|Adventure in Argentina
This vast region south of Buenos Aires begins at the Rio Colorado and stretches to the Straits of Magellan. It encompasses interior mountains and glaciers in the provinces of Rio Negro and Neuquen; sandy beaches on its Atlantic coast, and forests of beechwood and monkey puzzle trees where it meets the Andes. The beauty of Patagonia has been preserved in several national parks.
This provincial capital, 265 meters above sea level, sits at the point where the Limay and Neuquen rivers converge. It has a population of 300,000 and is the agriculture service centre for the Rio Negro valley.
Peninsula Valdes is home to large numbers of sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos, rheas, Magellanic penguins and numerous other sea birds. Whale sightings are best in August but have also been reported through December. Sheep ranches occupy much of the interior section.
Few relics remain testifying to life at this former missionary base and subsequent Argentinean prison. It became a key military base in 1950 and is now a major vacation destination. Forestry and fishing are the chief occupations of its inhabitants.
Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi
The main feature of the park is Lago Nahuel Huapi, a 100 km long lake formed by the Pleistocene glaciers, possessing a single narrow island at its centre. Isla Victoria as it is now known, is notable for its rare species of trees and for a number of exotic animals, including the pudu and the huemul, both rare indigenous deer. The lake is home to a number of native fish species, plus several newcomers such as trout and salmon, offering exceptional sport fishing. However, the real attraction of this region is excellent high country trekking, among its rugged mountains and alpine meadows. Just west of the lake is Tronador (meaning thunderer), a 3554-metre/11722-foot extinct volcano, and the Chilean border. The area is noted for its forest-covered mountain slopes and the summer blanket of wildflowers.
Parque Nacional Laguna Blanca
Laguna Blanca is located 30 km from Zapala in a barren volcanic area of Neuquen. The shallow lake was formed when lava flows dammed two small streams. One of only two swan sanctuaries in the western hemisphere, it is a breeding ground for the distinctive black-necked swan. Laguna Blanca also features other bird species, such as coots, grebes, upland geese, gulls, and flamingos.
Parque Nacional Lanin
This tranquil forest area extends 150 km north from Nahuel Huapi to Lago Norquinco, with snow-capped, 3776-metre/12615-foot Volcan Lanin as its centerpiece. Its flora includes huge stands of broadleaf deciduous southern beech, rauli, and pehuen (monkey puzzle tree), plus lenga, nire, and coihue, which are characteristic of more southerly forests. Many finger-shaped lakes attest to the passage of glaciers.
Reserva Provincial Punta Tombo
Between September and April, half a million Magellanic penguins breed at Punta Tombo, 110 km south of Trelew. Also known as the jackass penguin, these birds exhibit a distressing tendency to emit loud, donkey-like brays. Given that penguins cover the entire visible landscape, the chorus can be quite an experience. Step carefully, as these breeding birds have a strict concept of personal space and the beak to back it up. Other prevalent bird species include cormorants, giant petrels, kelp gulls, flightless steamer ducks, and oystercatchers.
Parque Nacional Los Alerces
The park was built to protect extensive groves of alerce a large and ancient conifers that can exceed 150 feet in height and 12 feet in diameter. Alerces well over two millenia in age grow amongst stands of cypress and incense cedar. The park is located west of Esquel and also features pristine lakes and streams, enchanting views and excellent fishing. The area is usually mild in the summer although it can be quite wet at other times.
Home to almost four dozen major glaciers, this 2300 square mile/ 6000 square kilometer park is a unique opportunity to see some of the most powerful forces of nature. The northern section of the park is characterized by its steep jagged peaks, including Cerro Fitzroy which exceeds 11000 feet. This section of the park is particularly popular among trekkers and mountaineers. It is known as an exceptionally challenging and dangerous climbing area. The southern section of the park is more hospitable to casual sightseeing and containe many interesting glaciers. Moreno Glacier, one of the world's few remaining advancing glaciers is the most spectacular, currently grinding its way down the Cordillera directly into an arm of the enormous Lago Argentino. About every three years the glacier cuts off the flow of water into the lake resulting in an immense accumulation of pressure as the water behind the glacier rises. The explosive resolution of these forces is a spectacular event to those lucky enough to witness it.
Monumento Natural Bosques Petrificados
During Jurassic times, the extensive forests that once covered this part of Patagonia were buried by volcanic ash. Subsequent erosion revealed mineralised trees measuring three metres in diameter and 35 meters / 90 feet in length--some of which remarkably remain standing.
Parque Nacional Perito Moreno
This jewel of a park is often overlooked by visitors to the area. Here, glacier-covered mountains rise majestically above blue lakes where migrant birds sojourn and herds of guanacos lazily feed. The weather here is often windy and cold, even in summer.