Lake Traful in Patagonia, Argentina

In Patagonia, nature shows a knack for the grandiose: golden pampas sprawled beneath a huge expanse of sky; forests of gnarled trees resembling oversized Bonsai; the largest continental ice cap outside Antarctica; massive heaven-reaching rock spires; gorgeous turquoise lakes; and glaciers forgotten by the last ice age. Early explorers christened it Finis Terrae (The End of the World), and in this dreamlike setting, there is still plenty of adventure for modern-day explorers.

The Andes mountain range shows its beauty in the Patagonian provinces. Millennial and silent forests with native vegetable species extend along the shores of glistening waters. At the summit of the mountains, nature overflows with granite peaks and ice fields spreading their glacier tongues into lakes of unsurpassable beauty.

Impressive mammals and sea birds, half way between real life and fantasy, spend certain seasons on the rough coasts of Patagonia where they complete part of their life cycle. Colonies of seals play on the islets and sandbanks. In the Vald?s Peninsula the sea elephants have the only continental enclave in the world, a magical place where the southern whales regularly come to the Nuevo and San Jos? gulfs to breed.

Patagonian hares, ?and?es (South American ostrich) and guanacos run about the steppes and the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world nest at Punta Tombo. This life cycle repeated since time immemorial unfolds itself in front of the astonished eyes of the visitor. In the south, Tierra del Fuego and the World’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, a gateway towards the vast and mysterious Antarctica.

Located on the shores of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. Take a visit to its World’s End and Maritime museums - old prison - and enjoy its natural surroundings. A small train takes us to the gates of the Tierra del Fuego National Park with diverse species of flora and fauna.

It is the scenery of imposing glaciers descending from the continental ice field. Thirteen glaciers on the Atlantic side break into huge ice towers onto the waters of the lakes Viedma and Argentino. The front faces of the glaciers Perito Moreno, Mayo, Spegazzini and Upsala fall upon the latter, at a short distance from the shores of the glaciers Agassiz, Onelli, Ameghino and Fr?as. Tertiary granite elevations covered with thick Andean forests are part of this spectacle.

There are on the Patagonian coast a number of natural reserves that provide sanctuary to various species of marine fauna, but none other offers such a spectacular concentration of wildlife as the Vald?s Peninsula.

Situated 1,400 kilometers to the south of Buenos Aires, it projects into the sea forming two gulfs of sheltered waters, a meeting point for the southern right whales which arrive to complete their breeding cycle between May and December.

In the northern point of the Peninsula is the only continental breeding colony of elephants seals in the world. Their name comes from the proboscis that resembles an elephant’s trunk and which males dilate when in heat.

Elephants seals reach 7 meters in length and weigh an average of three tons. They feed on fish, squid and octopus and dive up to 200 meters in search of prey. There are also many substantial colonies of sea lions mixed with a rich variety of birds, while the peninsula’s interior is teeming with other animals such as rheas, Patagonian cavy and guanaco.

Five major Argentine airlines attempt to make this big country appear smaller: privatized Aerol?neas Argentinas handles domestic as well as international routes, while Austral covers domestic routes only. L?nea A?reas Privadas Argentinas (LAPA) competes with Austral and Aerol?neas on many domestic routes. L?neas A?reas del Estado (LADE), the air force’s passenger service, serves mostly Patagonian destinations. Dinar serves smaller domestic destinations.

Long-distance buses are fast and comfortable; some even provide on-board meal services. However, fares are expensive and fluctuate wildly. Private operators have assumed control of the formerly state-owned railways, but have shown little interest in providing passenger service except on commuter lines in and around Buenos Aires.