Posts Tagged ‘argentina’

Enchanting Iguazú Falls

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Jeffrey A. Cole has led over 50 Smithsonian Journeys to Latin America since 1992, including 26 to Peru and 20 to Chile. He has taught Latin American Studies at Clark University, Tulane University, SUNY-Oswego, Cornell University, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Smith College.

In the spring, Jeffrey led a group of Smithsonian travelers on a Patagonian Explorer adventure.


For the 2012-13 season, the Patagonian Explorer journey will offer a pre-tour excursion to Iguazú Falls. Iguazú, which in Guaraní means “big water,” is one of the must-see places in the world, and I am very pleased it is now available to Smithsonian travelers. When Eleanor Roosevelt visited the falls, she was asked her opinion, and her response was reportedly “Poor Niagara!”

Iguazu Falls

Iguazú Falls. Photo by James Elliott.

Many will remember the falls from “The Mission,” with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro, which chronicles the removal of the Jesuits from the region in the seventeenth century. Others may have seen nature programs about the swifts that live among the falls. Whatever your inspiration, Iguazú Falls – like Machu Picchu in Perú – usually exceeds even the loftiest of expectations.


Urraca. Photo by James Elliott.

The experience is now enhanced by a network of walkways along and over the falls on the Argentine side, including one that leads to the “Boca del Diablo” (“Devils Throat”), where the volume of water and the noise it makes are impressive. It’s also enhanced by the presence of coatíes (raccoon-like animals) and fantastic birds, including the macaw and blue-and-yellow urraca. At the end of the day, as the sun goes down, the sound of the falls and the animals make Iguazú a very special place, and one you’ll remember fondly.


Read more about Smithsonian Journeys’ Patagonian Explorer tour here.

Exploring Patagonia – Five Things

Thursday, April 28th, 2011
The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

The Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. Photo: Allison Dale

Ever wonder how it is on the other side of the Equator? It might be hot in the Southern Hemisphere, but there’s snow, ice, and glaciers too in Patagonia, where during a heat wave, temperatures  might reach all of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

1) The explorer Magellan named the region, which includes the southernmost portions of Chile and Argentina, after the native people there. He used the word Patagón, or giant, to describe the group, who were an average height of about 6 feet tall, much taller than the Europeans of the time.

2) Rawson, the capital of the Chubut region of Patagonia, was settled by Welsh immigrants in 1865, as part of an effort by the Argentinian government to attract settlers to areas outside of Buenos Aires. The going was even tougher than they anticipated; the settlers had been told the arid plateau of Chubut was much like lush, green lowland Wales.

3) Humans have inhabited Patagonia since 10,000 BCE, if not longer, and traces of past settlements can be found across the region. One of the best known is the Cueva de las Manos (cave of hands), located in Santa Cruz, Argentina. The cave painters used ink made from hematite, and some archaeologists speculate that the young men stenciled their hands on the cave as part of a tribal rite-of-passage ritual. The cave was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

4) The Patagonian region of Santa Cruz, in Argentina, is home to a 52-square mile petrified forest. The forest grew 150 million years ago, during the Jurasssic period, and was later buried under volcanic eruptions at the beginning of the Cretaceous Period, when the Andes began formation.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

Cave Paintings at the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina. Photo: Mariano Cecowski.

5) Some of the most famous residents of Patagonia include the Magellanic penguins of Magdalena Island. Situated in the center of the Strait of Magellan, Magdelena Island hosts 60,000 breeding pairs of penguins. Penguins mate for life, going back to the same nest to meet and breed each year.

Need more reasons to travel to Patagonia? Check out Smithsonian’s  Patagonian Explorer tour, where you’ll explore the glaciers, islands, and windswept landscapes of Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel, and more.

Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost urban center, is 6,500 miles away from Washington, DC. What’s the furthest you’ve ever been from home? Please share.

Video: The End of the World Train

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Patagonia is well known for its incredible landscapes in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is accessible either by highway or by the End of the World Train. Beginning in 1883, Ushuaia, Argentina was simply a prison colony intended for repeat offenders and serious criminals, following the example of the British prison colony in Tasmania and the French colony in Devil’s Island.

In 1909, the penal colony needed a way to get men from the jail to the woodcutting site where they would obtain firewood for cooking and heat. Eventually this “Convict Train” was used to create workshops in the area, where prisoners could learn the skills needed to find employment once they were released. As the community grew, opportunities became available for convicts at a press, bakery, sawmill, blacksmith, tailor, and a shoemaker. Other workshops included photography, carpentry, and cabinetmaking. The jail transitioned into a naval base in the 1940s, and after a particularly violent earthquake in 1949, the train stopped running. It was brought back to life in 1994, and now provides tourists a unique way to the entrance of Tierra del Fuego National Park.

You can see Ushuaia and the stunning Patagonia landscape where these men worked on our Patagonia and the Natural Wonders of Argentina and Chile tour.

What trade would you want to learn while living in Ushuaia?

Trekking on Perito Moreno

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Allison Dale is Smithsonian Journeys’ intrepid marketing intern this summer. She is majoring in English at Georgetown University, and in her past travels she has explored North America, South America, and Europe. Here, she tells us about her adventures in Patagonia.

The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

The Perito Moreno Glacier. Photo: Allison Dale

From the plane I watched the vibrant city of Buenos Aires disappear beneath the clouds. Upon landing in El Calafate, a small town in the Patagonia region of Argentina, the bustling city avenues of Buenos Aires were replaced with milky water tributaries and imploring street vendors were replaced with knowledgeable guides. With two friends, I struck out on an adventure to see one of the world’s most endangered land masses: a glacier. El Parque Nacional de los Glaciares is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the Perito Moreno glacier, only one of three glaciers in Patagonia in equilibrium with its surroundings despite the change in the world climate.

A bus ride, a boat ride, and a short walk later I stood in front of a wall of ice soaring 240 feet above the surface of Lake Argentino. This wall of ice, through sheer natural force, carved its way through the surrounding mountains over thousands of years and now spans an impressive 19 miles in length. Never in my life had I seen such evidence of nature’s power and beauty. The milky blue waters of the lake reflected the morning light onto the crystalline blue wall of the glacier, exposing the swirls of sediment the ice collects as it advances and recedes foot by foot, year after year.

Suddenly, I heard a sound like a gunshot or a car backfiring. From the rickety, man-made boardwalk I watched as massive blocks of ice the size of houses calved from the glacier wall and thundered into the tranquil lake below. The sound of the impact between water and ice echoed off the valley walls. Nature was truly showing off her power for us that day and we looked on in awe.