Posted by: Michelle | April 12, 2010

Patagonia (the place)

Growing up in New England, I was more familiar with Patagonia the outdoor clothing company, not Patagonia the southernmost part of South America located in Argentina and Chile. To me, the name Patagonia means winter and cold, but the name is actually derived from the word “patagón,” meaning “big feet,” which Magellan used to describe the “giant” natives in that region. They averaged 5′ 11″, though that constituted giant status compared to the Spaniards who averaged 5′ 1″ in Magellan’s time.

Patagonia has incredible diversity, from the varying climates, flora and fauna of its mountains, lakes, plains and beaches, so I certainly can’t fit all of it in one post. One part that looks particularly awesome is the Valdes Peninsula, on the Atlantic coast of southern Argentina. The peninsula is essentially a wildlife sanctuary, with unique opportunities to see whales, penguins, dark dolphins, elephant seals and sea lions up close and personal. In Puerto Pirámides, a seaside village on the peninsula, you can relax on the beach while admiring whales that come right up to the shore! There is also a sea-lion colony nearby where you can watch the adorable animals playing from natural observation decks in the cliffs above the beach.

The animals I’m most interested in seeing are the penguins. Every year 500,000 adults come ashore in the Valdes Peninsula village of Punta Tombo to breed and hatch their eggs, so it’s impossible to miss them! I picture it like March of the Penguins, but hopefully just a bit warmer. They’re so cute though (below), I think I would withstand some rough weather for a good glimpse.

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