Ultimate Road Trips: Patagonia
Sometimes it’s good to feel a little lost. Not that it’s easy to go astray road tripping with a 2013 Jeep Rubicon through the most far flung stretches of Southern Patagonia; especially when the GPS exists in the world. But here, with nothing more than your own 4X4 and the colossal landscape, it’s easy to get lost in the moment.
This is just the kind of unfettered adventure that Quasar Expeditions in partnership with Jeep Wrangler, has captured with their brand new Wild Patagonia program. The once in a lifetime trip allows adventurers to navigate themselves without a guide through the intoxicating alpine vistas, long stretches of amber hills, fjords, and dry forests found in the southern portions of Chile and Argentina.
Each of their 4X4 Jeep Wrangler Rubicons comes with an easy to use Garmin Navigational System set up with a smart GPS Ranger that keeps you posted on your chosen stops, hotels, and offers some history and scientific information about notable landmarks.
There are two basic itineraries they program into the GPS; one weighted towards naturalists and the other geared towards adventurers, though they’ll create custom itineraries based on your group’s vision. (You can book the entire car so no being stuck with weird strangers).
Some of the bucket-list activities to check off? How about the six mile hike up to the base of Torres del Paine in Chile, that passes through an ancient painted forest carpeted in old man’s beard (a moss that only grows in the purest air). Or the short trek on top of Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, where at the end you are treated to glass of bourbon…on glacial ice. Also, hiking around iceberg filled Lago Grey, horseback riding through Andean valleys and ambling around the cafe lined streets of El Calafate in Argentina?
Peppered in there are the sorts of unplanned novelties that can only happen when driving yourself though the great wide South American open, like gliding through a herd of rhea birds, admiring condors circling overhead and guanaco grazing in the distance, or simply stopping where ever you please just to bask in the sight of a snow capped mountain or cloud formation you found to be striking.
The Rubicon was a handsome fit, handling the narrow switchbacks and rocky back roads with ease and quenching a roadster’s desire to play. Quasar monitors the jeep via GPS and is connected to the jeep with a walkie talkie to tackle any problems, answer any questions and ensure you’ve made it to your destinations.
Despite the edgy feel of having a 4X4 to toy with, the hotels included are among the most luxurious wilderness lodges in Patagonia and give the trip a nice shot of romance. Local history is taken very seriously at The Singular Hotel and Spa, once a wool factory at the center of industry in Southern Chile, it is now a handsome hotel-slash-museum filled with early 20th century farming relics and designed modern and sleek with a classic gentleman’s touch. Its kitchen is one of the most savory in the area and is a great place to sample the local delicacy of guanaco (like alpaca). Patagonia Camp gets you back to nature in the most relaxing way possible in luxury yurts finished with glass ceilings, set before the gorgeous Lake Toro and Paine Massif. Tierra Patagonia and spa is an architectural feat, created to seamlessly flow with the environment, aerodynamically outside and inside with an interior crafted almost entirely out of beechwood. Views of Torres del Paine National Park from inside the rooms here make getting up the best kind of difficult.
There aren’t too many roads this far south, and most are paved, so getting actually lost isn’t so much of a threat. Though by venturing into the wild on your own accord, you do run the risk of never coming back.
More Information: Quasar Expedition’s Wild Patagonia trip costs from $5,950 per person for eight days. LAN operates regular flights to Punta Arenas. Guides are required for the hike in Torres del Paine and they cost about $300. Worth it in our book.