South America may not have the greatest reputation when it comes to safety concerns, but there’s one region that bucks the trend: Patagonia. Speak to anyone about their experiences of traveling in this region and you’ll find that it’s true what everyone says: Patagonians really are the friendliest people on the planet.
But what is it that makes this huge stretch of pampas plains and jagged Andean peaks at the southern end of Chile and Argentina so safe and friendly?
Safety and security in the far south
Comparisons after often made between levels of safety in Argentina and Chile and those in European countries. Unfortunately, muggings and petty crime remain an issue in the two capitals, but this is also the case in most of the large cities throughout Europe. But what’s most interesting is that when you venture further south into Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, crime rates are virtually non-existent.
Local people in Patagonia are known for looking out for visitors; they’re as keen to ensure that you enjoy your vacation and recommend the region to your friends. Many feel independent of Chile and Argentina and therefore have a great deal of pride in Patagonia – what they see as their country – so don’t be surprised if people go out of their way to help you, whether it’s offering you a lift in their car or inviting you into their house to join them for an asado.
As with traveling in any country, of course it’s important to stay aware and not take unnecessary risks, but you’ll likely find that throughout your time in Patagonia, you feel very safe and secure.
Epic yet accessible landscapes
Patagonia has some of the most spectacular mountain landscapes in the whole continent, but unlike other countries in the region, it has an excellent network of well-marked trails, making it the ideal vacation destination if you’re a fan of trekking.
This excellent infrastructure of trails and national parks, such as in the world-famous Torres del Paine or the epic hikes from El Chaltén, Argentina’s hiking capital, make Patagonia a very safe place to explore, even without a guide. And what’s more, the landscapes are sublime. Here, glaciers seem to fall into lakes and it’s not unusual to spot herds of guanaco grazing in the pampas or soaring Andean condors overhead.
Even better, there are hardly any dangerous animals in Patagonia, with no venomous snakes known to inhabit the region and only a handful of potentially threatening spiders – none of which you are likely to come across
Although pumas are probably Patagonia’s most dangerous animal, it’s highly improbable that you will get close enough to one to feel threatened and at risk of being attacked. You’ll also find that most puma spotting tours involve hiking with a guide who can advise on what to do in the unlikely event that you do encounter one.
Reputable tour agencies
What’s more, as the popularity of this adventurous yet accessible South American destination has grown, the range of reputable tourist agencies has increased. Those who wish to take a guide when hiking into the mountains or want to explore the remote, barely accessible fjords of Chilean Patagonia have a selection of respected companies to choose from and are guaranteed to have an excellent experience of the region.
A welcoming place, despite its hostile weather
Although the initial explorers to Patagonia believed the local inhabitants to be a terrifying race of giants, modern Patagonia is a multicultural tapestry of immigrants from across the world.
Brush up your Spanish and you’ll always find someone to chat to in Patagonia, whether it’s the hotel owner in Ushuaia or your tour guide in Torres del Paine. Speak a bit of German or Welsh? You’ll never feel homesick in Puerto Madryn, the home of a huge community of Welsh descendants who immigrated to the region in the mid-19th-century, or Bariloche, where German and Swiss influences can be seen in everything from the ski chalets to the craft beer.
So despite how hostile and cold the weather might sometimes be in Patagonia, wherever you visit, you’re always guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome.