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Central Patagonia 2020

Visit the dramatic landscapes of central Patagonia and see incredible, rare alpine plants in their inspiring natural habitat.    
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Patagonia is a remote region of the world and includes the southernmost provinces of Argentina and Chile. Its spectacular landscapes include vast areas of semi-desert steppe to the east and temperate rainforest to the west, separated by the dramatic peaks of the Andes. This varied landscape supports many plants that are striking in colour, form and habit. Some are in cultivation, but many, especially the alpine and steppe flora, are not. In addition to the flowers, we should see lots of wildlife – notably guanacos, foxes, austral parrots, condors, skunks and armadillos.

Patagonian Flowers

On this tour, we will visit a wide range of landscapes and encounter many flowers and plants in their native habitats. The tour will be led by Martin Sheader who has travelled extensively throughout Patagonia. He has expert knowledge of the area and its many alpine plants and is the author of the book Flowers of the Patagonian Mountains.

Tour Details

This tour will begin in the south and finish in central Patagonia, moving between Argentina and Chile. After arriving in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, we fly south to the coastal city of Comodoro Rivadavia in the north of Santa Cruz, Argentina’s southernmost mainland province. This is an industrial city in an oil producing area. From here we head west towards the Andes, crossing the dry Patagonian steppe to our next hotel at Los Antiguos on the southern shore of one of Patagonia’s largest lakes, Lago Buenos Aires.

We spend the next couple of days botanising on Monte Zeballos before crossing into Chile. Monte Zeballos is floristically rich, with two species of rosulate viola (V. auricolor & V. sacculus), three species of oxalis (O. laciniata, O. adenophylla & O. loricata), two species of benthamiella (B. patagonica & B. azorella) and three species of hamadryas (H. delfinii, H. kingii & H. sempervivoides) together with many other alpine species. In addition the scenery is spectacular with craggy peaks, screes slopes and wet snowmelt habitats.

We cross into Chile at Paso Roballos and drive through the new Patagonia National Park to the small town of Cochrane, our base for the next few days. From here we explore the national park by bus and on foot, using 4 x 4 vehicles where necessary. Here we should find interesting plants in a range of habitats.

From Cochrane we drive north, through forest and along the southern shore of Lago General Carrera (this is the western part of Argentina’s Lago Buenos Aires – the same lake!), botanising en route. The rocky lake margin is rich with several species of orchid and many other flowering plants.

For the next two nights we stay at Chile Chico, a small town just over the border from Los Antiguos. visiting the mountain slopes on the southern section of the Partagonia national park. The flora here is again rich with for example, Anarthrophyllum desideratum, Calceolaria uniflora, Calceolaria polyrhiza, Valeriana moyanoi, Oxalis adenophylla, O. laciniata, O. loricata and many others.

Next we cross back into Argentina and head north into Chubut province, spending the next couple of days botanising around Lago Fontana. Here we should find good populations of orchids such as Chloraea alpina and Chloraea magellanica, with other forest and mountain flora, including Viola sacculus.

A long drive on good roads through steppe takes us to out next destination at the town of Rίo Pico. On the way we make a short detour to visit sites rich in cactus, including Austrocactus, Pterocactus and Maihuenia.

Travelling further north we reach  Esquel, a town founded by Welsh settlers. We botanise en route, with a stop at Lago Vinnter to photograph another rosulate viola, V. columnaris and many other interesting steppe and woodland plants. From Esquel we visit two mountains, La Hoya, where we hope to see the spectacular buttercup Callianthemoides semiverticillata togther with Tristagma circinatum, Viola sacculus and Hamadryas kingii. Snow clears late on the second mountain, Cerro Piltriquitrón, providing a chance to see some of the early flowering mountain species.

Our final destination is the ski resort of San Carlos de Bariloche on Lago Nahuel Huapi. in Rίo Negro province.  From here we visit two mountains, Cerro Catedral and Mirador Nirihuau. The Cerro Catedral massif towers over the city and is accessible by ski lift. Here we should find a good range of plants including Callianthemoides semiverticillata, Oxalis adenophylla, Oxalis erythrorhiza, Combera paradoxa, Ourisia fragrans, Viola petraea and Viola sacculus.  Forms of Viola petraea and Oxalis adenophylla are particularly attractive at Mirador de Nirihuau.

Itinerary (more details soon!)

Day 1: Comodoro Rivadavia, Buenos Aires (29th Nov)

Stay at Hotel Austral.

Day 2: Comodoro Rivadavia – Los Antiguos

Stay at Hotel Antigua Patagonia.

Day 3: Cerro Zeballos

Stay at Hotel Antigua Patagonia.

Day 4: Los Antiguos – Cochrane

Early departure to Paso Roballos road. We drive back to Cerro Zeballos, and after a short stop for botanizing we continue to the border Argentina-Chile at Paso Roballos. Drive down to Valle de Chacabuco, and arrive at the small town Cochrane in Chile. Accommodation TBC.

Day 5 & 6: Parque Patagonia Hiking Trail

We will enjoy some of the incredible sights to be seen on the Parque Patagonia hiking trails.

Day 7: Cochrane – Chile Chico

Early departure to Chile Chico. We take the road R265 on the south shore of Lago General Carrera. Scenic route.

Day 8: Patagonia Piedra Clavada y Valle Lunar

Day 9: Chile Chico – Lago Fontana

Day 10: Botanising at Lago Fontana Valley

Day 11: Lago Fontana Cerro Tres montes

Day 12: Lago Fontana – Rio Pico

We drive back to Rio Senguer, take old RN40 heading north to Aldea Apeleg. The steppe is floristically rich. We continue to Rio Pico.

Day 13: Rio Pico – Lago Vintter – Esquel

After breakfast, we drive north to the southern side of Lago Vintter. Botanise around the lake. Later we continue to Esquel, a bigger town in central Patagonia. Stay at Sol del Sur.

Day 14: Esquel – La Hoya

Botanise the whole day at La Hoya ski resort, 12 km from Esquel. A good road leads us to a ski station. The station operates only during the winter, but in the summer has very interesting plant species to see, like ranunculus semiverticillatus. Stay at Sol del Sur.

Day 15: Esquel – El Bolson

We botanize at Cerro Piltriquitrón.

Day 16: El Bolsón – Bariloche

The Mirador de Ñirihuau is located in a range of mountains to the south of Bariloche and east of Lago Gutiérrez. We drive in the morning to the car parking area of Refugio Neumeyer. There are many tracks around the area. We take the one going to Mirador de Ñirihuau, a moderate walk through nothofagus pumilio forest, ends up on a rocky ridge with magnificent views across the surrounding countryside. Stay at Lago Gutiérrez.

Day 17: Cerro Catedral

Cerro Catedral is a ski center at the backyard of San Carlos de Bariloche. We drive to Villa Catedral, and take a cable car / chairlift to Refugio Lynch. Expect to see good specimens of oxalis erythrorhiza. If there is no snow we can decent to Piedra del Cóndor and botanise on mountain all day. Stay at Lago Gutiérrez.

Day 18: Bariloche – Buenos Aires

Midday flight to Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel. Farewell dinner. Stay at Hotel 474 Buenos Aires.

Day 19: Buenos Aires – Back Home (17th Dec)