5 Reasons to Add Patagonia to Your Bucket List

What makes Patagonia worthy of inclusion on your bucket list? Here, the imagination runs as wild as the wildlife. Since the Magellan expedition’s first accounts of giant mega-fauna and hidden cities of gold, the unparalleled diversity of Patagonia’s landscapes have inspired generations of travelers.

Here are five travel-inspiring reasons to make sure this destination is on your bucket list:

Magellanic penguin at sunrise at Punta Tombo Argentina
Magellanic penguin at sunrise at Punta Tombo, Argentina. Photo © Ksenia Ragozina/123rf.

March with the penguins during migration at the largest Magellanic penguin colony in South America, where 200,000 penguins waddle ashore every austral spring.

This amazing sight takes place at Punta Tombo, and you’ll find penguins–Magellanic, Rockhopper, and more–all over Patagonia’s coastline. Visits to Península Valdés and Isla Pingüino almost always result in prime penguin sightings throughout the year.

Hikers trekking through a glacier in Patagonia
Climbers at Glaciar Perito Moreno. Photo © Galina Barskaya/123rf.

Hear the earth explode at Glaciar Perito Moreno.

When the advancing glacier blocks Lago Argentino’s Brazo Rico (Rico Arm), a rising body of water forms that eventually, when the weight became too great for the natural dam, triggers an eruption of ice and water toward the lake’s main glacial trough. Perched on newly modernized catwalks and overlooks, many visitors spend entire days either gazing at or simply listening to this rumbling and rasping river of ice.

Mist and sunlight at Bahia Lapataia in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Bahía Lapataia in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. Photo © Ulrich Peters, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Stand at the end of the earth—literally—at Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city, in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego.

For pilgrims to the uttermost part of the earth, Mecca is Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego’s Bahía Lapataia. Where freshwater Lago Roca drains into the sea here, you’ll find great hiking and plentiful beaver dams, and within walking distance of Ushuaia is the area’s single best hike, a two-hour climb to Glaciar Martial glacier tongue.

A 4x4 stands ready with door open at El Calafate Patagonia
Take the ultimate road trip to El Calafate. Photo © Juan Geracaris, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Drive the adventurous, lonely road, where supplies are few and far between and newly-paved stretches abruptly become seemingly abandoned gravel ruts.

La Cuarenta requires plenty of preparation outside the usual road trip, meaning extra gas, spare tires (at least two), sufficient food and water for everybody aboard, and steady nerves: with sudden, powerful winds and deep gravel, even high-clearance vehicles are vulnerable to flipping.

pictographs in Argentine Patagonia's Cave of Hands
The paintings in the Cuevas de las Manos date back to around 7370 b.c. Photo © pascalou95/iStock.

Visit the ancient art museum of Cueva de las Manos.

The walls of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are covered stencils of hundreds of human hands, guanacos, and abstract forms in orange, red, and yellow tones, all nearly 10,000 years old. Dating from around 7370 b.c., the oldest paintings represent hunter-gatherers from immediate postglacial times. The more abstract designs, which are fewer, are more recent. Oddly enough, nearly all the hands from which the site takes its name are left hands.

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Patagonia Bucket List