Patagonia, the roughly one-million-square-kilometre area at the southern tip of South America shared by Chile and Argentina, is on many travellers’ wish lists. This remote region, called ‘the uttermost part of the earth’ by an early settler, has come to the attention of many thanks to Bruce Chatwin’s famed In Patagonia and its numerous re-publications since 1977.
His description of the ‘rags of silver cloud spinning across the sky, and the sea of grey-green thornscrub lying off in sweeps and rising in terraces and the white dust streaming off the salt pans’ call to those who wish to go off-grid in the planet’s empty spaces. In places where magic and myth co-exist with a relentless dose of pure wilderness.
A rugged landscape that yields riches for all who visit, Patagonia’s name was coined by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who made landfall on the southerly most landmark in 1520. He encountered tall Tehuelche tribesmen whom he called ‘Patagones’, after a character in a chivalric romance.
There’s a lot to love about Patagonia. In a world that sometimes feels small and wholly connected, Patagonia feels both huge and far away. The sheer variety of scenery, including alpine lakes, volcanoes, blue-green fjords and arid plains, receives relatively few visitors and can be explored on horseback, by boat or 4x4. It’s home to the Patagonian’ Big Five’: guanaco, puma, huemul, the Andean condor, and Darwin’s rhea. It’s also the perfect place to gain a deeper understanding of our planet and its very modern affliction – climate change.
Our suggested ultra-luxury exploration of Patagonia begins in the northeasterly most point with a stay by the Argentinian coast at Estancia Rincón Chico. This stylish ranch’s location on the UNESCO-listed Valdes Peninsula offers extraordinary access to the area’s wildlife such as elephant seal, fur seal, sea lion, penguin, right whales (migratory patterns allowing) and orca. Discover this richness in the company of an expert team who have assisted international organisations like National Geographic and the BBC during Blue Planet.
Next, it’s off to El Calafate to 17-bedroom EOLO, which channels an estancia vibe and has been designed to embody ‘the spirit of Patagonia’. It’s located enticingly close to South America’s most famous glacier, Perito Moreno, in nearby UNESCO-listed Los Glaciares National Park. Famed for reliably putting on a fantastic show for travellers, when the ice tongue ruptures catastrophically in a grand spectacle, the glacier is growing rather than shrinking – a rarity in our warming world. Visit the natural wonder in the company of a climate-change expert and discover why the Patagonian icefield is melting away at the highest rate on the planet.
From El Calafate, fly to meet one of South America’s most beloved chefs, Francis Mallmann, at his private retreat, which might have been lifted straight from Chatwin’s travel tome. Mallmann, who famously appeared in Netflix’s Chef’s Table, is an advocate for asado – an Argentinian tradition – so here you’ll enjoy the world’s ultimate barbecue.
Cross into Chile at this point to stay at the Patagonian outpost of one of South America’s coolest brands, Awasi. Sandwiched between the Andes and the Pacific, Chilean Patagonia is smaller and less well-known than its Argentinian counterpart. Set beneath Torres del Paine's peaks, Awasi’s 12 freestanding villas have hot tubs and expansive views of the massif, Sarmiento Lake, the pampas, and the forest. Here you’ll feel – and revel in – every bit of Chilean Patagonia’s long-distance relationship with the rest of the world.
Your Chilean Patagonian adventure continues at &Beyond Vira Vira, a beautiful hacienda-style lodge on a 22-hectare organic farm in the picturesque Pucón region. While staying here, guests can travel to meet renowned conservationist and TED speaker Kris Tompkins. Tompkins, and the Tompkins Conservation Team, have been working to foster peace between people and wild nature for more than a quarter of a century. Due to their positive work, helping to create seven new national parks and expanding three others in this thin country, Chile has become a ‘conservation destination’. Speak to Tompkins about this fascinating work and the rewilding programme in Argentinian Patagonia.
The final stop is Caballadas, located in the north of Lanín National Park on a private estancia. Owned by the same family for more than 100 years, Caballadas offers horseback riding and fly fishing. Both experiences will allow you to meditate on your journey in the wilds of Patagonia and your reconnection with nature.