In the year 1520, the first encounter between the white man and the original peoples took place, when Don Fernando de Magallanes (who discovered the strait that today bears his name) sighted some corpulent indigenous people who he described as giants and baptized them as Patagones, for their great footprints, thus giving rise to the name Patagonia and the legend of the land of giants.
The indigenous people they saw in the Magallanes region were Aonikenk who measured an average of 1.80 meters. The name Patagón derives from the character Pathagon from a book of chivalry that Magellan was fond of. These inhabitants were bands of nomadic hunters, who entered when the ice from the last glaciation was retreating. Known for their great stature, they occupied the steppes from the Santa Cruz River in Argentina, to the North, to the Strait of Magellan, to the South. One of the great changes that Europeans brought to America was the horse, an animal that drastically modified the lifestyle of all indigenous people.
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Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most incredible destinations in the Chilean geography. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. It is a protected area of 242,000 hectares and part of the Patagonia Park Route that has lakes, glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, forests and its particular granite towers, which have left Chile as one of the best natural destinations of the planet.
In Patagonia it is possible to go trekking, kayaking, mountaineering, climbing, ice trekking, cycling, horseback riding, whale watching, bird watching and endless other activities. The mountains have the peculiarity of being dyed red.
There is an extensive fauna and it is possible to closely observe condors, foxes, guanacos, rheas and pumas. Crossing forests, hills, waterfalls and lakes, with privileged views of the white mantle of Southern Ice Field. Without a doubt they make an experience that exceeds any expectation of a trip to Chilean Patagonia.
How to get to Chilean Patagonia?
Already in Chile (Santiago) we started the trip from the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport to the south, towards the city of Punta Arenas or the city of Puerto Natales, where the airport is currently open. A flight that has an approximate flight duration of about 3 hours.
Access roads to Punta Arenas:
Through this route, Punta Arenas is accessed from the cities of Santiago, Puerto Montt and Balmaceda, landing at the Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport, located 20 km away of the Patagonian capital. From the airport to the city center can be reached via Route 9 north, in an estimated time of 25 to 30 minutes.
If you access Patagonia through Punta Arenas, there is the option of following Route 9 that leads north towards Puerto Natales by land transport with an approximate duration of 2 hours and 50 minutes. Also from the city of Punta Arenas there are regular flights that take you to the cities of Porvenir and Puerto Williams. There are also connections with Argentine cities from Calafate, Río Grande and Ushuaia.
– Land route
Most vehicles from other regions of Chile and Argentina enter using Route 255, Monte Aymond – Punta Arenas, after passing through Argentine territory.
Access roads to Puerto Natales
Since 2019, the Teniente Julio Gallardo airport was opened in the city of Puerto Natales, where today the airlines Latam, Sky Airline and Jet Smart make regular flights from Santiago de Chile.
– Land route
The main access through this road is through Route 9 North, Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales. The other alternatives to enter by land are through the border crossings (with Argentina) of Casas Viejas, Dorotea and Río Don Guillermo. Border crossings are operational throughout the year.
Through a Ferry, specially conditioned for the transport of passengers, vehicles and cargo, it is possible to access Puerto Natales from Puerto Montt. The journey takes four days and three nights.