Official Name: Patagonia (Region includes Republic of Chile and Republic of Argentina)
Government: A quarter of the region belongs to Chile and the rest to Argentina
Population: Argentina & Chile approx. 2,000,000
Total Area: Argentina & Chile approx. 1,000,000 km2
Time Difference: Chile GMT -4 hours; Argentina GMT -4 hours (-3 hours daylight saving)
Peak Season: December to February (Land tours operate November to February, Expedition Cruises operate late October to early April).
Electricity: 230/240 volts, 50 hertz
Airports: International - Santiago (Chile) & Buenos Aires (Argentina). Local connections - Punta Arenas (Chile), Rio Gallegos (Argentina), Ushuaia (Argentina).
Where is Patagonia?
Patagonia is difficult to define but is generally considered to be a rugged, mountainous area of southern Chile and Argentina including the Andes mountains to the west and south, and plateaux and low plains to the east. The region covers more than a million square kilometres (some 540,000 square miles), with about a quarter of the region in Chile and the remainder in Argentina. About a third of Argentina is part of the Patagonia region. Broadly speaking, Patagonia starts at the southern edge of Buenos Aires province or Rio Colorado and descends through the Andes to the southern tip of the continent.
Patagonia is characterised by long rugged coastlines, giant glaciers, fjords, and extensive windswept steppe. Sparsely populated but rich in natural resources and flora and fauna, Patagonia's economy relies on sheep herding, oil, mining, agriculture, and tourism. Patagonia is a magnet for nature lovers, hikers, ice climbers and photographers due to its varied, spectacular landscapes and abundant wildlife.
There is an outdoor attraction to represent almost any region of Patagonia. The two most famous national parks are Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire), famous for its austere beauty and historical romance, and UNESCO World Heritage listed Torres del Paine National Park, which attracts hikers from all over the world. Other highlights include the Lake District, petrified forests, various volcanoes, Fitzroy National Park, Perito Moreno Glacier and the Beagle Channel.
Expedition Cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the South American continent, and perhaps the world.
When to visit Patagonia
Patagonia is in the southern hemisphere, so if you're from the northern hemisphere, you need to think of the seasons in reverse. This means that the warmest months are December, January and February, while the coldest are in June, July and August.
It is best to visit in the summer months of December through February as temperatures are generally warmer and the days are longer. Shoulder months, October, November, March, and April tend to have cooler temperatures, but also less wind and fewer visitors. The weather is unpredictable all year round and strong winds and sudden storms are common.
Apart from seasonal variations, the climate is moderated by the Andes mountains to the west, and the Atlantic ocean to the east. Southern Chile is very cloudy and wet to the west of the mountains, while Argentine Patagonia is almost desert-like and is sheltered from westerly winds. Rainfall exceeds 2,000mm a year to the west of the Andes and it gets drier toward the Atlantic zone in the east where the average rainfall is only 200mm.
In the Beagle Channel, temperatures rise to 18 °C in summer and -14 °C in winter, however, in the plateaus, temperatures are even more extreme.