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11 Things I Still Can’t Believe I Experienced in Patagonia

I knew this remote part of Chile would be incredible, but I couldn't foresee the surprises in store.

At the end of the world lies Patagonia, a swath of land that stretches across Chile and Argentina from Pacific to Atlantic. Six national parks within Patagonia include mountains, steppes, glaciers, ice fields, forests, lakes, rivers, countless endemic flora and fauna, and very, very few people. The sightings are as unique as the landscape.

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Avalanches

Hike through some of the world’s most remote and endemic environments in Torres del Paine National Park, and feel the earth shake under your feet as you witness giant snowpack shaking loose from craggy peaks. Even if you aren’t in eyesight of the awesome monstrosity—you’re bound to hear the shudder.

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PHOTO: Shutterstock
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Rare Cat Sightings

Going with a guide can be a huge advantage in spotting wildlife. A field expert can help point out things an untrained eye might never consider looking for, like a mama puma frolicking with her cubs—early in the morning and dusk are the best times for puma spotting.

[Author’s note: We spotted a mother and cubs and a solo hunter, but the photos came out awful because I was too excited.]

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Ecosystem Processes

You don’t need to be a biologist to spy earth doing its thing all over Patagonia. Walk the trails to witness superlative nature—even a random tree felling alongside your path.

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Partake From a Glacier

Fill up your water bottles from the cleanest, coldest freshest source you’ll ever taste. With a hint of mineral for extra yum.

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Dynamic Color Palettes in Nature

Glacial lakes in Patagonia are a milky electric blue, colored by the slowly pulverized rocks of Andean glaciers turning land into fine-grained sediments called glacial flour. A flock of dazzling pink flamingos on the water pop with saturated surrealism to shock the muted tones of the prehistoric land.

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Fox Chase

The chilla, or South American gray fox, may dart alongside your travels unseen—unless you’re lucky enough to watch a domesticated dog chase him into plain site (absolutely no hunting!). Most horseback rides are accompanied by a guiding baqueano, or Chilean cowboy, and their trusty pup by their side. The pair can help tourists spot the wildlife they might otherwise overlook.

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Wildlife Runs Wild


Baguales, or wild horses, run free in Torres del Paine National Park. The unpredictability of their appearance only enhances the enchantment—like they’ve deigned to visit and grace you with their untamable fierceness.

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A Silver Shell of Forest

Almost 40,000 acres of Torres del Paine National Park burned in 2012, a fire caused by grossly irresponsible tourists’ conduct. The native forests mature over 200 years, so there is no quick fix to repopulating the trees. Scorched remains serve as a ferocious reminder to protect the fragile environmental conditions and practice strict observation of park rules.

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360-Degree Sunrise and Sunsets

The sunlight bends over the end of the world in gorgeous light. Because of Patagonia’s location at the bottom of South America and its steep changes in altitude, the scene is set for exquisite sunrise and sets, often illuminating the sky pinks and purples that extend in a sunset that completely encompasses.

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Creatures in Their Habitat

Many of the native fauna in Patagonia has grown used to human activity in their peripheral. Because of that, guanaco, a type of camelid that resembles a llama or alpaca, charge the roads, unafraid of vehicles stopping or going. Rheas, non-flying ostrich-like birds, peck around the brush without notice to snapping tourists.

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PHOTO: Shutterstock
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Southern Hemisphere Constellations

It’s been said that the Southern Hemisphere is the better half for star-gazing, and from the darkness of Patagonian night, you can clearly spot lots of good stuff. Globular clusters, neighboring galaxies, nebula, and the Milky Way all twinkle and shine alongside the brightest stars in the night sky: Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centuari.

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