Patagonia: Argentina and Chile

Fresh off the boat from Antarctica, there was still much for us to explore in Patagonia.

This beautiful region of southern South America is shared by Argentina and Chile, and includes a portion of the Andes Mountains as well as deserts, pampas, and grasslands. It’s also one of the few regions in the world with three ocean’s worth of coastlines: the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Southern Ocean.

We flew from Ushuaia to El Calafate, home of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. If you aren’t able to get to Antarctica, this is a wonderful opportunity to see these icy wonders in person. Since we’d just seen hundreds of them, all we wanted was a walk in the warm sunshine and a nice, cold beer.

A short flight took us from El Calafate to San Carlos de Bariloche, located in the Nahuel Huapi National Park in the foothills of the Andes.

Bariloche has an oddly Swiss feeling, with Alpine-style architecture and more than its share of chocolate shops. It’s a major destination for skiing in the winter and mountaineering year-round.

The 160-mile (260 km) drive from Argentina to the snow-capped volcano of Osorno, Chile, was beautiful and peaceful. We stayed in the lovely town of Puerto Varas, with its tranquil Llanquihue Lake. You’ll find traditional German architecture built by Europeans who settled there in the 19th century, along with Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, the iconic wooden church constructed in 1918.

We were surprised to see swaths of dead trees along the route between Argentina and Chile, and we discovered that they’d been suffocated by volcano ash during the eruption of the Villarica volcano in 2015. We passed few other cars on this stretch of road, giving the experience somewhat of a post-apocalyptic feeling.

Returning to Argentina, we took one last road trip through the Rio Negro region, passing waterfalls and whitewater rafters along the way.

In every small town, we found friendly people who were happy to share their Argentina with us accompanied by generous portions of fresh, delicious food and well-made, small-batch beer, not to mention the terrific local wine.

If you love mountains and rivers and you’re looking for your next great road trip, we highly recommend Patagonia.