The southern zone of Chile is characterized by being a bioregion that presents a very varied geography product of the sinking of the Andes mountain range on its way to Antarctica, and as a result a great diversity of landscapes, climates, cultures, and ecosystems. Its geography has shaped the landscape and its inhabitants. From its first fjords south of the Reloncaví estuary to Cape Horn, this extreme area has been inhabited for at least 10,500 BC, according to archaeological discoveries found in the caves of Fell, Ci Aike and Pali Aike near the Strait of Magellan. Aonikenk or Tehuelches, Selknam or onas, Yaganes, Alacalufes or Kawésqar, are the ethnic groups of the first explorers of these lands. Those who developed not only skills to navigate, hunt, and gather, but to forge life in these extreme latitudes. The first immigrants to settle in these lands and found the first modern cities corresponded to Chilean-Spanish, however it was a process whose main objective was to build strategic enclaves against the siege of other European countries. In parallel to the German immigration in the South of Chile, a process of European immigration was developed seeking to "colonize these lands", mainly of Croats in the cities of Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas and Porvenir; together with them also settled Swiss in Magellan, Poles in Tierra del Fuego, Spaniards in Punta Arenas, Belgians in the area of Chile Chico and Germans - Czechoslovakians in Puyuhuapi.
In Patagonia the last continental section of the Andean mountain range, archipelagos and glacial lakes predominate. The coastal plains are narrow or non-existent and the coast is cut by deep fjords. It is a region of glaciation that presents extensive rocky mesetous areas covered by a sheet of ice, whose margins form glaciers and snowdrifts that flow through channels and fjords into lakes or directly to the sea. They are the "Ice Field of the Darwin Mountain Range"; the "Gran Campo Nevado" located in the southern part of the Muñoz Gamero Peninsula; and the better known "Northern Ice Fields (CHN)" and "Southern Ice Fields (CHS)"; the latter is the third largest in the world after those of Antarctica and Greenland; and the largest of all with non-polar continental character and that has terrestrial access. In total, the ice fields of Patagonia total 23,500 square kilometers of freshwater reserves.
Patagonia has a temperate to cold climate with temperatures that decrease markedly towards the south and four distinct seasons, except in the southernmost areas, such as the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, where there is not much variety of temperature throughout the year. It is characterized by the presence of perhumid forests of cold climate, such as temperate forest and Magellanic forest, the latter with fewer species species due to the extreme climate, in which the Coigües de Magallanes (Nothofagus betuloides) and the Lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) stand out.
"The last nature" is the name given to the areas of our planet that have remained in a wild state, areas in which there has been little or no human interaction. Areas of Patagonia are considered within the wild areas of the planet, as a result of their low population density and low human impact footprint, which has allowed - regardless of the extreme of life in these latitudes - a richness and great diversity of flora and fauna, such as the Rhea petiso; the Huemul; the Chilote or Darwin's Fox; the Humpback Whale; the Chilean dolphin; and the Magellanic Penguin;
The Patagonian rivers are characterized by their torrential floods of Andean origin and by the irregularities of their courses. The rivers of the Magallanes region are usually of short development due to intense glacial action. The most important are the rivers Pérez, Penitente, San Juan, Azopardo, Yendegaia, Paine, Serrano, Baguales and Grande de Tierra del Fuego. In the region of Aysén the rivers Cisnes, Aysén, Bravo, Pascua and Baker. The watercourses of the province of Palena correspond to a snow origin, forming in their paths vast hydrological systems that include estuaries, lakes, lagoons and main rivers. Highlights include the Palena River, the Futaleufú River, the Vodudahue River, the Corcovado River and the Yelcho River, among others.
Throughout Chilean Patagonia we find 18 National Parks. This mainly to the work done by the Tompkins Foundation and its donation of land to the Chilean state with the aim of realizing the project "Network of National Parks of Chilean Patagonia".
Trekking in Patagonia
Without a doubt, when we look for trekking in Chilean Patagonia, the first thing we will find will be the trekking in the Torres del Paine. The famous "W" circuit and the "O" circuit are favorites of those who visit Chilean Patagonia. But to the south and north of Puerto Natales there are a number of parks, reserves, valleys and sectors for excursions in Patagonia. An example of these is the trekking in "Dientes de Navarino" south of Puerto Williams, where it is possible to observe flora and fauna in the Cabo de Hornos National Park and a beautiful hiking route through Chilean Patagonia. It is advisable to do this trekking of medium to advanced difficulty in the months of October to March. On the other hand, the region of Aysén, in the last stretch of the Carretera Austral takes us to the Villa Cerro Castillo, where we find the "Travesía de Las Horquetas" in the Cerro Castillo National Park. A route of more than fifty kilometers that is usually divided into six sections. Another must-see in this sector is the ascent to Cerro Castillo. A beautiful Patagonian climb that is usually done in two or three days.
Trekking to the Continental Ice
In Villa O'higgins and the same point where the Austral road ends, navigation begins on Lake O'Higgins to access the Southern Ice Fields. From this point begins the trekking to the Marconi Pass and the Circus of Los Altares, an imposing amphitheater overlooking the Fitz Roy hill and the Torre hill. This Patagonian journey can be continued to arrive at the town of Chaltén in Argentina or return by the same road to Chile.