Patagonia is a region in the extreme south of Chile. Along with the Atacama Desert, Patagonia is the most natural part of Chile. The rough, extremely humid climate and the difficult connection to the rest of Chile made it unsuitable for cultivation, which is why, with the exception of a few enclaves, the area is extremely sparsely populated.
- 1 Coyhaique — surrounded by dramatic mountains, it is the jumping-off point for traveling the spectacular Carretera Austral
- 2 Puerto Natales — the gateway to trekking in Torres del Paine or Bernardo O'Higgins National Parks
- 3 Puerto Rio Tranquilo — its highlight is the marble caves at Lake General Carrera
- 4 Puerto Williams — one of the southernmost settlements in the world offers wild and romantic nature and diverse trekking opportunities
- 5 Punta Arenas — the largest city in Chilean Patagonia, is an important starting point for trips to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands
- 6 Villa O'Higgins — a tiny town at the southern-most end of the Carretera Austral, on the edge of Lake O'Higgins, it is a fantastic base to go trekking or sport fishing
- 1 Cabo Froward — a very challenging hike to the southernmost point in the American mainland
- 2 Bernardo O'Higgins National Park — the largest protected area in the country cover the fjords and canals of the west and most of the southern ice field
- 3 Laguna San Rafael National Park — includes the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, and a fjord more than 16 km long
- 4 Torres del Paine National Park — the astonishing Paine massif and its beautiful peaks, azure lakes, emerald forests, roaring rivers, radiant blue glaciers, and rugged mountain terrain topped by looming peaks
- 5 Tierra del Fuego (Chile) — an archipelago off the south of South America, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan.
This region is composed of two of Chile's fourteen political and territorial divisions: Aysén and Magallanes.
The extreme south has a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants, the population of this area is mainly descended from Chilean immigrants, especially from Chiloé and other areas south of the Biobío, and from foreign immigrants of Croatian and Spanish origin or to a lesser extent from other European countries that colonized the area more than a century ago. The Croatian community settled in Punta Arenas, Magallanes. The massive arrival of Croats in Chile began in 1864 and migration grew steadily until 1956 to reach a number of more than 58,000 Croats living mainly in the extreme south of Chile.
It is an immense bioregion that presents a very varied geography which results in a great diversity of landscapes, climates and ecosystems: from the Patagonian pampas, to the east, passing through the mountains, fjords, channels and islands, due to the sinking of the Cordillera de los Andes, to the west.
The climate in the north is extremely humid, it is one of the rainiest areas on earth (approx. 5,000 mm per year!) In the south it is a little drier, but also almost polar. There the temperatures rarely rise above 20 °C, even in midsummer, and snow is very common in winter (at an average of 0 °C).
There are airports (in Chile) in Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt, and Puerto Natales. SKY Airline and LATAM fly into Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, while Puerto Nateles is served only by SKY Airline. In Argentina El Calafate is served by Comandante Armando Tola Airport, Aerolines Argentina goes here along with Aerochacho, LADE Airlines, and LATAM. Also Rio Gallegos has an airport, this airport is served by Aerolineas Argentines, and LATAM.
To drive from Santiago to northern Patagonia, places like Coyhaique and Villa O'Higgins, Chilean Road 7 can be used. It has several ferry crossings. It is also possible to drive through Argentina.
To drive to southern Patagonia, places like Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, the only possibility is to drive through Argentina. It can be reached from Argentina via the Esquel - Futaleufú, Río Mayo - Coyhaique and Perito Moreno - Chile Chico pass roads. Another option is to take the ferry from Quellón on the island of Chiloé to Chaitén on the mainland.
The southern part, on the other hand, can only be reached from Argentina. There are border crossings at Puerto Natales (from El Calafate and Río Turbio), between Río Gallegos and Punta Arenas and on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago near San Sebastián in the north of the main island.
By bus and ferry
The northern part can be reached by bus from Puerto Montt, but parts of it are covered by ferry.
Puerto Williams is mainly served by passenger ferries from Ushuaia (Argentina) and Punta Arenas.
Route 9 runs through the region. Route 255 (This road comes out from Route 9) crosses into Argentina becoming Argentinian Route 3. More Routes in this region include, Route 257, and Route Y-50.
Bus service in smaller towns may be infrequent, with buses passing through only a couple of times each week.
The roads are only paved in exceptional cases, and the rivers are often crossed by archaic ferries that are driven by the current. The north of the area was only opened up with the construction of the Carretera Austral in the 1970s to 1990s. In 1999, the southernmost stretch to Villa O'Higgins was inaugurated. This road forms the southernmost part of the Panamericana network west of the Andes.
The Laguna San Rafael is a glacier lake near Puerto Aisén.
The Torres del Paine are pointed rock mountains in a glacier landscape in the national park of the same name.
- Fishing is popular in the Palena, Figueroa and Cisnes rivers, plus many other tributaries. Lake Rosselot and the lakes surrounding Coyhaique are also well known as a sports fishing destination.
Many of the towns in this region do not have ATMs (or have ATMs that don't seem to work with many foreign cards). Make sure to keep a good stash of emergency cash on hand before venturing out into the smaller towns.
Centolla (Southern King Crab) is fished in this region