Time is of the essence when planning a trip to Argentina and Chile, and commercial air routes make more and more regions accessible. However, we always like to encourage some time on the road as part of any holiday here. It is a wonderful way of getting under the skin of these huge, lightly populated countries. Air travel can never give you a sense of the scale and grandeur or lie of the land in the same way that an overland journey can.
One of the great border crossings is in southern Patagonia: a drive from El Calafate in Argentina to Puerto Natales in Chile. When you eventually reach the mainly timber and corrugated-iron buildings of this windswept coastal town, it really does feel like the end of the world. However, it is home to a couple of unprepossessing fish restaurants and is always worth a stop for a chowder to die for.
From Puerto Natales, you continue into possibly the most beautiful nature reserve in South America: Torres del Paine National Park. From the fjords at sea level and the lakes that dot the park, you will find yourself gazing up at the soaring mountains in awe. Only by experiencing hour upon hour by road of sheep-dotted plains and dramatic skies, punctuated every 50 miles or so by a remote, wooden estancia, can you begin to appreciate the lives led by those who settled here. On the Argentinian side of the border, mainly Welsh, they were pioneers of such resilience and self-sufficiency that it is almost impossible to believe that they could keep going through the relentless winters and the 12-month wind tunnel that was their topographical fate.