Discovering the amazing wonders of Patagonia

  • Americas
  • Sunday, 26 Aug 2018

The awesome Cascada Paine watershed in Torres Del Paine National Park. Photos: Benjamin Boey

It was a gruelling long-haul flight from Kuala Lumpur to South America, but I really wanted to see the amazing wonders of Patagonia.

From Buenos Aires in Argentina, I took a flight to the country’s southern part – El Calafate – which was the gateway to Patagonia. I was anxious to catch my first glimpse of autumn foliage in the Patagonia National Park.

If you’re planning to go, try booking your flights and accommodation in the colder seasons as there are fewer tourists during this time. Prices for domestic flights and hotel rooms are also more affordable then.

Darkness sets in pretty early in autumn, though. I took a bus from El Calafate in the morning to a quaint sea port town in Puerto Natales, Chile, crossing the border on the way. The journey took five hours, but I didn’t think it was boring as the views of the grasslands and snow-capped mountain were just stunning.

A tranquil lake in the Patagonia National Park.

The bus was also fitted with a lavatory that was pretty clean – we didn’t have to make any pitstops for toilet breaks.

Puerto Natales is where you need to be if you want to see the spectacular Torres Del Paine National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. I bought a day tour package online before my trip (recommended!) and met with the tour operator at dawn the next day. Spanish is the official language in most parts of South America so my tour guide had some difficulty expressing himself in English. Most of the time we had to communicate through body language.

I was lucky to witness a herd of guanacos grazing on the steppe. As I attempted to get a closer look at them, however, they ran off within seconds.

Torres del Paine is renowned for its mountains, tranquil lakes, bright blue icebergs that cleave from glaciers and beautiful pampas. Most avid hikers are likely to fall in love with the many trekking trails at the park – one of which is the W trek which takes about four days to complete.

Also at the park is the amazing Cascada del Paine waterfall.

I have lost count of the many beautiful lakes I saw in Torres del Paine but the best one to me is the Blue Massif, a lake with clear turquoise waters. We would have stayed longer here if not for the impending storm coming our way. Besides relaxing by the lakes, the time was well spent on witnessing the floating icebergs and exploring the ancient caves.

The next day, I went back to El Calafate as I wanted to do two more trekking trails on the Argentina side of Patagonia.

I took a bus to El Chalten, home of the Los Glaciares National Park, where I spent a full day there. Even along the way to El Chalten, you get to see beautiful sights like the Argentino Lake and La Leona River.

Wandering through the autumn foliage in El Chalten.

Later, I did a two-hour self-guided trek to one of the miradors of the Mount Fitz Roy and Mount Torre where the views from the summit took my breath away. Patagonia is well known for its unpredictable weather so as the sky began to get gloomy, I quickly descended to seek shelter.

On my last day in Patagonia, I visited the world famous Perito Moreno glacier which is about an hour’s bus ride from El Calafate. This is one of the very few glaciers left in the world that is still advancing gradually. The glacier’s remarkable colour gives it the appearance of a gigantic blue slushy. I was so happy and grateful to be there and to see all that natural beauty up close.

Listening to the ice chunk calving off from the face of the glacier is a fascinating experience.

What makes Perito Moreno one of the most amazing glaciers in South America is how often the ice chunks constantly splits (about every 20 minutes), sending huge waves across the lake.

My six-day adventure to Patagonia was not long enough to see the vastness of the magical land, especially during the cold months. I am seriously contemplating revisiting this place when the weather is warmer.

The views expressed are entirely the reader’s own.

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