Transfer to Puerto Montt and fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (2 hrs). On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers.
Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. The region’s fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush, and to add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool.
From the airport, drive into the awesome Torres del Paine National Park (5 hrs-ish, a wonderful wilderness where you’ll see silvery iceberg-dotted rivers, aquamarine lagoons and savagely wind-carved rocks, cliffs and ice-clad mountains. Guanacos (cameloids) graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above.
The road takes you across inhospitable plains, battered by perpetual winds. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon. You’ll be staying in fixed dome tents with proper beds and shared bathroom facilities.