At the furthest reaches of Chile’s southern tip, Chilean Patagonia is made up of dramatic landscapes and eventful weather, which can see the region go through four seasons in one day. The snow-topped Andes are an awe-inspiring backdrop for the glittering lakes, wide open steppe, granite cliffs and jagged ice fields – this variation makes Patagonia holidays a favourite for adventure seekers and fans of outdoor pursuits. Many comfortable and luxurious lodges dot the park, and due to its enormous scale the area never feels crowded; in fact on some tours visitors are more than likely not to spot another group.
One of the best places to base yourself is in the town of Puerto Natales, a port city that acts as the gateway to the park and has interesting museums celebrating the region’s indigenous population. You’ll find everything here from boutique wine bars to shops dedicated to kitting you out in the latest gear, but there are plenty of cosy lodgings to choose from away from the town should you seek splendid isolation on your holidays to Patagonia. Puerto Natales also has a small airport, with flights operating in high season should you wish to escape the five-hour drive from Punta Arenas.
Staying in Puerto Natales affords fantastic views of the region, but to get the best experience you need to head into the protected areas. Much of the land here is designated as a reserve or national park, and in order to preserve its beauty for years to come the activities available are usually designed to leave the greenest footprint on the landscape. Explore on foot and the many hundreds of kilometres of trekking routes open up to you, where every twist of the footpath or ascent of a hill brings a stunning new vista to immortalise in your photographs. Horse riding is how the locals get around with ease, and you too can saddle up and ride alongside the Chilean cowboys, known as ‘huasos’.
A highlight of any of our Patagonia holidays is spending time uncovering the natural beauty of the Torres del Paine. Perhaps Chile’s best-known national park, the twisted granite columns that give the park its name – the actual ‘torres’ – can be reached on a few hours’ drive from Punta Arenas or Puerto Natales. However, it’s not just the granite edifice that delights, but also its vivid blue glaciers, crystal-clear lakes and enormous plains where the only sound is the wind riffling through the grasses. Here you can also take a boat trip across Lago Grey to the glacier of the same name, or venture out into Last Hope Sound, where many streams and cascades tumble down the lush cliffs into the inlet.