There's a primal beauty to South America's Patagonia region that you'll discover over 18 adventure-filled days. You'll visit all the highlights including the massive glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field plus the mountains around El Chaltén. Even better, you'll head to Torres del Paine to embark on the famous W circuit trek before venturing to the far south of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego for even more nature excursions.

Highlights

  • Take a boat to Perito Moreno, the most awe-inspiring glacier in the region
  • Go on a nature hike in the mountains outside El Chalten
  • Hike up to Chile's Paine Massif for incredible views of Torres del Paine
  • Embark on the famous W circuit trek in Torres del Paine National Park
  • Visit Ushuaia and take a boat trip up the Beagle Channel

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Walking Tour of Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 3 Buenos Aires to Tigre Buenos Aires
Day 4 Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 5 Perito Moreno Glacier Tour El Calafate
Day 6 El Calafate to El Chaltén El Chalten
Days 7-8 Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 9 Transfer from El Chaltén to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 10 El Calafate to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 11 W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno Torres del Paine
Day 12 W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos Torres del Paine
Day 13 W Trek Day 3/4: Los Cuernos to the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 14 W Trek Day 4/4: French Valley to Glacier Grey Puerto Natales
Day 15 Puerto Natales to Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 16 Hiking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park Ushuaia
Day 17 Estancia Harberton & Isla Martillo Ushuaia
Day 18 Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires

The famous Obelisk, in downtown Buenos Aires
The famous Obelisk, in downtown Buenos Aires

Welcome to Argentina! Renowned as the "Paris of South America" and the "Queen of El Plata," the capital city of Buenos Aires is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), which is by far the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will be waiting to take you in a private car to your hotel where you can relax after a long flight. But make no mistake: the city will beckon you. After a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. 

When evening falls and dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and order a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with the nation's famous chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce).  Know that Buenos Aires is a culture that thrives after dark, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends.

Day 2: Walking tour of Buenos Aires

The Teatro Colón
The Teatro Colón

After breakfast, you'll take an organized tour of Buenos Aires. During this three-hour walking excursion, you'll visit the neighborhood of Retiro and stroll Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. You'll pass through the historic city center, home to the Teatro Colón opera house, National Congress, Plaza de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). Then, visit the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. Afterward, you'll stop by B.A.'s original port, La Boca.

In the evening, enjoy a delicious meal accompanied by a tango performance—one of Argentina's most famous cultural highlights.

Day 3: Take in the waterfront at Tigre

The canals of Tigre
The canals of Tigre

Today you'll travel up Río de la Plata where it converges with the Paraña River Delta, located about an hour north of Buenos Aires. During the boat ride, you'll enjoy views of the city skyline as you enter a network of freshwater canals and sail among the islands that make up this unique region. The main port is in Tigre, a Venetian-style village whose small-town and relaxing atmosphere contrast with Buenos Aires' bustling energy.

On the waterfront, you'll find Puerto de Frutos, a maze of craft markets, produce stalls, and artisanal goods. The Museo de Arte features a grand collection of Argentine art spanning two centuries. The Naval Museum and the Museo de Maté are other highlights worth a visit. The latter offers an overview and tasting of maté, an herb cultivated in the Paraná region of the country and used for tea.

After a day enjoying Tigre, you'll board a train back to Buenos Aires.

Day 4: Buenos Aires to El Calafate

The city of El Calafate, Argentina
The city of El Calafate, Argentina

After breakfast, you'll head to the airport for a three-hour flight south from Buenos Aires to El Calafate. Known as the gateway to Argentina's glaciers, the city is located on the shores of Lago Argentino, the nation's biggest freshwater lake. If possible, select a window seat to enjoy stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field along the way.

Upon arrival, you'll transfer from the airport to your hotel for check-in. You can then spend the rest of the day relaxing or strolling around town and visiting its charming cafés and boutiques. You can learn about nearby glaciers at the Glaciarium, a multi-media center that has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. Or, don a coat, boots, and gloves to enjoy a drink at the museum's Glaciobar BrancaIt, Argentina's first ice bar.

Day 5: Take a Perito Moreno Glacier Tour

The massive ice walls of Perito Moreno
The massive ice walls of Perito Moreno

After breakfast, you'll depart your hotel for a full-day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier. Comprised of over 96 square miles of solid ice, Perito Moreno is one of the world's most impressive glaciers.

As you head east from El Calafate into Los Glaciares National Park, you'll catch your first glimpse of Perito Moreno. This expansive ice mass flows down from the Andes, ending in a great wall that curves around the lake. Wait a bit and you might witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and crashing into the tranquil waters below. 

While not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is indeed the star of the show. Also unique is that it's one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, a factor that results in the calving mentioned above. Upon arrival, you'll be able to admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points via the network of wooden walkways strategically situated in front of the glacier. Even better, you'll get up close and personal with its massive ice wall on a short boat tour. 

In the evening, you'll return to your hotel in El Calafate where you can relax and enjoy a lovely dinner.

Day 6: El Calafate to El Chaltén

Mt. Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén
Mt. Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén

In the morning, you're off on a three-hour drive to El Chaltén. If the skies are clear, you'll find incredible views of Mt. Fitz Roy, the toothlike 11,020-foot (3,359-meter) granite mountain that looms over the town. El Chaltén is regarded as a hiker's paradise due to the proximity of Fitz Roy and other mountaineering options in the area.

Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to acclimate to the region. Perhaps take a walk in town before a relaxing evening out at one of El Chaltén's many restaurants and craft-beer bars.

Days 7-8: Self-guided hiking in El Chaltén

Admire the view from Laguna de los Tres
Admire the view from Laguna de los Tres

Today is yours to discover additional hiking trails around El Chaltén at your own pace. If you'd like to kick off with an easy option, there's a 1.9-mile (3 km) walk with views of lenga forests and the winding Las Vueltas River. This route also offers some great birding vantage points in which to spot, if you're lucky, condors and eagles.

You can also embark on a two-hour brisk hike to Laguna Capri, a lake that sits at the foot of the mountains and offers unobstructed views of Fitz Roy. On the way, you'll pass by Salto El Chorrillo, a waterfall located a short walk from town. 

Yet another option is to hike to the Huemul Glacier, located about an hour outside of El Chaltén. Named after a native deer, this moderately strenuous hike will take you through some of the most gorgeous scenery in the area including rivers, streams, and virgin forests. A nice reward is the view of Cerros Torre and Fitz Roy from the top.

In the evening, after a day spent enjoying nature, you'll return to your hotel in time to enjoy a leisurely dinner and a nightcap in El Chaltén.

Day 9: El Chaltén to El Calafate

El Calafate
El Calafate

Spend the morning in El Chaltén and take the opportunity for a last-minute trek before starting the drive back to El Calafate early in the afternoon. 

You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. For dinner, be sure to sample the local cuisine of Argentine staples such as roast Patagonian lamb, rib-eye steak, and empanadas. Wash it all down with a great glass or two of Malbec from the Mendoza wine region.

Day 10: El Calafate to Torres del Paine

Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park
Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park

Today, you'll transfer 2.5 hours from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, which takes about 2.5 hours. On the way, you'll pass through expansive grasslands home to rheas, guanacos, Patagonian hares, and even condors. Make sure to have your passport on hand, as you will cross the border to Chile before ending up at Torres del Paine.

After entering this 700-square-mile park through the Laguna Amarga entrance, you'll ride in a shuttle to your camp, which is a comfortable lodge right next to the park. Keep an eye out for wild guanacos as they roam the nearby windy plains. In addition to the namesake mountains, other highlights of the park include:

  • Salto Grande: a 213-foot-high waterfall
  • Laguna Amarga: a water-filled caldera
  • Cuernos del Paine: magnificent granite spires in the shape of horns
  • Lake Pehoé: a beautiful lake whose glassy waters reflect the Cuernos del Paine

Day 11: W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno

Mirador Base Torres
Mirador Base Torres

Today, you will embark on a trekking adventure into Torres del Paine National Park. The excursion begins around 9 am with a 1.5-hour ascent featuring stunning views of the hanging glacier at Mount Almirante Nieto as well as nearby lakes. Once you reach Refugio el Chileno, you can drop off your bags and take a quick break to refuel.

You'll then hike another hour past lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. From here, it's a steep ascent for 45 minutes until you reach the top, which is known as Mirador Base Torres. Mirador in English means "viewpoint,"  and this little section of the mountain, with the Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Paine) looming over a jade lagoon, is the best view in the park. From here, you can also marvel at the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.

After spending some time enjoying the views at Base Torres, you'll then hike back to Refugio el Chileno to rest up for the evening. 

Hiking distance: 11 miles (18 km)
Hiking duration: 6.5 hours

Day 12: W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos

The waterfront at Lake Nordenskjöld
The waterfront at Lake Nordenskjöld

After breakfast, you'll depart Refugio el Chileno for a more moderate day of hiking. After passing by the Paine Massif, you'll arrive at the base of Mount Almirante Nieto. Then, it's more hiking for 4.5-6 hours, during which you're treated to views of Lake Nordenskjöld's emerald waters, hanging glaciers, and local flora. Eventually, you will reach the Cuernos sector of the park and spend the night in Refugio Los Cuernos, a refuge nestled on the hillside in the heart of Torres del Paine.

Hiking distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Hiking duration: 4.5 hours

Day 13: W Trek Day 3/4: Los Cuernos to the French Valley

Lake Pehoé
Lake Pehoé

The destination of today's hike is Campamento Italiano, a campsite located 2.5 hours away from Refugio Cuernos. Getting there involves trekking along the windy shores of Lago Nordenskjöld. Once at Campamento Italiano, you'll leave your heavy gear and continue the trek towards the French Valley, a rocky section of flatland cradled at the base of granite peaks.

Hike another couple of hours through a forest before finally emerging into the valley, and all the incredible scenery will come into view. From a lookout point, enjoy spectacular views of lakes Nordenskjöld, Skottsberg, and Pehoé, as well as the hanging French Glacier. After leaving the lookout, return to gather your large pack and continue another 2.5 hours to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shores of Lake Pehoé, for your overnight stay. 

Hiking Distance: 10.7 miles (17.2 km)
Hiking Duration: 7 hours

Day 14: W Trek Day 4/4: French Valley to Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey

After a fortifying breakfast, embark on a hike through a small forest to Lago Grey, a lake fed by one of the star landmarks of Torres del Paine: Glacier Grey. At 104 square miles, this glacial mass comprises a sizeable portion of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. After about two hours of hiking, you'll get your first glimpse of Glacier Grey's jagged ice walls plus the peaks of the Cordon Olguin.

Cap your Torres del Paine adventure by hopping aboard the Grey III catamaran. You'll embark on a tour of the lake, which will put you close to the glacier and in front of some great photo opportunities. The catamaran will then leave you at the shore in the Pudeto sector of the park. Here you'll meet a private driver who will transfer you to Puerto Natales. In the evening, relax in your hotel after the long day.

Hiking Distance: 7 miles (11 km)
Hiking Duration: 4 hours

Day 15: Puerto Natales to Ushuaia

Ushuaia at sunset
Ushuaia at sunset

After an early breakfast in Puerto Natales, you'll commence the scenic 14-hour journey to Ushuaia. Located in the far south of the Tierra del Fuego region of Argentine Patagonia, Ushuaia is the southernmost city in the world. To arrive there, you'll board a bus in Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas. Then, continue by ferry to Tierra del Fuego through the famous Strait of Magellan. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the day to explore as you see fit. 

Located on a bay, Ushuaia sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel. This is the same waterway Charles Darwin explored when he was riding the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Make sure to get out and walk along the waterfront for a better glimpse of the craggy mountains and silver channel.

Other activities in and around town include: 

  • Strolling the streets of downtown. As you walk around the colorful shops and buildings, notice an endearing jumble of architectural styles with everything from mock chalets to tumbledown wooden cottages.
  • Visiting the Prison Maritime Museum. The building that houses Ushuaia's Maritime Museum was actually once an old prison. Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, some 600 convicts occupied 380 cells until the prison's closing in 1947. Even today, much of the prison looks unchanged since its doors closed.
  • Visiting the Museo del Fin del Mundo, or "End of the World" Museum. Located on the waterfront, this small museum features fascinating exhibits on the region's natural and indigenous history. You'll also find extensive bird and sailing exhibits. 
  • Traveling to Laguna Esmeralda. A few miles outside of Ushuaia, this is an easy afternoon hike for all levels. Also, the shores of this turquoise lake are great for photos and stopping to enjoy nature.
  • Sampling the local cuisine. The region is famous for its seafood, particularly centolla (king crab). Try it au gratin—it's the most decadent dish in Ushuaia. 

Day 16: Hiking and Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park

Go hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Go hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park

In the morning, a shuttle will pick you up at your hotel in Ushuaia and drive you to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Located in one of the most notable ecological zones in the Americas, Tierra del Fuego is known for its subantarctic forest, dramatic scenery, and rugged coastline. 

Upon arrival in Ensenada Bay, you'll be treated to a spectacular view of the Beagle Channel. Then it will be time to embark on a 4-mile (6 km) coastal walk amid the unique flora and fauna of the region. Interesting animals that call this area home include woodpeckers, guanacos, and foxes. In addition, you'll see traces of the Yamana indigenous settlements that once existed here.

After three hours, you'll arrive at Lake Roca, where a picnic lunch will be served. Afterward, you'll hop in a canoe and paddle down the Lapataia River until you reach the southern end of the Pan-American Highway, the world's longest drivable road. This trans-continental route begins in Alaska and covers the entire length of the Americas.

After the excursion, you'll return to your hotel in Ushuaia in the evening.

Day 17: Explore Estancia Harberton and Isla Martillo

Gentoo penguins on Isla Martillo
Gentoo penguins on Isla Martillo

Get ready for a full-day excursion to do some penguin spotting. The trip starts at the Ushuaia pier, where you'll catch a bus to Estancia Harberton—a working Patagonian ranch that dates back to 1886. The estancia's property sits on 50,000 acres that include glassy lakes and virgin forests.

After spending some time on the ranch, you'll head to a nearby dock on the Beagle Channel and hop in a zodiac boat. You'll then zip along the water until you reach Isla Martillo, an island that is home to thousands of Magellanic penguins and even some Gentoo penguins. On a 90-minute walking tour, you'll get up close and personal with these waddling birds as an expert guide offers insights into their characteristics and behavior.

Day 18: Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Depart for home

Farewell, Argentina
Farewell, Argentina

In morning, you'll head to Ushuaia airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. You'll then transfer to the international airport for your flight back home. Buen viaje!