Patagonia is split between Chile and Argentina and bordered by both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, making it not only one of the most remote areas in the world, but also one of the most scenic and beautiful regions as it has been shaped by two massive oceans and a mountain range.
My journey of a life time to this remote and stunning area started with a flight from Santiago – the capital of Chile – to Punta Arenas the southernmost city in Chile. Punta Arenas has a real frontier-town type feel and is used as the gateway to Patagonia. After overnighting and having a hearty meal in Punta Arenas we journeyed by minivan 250 kilometres to Puerto Natales. The drive took approx. 4 hours with a few coffee and photo stops. The scenery was forever changing as was the environment, from rolling grass covered hills, to arid mountains to green forests, the only common thing was the sheep, and they seem to have more sheep in southern Chile than New Zealand.
We were using Puerto Natales as our base to explore the Chilean side of Patagonia. Our hotel was the newly opened Singular Hotel, a former slaughterhouse, turned deluxe boutique hotel with all the trimmings, including in/outdoor pool and spa to relax in after a day exploring.
It’s a grand design with heaps of glass, steel and wood, very large but still with a real homely feel to it. The Singular Hotel includes all meals and activities; the hotel allocates you a guide that arranges everything for you for your stay to maximize your time in this area of Patagonia.
The first day we arranged a full day boating adventure into the Patagonia Fjords to see both Serrano and Balmaceda Glaciers. This started with a high speed boat trip from the hotel’s marina up the water way in front of the hotel, one of the most scenic boat trips I have ever done. Once at the glacier you disembark and take an 800 metre walk on a wooden boardwalk to a lookout near the base of the glacier, a truly magical experience. The colours of the glaciers are amazing, so blue and clear, a photographer’s heaven. In the afternoon we continued to another glacier but this time experienced it from the water. We enjoyed a late afternoon lunch on the banks of the fjord where the chef from the Singular Hotel made a gourmet bush lunch – yes, we felt like royalty.
The park covers a massive 181, 000 hectares and to see properly would take about 3 days. We took the highlights day tour which took us to the most impressive lookouts and viewpoints of the glaciers, jagged mountain peaks, white water falls and glacier feed lakes.
We were rewarded for our short treks into the wilderness experiencing the grandeur and outstanding views of this amazing place. Torres del Paine National Park is a must when visiting southern Chile.
Stay tuned for Part 2 as I explore the Argentinian ‘face’ of Patagonia.