With a dirty Kelty backpack and six weeks to spare, I jumped into the back of a rusty bus in Ushuaia -- the southernmost point in Argentina. Mission: a rugged exploration of Patagonia's most iconic treks and landscapes.
I was about to experience Patagonia in its most wild form stretching from Monte Fitz Roy in the north, to the very southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego -- the "Land of Fire." I knew there wouldn't be enough time to cover its entire 386,000 square-mile expanse, but there were a few key spots that I could not miss. And neither should you.
From glaciers to peat bogs, the slideshow below lists our picks for the top treks and landscapes in southern Patagonia.
To discover more iconic adventure trips, visit us at EpicThrills.com
All photos and captions courtesy of EpicThrills.com
"The Land of Fire" is an archipelago that rests at the very southern tip of Patagonia in Argentina, across the Strait of Magellan. From here, the rest of Earth just falls away. Get There: The best way to Tierra del Fuego is by flying into the main towns of Ushuaia or Rio Grande from Buenos Aires. If coming from Chile, flights come through Punta Arenas. If you've got time on your hands, buses also travel into the area from all across Argentina. Why It's EPIC: Once inside the park, let your imagination be your guide. You will have a hard time ignoring the dazzling surroundings formed by glacial movement and melting. Don't miss the Black Lagoon peat bog, a walk in the lenga forest and the many epic views that open up onto the end of the world.
This park lies in the Chilean part of Patagonia, closer to the northern border of the region. Marked by its iconic spires in the distance, it is open year round (although spotty in winter) and features one of the most spectacular treks in the world. Get There: If you don't want to bus in, the most direct route into the area by plane is through Punta Arenas, which has daily flights from Santiago. Once there, you can take a 140-mile bus ride to Puerto Natales, which sits about 72 miles outside the park. Why It's EPIC: A must-see feature of the park is Grey Glacier, which rises majestically from the Patagonian steppe. Perhaps more impressive, though, are the mountains that form the eastern spur of the Andes, and include the Cuernos del Paine and the jaw-dropping Cordillera del Paine.
This glacier is perhaps the most astounding feature in all of Patagonia, and if you've made the voyage to the southernmost reaches of South America, then you can't leave without experiencing this 200-foot tall, three-mile long wall of ice. Get There: Buses from El Calafate provide the most convenient access to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and this spectacular shelf of ice. You can also arrange glacier treks in town, as well as schedule a cruise tour to view the glacier from the water. Why It's EPIC: The most fortunate travelers will witness Perito Moreno as it calves - when large chunks of ice split away from the main formation and slide into the ocean. It is at once a beautiful and poignant reminder of our fragile, wonderful world.
This mountain goes by many names, although the locals call it Cerro Chalten. It is located outside the village of Chalten in northern Patagonia on the border between Chile and Argentina. Some climbers refer to it as "ultimate" due to its sheer granite faces, even though it is of average height. Get There: While summiting Fitz Roy is best left to professionals, getting there is rather easy. It is located in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, and can be accessed via the village of Chalten. Daily flights land in nearby El Calafate, and there are buses that run between the two towns. Why It's EPIC: Many outfits offer Fitz Roy treks out of Chalten, and it is a spectacular way to experience the mountain. A good trek can take anywhere from one to six days, and it's best to make it between December and March, as the mountain is well-known for playing hide-and-seek with visitors in bad weather.
The southern most town in the world, Ushuaia, marks the beginning and end to most southern Patagonia expeditions. A shipwreck resting in the center of the channel marks home to many weary travelers. Get There: Regular daily flights are available from Buenos Aires and Santiago. Durring the winter months most bus routes this far south shut down. Why It's EPIC: Most expeditions to Antarctica launch from Ushuaia's port. The town also claims home to the southern most brewery in the world.
Dragon de la Patagonia:Multiday hike through the rugged Dientes de Navarino circuit in Chilean Tierra del Fuego overlooking the Beagle Channel.
Follow Allen Burt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allenburt