Few places in the world have captivated the imagination of explorers and travelers like Patagonia has. Almost 500 years ago, the first Europeans sailed through on four ships captained by Ferdinand Magellan. But this vast region was one of the last on the planet to be settled and remains pristine and sparsely populated, protected by the harsh, cold climate. Sailors from around the world continue to test their luck and courage in these harrowing straits. Mountaineers stage elaborate excursions through rugged territories, only to be beaten back, like their predecessors, by unrelenting storms. What seduces so many people to Patagonia is the idea of the "remote" -- indeed, the very notion of traveling to the End of the World. It is a seduction, but also an illusion. After all, on a globe, everywhere is both the center and the end of the Earth at the same time. And people do live here -- very few people, but those who do are hardy survivors.
A harsh, wind-whipped climate and Patagonia's geological curiosities have produced some of the most beautiful natural attractions in the world: the granite towers of Torres del Paine and Mount Fitz Roy; the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields with their colossal glaciers (the greatest masses of ice and sweet water reserves outside the polar caps); the flat steppe broken by multicolored sedimentary bluffs; and the emerald fjords and lakes that glow an impossible sea-foam blue. In the end, this is what compels most travelers to plan a trip down here. Beyond landscapes, the region's cowboys (called gauchos in Argentina and baqueanos in Chile) lend a certain air of romanticism. Top the natural allure with an excellent array of new lodges and guiding services, and it's more appealing, and easier than ever, to journey to the "end of the world."