Patagonia is a place that’s has fascinated many adventurous travelers with its wind whipped landscapes of pristine emerald lakes, white snow capped mountains and vast stretches of grasslands. The lush forests and rolling hills definitely add to its natural beauty. With so much to offer, it’s no wonder that it calls to so many visitors from all over the world.
Patagonia is the region that encompasses part of the countries of Argentina and Chile and is located at the end of the southern part of South America. You can find high mountains that are part of the Andes as well as desert landscapes and has a coastline that touches the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific. Interestingly, the name Patagonia is derived from the word patagón which was used by the explorer Magellan to describe the natives he saw. It refers to the natives as giants as they were taller than the Europeans during that time period.
The west coast of Patagonia exclusively belongs to Chile and it has a cool oceanic climate with a large amount of precipitation. You can find many animals in the Patagonian plains like the cougar, Patagonian fox, the guanaco, the Patagonian hog-nosed skunk and the Magellan tuco-tuco. There is abundant bird life for avid bird watchers like the austral parakeets, hummingbirds, the Andean condor, Chilean flamingo, upland goose, steamer ducks and green backed firecrowns. The marine life is by no means less impressive. The Magellanic penguins, orca and elephant seals are a sight to see.
Tourism in Patagonia really picked up after the mid 20th century. At first, it was viewed as a backpacking destination but now caters to a multitude of upmarket visitors who pay good money to take a cruise circling Cape Horn or even to visit Antarctica. Due to the varied landscape, many adventure seekers find their way to this region. Tourism has helped in bolstering local handicrafts as souvenirs for many visitors and these include objects like guanaco textiles, Mapuche handicrafts and many other traditional crafts.
Tourism has also caused a surge in interest in many celebrities who purchase land in this region as a symbol of prestige. Buyers include Ted Turner, Sylvester Stallone, Luciano Benetton and Christian Lambert. The area is rich in natural beauty but it had faced its fair share of controversies. The foreign buyers have faced opposition in many of their properties due to the treatment of the local Mapuche families who were evicted or have opposed plans made by the governments to create roadways through the National Parks where many of their properties lie.
At the moment, due to increased tourism, many plans for advancement are being made, like the building of large hydro-electric dams on the Baker, Futaleufú and Pascua rivers. However, there are various environmental concerns that have been raised in regards to this proposition as it would affect the minimum ecological flows as well as threaten the fishing, agriculture and wilderness tourism industry along the rivers.
The main occupations of the area include whaling, mining, livestock like sheep which are commonly found in the region, agriculture which involves the growing of wheat and fruits as well as oil. This is apart from the tourism industry which employs a large number of individuals.
There has been certain conflict between the countries of Argentina and Chile, who share the area of Patagonia, but all lines have been drawn and the boundaries have been clearly marked apart from a fifty kilometer section in the Southern Patagonian Ice Fields that is not clearly demarcated which has caused certain border disputes between the two countries.