Argentina’s second- and third-largest provinces, stretching from the Atlantic to the Andes, Santa Cruz and Chubut might be considered Argentina’s “Deep South,” whose vast open spaces and scattered population lend themselves to Patagonia’s “wild and remote” stereotype. That said, there are substantial cities and towns with hotels and other services, many good roads (plus others not so good), and decent public transportation.
Southern Patagonia’s most dramatic sight (and sound) is the Moreno Glacier at Parque Nacional Los Glaciares—along with Buenos Aires and Iguazú, it’s one of the top reasons people travel to Argentina. Many spend entire days gazing upon and listening to this relentless river of ice. More active visitors take the bus to the hamlet of El Chaltén, where a cluster of trailheads offer access to wild backcountry and, for climbers, some of the continent’s most challenging technical peaks. Even day hikers, though, will appreciate its striking Andean scenery.
Even then, the barren coastline draws many visitors to Península Valdés and other sites where packs of penguins waddle ashore in the southern spring, elephant seals give birth in summer, and the great right whales breed and birth in sheltered shallows in winter and spring. The coast and steppe also feature picturesque towns such as the Welsh settlement of Gaiman and the historic ports of Puerto Deseado and Puerto San Julián. On the Santa Cruz steppe, there are several petrified forests and the landmark rock art of Cueva de las Manos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition