Far From the Tourist Traps: Discovering the Authentic Patagonia
Experience the Serenity of the Patagonian Pampas
During a quiet moment in Patagonia, you can feel the wilderness slip under your skin. Stiff westerly winds sweep across Torres Del Paine, ruffling the wool of grazing guanaco and blowing hats off unruly tourists who pile up to see this park’s most popular sights. Over 250,000 people visit Chile’s Torres Del Paine National Park each year—seeking views of the magnificent glaciers, lakes, and the legendary mountain range with its distinctive towers, or torres. On our Chile & Argentina: Patagonia & Torres del Paine National Park itinerary, Country Walkers takes you far from the maddening crowd to explore the austere beauty of secluded wildlife nature trails, pristine forests, untamed plains, and intimate views of two glaciers. “This is the perfect tour for travelers who want to experience the natural ecosystem of Patagonia,” says Country Walkers Product Director Joe Flynn. “The landscape there is vast and open—and you’re totally immersed in it.” For naturalists and wildlife enthusiasts, this is a tour not to be missed!
A Tale of Two Glaciers
On the shores of Grey Lake, deep within Torres del Paine National Park, lies one of Patagonia’s most spectacular natural geological formations—the Grey Glacier. This icy blue glacial edifice towers nearly 100 feet high and is remarkable for its distinctive blue color—which can even be seen from space! The visual contrast of blue ice walls towering over a still, gray lake is a unique spectacle—and it’s one that people travel the globe to gaze upon. And while this imposing ice cap is one of the park’s more popular tourist destinations, the fleeting beauty of this ephemeral natural wonder is a must-see.
But in Patagonia, there’s more than one glacial game in town. Along the Argentinian foothills of the Andes Mountains lies Los Glaciares National Park and the icy crags of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Our expert local guides have planned our visit for after the crowds have departed—so we can quietly experience the serenity of Perito Moreno’s icy vastness. In this intimate glacial visit, we walk beneath the glacier’s 240-foot edifice and observe the crystalline ice giant from many angles. Unlike most glaciers, Perito Moreno isn’t receding. As it advances slowly across the tundra, the glacier calves great shards of ice into the lake with a sharp cracking noise—the only disruption in the otherwise tranquil atmosphere of this icy encounter.
Horseback Riding and Sheep Rustling: It’s a Gaucho’s Life
Gauchos are kind of like South American cowboys—these solitary horsemen are known for leading isolated lives herding cattle and sheep across the Patagonian pampas. Although Gauchos were originally nomadic horsemen who lived in the saddle and slept under the stars, by the mid-1800s the emergence of working cattle ranches, or estancias, provided wandering Gauchos with regular income and a roof overhead. Many traditional estancias are still active today—preserving Gaucho culture while raising livestock and tending farmland.
As we explore deep into the wilds of the Patagonian Steppe, we find the remote working sheep ranch of Estancia Cerro Guido. “In Patagonia, we see many estancias from a distance,” says Joe. “But you get a more intimate picture of the culture when you stay at a working ranch. You can talk with the Gauchos and even help them work. You really get to know them.” This unique hotel is tucked in a remote corner of the vast Patagonian plains—with little around for miles besides the cry of the falcon and the wind rustling the pampas. The tranquility of this secluded retreat is underscored by its beauty. The walks in this region are some of the most natural and wild—with the pristine cobalt waters of Laguna Azul forming a colorful foreground against the imposing backdrop of the Torres Del Paine. For those looking for a challenge, optional walks afford stunning views of the legendary torres. Instead, you might choose to immerse yourself deeper into Gaucho culture with a horseback ride through the pampas—or just relax and explore the estancia’s lush organic gardens. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Gaucho meal of farm-raised grilled meats and vegetables as the lonesome strains of Gaucho singing fill the air.
Haute Cuisine on the Pampas
Patagonian cuisine is distinctive—including succulent grilled meats, spicy empanadas, savory humitas, hearty cazuela stews, and of course, flan—a delicate custard dripping with creamy dulce de leche. Vegetarian options are plentiful, and foodies from all walks of life will enjoy exploring the pleasures of the South American table. Our journey of gastronomic discovery culminates in the sensational restaurant at our Argentinean hotel, Eolo Lodge. This Relais & Châteaux luxury property lies at the foothills of the southern Andes—immersed in the steppe’s windy silence and seclusion. The simplicity of the landscape is belied by the complexity of Eolo’s cuisine—creating a fusion of traditional Patagonian flavors with international culinary techniques. This Michelin-trained chef is a true virtuoso of taste!
If Patagonia is on your bucket list of Big Trip destinations, our Country Walkers Tour Consultants are eager to help! We’ll answer questions, point you in the right direction with optional activities, sight-seeing, or tour extensions that will help you reach your goals. Just a quick call to 855.445.5617 will put you in touch with an expert Tour Consultant who will be happy to help you build a plan that ticks every box.