This exciting 13-day itinerary highlights some of Argentina's most impressive natural wonders. Kicking off in Buenos Aires, you'll venture to Patagonia where you’ll get close to massive glaciers and partake in a range of outdoor activities in the southernmost city in the world. Finish in the far north—at the Brazilian border—to explore hundreds of waterfalls in both countries for a real taste of adventure.

Highlights

  • Kick off the trip in Buenos Aires with a free-flowing wine and tango show
  • Get up close to several Patagonian glaciers on foot and by boat
  • Spend a day trekking and canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • See diverse marine wildlife while cruising through the Beagle Channel
  • Hike around hundreds of waterfalls in Brazil and Argentina

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 4 Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour El Calafate
Day 5 Estancia Cristina Excursion El Calafate
Day 6 Free Day in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 7 Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City Ushuaia
Day 8 Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 9 Beagle Channel Cruise Ushuaia
Day 10 Fly from Ushuaia to Iguazú Iguazu Falls
Day 11 Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) Iguazu Falls
Day 12 Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side) Iguazu Falls
Day 13 Fly from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco, a central monument in 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 far and away 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. So after a quick recharge, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The best starting point would be the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous icon of the city. This obelisk (which even Argentines admit is a little too reminiscent of the Washington Monument) is worth a visit for its location alone. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, which boasts a whopping 16 lanes, making it the widest city street in the world.

  • Stop by the Teatro Colon, one of South America's premier opera houses. The horseshoe-shaped gallery features 2,487 seats and incredible acoustics. Even if you plan on taking a tour or catching a show here on another day, it's always breathtaking to pass by its exterior. The Colon's neoclassical facade has been the face of one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.

  • Stroll Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to downtown. Puerto Madero may be the "new money" finance center of Buenos Aires, but it's also one of the most pleasant walks in a city famous for its walking areas. A romantic stroll involves walking over the canal on the Puente de Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 

  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse or parilla. When night falls and dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and enjoy 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: Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show

Dorrego Square in San Telmo
Dorrego Square in San Telmo

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of Buenos Aires as well as a better understanding of Argentina’s history and culture. During this three-hour tour, you will visit Retiro as well as Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colon, the continent's most opulent opera house, and the iconic Obelisco monument.

You will also pass through the historic and architecturally impressive city center, home to the Congress Building, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). Then, walk along the upscale waterfront promenades of Puerto Madero before heading to the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. Afterward, you'll stop by La Boca, the city's original port.

In the evening, enjoy a scrumptious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and tango show, one of Argentina's most iconic cultural highlights. After this memorable experience, you'll head back to your hotel to relax for the night.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate

Lago Argentino
Lago Argentino

This morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to El Calafate, a city that sits on the shores of Lago Argentino and is known as the gateway to Argentina's glaciers. If you can, get a window seat so you can take in the stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as you fly over it. 

Upon arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. Maybe prime yourself with information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium. This multi-media center has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. For fun, it even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 4: Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour

Enjoy the views of Perito Moreno
Enjoy the views of Perito Moreno

Today, you're in for an exciting full-day excursion. It starts with a pick up from your hotel in El Calafate, followed by a one-hour transfer to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park you'll catch your first glimpse of majestic Perito Moreno. This expansive ice mass flows down from the Andes out over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino, ending abruptly in a great wall that curves around the lake. Wait a bit and you'll witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and crashing into the tranquil waters below. Every time ice hits the water a thundering crash reverberates in the ears. 

While not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is indeed the star of the show. It's also unique in that it is 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 also get up close and personal with its massive ice wall on a boat tour. 

After a day spent discovering the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, you'll head back to El Calafate to enjoy the evening as you please.

Day 5: Estancia Cristina Excursion

The view from Estancia Cristina
The view from Estancia Cristina

There's more activity in store for you today. Starting early, a driver will pick you and other passengers up from your respective hotels and transfer you 28 miles (45 km) to the port at Punta Bandera, located on Lago Argentino. The drive along this route is scenic and pleasant, affording sweeping views of the Patagonian countryside and the charming wooden houses that intermittently dot the landscape. 

Having reached the port, you'll board a modern ferry and embark on a journey on the Upsala Channel, passing towering icebergs along the way. As you reach the northern section you'll see the western front of the Spegazzini Glacier. At over 10 miles long and a mile wide, the length, breadth, and towering ice walls that define this ancient glacier are awe-inspiring. 

After taking the time to admire Spegazzini, you will continue sailing north and into the Cristina Channel. At the far end of this channel is the disembarking point for Estancia Cristina. Expect to arrive late morning. 

Estancia Cristina is one of the most impressive ranch-style lodges in the region. It was founded in 1914 by pioneers and built on a valley once covered by the Upsala Glacier. A visit to the Folkloric Museum here (located in an old sheep-shearing shed), offers insight into the history of the estancia. The surrounding scenery is nothing to scoff at either—all around are impressive panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. 

All told you will stay here about six hours. After the museum, you'll embark on a 6-mile (9.5 km) journey by 4x4 over an unpaved road that ascends into the mountains. After reaching the Continental Ice Field Refuge, you will exit the vehicle and begin a 20-minute walk featuring views of glacial landscapes and Andes mountains until you reach the Upsala viewpoint. Here you will have an unobstructed view of the eastern face of the Upsala Glacier as well as Lake Guillermo and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. 

In the late afternoon, you will board the boat again and begin the return to Punta Bandera. After landing, you will transfer back to your hotel.

Day 6: Free Day in El Calafate

Take a kayaking tour
Take a kayaking tour

Today, you'll have a relaxing (or not so relaxing) free day to either arrange a spa treatment at a nearby resort or venture out and discover more adventures in and around El Calafate. Perhaps, you'd like to see more glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park, go horseback riding on a nearby ranch, or join a kayaking tour. 

For a break from the glaciers, you can also take a short 15-minute walk from El Calafate to an ecological reserve called Laguna Nimez. The protected area is a haven for a great variety of birds including the Chilean flamingo, and there is a self-guided boardwalk which takes visitors around the whole reserve. 

Another museum option (besides the Glaciarium) is the town's history museum: Centro de Interpretación Histórica. It covers the history of Patagonia since the ice age, including useful information on glaciers, as well as dinosaurs, extinct animals, indigenous peoples, and the formation of other geographical landscapes.

Day 7: Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City

Typical Argentinian treats at a shop in Ushuaia
Typical Argentinian treats at a shop in Ushuaia

After breakfast in El Calafate, you'll pack up and transfer to the airport for your flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the day to explore as you see fit. This day will be relatively relaxed since the next day will feature more physical, outdoors activities.

Located on a bay in the Patagonian region of Tierra del Fuego, the city sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel. This is also the same waterway where Charles Darwin found himself 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 majestic mountains and impressive channel.

Suggested activities in and around town: 

  • Stroll 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.

  • Stop in at the Prison 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.

  • Visit 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. 

  • Head 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.

  • Sample the local cuisine. The region is famous for its seafood, particularly centolla (king crab). Try it au gratin—it'll likely be the most decadent meal of your trip.

Day 8: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego

Coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego
Coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego

Today, you'll spend a day in Tierra del Fuego National Park, one of the most frequently visited places around Ushuaia. It's close to the city and isn't expensive to enter, which means it's wide open for locals and visitors alike. There are many wonders within its 155,000 acres, so you'll want an experienced guide to show you the best hikes, lakes, and lookout points. 

On this day trip, you'll have a specialized guide to help you discover the natural beauty within the park. You'll get to know the ins and outs of this protected paradise, from seaside mountains to freshwater rivers to subantarctic forests and tranquil bays.

You'll depart from your hotel by minibus for the short ride to the entrance of the park. Then it's a 4.3 mile (7 km) hike on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel. You'll have prime views of the channel along the way, but you'll also get to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the area. You'll also pass remnants of ancient settlements once occupied by the Yámana indigenous people.

After this brisk three-hour trek, you'll reach Lago Roca where you can relax and enjoy a hot lunch. Then it's time to start the canoe ride down the Lapataia River. This waterway leads to your ultimate destination, Lapataia Bay. Located in the Beagle Channel, it sits at the end of the Pan American Highway and Nacional Route No. 3.

Day 9: Beagle Channel Cruise

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse in the Beagle Channel
Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse in the Beagle Channel

After breakfast in Ushuaia, head to the pier to board a boat for a local cruise. Today's excursion sails through the Beagle Channel, one of the region’s most important waterways named after the HMS Beagle, a 19th-century British ship that once carried Charles Darwin to South America.

As you pass through the channel, you'll get breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Ushuaia and the entire bay. Be on the lookout for diverse marine wildlife such as cormorants and sea lions, especially near the Lobo and De Los Pajaros islands. If the winds are calm, you can even hop ashore, collect giant shells, and look out to the opposite coast, which stretches across both Chile and Argentina. Before making your way back to Ushuaia, see the famous Les Eclaireurs, the so-called "Lighthouse at the End of the World."

Day 10: Fly from Ushuaia to Iguazú

The main commercial hub near Iguazú Falls
The main commercial hub near Iguazú Falls

This morning a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport. You've got a long journey ahead of you. A flight will take you from the rugged forests and icy peaks of southern Patagonia to the mango trees and rainforest jungles of northern Argentina's Misiones Province. Here you'll find the jewel in the crown: Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world.

Upon arrival to the city of Puerto Iguazú, you'll check into your hotel and then have the option for a half-day tour of the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls (as opposed to the Argentine side) beginning in the afternoon. This is a good introduction to the falls, as the Brazilian side offers what amounts to a couple of easily accessible viewpoints. So you'll be able to enjoy the majesty of this natural wonder without the extensive walking that accompanies a visit to the Argentine side (don't worry, because you'll experience that tomorrow). 

So enjoy the falls as you acclimate to the warmer weather (temps here can top 90°F in the summer months). Also, be on the lookout for exotic animals that call the area home, such as monkeys and coatis. 

Note: special visas are required for certain countries. Please ask the specialist if it is necessary for your itinerary.

Day 11: Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side)

Touring Iguazú from the Argentine side
Touring Iguazú from the Argentine side

After breakfast at your hotel, a driver will pick you up and transfer you to the entrance of Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure. It's a full-day excursion that involves traversing three circuit routes around the falls, each offering exceptional vantage points from which to view this magnificent natural wonder. 

The three circuit routes include:

  • The upper circuit (1 hour) features 2,624 feet (800 m) of catwalks. These walkways are elevated from the jungle surface so as not to disrupt the natural pathways used by the indigenous fauna. The circuit affords views of the upper portion of Iguazú, which means you'll be treated to countless panoramic vistas of the surrounding falls.

  • The lower circuit (2 hours) makes up 5,250 feet (1,600 m). These paths are also elevated and offer views from directly below and around Iguazú falls. This circuit takes you near the base of the falls and provides a unique experience where you'll be up close with the natural surroundings, feeling the magnitude of the falls from up close. 

  • Devil's Gorge (2 hours) is the star of the show. A small tourist train leaves from within the park at the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the wooden pathway. Then a walk of about 3,937 feet (1200 m) will take you over the river, culminating at a viewpoint. Just hearing the plunging falls reverberating in your ears is a one-of-a-kind experience. Actually peering 269 feet (82 m) down into the cavernous abyss as the highest of Iguazu's falls thunders all around you is downright unforgettable. 

At the end of the tour, the driver will pick you up and transfer you back to the hotel.

Day 12: Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)

Pedestrian walkways with epic views
Pedestrian walkways with epic views

The Brazilian side of Iguazú may lack the number of hiking routes found on the Argentine side, but it makes up for it with a wealth of amenities in the form of conveniences and restaurants with terraces overlooking the falls. Upon arrival at the Visitors Center, you'll board a double-decker bus that embarks on a 30-minute ride into the park.

After you jump off the bus, your first stop is a balcony that offers panoramic views of the Argentine side of the falls (be sure to keep your camera at the ready). You'll then hike 3,116 feet (950 m) along the Iguazú River until you reach the falls on the Brazilian side. The walkway passes over the river to the Salto Floriano (Floriano Falls). This magnificent wall of plunging water makes quite an impression, as do the vistas of the lower Iguazú River and the Devil’s Throat Canyon.

Once you have the lay of the land, spend your day enjoying the various views and having lunch on a terrace before returning to your hotel.

Day 13: Fly from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina!
Goodbye, Argentina!

This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international airport for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Argentina for Adventurers – 13 days
Map of Argentina for Adventurers – 13 days