Lay of the Land
The region known as Patagonia straddles the southern reaches of South America. Argentines more or less agree that "their" Patagonia runs south from Río Colorado, on the 36th parallel south. Chileans are less certain: The most common definition begins south of Puerto Montt (at 42° S) and extends to the scattering of islands clustered around the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. (The area comprises regions X, XI, and XII of Chile's 15 designated regions.) Bounded by the Andean cordillera to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, this 1,000-plus–mile strip is one of the world's last near-virgin wildernesses, an untamed swath of temperate jungle, glacier-cut valleys, meltwater lakes, volcanic cones, tumultuous rivers, and fearsome icy peaks.
NEED TO KNOW
Capital City: Buenos Aires (Argentina), Santiago (Chile)
Population: 40 million (Argentina), 16 million (Chile)
Area: 1,070,000 sq miles (Arg), 292,200 sq miles (Ch)
Telephone Calling Code(s): 54 (Argentina), 56 (Chile)
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: As of Nov 22, 2011:
1 Argentina Pesos = $0.24 US Calculate Other Amounts
Argentina does not require visas from most foreigners. You should be issued a free, renewable 90-day tourist pass upon arrival.
US citizens may enter Chile without a visa, but a one-time entry fee of $100 (good for the life of the passport) is imposed on visitors arriving by air.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia is an informed synthesis of life and landscape.
A hefty value-added tax (VAT) of 21 percent is added to every purchase in Argentina, but tourists can get a refund at the airport. Tipping is outlawed in Argentina, but only in theory. Usually, 10 percent is expected in a restaurant. Some high-end restaurants may add a 25 percent service charge to your bill, but you'll still be expected to leave a little extra.
A ten percent tip is the norm in restaurants in Chile, but it is not necessary to tip taxi drivers.
In rural areas such as Patagonia, unless you're an experienced outdoorsperson, it's best to take the advice of a guide. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary to drive on the unpaved Carretera Austral.
January: 1, New Year's Day
April: 2, Veteran's Day
May: 1, Labor Day; 25, Revolution of May Anniversary
June: Third Monday of June, National Flag Day
July: 9, National Independence Day
August: Third Monday, Anniversary of the Death of General José de San Martín
October: 12, Race Day/Columbus Day
December: 8, Immaculate Conception Day; 25, Christmas Day; 31, New Year's Eve
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter
January: 1, New Year's Day
May: 1, Labor Day; 21, Battle of Iquique
June: 22, Corpus Christi; 29, St Peter and St Paul
August: 15, Assumption of the Virgin
September: first Monday, National reconciliation Day; 18, Independence Day; 19, Army Day
October: 12, Columbus Day
November: 1, All Saints Day
December: 8, Immaculate Conception Day; 25, Christmas Day
Spring: Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday