Patagonia can be described as a huge dry plateau, descending in steps from the western Andes, to the Atlantic Ocean, containing a number of flowing rivers which drain the lakes and the melted snowfall of the Andes. Towards the Andes, animal life becomes more abundant and vegetation more luxuriant, consisting principally of southern beech and conifers. The high rainfall against the western and the low sea surface temperatures offshore give rise to cold and humid air masses, contributing to the ice-fields and glaciers, the largest ice-fields in the Southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. The steppelike plains descending to the east are almost bare of vegetation.
Vast and empty, the main economic activity is rural. Wool and mutton are the principal products.
In terms of travel destinations, the most important areas are: the Lake District (described separately), Valdés Península (a place for sea life observation: sea elephants sea lyons, penguins, whales), Los Glaciares National Park (including the Perito Moreno glacier and the Fitz Roy massif) and Tierra del Fuego (which capital, Ushuaia, is the southernmost city in the world).
A wide variety of activities is possible: visiting estancias (mostly cattle and sheep working ranches), horseback riding, trekking, climbing, wildlife and bird watching.