From Desert to Ice and Coast to Cordillera, High-Definition Photography by Visual360.co.uk
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile is the driest desert in the world. There are places where no rainfall has ever been recorded. On the Bolivian side of the Andes, the Dali Desert is a region of equally outstanding natural beauty. In both deserts, Mineral-rich earth has resulted in lakes with water ranging in colour from deep red to cyan. Evaporation of the water in these lakes has deposited huge salt planes such as those of Salar Uyuni and El Salar de Atacama.
"Poor Niagara" were the words of Eleanor Roosevelt when she first saw las Cateratas. 2.7km wide, up to 82 metres high and composed of around 250 identifiable cascades, they form on obvious natural border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. La Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat) is the highest and most dramatic section of the falls where an 1800 cubic metres of water is estimated to fall each second.
Matchu Picchu is spectacular on many levels: the scenery, how the stone was transported up from the valley below, the intricacy of the masonry, the reasons for its construction. It was built by the Incas in around 1450 but was only populated for about a century. Despite the possible overlap between its habitation and the Spanish Conquest, it remained "undiscovered" until 1911.
Parque Nacional Laguna del Laja is spectacular lunar landscape at the foot of Volcan Antuco. The road through the park runs directly over the lava flows and ash deposits of the volcano. It follows the edge of the lake to which leads to Paso Pichachén and on into Argentina.
The lakes in the northern regions of Chilean Patagonia are set in lush valleys for the Andean foothills. The area is peppered with snow-capped volcanoes, many of which are highly active with wisps of smoke rising from their peaks. The region provides is final solace before the harsh exposure of the south.
Running south from the Lake District, The Carretera Austral runs for 1240km to where the Panamerican highway ends at the Southern Patagonian Ice-fields. The road starts in temperate rain forests and gradually winds south passed hanging glaciers and jagged peaks.
Torres del Paine National Park is located in the far south of Chilean Patagonia. The centre-piece are the three jagged granite peaks of the Paine Massif (2850 metres). The peaks are, in geological terms, a new formation, the result of glacial erosion in the last tens of thousands of years. The national park consists of numerous lakes, valleys and glaciers which can be viewed from the 10 day trek known as the Circuit.
In contrast with the Chilean region of the same name, the Argentine lake district consists of huge expanses of extremely arid land. This is due to the shelter the Andes provide from the harsh weather blown in from the Pacific. When crossing from one side of the border to the other, it is hard to believe that there has been no change in lattitude.
Leaving the lake district behind, the gradually altitude increases as 'La 40' runs south. The winds become fierce, preventing most vegetation from growing above knee-height. Travelling south, the land unfolds an endless plateau with colours change almost unnoticeably from light-green to yellow over a period of days.
The village of El Chalten is a popular climbing base located in the northern sector of Los Glaciares National Park. The principle attractions are the peaks of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. The name 'El Chalten' derives from the indigenous Teheulche language and can be tranlated as "the Mountain that Smokes" or "the Volcano". it is believed that this name was given due to the clouds that invariably shroud the summits.
El Calafate is the base for exploring the southern sector of the Los Glaciares National Park, where the Glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice-Fields are easily accessible. It is one of the few locations in the world where glaciers of such size continue to advance at an altitude of only around 250 metres. The reason for this rare phenomenum is the chill-factor from the vicious winds blowing in from the Antarctic and Pacific.