Argentine Patagonia is vast, wide open and pretty empty. The interior is made up of arid scrub and steppe, with towns spread along the coast and inland along the foothills of the Andes. It is a region famous for its rugged beauty, world-class hiking and impressive wildlife.
Calafate is the southern gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. The icy blue Perito Moreno glacier extends into a lake over a width of about 5km, and large chunks regularly fall off into the water with a loud roar.
The colourful mountain village of El Chaltén lies 3½ hours north of Calafate along a road that offers wonderful views of Lago Argentino, Lago Viedma and the towering granite Fitzroy peaks. This is an excellent area for walking.
The Valdés peninsula, on the Atlantic coast north of Trelew, is known for whale-watching (in the bay near Puerto Madryn), and also penguins, sea lions and elephant seals. The best time of year for southern right whales is July to October (March and April for killer whales). Valdés is also one of the few places where you have a good chance of seeing the Patagonian hare (mara), especially if you stay at one of the estancias on the peninsula itself.
The city of Rio Gallegos, once a strategic refuelling point on trans-polar flights from Buenos Aires to Australia and New Zealand, is at the mouth of the Gallegos river. A good tarmac road leads west towards Calafate and the Andean glaciers, and the river is well known amongst anglers for both sea trout and steelhead runs.