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Patagonia is a well-known region in South America, but many people do not know how to define its exact territory. Some are even unaware of the fact that Patagonia is shared by Chile and Argentina.
Tierra del Fuego (“The Land of Fire”), the archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, is even more of a mystery. People might be familiar with Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, or they know about the region because it is the departure point for traveling to Antarctica.
In May 2017, the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) invited a group of 20 buyers and journalists from the far corners of the world, including Australia, Canada, Spain, the United States, the Netherlands, and Mexico, to explore this remote destination for themselves. During AdventureWeek Tierra del Fuego, attendees immersed themselves in a 10-day, intense adventure and marketplace itinerary throughout the region that introduced them to adventure activities in both Argentina and Chile. For most group members, it was their first time in the region, and for many others, the first time they’d ever visited South America.
This was a significant “first” for Argentina and Chile: It was the first time the two countries united for an event to promote a region that historically was the subject of dispute between them. One can understand why: Tierra del Fuego is an island on the tip of South America that has a straight line based on a meridian that divides it in half, one part for Chile and the other for Argentina. This imaginary line does not separate the fauna that circulates freely, the historical past they share, nor the heritage left behind by its native and immigrant peoples.
Despite the similarities, there are also differences. The Argentine side has a greater variety of adventure tours and infrastructure. On the Chilean side, travelers can go days without seeing other people, offering an even more remote experience. However, as one of the AdventureWeek participants emphasized: “The contrast with the Argentine side made for a great experience, and I feel like each side offers to a potential traveler something unique.”
To truly appreciate the participants’ adventurous experiences — and to share a taste of Tierra del Fuego — here are just a few of their testimonies from the Argentine side:
- “The lighthouse and walk up to Cabo San Pablo reminds you that you really are at the end of the world.”
- “The 4×4 tour was a serious highlight, mixed with snow, coastline, and the perfect drop of wild … The group really became a team that day! Going for lunch in the little cabin was a wonderful surprise.”
- “Nighttime snowshoeing to a giant teepee filled with a fire should be on the top of everyone’s bucket list! This was one of my favorite cultural experiences in Argentina. Listening to local music, having food, and unique Argentinean coffee prepared was special.”
- “Canoeing in the national park was breathtaking. There are few places on earth you can go and experience an activity and be the only group there! The guides and set up were terrific; they are always watching but have a way to make you feel empowered and in charge of your own adventure.”
- “WOW — the helicopter. What an experience to see the city from the air, and the view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking. Brilliant operation, great procedures, and a touch of Champagne at the summit was truly golden!”
Not to be outdone, comments from the Chilean side were also noteworthy:
- “The trek to Cerro Pietro Grande inside the Karukinka Park was awesome. One of the best parts of the Chile region. The views were absolutely breathtaking.”
- “Estancia Rio de los Ciervos was indeed a surprise! What an interesting family, such a fun and fascinating experience and culinary adventure!”
- “The Strait of Magellan Park is truly state of the art — a great mix of nature, history, and world-class display in the museum.”
- “The King Penguin Park is a unique experience; spending time on the base with Cecilia and the penguins made you feel like a scientist.”
- “Everything on the (expedition ship) Forrest was totally awesome! The views were stunning, the wildlife was awesome, the glacier was wicked, and the crew was so kind.”
- “WOW! Kayaking with the whales in the Strait was INCREDIBLE! I feel unbelievably fortunate to have this opportunity.”
It is hard to put into words all the amazing moments we experienced in Tierra del Fuego, a destination where you can truly feel what it means to be an explorer in the face of pristine wilderness. But, for me personally, the highlight of this AdventureWeek was witnessing warm discussions among people working in private companies, for governments, and participating in the trip on how to develop this region in a sustainable way.
I truly believe adventure travel can be a powerful force in charting the future of Tierra del Fuego, working together to protect its natural and cultural resources.