Shutterstock/17131474/Adrian 507Patagonia has become the stuff of legends, and for good reason. It's more immense than you can possibly imagine, more empty, more windswept and more beautiful. No wonder it has attracted pioneers and runaways from the modern world. From Welsh settlers to Butch and Sundance; from Bruce Chatwin to Ernetso 'Che' Guevara riding the Ruta 40, Patagonia invites adventure.

East of the Andes, Patagonia makes up the whole southern- most cone of the Americas: a vast expanse of treeless steppe, dotted with the occasional sheep estancia. But at its edges are extraordinary extremes: whales bask and thousands of sea lions cavort at Península Valdés, and descendants of the Welsh still hold Eisteddfods (Welsh Festival of Arts) at Gaiman. Thousands of handprints are testimony to Stone Age life at Cueva de las Manos, and there are two petrified forests of mighty fallen monkey puzzle trees.

Take the Ruta 40 south, and you'll travel hundreds of kilometres without seeing a soul, until the magnificent granite towers of Mount Fitz Roy rise up from the flat plains: this trekking heaven is far less crowded than Torres del Paine, and on the southern ice field there are no beaten tracks whatsoever. El Calafate is the base for boat trips to the Perito Moreno Glacier: put on your crampons and walk their sculpted turquoise curves, or escape to splendidly isolated Estancia Cristina. Once you've seen Upsala Glacier stretching out as far as the eye can see, silent and pristine, calving below you into a milky Prussian blue lake, you'll be addicted. Allow plenty of time, bring walking boots and a camera.

For trekking in Torres del Paine and travelling to Tierra del Fuego see Chilean Patagonia

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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