Current Shows

From the Pampas to Patagonia: A Virtual Tour of Argentina & Chile

Wednesdays 9:30 to 11:00 AM Online Class from January 11 to February 15, 2023 - Simon Fraser Universitty

Part I: Impressions of Argentina

Argentina is the world’s eighth-largest country. Standing between the Tropic of Cancer and the most southerly reaches of the planet’s landmass, it encompasses a staggering diversity of climates and landscapes. These include the hot, humid jungles of its northeast, the bone-dry highland steppes of its northwest, windswept Patagonia, and the end-of-the-world archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, a territory shared with Chile.

Highlights include: Argentina’s vibrant, idiosyncratic capital, Buenos Aires; Iguassu Falls; the northwest region of ochre deserts; the colonial city of Salta; the World Heritage Site of Quebrada de Humahuaca; the Calchaquies Valleys; wine-growing in Mendoza and San Juan; route RN40, running parallel to the Andes;

Part II: Impressions of Chile

Chile’s outline seems aberrant, even fantastical: almost 4,000 km in length, with an average width of just 180 km. Given this extraordinary latitudinal extension, Chile is extraordinary as a geographic entity, featuring both the driest point on Earth, the Atacama Desert, and Faro Evangelistas in Southern Patagonia, where it rains the most days per year on Earth! Besides the capital Santiago, Central Chile presents an extraordinarily fertile valley, the famous port of Valparaiso, an UNESCO World Heritage City, and the Andes, the spectacular mountain range that runs the entire length of the country.

The Altiplano and the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world, are located between the cities of Arica and Copiapo. The barren Atacama Desert, stretching over 1000km into southern Peru, presents an unforgettable, if forbidding, landscape, whose sights number ancient petroglyphs (indigenous rock art), abandoned nitrate ghost towns and a scattering of fertile, fruit-filled oases. Up in the Andes, the vast plateau known as the altiplano, as high and remote as Tibet, encompasses snow-capped volcanoes, bleached-white salt flats, lakes speckled pink with flamingoes, grazing llamas, alpacas and vicuñas, tiny whitewashed churches and native Aymara and Atacameño communities.

Part III Impressions of Patagonia

Patagonia is cursed by a persistent wind, its winters are cold and summers short. Here we excplore the Welsh heritage of Gaiman and Puerto Madryn; the remarkable Peninsula Valdes; Bariloche, El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia; and Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

These days visitors come to Patagonia principally to hike in the country's most famous and arguably most stunning national park, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a massif crowned with otherworldly granite towers. Others want to follow in the footsteps of the region's famous travellers, such as the navigator Ferdinand Magellan, the naturalist Charles Darwin and, more recently, the author Bruce Chatwin. Others still just want to look at the glaciers that calve icebergs into the sea, or see penguins, or simply discover what it's like down here, at the very foot of the world.

The Chileans call the area the province of Magallanes, in the explorer's honour, and it's one of the least inhabited areas in Chile. The provincial capital is the lively city of Punta Arenas and the only other town of any size is superbly located little Puerto Natales to the northwest, gateway to Torres del Paine. Both settlements seem to huddle patiently with their backs against the elements. Since the whole of this region is physically cut off from the rest of Chile by two vast icecaps, the only links with territory to the north are by air, water or through Argentina.

Across the Magellan Strait lies the huge main island of Tierra del Fuego, the most interesting part of which lies in Argentine territory, though the Isla Navarino and its welcoming naval base of Puerto Williams are worth a visit.Perhaps the least explored and untouched corner of our planet, the amazing strength and beauty of nature can be experienced here in its full majesty. Home to penguins and whales, Chilean Patagonia's glaciers, craggy mountains and wide open spaces is a "must" for the real traveller.