Terrain and Weather
The region consists of mountains, glaciers, steppe, forests, rivers, lakes, fjords and rugged ocean coastline, offering much to see during your Patagonia travel on Argentina tours. Summer daytime temperatures are warm; evenings are cold, and strong winds are present most months of the year. Public facilities in some areas with the harshest weather close during the winter months. When you travel to Argentina, don't be put off by Patagonia's unpredictable climate when pondering whether to visit the region. Though the weather won't always make you comfortable, know that neither will you ever have felt so alive. The extraordinary sights of these two provinces invigorate the mind and body, more than making up for the challenge of staying warm and dry.
Among the indigenous people who once inhabited the region were the Yamana and the Tehuelches. South of the town of Perito Moreno is perhaps the most famous pre-Columbian site to see on Argentina tours, the Cueva de las Manos of the Rio Pinturas canyon. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cave drawings consist of many stenciled hands and hunting scenes as well as such animals as guanacos. They are believed to be between 9,500 and 13,000 years old. The early inhabitants of the region's coastal areas of Tierra del Fuego adapted to their inhospitable surroundings by developing canoe technology that allowed them to live off the bountiful marine life.
Three of Argentina's southernmost national parks are located in Santa Cruz Province. Perito Moreno National Park lies along the Chilean border 125 miles north of Los Glaciares. Also a border park, Los Glaciares is the most accessible of the Southern Patagonia's parks to visitors on Argentina tours by car or air. The marine national park, Monte Leon, is located along Argentina's Atlantic coast. Tierra del Fuego National Park is in a forested region on Argentina's western border along the Beagle Channel where the Andes meet the ocean. The government also provides protection to the 25,000-acre Jaramillo Petrified Forest of the Jurassic period as a National Monument on the way to Puerto San Julian. Reserva Ria Deseado is a coastal wildlife refuge for marine species outside the town of the same name. The region's second largest colony of Magellanic penguins is protected at the Reserva Provincial Cabo Virgenes near Rio Gallegos.
Travelers on Argentina tours wishing to visit the sights of Los Glaciares National Park including the Perito Moreno Glacier and Mt. Fitz Roy, have a choice of Southern Explorations Patagonia tours. All nine of our Argentina tours to Southern Patagonia visit the park and the glacier (Classic Patagonia, Patagonia Hiking Adventure, Patagonia Highlights, Luxury Patagonia, Patagonia Hiking Panorama, Patagonia and Wineries, Luxury Patagonia and Wineries, Australis Cruise & Patagonia Hiking, Australis Cruise & Patagonia Hiking Plus, Patagonian Lakes and Glaciers, Iguazu Falls and Patagonia, Full Patagonia, Patagonia Hiking and Iguazu Falls and Best of Argentina). Most of these Argentina tours also visit Mt. Fitz Roy, and we offer a four-day Fitz Roy Tour Extension. Eight of our Argentina tours to Southern Patagonia visit Tierra del Fuego National Park. We also offer two four-day add-ons Patagonia tours to the area, Active Tierra del Fuego Tour Extension and Classic Tierra del Fuego Tour Extension.
El Calafate is conveniently situated on the shores of Lake Argentino, making it a logical place to stay while visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier and other sites in the southern areas of Los Glaciares National Park on your Patagonia tours. Likewise, the less endowed town of El Chalten near the north end of the park is convenient for those exploring Mt. Fitz Roy and other trekking and hiking destinations in the region.
From Ushuaia, Argentina's southernmost city, it's a mere 745 miles to the Southern Hemisphere's newest destination, Antarctica. A former penal colony and naval base, Ushuaia is a city of some charm that serves as a base for adventure travelers headed to the great outdoors. Luxury cruise ships journey between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, Chile through the breathtaking Fjords of Fuegia. Eight of Southern Explorations' Patagonia tours and the two Tierra del Fuego tour extensions spend the night in Ushuaia.
The Historic Estancias
In the 1800s, when Patagonia seemed both endless and useless, the Argentine government began handing out vast tracts of the territory to explorers and others in return for their services. Selling off Patagonian acreage at bargain-basement prices also proved a handy way to fund military and political exploits the government couldn't afford. Many of these vast spreads became sheep and cattle ranches, called estancias, as the export market for wool boomed. Shifting economic winds following World War I brought tough times to many of these enterprises. Like the hard-up owners of England's stately homes, pioneer ranchers began opening their establishments to visitors on Argentina tours, some for overnight lodging and others only as day-excursions. Today some remain working ranches, while other owners have quit farming altogether and moved into the boutique hotel business, catering to visitors on Patagonia tours. The fanciest of the estancias have cascos, or manor houses. Accommodating only a few visitors at one time, these unique and comfortable lodgings set in staggeringly beautiful landscapes add a unique dimension to Patagonia travel.
Estancia Harberton is owned by the descendants of missionary Thomas Bridges who wrote a famous memoir called The Uttermost Part of the Earth about growing up in the region during the 1800s. Estancia Helsingfors on the shores of Lake Viedma dates back to 1910 and is located near Glaciares National Park. Estancias are located near the region's other national parks as well. Tierra del Fuego's estancias are mostly clustered around the coastal city of Rio Grande and serve as guest lodges for the many travelers on Argentina tours who travel here for the trout and salmon fishing. For horseback riding enthusiasts who travel Patagonia, it's an opportunity to ride the range over thousands of acres. Giddyup.
Travel with Southern Explorations and you'll visit Estancia Harberton on the ten-day Patagonia Highlights trip, the eleven-day Patagonia Hiking Adventure, the twelve-day Patagonia Hiking & Iguazu Falls tour, the thirteen-day Best of Argentina Tour, the fourteen-day Australis Cruise & Patagonia Hiking tour, the twenty-one-day Full Patagonia tour and the four-day Classic Tierra del Fuego tour Extension. On our eleven-day Luxury Patagonia tour, you'll spend three nights at Los Cerros, enjoying the leisure side of ranching life and be able to hike, bike, horseback ride or just relax in paradise when your Patagonia travel takes you to Argentina.