, a region at the southern extremity of South America. It is divided between Argentina and Chile, but the term generally applies only to the Argentine portion. It covers more than 300,000 square miles (777,000 km2), or almost a third of Argentina. Patagonia is a semiarid plateau with extremely high winds. There are few rivers, and vegetation is scanty. High peaks of the Andes rise in the west; the Atlantic Ocean is on the east.
Patagonia is a sparsely populated area where sheep-raising has long been the most important source of income. Alfalfa and other crops are grown along the region's few rivers. Small coastal ports handle wool and other agricultural products. Argentina's chief oil field, Comodoro Rivadavia, is in Patagonia.
Patagonia's coast was first explored by Magellan in 1520 during his historic world voyage. Few white settlers came until about 1880, when the local Indians were subdued. A Chilean-Argentine boundary dispute was settled in 1902.