Rugged, craggy terrain juxtaposed against beautiful rolling pampas defines large swathes of South America’s stunning landscape—home to some of the world’s oldest civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Maya, the Olmecs, and the Incas. But in Chile, Patagonia is something else. Stunning, crystal-clear glaciers; glassy, emerald lakes; dense hardwood forests—together with strangely beautiful deserts and tablelands—define a large, unwieldy area that stretches from coast to coast.


This is the incredible area that forms part of a 5-part Netflix docuseries narrated in the soothingly eloquent voice of President Barack Obama. In travel circles, Chile, the setting of this informative series, is no upstart. It has been voted the world's best adventure tourism destination for many years in a row. And with this newly-released production, its fame can only go up. We let you in on this beautifully haunting place that’s known to have interested Magellan, Charles Darwin, and now—President Obama.

Where Patagonia Is And How It Came To Be So Famous

When Ferdinand Magellan, the limping explorer who led the first team to circumnavigate the world—reached the tip of South America—it’s said he met indigenous Tehuelche men who, for their height, literally looked down upon them. Their feet particularly stood out. Back in Europe, he would call the region Patagonia. “Pata” is the Spanish word for feet. The region would evoke in the European mind ghostly, endless tracks of nothingness where hardened giants, like colossi—tread the landscape in earth-shaking thuds. It assumed a mysterious, enigmatic element as a place that is alluringly uninviting and monstrously appealing. Today, Patagonia retains most of that mysterious shade and teems with some of the most unique species of wildlife on earth.

The region is vast and wide: and spans the two countries of Chile and Argentina on either side of the South American tip. At 260, 000 square miles, Patagonia is as big as the state of Texas and would easily swallow France. The lofty heights of the Andes bound it in the west—while to the north—the ferocious 1,440-mile Colorado River sounds its end. Then there’s the Atlantic Ocean to the east and, southwards, the Strait of Magellan—named after the intrepid explorer who gave the region its name. While up to 90% of Patagonia is on the Argentinian side, the Chilean side is just unspoiled, if not more. It’s also a tad wetter, more like a cold jungle. Still, there’s everything for everyone’s adventurous taste—and beauty is still in the eyes of the beholder.

Related: 10 Amazing Views In Patagonia You Have To See Before You Die

Patagonia On Netflix

“Our Great National Parks” is President Obama’s full-throated narration of 5 carefully sampled national parks that tie in with his personal life and storied history. The part that features the Chilean Patagonia is the second in the series. This mysteriously fascinating area is home to an impressive 24 national parks. Twisting, maze-like fjords, crystal glaciers, ice-capped mountain tops, raging rivers, and emerald lakes—all on a beautifully jagged landscape—constitute one of nature’s best-kept secrets. For its jaw-dropping, mountainous landscape, Chilean Patagonia looks more like Switzerland or Nepal in a slightly different cast. The country is also something of a glacier haven and is among the world's top 10 countries as measured by glacier surface area. Almost all of these are in the Patagonia area.

Yet it’s not just the landscape. This haunted area is also home to some of the greatest numbers of wild animals one can find anywhere else on the globe. The elusive pumas are a particular attraction in Patagonia whose species are the largest in the country. There are also guanacos, famed for their ability to survive cold snows, fierce winds, or—on the other side of the climate spectrum— burning heat. There are also many skunks, which are more smelled than seen. Other animals in this diverse landscape include the grey fox, armadillos, deers, and maras.

On the flip side, the seascape boasts 4 types of whales including the humpbacks, known for their spectacular dives, and the blue whales, the largest animals on the planet. The many fjords in the deep south and the Strait of Magellan are some of the best places from which to observe the humpbacks’ thunderous somersaults. There are also dolphins, southern elephant seals, sea lions, and regal penguins.

Among the region's 24 national parks, the Torres del Paine is among the top attractions, and for many, the world’s most stunning. This national park is the best spot from which to see a puma. A combination of verdant valleys, granite spires, cold lakes, and steep cliffs—gives the park an ethereal look and feel. Torres del Paine is an insanely beautiful spot that no descriptive words do it justice.

Related: A Guide To Trekking In Patagonia, The Ultimate Hiking Experience

How To Get To Torres del Paine From Chile’s Capital Santiago: Travelers will have to first touch down at Puerto Natales either by plane or car and then take a bus for the 113-kilometer drive to the park.

Patagonia is like a poem full of outstanding imagery, rhythm, cadence, and emotion. Netflix’s “Our Great National Parks” tries to present all that in a panoramic 54 minutes. In the sub-text is a subtle message that our parks are all interconnected with our very existence—and that we owe it to ourselves to protect them.