Interesting facts about Patagonia


Patagonia is a sparsely populated region located at the southern end of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile.

It is a very geographically diverse region, including the southern section of the Andes mountains as well as the deserts, steppes, grasslands and coasts.

Patagonia has two coasts; a western one towards the Pacific Ocean and an eastern one towards the Atlantic Ocean.

The northern edge of Patagonia is marked by the Colorado and Barrancas rivers, both of which run from the Andes mountains along the Pacific coast to the Atlantic Ocean in the east.

Patagonia extends south to the Straits of Magellan, which marks the southern tip of the South American continent.

Patagonia covers an area of approximately 1,043,076 square kilometers (402,734 square miles).

patagonia map

The striking scenery of Patagonia is the result of major glaciological and geological transformations that took place in the region millions of years ago, creating mountains and countless valleys, glaciers, lakes and rivers.

The whole Patagonia has a population of about 2 million people.

Patagonia is one of the most uninhabited areas of our planet and home to an incredible variety of wildlife and plant life, many of which is endemic to the region.

patagonia flowers

Neuquén (Argentina), with a population of 265,000 is the largest city in Patagonia.

The Patagonian city of Ushuaia (Argentina) is the southernmost city in the world, and is a popular departure point for cruises and departures to Antarctica.

There are at least seven national parks in Patagonia: Torres del Paine (Chile), Los Glaciares (Argentina), Laguna San Rafael (Chile), Nahuel Huapi (Argentina), Tierra del Fuego (Argentina), Alberto de Agostini (Chile), Bernado O’Higgins (Chile)

Torres Del Paine National Park [photo below] in Chile and Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina are the two most visited parks in Patagonia.

torres del paine national park

The enormous Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park contains the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world, and it’s still growing. Every day the glacier expands and creeps forward another 2 meters (6.5 feet). This phenomena baffles scientists, as most of the world’s glaciers are shrinking because of climate change.

perito moreno glacier

The Patagonian Desert is the largest desert in the Americas and the 8th largest desert in the world by area, occupying 673,000 square kilometers (260,000 square miles). It is located primarily in Argentina with small parts in Chile.

The guanaco (Lama guanicoe), the puma, the Patagonian fox (Lycalopex griseus), the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk (Conepatus humboldtii), and the Magellanic tuco-tuco (Ctenomys magellanicus) are the most characteristic mammals of the Patagonian plains.

A wild horse herd has resided in the mountains around Cape Horn, in Chilean Patagonia, for more than a century without any human contact. They are considered one of the largest and last wild horse herds in the world.

patagonia wild horses

Bird-life is often abundant. The southern caracara (Caracara plancus) is one of the characteristic objects of a Patagonian landscape; there are also: austral parakeets (Enicognathus ferrugineus), green-backed firecrowns (Sephanoides sephaniodes), Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), the upland goose (Chloephaga picta) and one of the largest birds in the world, the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).

Signature marine fauna include the southern right whale, the Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus), the orca  and elephant seals.

magellanic penguins patagonia

Fossils of the largest of all dinosaurs, have been found in Patagonia. Based on its huge thigh bones, it was 40 meters (130 ft) long and 20 meters (65 feet) tall. Weighing in at 77 tonnes, it was as heavy as 14 African elephants, and seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus.

Human habitation of the region dates back thousands of years, with some early archaeological findings in the area dated to at least the 13th millennium BC, although later dates of around the 10th millennium BC are more securely recognized.

The Cueva de las Manos is a famous site in Santa Cruz, Argentina. The cave lies in the valley of the Pinturas River, in an isolated spot in the Patagonian landscape. A cave at the foot of a cliff is covered in wall paintings, particularly the negative images of hundreds of hands, believed to date from around 8000 BC.

cueva de las manos

The calafate berry (Berberis microphylla), also known as the Magellan barberry, is a humble fruit with a big reputation. According to legend, those who eat this fruit will always return to Patagonia; it’s often made into jam.

The name Patagonia comes from the word patagón used by Magellan in 1520 to describe the native people that his expedition thought to be giants. It is now believed that the people he called the Patagons were Tehuelches, who tended to be taller than Europeans of the time.

Patagonians use to say they live at the end of the world. The result of this isolation has mixed European and indigenous people gradually.

In the second half of the 20th century, tourism became an ever more important part of Patagonia’s economy. Originally a remote backpacking destination, the region has attracted increasing numbers of upmarket visitors, cruise passengers rounding Cape Horn or visiting Antarctica, and adventure and activity holiday-makers.

The region became fashionable with wealthy foreigners in the 1990s and many celebrities bought homes there, fueling a boom in property sales.