Underneath the gusts of the imposing Andes Cordillera and the vast palpitation of the glaciers, rivers and lakes that flow from it, Argentinean Patagonia appears immense before the surprised eyes of those who decide to get into its heart.
Patagonia is more than an attraction, much more than a simple tourist destination: it is magic and contemplation, it implies devotion and unties in the traveler a mixture of feelings that will never be repeated again.
Nowadays, Patagonia is the name of the southernmost vast region of the American Continent, comprising both Argentinean and Chilean territories.
As regards Argentina, and strictly speaking, it covers all the territory that extends from the south of the central Pampa, as from the line of Colorado river, up to the province of Tierra del Fuego.
When Ferdinand Magellan set foot on the lands of San Julián, in 1520, during the journey that would mark the discovery of the strait that bears his name, he referred to the natives that he found there as "Patagones".
The reporter of the event, Don Antonio Pigaffeta, describes it like this: "Our captain called these people Patagones", a word used in novels of knights' adventures, very popular at that time, and that was used to make reference to gigantic monsters.
The term Patagonia stems from there, a derivative that served to describe with exactitude the immensity of a territory that extended before the eyes of the Hispanic discoverer.
Extensive and lonely, Patagonia has always exercised a strange fascination on those who have visited it.
It is a similar attraction to the one produced by the polar desolate lands or the Argentinean pampas (prairies) in the tales of the first travelers: the secret may rely on its immensity, on the limitless freedom it proposes, on the rough but healthy weather, on the struggle with the hostile nature that attracts the strong ones.
With a surface of 757,000 km2 that includes five provinces: Río Negro, Neuquén, Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego, Argentinean Patagonia is characterized by its contrasts.
First of all it should be mentioned that Patagonia offers two totally different aspects: the Andes Cordillera in the west, and the plateaus in the east, or as they are usually called, the Andean Patagonia and the Atlantic Patagonia.
The Patagonian Andes are lower than the northern Andean mountains: thereto the dampness of the beeches, cypresses, pines and cinnamon forests.
Although it is mainly a mountainous region, these alternate with natural lakes, glaciers and woods; and everything together, becomes one of the most spectacular Argentinean landscapes.
All over Patagonia, you can visit national parks that protect its fauna and landscape wealth.
The extension of the ice camps, the presence of glaciers that pour their floes into lakes whose arms deeply penetrate the mountain, multiply the landscape in a dazzling display of beauty.
The extra-Andean Patagonia is the region that borders the Atlantic Ocean, also called Patagonian Plain, and possesses a very special relief with high plains, valleys, canyons and hills, which give a magnificent view of the coastal landscape.
The climate is arid and cold toward the south, and this solitude is only interrupted by some agricultural oasis developed by men.
From the foot of the cordillera to the Atlantic coast, the Patagonian plains emphasize their regular outline against the horizon as of they were huge steps of a colossal stair that descends to the sea.
Arid and without any trees, its ground is only covered by short thorny bushes and rough grass. This dry, windy and diaphanous Patagonian plain has a special attraction: it is difficult to withdraw from the charm of its magnificence, its infinite blue sky covered with stars.
When you get to the coast - 2700 km of extensive littoral- the plateaus form cliffs and gullies that alternate with broad dark sand beaches, sanctuary of the most impressive sea mammals, the southern "franca" blue whale, the only continental colony of walruses in the world, and the penguin reserves in Valdés Peninsula.
Due to such a rich maritime fauna, several reserves have been built for the effective protection of sea-lions and walruses, penguins, whales, and for a great variety of sea birds.
This area, adequately equipment for the development of tourism, offers visitors noteworthy attractions: San Martin de los Andes and Bariloche with rich lakes and ski centers; Valdés Peninsula with its fauna reserves; Mt Fitz Roy, one of greatest aims of international mountaineering; Lake Argentino and the beauty of the glaciers which protect it, or Ushuaia, the southernmost city of the world in Tierra del Fuego, an island of strange suggestion and legendary name.