It’s not hard to see why the dramatic landscapes of Patagonia draw the world’s most adventure-ready travelers. The beauty of places like the Perito Moreno Glacier, Torres del Paine National Park, and Tierra del Fuego is simply unmistakable. Rugged hiking trails, extreme sports opportunities, and wide-open spaces demand attention.
But in between these natural wonders lie other fascinating opportunities to explore. Hidden corners offer opportunities to uncover a different side of this wild landscape. Take a chance and consider these often-overlooked Patagonian experiences.
1. Seafood dinner.
Per capita, Argentines eat more beef than nearly any other country in the world. And for good reason—their grass-fed cattle ranches are home to some of the best-tasting steaks in the world. But all that meat can leave you searching for something lighter. Luckily, Patagonia is also home to a rich variety of delicious seafood. Check out small, family-owned restaurants inland which often feature freshly caught trout from nearby glacier-fed streams. Or, stop into coastal cafes renowned for their selections of briny shellfish and mouthwatering crab.
2. Chocolate tasting.
Europe’s influence on Argentina is clear in the Baroque architecture, pizzerias, and pasta joints of the country’s metropolitan areas. That influence continues in Patagonia, where rugged landscapes reminiscent of Switzerland have helped dictate the culture along Bariloche’s alpine avenues. Stop into one of the town’s boutique shops to savor sweets made by master chocolatiers or grab a steaming mug of sinfully rich cocoa to enjoy nearby, on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi.
3. Scenic bus ride.
Unlike many countries, where long bus rides are the bane of road-weary travelers, riding by coach in Argentina is one of the best—and most affordable—ways to get around. For a journey that combines exceptional views and convenient transportation between two Patagonian hotspots, check out buses that run along Ruta 40, from Bariloche to El Calafate. In addition to the ample legroom and super-sized windows, you can often look forward to fully reclining seats, delicious meals, glasses of wine, and TVs showing popular movies.
4. Beagle Channel sail.
The southern tip of South America—where Chile and Argentina meet in a swirl of rocky coasts, rain-soaked hills, and epic ocean winds—remains one of the most dramatic places in the world to sail. Get a taste of that experience with an excursion into the waters of the Beagle Channel, near the town of Ushuaia. Named after Charles Darwin’s boat, the HMS Beagle, this scenic and wild passage is filled with breathtaking landscapes and photogenic wildlife.
5. Estancia Stay.
Majestic peaks, sapphire blue lakes, and glistening glaciers are the usual features of Patagonia postcards, leaving little room for the breathtaking expanses of grasslands and plains that fill the areas in between. Estancias are the names given to huge ranches that occupy these marvelous landscapes and typically offer unique activities, including horse riding and fly fishing. Look to stay at one of these amazing estates to get a taste of Patagonia’s vaquero lifestyle.
6. Penguin meet and greet.
Argentina’s rich coast offers the perfect habitat for adorable Magellanic penguins. Head to Puerto Madryn and waddle along the beach for a chance to meet them up close. The port is also a great place to embark on whale-watching excursions where you might catch glimpses of orcas and southern right whales.
Most Argentine wines come from a fertile region around Mendoza, near the center of the country. But over the last few years, intrepid growers have been moving south to discover the chalky soils and arid plains of Patagonia. Stop in at one of the entrepreneurial vintners around Neuquén for sips of exceptional Malbec and sparkling wine, especially good here because of the region’s cool climate.
What are your favorite overlooked activities?