold the entire way), and lots of healthy snacks 🙂
If you are staying at the refugios breakfast will be served before your hike to the next refugio and lunch will be given in a to-go bag so you can eat it on the way. By the time you arrive to the next refugio it will be time for dinner so you never have to worry about cooking outdoors. I met people along the way who also prepped their own meals after trekking for so many hours. I admired them quite honestly but I also enjoyed having a nice warm meal and a glass of wine waiting for me at each refugio lol.
Prior to embarking to Torres del Paine National Park, I went to the Island of Magdalena in the Magallanes region to see the cutest penguins in their natural habitat. The entire island is full of penguins! To visit the island you can take a ferry which departs from Punta Arenas.
It was too much cuteness to handle. I have tons of videos of them and just makes me laugh every time I see them. These little guys migrate to this island every summer. First the male arrives to reclaim his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The Magellanic penguins mate with the same partner year after year and the females are able to recognize their mates through their call alone (which I found very impressive!). In winter, they head north for warmer waters, the whole cycle is repeated again the following summer.
Overall you could see all types of animals in their natural habitat. During the bus ride you could see endless fields full of sheep and Guanacos (not to be confused with llamas or Vicuñas)
While hiking I also noticed all sorts of wild flowers I’ve never seen before as well as tiny little fruits similar to blueberries but are actually wild berries called calafate and their flavor is so rich! Their color and smell grabbed my attention but I was hesitant to just grab them from the bush and try them as for all I know they could be poisonous! I saw one of the tour guides eating them and assured me it was ok and they were delicious! A Chilean beer company (Cerveza Austral) actually sells a calafate flavored beer.
I hope this was informative and would motivate you to experience first-hand the Magic of the South and Tierra del Fuego (land of Fire) – Patagonia.
Indeed the world is a beautiful place full of incredible people, places & animals. Go explore it!