Patagonia might not have been inhabited by giants, as Spanish explorers initially thought, but the landscape sure could give giants a good home. All around, mountain peaks tower above visitors to this wild adventure capital at the end of the inhabited world. Wide valleys and lakes carved out by glaciers spread out below the mountains, which straddle the border between Chile and Argentina. Both countries have announced an end to quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers beginning Nov. 1, just in time for the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season.
Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean side and El Chaltén on the Argentinian side are gateways to trekking, horseback riding and some of the most majestic views you could ever hope to see. The air is fresh, the water is pristine and the landscape seems to stretch out forever. The glaciers cling on, explorable from the water, by ski and by ice hiking. Lovers of nature simply will not run out of reasons to love Patagonia.
Santiago, the Chilean capital, is a showcase of several different architectural styles, ringed by vineyards and the Andes and about an hour from the Pacific. Seventy-five miles away on the coast is the historic seaport of Valparaiso, whose historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
More than 2,000 miles out into the Pacific lies Easter Island/Rapa Nui, site of the famed moai, giant monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people, who arrived on one of the world’s most remote islands and the southeastern edge of the Polynesian Triangle sometime between 800 and 1200.
Dominating the rest of the southern half of South America, Argentina stretches from Tierra del Fuego on the Drake Passage to Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border. In between, you’ll find the wide pampas that were traditionally the domain of the gauchos, Argentinian and Uruguayan cowboys who still ply their trade today and love to show visitors the ropes.
After a hard day on the range, you can retire to the high-altitude vineyards of Mendoza, which produce rich, dark, full-bodied Malbecs. If you want, you can even bathe in the stuff, as the polyphenols are good for the skin. However you use them, the rich reds pair well with a nice steak, which the gauchos make sure there is plenty of.
You can’t go to Argentina without a stop in Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city and home of the tango. Explore the tony Recoleta neighborhood, full of cultural spaces and historic monuments, including the Recoleta Cemetery, resting place of Argentina’s elites. Recoleta is where the tango took hold and transformed Argentinian high society, and many of the most famous tango songs reference the neighborhood.
Opening back up to the world, Argentina and Chile are ready to embrace travelers and dance together once more.
COVID-19 entry protocols
Beginning Nov. 1, fully vaccinated travelers (at least 14 days from last dose) can travel from the U.S. to Chile and Argentina without quarantine.
Chile requires a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before departure to Chile. Travelers must validate their vaccination status at mevacuno.gob.cl and fill out an “Affidavit for Travelers” at www.c19.cl up to 48 hours before travel. Visitors must also have travel insurance with a minimum of $30,000 coverage. Argentina also requires a negative PCR test within 72 hours before arrival. Both countries require a second test on arrival, with isolation until a negative result is confirmed.
Where to stay
Tierra Patagonia sits on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve), the ultimate setting for exploring Chilean Patagonia. Nestled into the landscape, the hotel has views of Lake Sarmiento and the Paine Massif. Handcrafted textiles and furnishings give the hotel a true Patagonian feeling in 40 luxurious rooms. Adventure is at your feet as soon as you wake up. Personalized, expert-led excursions allow you to explore Torres del Paine by foot, horseback, or van ride. Tierra Patagonia complements all of this with a spa and indoor pool with stunning views. Dine on authentic, locally sourced fare.
explora Rapa Nui
Remote and intriguing Easter Island is home to explora Rapa Nui, an unobtrusive residence built almost entirely from the island’s wood and volcanic rock. Your guest room is home base in this mystical land, and a massage salon and open-air Jacuzzis are readily available. Each day brings excursions, from easy to difficult, along with picnics on the shore or rocky outcroppings. These expert-led, small-group activities include exploring on foot, bicycle, or by boat. Explora programs take care of your experience from beginning to end. Included are all explorations, lodging, meals, drinks, and airport transportation on fixed schedules.
The Vines Resort & Spa
Deeply rooted in the joy of making, drinking, and sharing wine, The Vines Resort & Spa immerses guests in Argentine culture, rustic natural beauty, and warmhearted hospitality. Feast on inspired regional cuisine created by famed chef Francis Mallmann and his signature open-flame restaurant, Siete Fuegos. Soak up the sweeping views of the Andes Mountains from your well-appointed villa. Relax poolside in your private cabana, or learn the art of harvesting, blending, and bottling alongside expert winemakers. Get to know The Vines’ knowledgeable gauchos, your go-to tour guides, concierges, and sommeliers during your stay.
Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires
Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires is a meticulously crafted hotel that originated as a 1934 palace and has been carefully restored to maintain its historic elegance alongside the best of contemporary design. The hotel seamlessly integrates Buenos Aires’ legendary glamour with innovative 21st-century amenities and state-of-the-art technology. The property is surrounded by neoclassical architecture and exclusive designer boutiques. Providing authentic and gracious hospitality, the hotel is widely recognized as one of the best hotels in Central America and South America.