A Patagonia Driving Adventure...In a 4x4

A Patagonia Driving Adventure...In a 4x4

» Featured Columnists | By Steve Winston | December 28, 2012 8:00 AM ET

Sitting at the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, the Patagonia region is truly one of the last frontiers...populated mainly by small tribal communities, hardy fishing villages, and an incredible diversity of wildlife and wonders that will literally take your breath away. 
Most people who visit Patagonia stay either on the Chilean or Argentine side. Now, however, there's a way to see both...with an unlikely mix of pure-adventure and pure-luxury.
A respected Ecuadorean travel company named Quasar Expeditions is teaming up with the iconic Jeep brand on an eight-day tour of this wild region. You'll be able to access natural wonders such as the famed Torres del Paine National Park, Los Glaciares National Park, and the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier, because of the 4x4 in which you'll be driving. And in the hotels in which you'll be staying, you'll quickly learn that "adventure" and "luxury" are not mutually exclusive.
You'll start your journey in Puerto Natales, Chile. Here, you'll be met by the Quasar team and handed the keys to your 2013 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon. The vehicle is complete with both a built-in Garmin GPS and an external GPS Ranger®, which acts as a virtual tour-guide, calling out points of interest and ensuring the pre-programmed hotels and destinations are reached each day.  You have the option to drive yourself while accompanied by a guide; to let the guide do the driving; or to make the trip by yourselves, with no guide.
During the daytime, you'll go on hikes, cruise by catamaran (and on top of a horse), and even try some sub-Arctic bird-watching. At night, you'll relax in beautifully-appointed luxury hotels with excellent food, wine, and even spas. The drives aren't taxing, either, ranging from an hour to 3-4 hours. 
First stop on the journey is the year-old (and already award-winning) Singular Patagonia Hotel in Chile, a 100-year old former cold storage plant transformed into a 57-room luxury retreat on the shores of the Fjord of Last Hope. Here, you'll experience local cuisine like guanaco and conger eel - along with a variety of pisco sours - before retiring for the night.
The next morning your group will cross the Argentinean border, then head northward across the Patagonian Pampa to a rustic retreat called Hosteria Helsingfors. Two days will be spent here, at the edge of beautiful Lake Viedma and across from the mighty Mt. Fitz Roy, horseback riding or hiking up to a secluded blue lagoon at the edge of a glacier.
The next day you'll arrive at the Perito Glacier and the "Iceberg Channel," before settling in at Eolo Lodge, a true Argentine Estancia near the interesting town of El Calafate.
Then you'll cross back into Chile and into the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, filled with ice-blue glaciers and towering, pointed peaks jutting through the clouds. You'll spend that night at Patagonia Camp, Chile's first luxury tented camp, at an alpine lake called Toro.
The next day you'll hike up the French Valley to reach the hanging glaciers of the Paine Grande Massif. In the evening you'll dine on roasted Patagonia lamb, prepared the gaucho (cowboy) way. The following day is spent driving around the park, stopping to view brilliantly-colored Chilean flamingos and black-faced Ibis, as well as the three massive mountains after which Torres del Paine National Park is named. You'll eat lunch on the shore of a blue lagoon.
Now you can see the Patagonia that the early explorers saw. But you can do it in a style they never dreamed of.

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