Tuesday, November 14, 2017

* Chile: Lonely Planet's Top Travel Destination 2018

Tourism, Chile receives important international award.
  Hotel Salto Chico - Explora Patagonia
Torres del Paine National Park
    In recent years, Chile has received important international awards that place the country above the traditional tourist destinations of yesteryear. To the recognitions already granted by influential institutions and Websites, adds now the award conferred by Lonely Planet, one of the most famous reference guides for travelers worldwide, headquartered in Melbourne. Lonely Planet highlights Chile in the first place in the category "Best in Travel 2018", noteworthy is the fact that Chile was the only South American country of the finalists, relegating to the background other important participants such as China, Djibouti,  Georgia, New Zealand, Malta, Mauritius, Portugal, South Korea and South Africa. 

     Among the considerations for the election of the country are its vitality and the lenght of its geography, flanked by immense natural barriers that isolate it from the rest of the world: Atacama, the most arid desert on Earth to the North;  the Andes Mountain Range to the East; the enormous Pacific Ocean on the West and the wild geography of Patagonia on the South. Santiago de Chile, the capital, is also mentioned as a very modern city, besides the ease of reaching the country, thanks to new direct flights from London and Melbourne, in addition to those already existing from Madrid and Barcelona.

Diversity of Landscapes in Chile

     Among the great variety of sceneries, one of the highlights is the Cordillera de los Andes, a kind of backbone of Chile, going from the North end to Patagonia linking every corner of the country. Because of its extension and biodiversity, the Andes represent one of the major tourist attractions in the World. Its geography hosts innumerable, important Winter Sports Centers, Thermal Baths, National Parks, Volcanoes and paradisiacal rivers and lakes on the mountainsides, true dream for Nature and Adventure Tourism lovers.

Beautiful landscape at Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, South of Chile.
Photo: huilohuilo.com
     Patagonia is another of the most sought after places to visit in Chile, a region that day after day gains more importance in national and international tourist circuits. Patagonia, a vast territory shared between Chile and Argentina, is full of beautiful places where Nature is always the centre of attention. Mention is also made of the Atacama Desert, another unmissable destination located in northern Chile.  Likewise, The New York Times ranked the Atacama Desert in second place among 52 as the must-see destinations of the year 2017. The Atacama Desert covers the Chilean Regions of Arica-Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Atacama. Despite being such a barren place, Atacama is full of attractions such as its large salt flats, landscapes similar to the Moon or Mars, fields of geysers, hot springs. In addition, it has the cleanest skies on the planet, which is why the World's largest astronomical observatories are located here. This has resulted in the birth of another type of tourism, the observation of the sky or Astronomical Tourism, with its corresponding programs. These are just some of the reasons given for Lonely Planet to have named Chile as "Best in Travel for 2018".

Saturday, November 4, 2017

* Pio XI Glacier, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere

Pio XI Glacier, South of Chile.
 Photo: emol.com
    Pio XI, also known as Brüggen Glacier, in commemoration of the German- Chilean geologist Johannes Brüggen Messtorff, is located at Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, XII Region of Magallanes, the southernmost region of Chile. Pio XI is part of the Southern Ice Field, a large mass of continental ice, the third largest in size after Antarctica and Greenland. Without considering those of the White Continent, Pio XI with its almost 1300 Km.2 is the largest glacier in the Southern half of the Globe. Another outstanding feature of this huge glacial field is that, unlike what happens with most glaciers in the World, Pio XI (or Brüggen Glacier) has experienced an important progress in recent decades. Among the theories that support its unusual growth, it is said that it should be due to the special topographical characteristics that make it very stable and a long season of solid precipitations. Currently, it has a length of 64 km, a front of 6 km and its towers reach a height of 70 - 80 meters above sea level. 

Other interesting Facts

In 1945 Alberto de Agostini visited the place and narrated the story of a Norwegian settler who tried to establish a "Estancia"  (Ranch) at the head of the Eyre fjord in 1926, but had to leave the area because of the rapid advance of Pio XI glacier. According to reports of glaciology, in the 90s the force of the frozen mass generated a new lake, and the ice advanced directly on the forest, around the glacier, the dead trees accumulated and were crushed by the ice.

79 percent of the glaciers existing in South America are located in Chile, most of which are in the Southern Ice Field. Southern Ice Field has a length of 350 km. and an area of 16800 km.2 of which 85% belongs to Chile and the rest to Argentina. Pio XI is the largest of the 49 main glaciers that form Southern Ice Field. 

There is a mountain/ cold climate, the temperatures are lower than 0º C., precipitations exceed 2000 mm a year and are generally in the form of snow. From October to March are the acceptable months to go on a trip to Pio XI Glacier. 

Although so far little promoted as a tourist attraction in Chile because of its remoteness, this glacial mass really represents a great spectacle due to its large size, shaded ice and the impressive view that constitutes the detachment of its icebergs.

How to reach Pio XI Glacier

     For those of us who live in the region, it goes without saying that there are no roads to reach Pio XI, but I must mention it. The access is by sea from Puerto Natales, where cruises to the magnificent glaciers of the Ice Fields are offered by specialized companies, through the so-called "Kaweshkar Route" or "Alacalufe Route":   


Brüggen Glacier - Pio XI Glacier

Thursday, October 26, 2017

* Patagonia, Where does its Name Come From?

Monument to Ferdinand Magellan in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Monument to Ferdinand Magellan and his meeting
with the Patagonians, Punta Arenas, Chile
         Patagonia is the name given to the southernmost part of South America shared by Chile and Argentina. The Western area is part of the Chilean territory, while the Eastern Patagonia belongs to Argentina, the Andes Mountain Range partially separates both portions. 

     On the Argentine side, the provinces that make up Northern Patagonia are part of Mendoza, La Pampa, and Buenos Aires, and entirely the provinces of Rio Negro, Neuquen, and Chubut. Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego make up the Southern Patagonia. On the Chilean side, the Patagonia is formed by part of the Xth. Region of Los Lagos and entirety the XIth Region of Aysen and the XIIth Region of Magallanes. Its Southern end is located only 800 Km. from the Antarctic Continent. For the great natural attractions that its territory comprises, its nature in many parts still untouched by man and the security that it offers for the visitor, nowadays Patagonia is one of the great tourist destinations of the world. 

Origin of the name Patagonia

     Today there are several hypotheses regarding the name of this geographical region. It's been almost 500 years since the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the World, revealing what almost nobody believed back then, that the Earth was round. Magallanes spent the Winter of 1520 in the current Argentine region of San Julian, where he made contact with the local natives. One of the hypotheses states that the name Patagonia would come from a very popular cavalry novel from the early 1500s. Supposedly Magellan would have read the novel whose monstrous character "Pathagon" seemed much like the local natives of San Julian, wrapped in furs, who hunted animals with bow and arrows. In his contact with the aboriginal population, Magellan would have related the appearance of these with the fictional character.  

Monumento a Hernando de Magallanes, Punta Arenas.
One of the sides of the Monument with the Patagonian Indian.
It is said that the one who kisses its toe, some day will go back
to Punta Arenas.
     But the most commonly accepted version says that the origin of the term "Patagon" (Patagonian= Big Footed) is because the aboriginal population contacted by the Spaniards in San Julian, Atlantic coast, were very tall and had large feet. In fact, another of the explorers and chronicler of the travel, Antonio Pigafetta in his narration of Magellan's voyage around the World, tells without giving further explanation that the Captain of the expedition, seeing the natives called them "Patagoni" (Patagonians). In 1551 the Spanish historian Francisco Lopez de Gomara wrote that the Patagonians were so called because their feet were disproportionate. For his part, the Spanish sailor and historian Martín Fernandez de Navarrete, in one of the volumes of his "Collection of Voyages and Discoveries which the Spaniards made by sea from the end of the XVth. Century", where he collects all the information that he considered of interest obtained from the chronicles of the travel and later declarations of the survivors of the expedition, recalls the story of the first encounter between Europeans of the Magellanic expedition and Aborigines when he says: "All of them were taller than the tallest man in Castile" and that "they were called Patagonians because their feet were misshapen, although not disproportionate to their stature."    

     Exaggeration or not, it is clear that the inhabitants of Patagonia, at least in those days, were exceptionally tall, not only in the eyes of the discoverers in 1520 but also for several other later stories.