What is Patagonia?
Patagonia. You may know it as a high quality outdoor clothing brand, but it is much more than just an expensive jacket. What is Patagonia then? Well, Patagonia the brand actually takes its name from a region of land in South America, which spans across southern Argentina and Chile. Patagonia encompasses part of the Andes Mountains, and also features grasslands, deserts, and coastal areas. An outdoor enthusiast’s mecca, this diverse landscape is filled with environmental wonders, and has much to offer residents and visitors alike.
Location and Climate
Located across both Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is bound by the Patagonian Andes and Pacific Ocean to the West, the Colorado river to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Strait of Magellan to the south. It contains mountainous regions which experience snow and cold weather, amongst large areas of desert, and coastal regions.
Patagonia can be split into two distinct zones, the northern zone and the southern zone, and each of these has contrasting climates. The northern zone is semi-arid, with annual average temperatures between 54 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit. In coastal areas of this zone, sunshine is minimal, though that changes as you head inland to the northwest. Annual rainfall varies, and the prevailing winds, which come from the southwest, are dry, cold, and strong.
The southern zone is colder and less humid, with average temperatures between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. However, minimum temperatures can drop to between 16 and −27 degrees Fahrenheit. This region experiences heavy snowfall in the winter, and frost can occur pretty much year round.
Demographics and Economy
Spread out over this roughly 400,000 square mile region are some two million Chileans and Argentinians that call Patagonia home. The region is home to oil fields and many mineral assets, such as iron, coal, gold, copper, uranium, and others. However, since the second half of the 20th century, tourism has been driving force of the economy in Patagonia.
Each year, ecotourists and adventurers flock to Patagonia, who come to explore this impressive geographical terrain. Many locals work in this tourism industry, providing visitors with mountain and desert tours, ocean faring adventures, and plant and wildlife explorations.
Travelling and Visiting
The varying geographical landscapes across a vast location means the area presents a great deal of diverse experiences when it comes to visiting and exploring. The region offers some of the world’s best whale watching, contains dinosaur fossils and nearly extinct bird species, and is home to many popular hiking destinations, including the Torres del Paine National Park. There are in fact six national parks located within the bounds of Patagonia, each offering unique attractions, and spread out between Chile and Argentina.
With peak tourist season from December to February, there is a small window of ideal time and climate to visit the area. Furthermore, considering the size of the region, it is best to contain your trip to a certain area. Planning to do everything in one trip is likely too much and will not give you adequate time to appreciate what each special region has to offer.
With over 270,000 square miles of area in Argentina, and an additional 131,000 in Chile, there is an incredible amount to see, do and explore in the Patagonia region of South America. Whether you come for the birds, the mountains, the hiking or the snow, put on your Patagonia jacket and get ready: your adventure awaits!