The Trip: Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego



NAME Steve McKay, Springwood, NSW

THE TRIP Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego

THE ITINERARY Flew Qantas to and from Santiago, with a side trip to Valparaiso for two nights before flying to and from Punta Arenas with LATAM. Punta Arenas is a sprawling mixture of old and new, port and country. We rented a car from Dante of DLC Rentacar, who organised the paperwork for the vehicle to cross into Argentina and advised us on road conditions.

Five nights camping at Pehoe Camping in the stunning Parque Nacional Torres del Paine was the first highlight. We chose to base ourselves there rather than tackle the popular W trek. With a car, we were able to hike sections of the W together with a mixture of other scenic hikes.

After crossing the border from Chile into Argentina we drove to the tourist centre of El Calafate, the base for a day trip to the extraordinary Perito Moreno glacier. A further three-hour drive north is the quaint town of El Chalten. Superb walks in and around the magnificent Fitz Roy Range begin from the town itself, making it a mecca for hikers.

A long drive south-east took us back across the border into Chile, across the Strait of Magellan and into Tierra del Fuego. This Chilean part of the island is bleak and windy and we encountered a mixture of paved and gravel roads, with a lot of construction of new roads taking place. Crossing back into Argentina we headed to a rapidly developing Ushuaia, which has a delightful snow-capped mountain backdrop. Antarctic cruises depart from the port there but we were content with a worthwhile cruise on the wild Beagle Channel and a hike to the pretty Laguna Esmeralda.

BEST BITS Hiking in Torres del Paine and around El Chalten and the long drive to Punta Arenas included seeing king penguins near Onaisin and a night in the quiet town of Porvenir.

WORST BIT Being denied entry into Argentina at remote San Sebastian due to a fee mix-up.

BEST TIP Be prepared for strong winds and sudden changes in the weather.

WHERE TO NEXT Greenland.