The Northern Patagonia Region


Terrain and Weather
Patagonia's northern region contains mountains, valleys, steppe, fertile farm land, forests, rivers and many lakes to see on Patagonia tours. Summers are hot but breezy, and winters range from cold to colder. Some areas are arid; others have considerable winter precipitation. Patagonia tours occur mostly during the summer months.

Indigenous Populations
Before the Spanish arrived, followed by the Welsh and the Scottish, Northern Patagonia was inhabited by various nomadic tribes including the Pehuenches, Tehuelches, Mapuches, Puelches, Picunches and Vuriloches.

There is much to occupy the active traveler on Argentina tours to Northern Patagonia. Six of Patagonia's ten national parks are located here, all near the Chilean border. The northernmost park is named for bird-magnet Laguna Blanca. Straddling the Andes, the region's spectacular Lake District is home to three national parks: Lanin, Los Arrayanes, a park within a park, Nahuel Huapi. Further south, on the Patagonian Andean steppe, is Los Alerces, considered one of the country's most beautiful parks to visit when you travel Patagonia on Argentina tours. It adjoins Lago Puelo National Park. Northern Patagonia is a hiking paradise, in and outside the region's national parks. The Camino de los Sietes Lagos passes by seven different lakes between Lanin and Nahuel Huapi national parks. The world's largest petrified trees are found in Chubut Province's two reserves, the Victor Szapelis Petrified Forest and the J. Ormachea Petrified Forest. Whitewater rafting is popular on many rivers including the Hua Hum. Boasting the world's best trout fishing, some of the region's top spots are around Junin de los Andes, including the Chimuen, Alumine and Limay, as well as at San Martin de los Andes' Lake Lacar and in Lanin National Park. Others may prefer the hot baths of Neuquen's Copahue or swimming at Argentina's warmest coastal beach, Las Grutas, on Rio Negro's Golfo Azul. Eight of Southern Explorations Patagonia tours and two tour extensions spend time on Nahuel Huapi Lake. One optional activity on Southern Explorations' Luxury Patagonia & Wineries Tour takes visitors along the Camino de los Sietes Lagos.

The Cities
For the most part, Patagonia's few cities are gateways to Argentina tours, places to stop off on one's travels elsewhere. To trout fisherman, Patagonia's largest city, Bariloche, is the ultimate. Skiers, hikers, trekkers and climbers agree. Set on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi, beside the national park of the same name, Bariloche is surrounded by three more lakes-Gutierrez, Moreno and Mascardi, and in the nearby foothills of the Andes is a fashionable European-style ski resort at Cerro Catedral. It is a skier's paradise from late June to September and a hiking mecca the rest of the year for visitors on Patagonia tours. With Mt. Tronodor's crashing glaciers and Cerro Lopez nearby, Bariloche has it all. And for the first-class comfort, there is Llao Llao Resort, South America's most famous destination hotel. On the lake's north shore, Villa la Angostura accommodates outdoor enthusiasts on Argentina tours year-round.

Southern Explorations offers a five-day Active Bariloche Tour Extension and a more leisurely five-day Classic Bariloche Tour Extension enabling visitors to extend their stay in the city and choose from a variety of activities, including hiking and kayaking in nearby Nahuel Huapi National Park and rafting down the exciting Manso River.

Skiing and More Skiing
The life of a skier is not complete without the downhill experience of the Andes. In addition to Las Lenas, there is Chapelco near San Martin de los Andes and Cerro Bayo near Villa la Angostura. For some of South America's best cross-country skiing, head for Volcan Copahue at Lake Caviahue when you travel to Argentina on Patagonia tours.

Dinosaur Country
Some of the world's most recent significant dinosaur discoveries of the late Cretaceous period have occurred in Northern Patagonia, making Neuquen Province an exciting place to visit for travelers on Argentina tours who are interested in paleontology. A replica skeleton of the world's largest herbivore species, a ninety-five million year old Argentinosaurus huinculensis, may be seen at the Carmen Funes Museum in the town of Plaza Huincul, sixty miles west of the provincial capital. Measuring fifty-nine feet tall, the species towers over its miniature human visitors, who come up only to its knee. At the Museo Paleontologico Municipal Ernesto Bachmann in Villa El Chocon, eighty-five miles southwest of Neuquen, among other species, is a skeleton of Giganotosaurus carolinii, forty-eight feet tall at the hip. More difficult to reach but worth the trip is the Centro Paleontologico Lago Barreales to the northwest where during fall and winter, scientists are working to excavate fossils of several species. The best month to go is April. A dinosaur park will eventually be developed at the site for travelers to visit on Argentina tours.

Watching for Whales and Others
Coastal Chubut Province offers a wildlife-viewing bonanza with five separate reserves in the protected gulfs of its Valdes Peninsula. Between June and December, hundreds of Southern Right Whales arrive seeking quiet shallow waters in which to give birth. A marine mammal measuring up to sixty feet in length and weighing up to seventy tons, the right whale is a skimmer, making the species easy to see by visitors on Argentina tours and difficult to protect. They remain here through the spring until after gestation when they head back into the deep ocean. The peak calving month is August. At nearby Punta Ninfas, elephant seals arrive in the spring to breed. At the Punta Loma Provincial Reserve, southern sea lions may be viewed year-round. To walk among the penguins, go to the Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve south of Valdes when you travel to Argentina on Patagonia tours, where between September and April, hundreds of thousands of Magellanic penguins, South America's largest colony, come to nest.

Southern Explorations takes travelers on Argentina tours to spend two days on the Valdes Peninsula and at Punta Tombo, on its ten-day Patagonia Highlights trip, the thirteen-day Best of Argentina tour and the twenty-one-day Full Patagonia tour as as well as a three-day Valdes Peninsula Tour Extension for travelers on other Patagonia tours. The peninsula's extraordinary array of wildlife and the walk with the penguins of Punta Tombo make this is an experience you'll never forget.

Other Sights and Activities
The Old Patagonian Express of Paul Theroux's memoir may be traveled from the Chubut town of Esquel near Los Alerces National Park. An unlikely sculpture park in the middle of nowhere comprised of chainsaw art pieces is found in Chubut's Bosque Tellado on Mt. Piltriquitron. Desert conditions and viticultural disease-clobbering winds have combined to foster a new wine region for Argentina in the provinces of Neuquen and Rio Negro. A number of wineries have sprung up here over the years and are producing some high caliber reds and whites.

Each January, a regatta is held that includes a seven-day 500-km kayak marathon down the Rio Negro, starting in Neuquen and ending in Viedma. In February, the Fiesta Nacional del Golfo Azul brings throngs to Las Grutas. One of South America's largest crafts fairs takes place every week in Chubut Province: the Feria Regional de El Bolsón with its hippie vibe has been going on for almost four decades, growing each year and an increasingly popular destination for those who travel Patagonia on Argentina tours.