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All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

The enigmatic Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) in Argentine Patagonia is one of the finest examples of ancient rock art on the planet. Read on to find out more... What is it? The Cueva de Las Manos Pintadas (Cave of the Painted Hands) is not so much a single cave as a series of rock overhangs at the base of a cliff-face in the remote and spectacular Cañón de Río Pinturas in Patagonia. The site is most famous for its breathtaking collage of more than 800 black, white, red and ochre handprints, painted over 9,000 years ago, but there are also excellent depictions of guanacos (a relative of the llama and the artists’ main source of food), rheas (a large flightless bird that still roams the Patagonian plains), puma prints and human beings. In addition to living creatures there are also representations of geometric shapes, zigzag patterns, red dots, the sun, and hunting scenes. Photo credit: David Of the 829 handprints most are male, one has six fingers and only 31 are of right …
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In pictures: The sheer magnificence of Northern Patagonia

In pictures: The sheer magnificence of Northern Patagonia

Many first time visitors to Patagonia assume that the further south they venture, the more spectacular the landscapes they will encounter. In some ways this assumption is entirely correct: the rugged, raw beauty of Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego and El Calafate is indeed very hard to beat. But the more northerly (and thus more easily accessible) sections of both Chilean and Argentine Patagonia are picture-postcard-pretty too.  Known as The Lake District to some, it really is the kind of place to which words do no justice, so I'll stop rambling and let you take in the jaw-dropping magnificence of the photo gallery below. Simply click on the thumbnails to view in full size. Or sit back and let autoplay do the work... Happy (armchair) travels. [gallery ids="7890,7885,7886,7887,7888,7898,7889,7900,7893,7902,7892,7894,7899,7901,7891"]
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WATCH: 'The Far South' a short film about Tierra del Fuego

WATCH: 'The Far South' a short film about Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego is the kind of place that grabs a lot of headlines. Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world and the Drake Passage near Cape Horn is the most treacherous piece of ocean on the globe. The region is associated with world-famous names like Darwin, Magellan, Theroux and Chatwin. But the reality of life in such a desolate, windswept outpost is far less glamorous. This short film about the only permanent residents of Puerto Toro, the most southerly settlement in Tierra del Fuego, is both unsensational and grimy, which is why I like it so much. I hope you are similarly moved by it... Full credit to filmmakers David Gacs and Frances Anderson
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A comprehensive travel guide to Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia

A comprehensive travel guide to Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia

Last week’s blog was an introduction to Tierra del Fuego. This week we get up close and personal with The Land at the End of the World. To make it easier for you we’ve listed Chilean and Argentinean attractions and activities separately. Enjoy the ride… Things to do on the Argentine side Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world, so first things first you’ll need to snap a selfie and update your status message accordingly. If you’re really into such things you could also play a round of golf on the southernmost course in the world, or drink the most southerly microbrew on the planet. You get the picture… When Bruce Chatwin visited Ushuaia in 1974 it was a very unwelcoming place: “The blue-faced inhabitants of this apparently childless town glared at strangers unkindly. The men worked in a crab-cannery or in a naval yard, kept busy by a niggling cold war with Chile. The last house before the barracks was a brothel. Skull-white cabbages grew in the garden.” A lot has changed …
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Introducing Tierra del Fuego: The land at the end of the world

Introducing Tierra del Fuego: The land at the end of the world

Few places inspire images of rugged desolation more than Tierra del Fuego, but this mysterious and desolate archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American landmass is actually surprisingly easy to visit these days. Regular flights service the Argentine city of Ushuaia and Punta Arenas in Chile (which is actually situated on the mainland) and there is a well-developed tourism infrastructure throughout the area. Don’t let this put you off, however: Tierra del Fuego is just as remote, windswept and jaw-droppingly beautiful as it always has been (as a visit to the national park or a boat trip on the Beagle Channel will confirm) and the Chilean island of Isla Navarino (just North of the legendary Cape Horn) is an adventure-seeker’s paradise which is as desolate and far-flung as you’ll find…on this planet, at least. History Tierra del Fuego has been inhabited since about 8,000 BC, when the Yaghan people settled there. The Selk’nam people didn't arrive much later. Tierra del …
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El Perro and Historias Minimas: two films about Patagonia

El Perro and Historias Minimas: two films about Patagonia

Patagonia isn’t all Alpine lakes and snow-capped mountains; glistening glaciers and abundant forests. In fact there are huge tracts of the southernmost part of South America that wouldn’t even come close to making it into a tourist brochure. These places may not be eminently Instagrammable, but if you take the time to explore them – as filmmaker Carlos Sorín has done – the stories will writhe out, like maggots from the corpse of a beached elephant seal. Patagonia has always been desolate but in the past this emptiness was tempered by the fact that there was money to be made. Now, not only is the landscape overwhelming and the wind ceaseless (oh, the ever-present wind) but the economic backdrop is also unfailingly bleak. Obviously the big multinationals are making money from oil, but the oil fields are restricted to certain areas and even then it isn’t a very labour intensive industry. Sheep farming used to be the region’s staple, but a lot has changed since the glory days around the …
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Jaw-dropping beauty: Patagonia time-lapse video

Jaw-dropping beauty: Patagonia time-lapse video

We're always partial to a good time-lapse video, but few are as star-studded as this one. If places could be Hollywood actors then Patagonia is Brad Pitt, Leo di Caprio and Angelina Jolie rolled into one. If you think there's a more beautiful corner of the globe, then you obviously haven't watched this clip. If there's anyone who can do justice to the stark beauty of this region straddling southern Argentina and Chile it's Bruce Chatwin, author of the seminal classic In Patagonia. Over to you, Bruce... I climbed a path and from the top looked up-stream towards Chile. I could see the river, glinting and sliding through the bone-white cliffs with strips of emerald cultivation either side. Away from the cliffs was the desert. There was no sound but the wind, whirring through thorns and whistling through dead grass, and no other sign of life but a hawk, and a black beetle easing over white stones.  Full credit to Adam Colton and Adam Stokowski for the video and to Hougaard Malan for the …
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Best of Patagonia: Parque los Alerces

Best of Patagonia: Parque los Alerces

Patagonia is one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses and it’s home to some truly spectacular tourist attractions. Torres del Paine. Peninsula Valdez, Glaciar Perito Moreno and Tierra del Fuego should all be on everyone’s bucket list, and I have loads of great memories from each of these heavyweights. Picture: Lisa Weichel But my favorite spot in Patagonia is a little less well-known…to foreigners, at least. The Parque Los Alerces (named after the alerce or redwood trees which dominate the park) near Esquel offers the best northern Patagonia has to offer, at a relaxed and untouristy pace to boot. It’s got snowcapped peaks and emerald lakes and rivers; it’s got sylvan forests, a picture-postcard glacier and an abundance of wildlife. And it has some of the very best fly-fishing in Patagonia…which is why I fell in love with Los Alerces. Picture: Nils Rinaldi There are places with bigger fish, but there aren’t many with as technical river fishing (not to mention the great …
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The 5 best views in South America

The 5 best views in South America

South America is a beautiful, varied and rugged continent which tugs at emotions and heartstrings like no other. Its landmass encompasses beaches, jungles, pampas and glaciers and its people live in everything from skyscrapers to adobe huts. There’s a Kodak moment around every corner in South America, so picking the 5 best views on the continent is sure to polarise opinion and elicit debate. We’re serious about South America and we know you are too, so here goes! Comments welcome… Pao de Acucar, Brazil Picture: Mark Goble We always knew at least one Rio de Janeiro view would make it onto this list, and we had a tricky time choosing between Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) and Pao de Acucar (Sugarloaf). The Sugarloaf is one of several granite monoliths which sprouts from the coastline of this iconic city, but it is definitely the most instantly recognisable. Its name was coined in the 16th century due to the mountain’s resemblance to the conical moulds sugar was pressed into …
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Scratching the surface in Patagonia

Scratching the surface in Patagonia

The southern half of Argentina and Chile is known as Patagonia and it is vast, relatively empty, and – particularly where the vertiginous spine of the Andes protrudes – naturally spectacular. Most visitors to the region come for the pristine landscapes and unparalleled natural beauty but if you scratch the surface you’ll discover that rugged, inhospitable Patagonia is home to more than a few strange stories. For there to be stories, you need people and the people you get in Patagonia are more interesting than most. Many of them have the added intrigue of a settler past. Perhaps the most well-known Patagonian settlers are the Welsh. Towns with names like Trelew, Dolavon, Gaiman and Trelew feature traditional Welsh tea houses and regular Eisteddfods. There’s a great 2010 film simply called Patagonia which explores this community and its identity crisis adroitly. But the Welsh are just one of many immigrant groups struggling to make a go of it in Patagonia - there are other stories to be …
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Chile’s Torres del Paine Wins Acclaim

Chile’s Torres del Paine Wins Acclaim

Will wonders never cease? Apparently not in South America. Our favorite continent pulled in yet another crowd-sourced award this month, and it’s a big one. Bow down to Torres del Paine, Patagonia’s premiere national park and adventure destination. The southerly sprawl of glaciers, frosted mountain peaks, and deep blue lakes covers 935 square miles and clings to bottom of Chile, a string-bean of a country. In 2012, more than 139,000 hikers headed down to traverse trails—the W trek is particularly popular—and experience the park for themselves. Torres del Paine garnered more than 5 million votes on the travel website VirtualTourist.com, which belong to the TripAdvisor Media Group. The site shares user-generated travel tips and experiences with the community’s 1.2 million registered users. Tourism boards from across the globe submitted landmark destinations for consideration, assembling an elite collection of 300 contenders. Four of the top five destinations are in Latin America: Torres …
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Your Patagonian Base Camp: Where to Stay in Patagoina

Your Patagonian Base Camp: Where to Stay in Patagoina

Patagonia is a place that evokes images of remote mountains, endless plains, and a few weather-worn locals who’ve adapted to this harsh region hidden away in at the bottom of the world.  Though now linked to the rest of the world by flights to Santiago and Buenos Aires, this 260,000 square mile region across southern Argentina and Chile, reaching down into Antarctica, is still difficult to access and tricky to navigate. To help you make sense of this wild expanse, here are 3 cities in Patagonia to consider basing yourself out of during your South American vacation. El Calafate: Glaciers Galore The Patagonian city of El Calafate is the entry point to Glacier National Park and its famous Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the most accessible glacier fields in the world. Located along the shores of Lago Argentino, El Calafate enjoys a mild microclimate where temperatures tend to range between 40-60°F. This lets visitors take trips into the chilly Patagonian interior during the day and …
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