Adventure Vacations

The Ultimate Road Trip Through Patagonia

Last updated 8th October 2018

Patagonia is a land of extremes. Our automotive editor, Basem Wasef, explores in the ultimate family car: a Subaru.

The lure of adventure travel can be strong, but it takes an extra dose of daring to pack up the kids and trek to Patagonia, the lush yet barren regions of Chile and Argentina that stretch to the southernmost tip of South America. So it was with intense curiosity that I drove a practice run through the rugged landscape.

I ventured toward land’s end with hopes it could inspire a future visit with my wife and child. Appropriately, I was to pilot a fleet of family-friendly Crosstreks, Foresters and Outbacks provided by Subaru for a trip across these uniquely natural expanses. The journey began in El Calafate, a tiny town that’s like a Grand Central Terminal of travelers journeying south.

Our convoy drove a couple hundred miles into the thick of Patagonia, arriving at Torres del Paine National Park: 700 square miles of spectacular nature preserves with snowcapped peaks. Nearby is the Perito Moreno Glacier, an advancing ice mass that can be seen making its inexorable inch-by-inch progress. And while the letterboxed views through the Subaru’s windows are grand, stepping onto the observation decks offers breathtaking glimpses at the frozen land mass, which occasionally breaks off, crashing into the turquoise water below.

Patagonia’s highway system can require dirt trail detours if you’re hoping to get south expediently. We saved an afternoon of driving by cutting through a stretch of desert. My rugged Subaru Outback’s suspension handled the gravel well, though one sharp stone produced a puncture that required an easy tire swap.

Next stop was Punta Arenas, a coastal town that acts as a staging area for the Strait of Magellan, the passage of water known for its history of attracting explorers and sinking ships. These wind-licked waters are home to dolphins, dive-bombing birds and colonies of penguins. 

Subaru’s legendary reliability proved a boon by the time we were along the winding stretches of road that led to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, which has been dubbed El Fin del Mundo (the End of the World). Finally reaching the bottom of South America produced mixed emotions: a closeness with the natural world, but also more questions than answers about this unique land. At least our fleet of Subarus performed faultlessly on the 1,000-plus-mile drive. If my wife can be convinced to take this expedition into flora and fauna, a stalwart mechanical constant will be a reassurance in a place where nature rules supreme.  

Don’t miss these must-stop destinations in Patagonia.