Experience the most famous sites and beautiful nature excursions in both Argentina's Lake District and southern Patagonia. Begin in El Calafate, where you'll visit the majestic Perito Moreno glacier before venturing into Chile and embarking on a trekking excursion into Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most famous hiking destinations in the country. Finally, travel to Argentina's Lake District to explore the region's serene and stunning landscapes.

Highlights

  • Visit the unforgettable Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Take a boat tour of the Upsala Channel and view more glaciers
  • Trek alongside lakes, rivers, and lagoons in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park
  • Go sight-seeing around the famous mountain city of Bariloche, in Argentina's Lake District

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 3 Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour El Calafate
Day 4 Estancia Cristina Excursion El Calafate
Day 5 From El Calafate to Torres del Paine El Calafate
Day 6 From El Calafate to Bariloche Bariloche
Day 7 Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria Bariloche
Day 8 Bariloche History and Nature Half-Day Tour Bariloche
Day 9 Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires

The iconic Obelisco
The iconic Obelisco

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, the most iconic landmark in 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 walking areas 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 to El Calafate

The massive ice walls of the Perito Moreno glacier
The massive ice walls of the Perito Moreno glacier

Today you'll transfer to the airport in Buenos Aires for your flight to El Calafate, the jewel of Argentine Patagonia. This city sits on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is home to Los Glaciers National Park. The most famous landmark in this protected area is Perito Moreno, a 250 square-kilometer (96-square-mile) ice formation that is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world. 

Upon your arrival in El Calafate, a driver will meet you and take you to your hotel. You can spend the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around the city. You can also prime yourself with information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium. This multimedia center has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. For those who like to imbibe, it even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 3: Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

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 4: Estancia Cristina Excursion

The view from Estancia Cristina
The view from Estancia Cristina

There's more activity in store for you today. Starting at 7 am a driver will pick you and other passengers up from your respective hotels and transfer you 45 km (28 miles) to the port at Punta Bandera, 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 at approximately 8:15 am. You'll then 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 around 11:30 am. 

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 9.5 km (six-mile) 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. 

Around 5:30 pm you will board the boat again and begin the return to Punta Bandera. After landing at approximately 7 pm, you will transfer back to your hotel.

Day 5: From El Calafate to Torres del Paine

The "horns of Paine," at Torres del Paine
The "horns of Paine," at Torres del Paine

Today, you will catch an early morning bus from El Calafate, in Argentina, south 3.5 hours to Puerto Natales, in Chilean Patagonia. This small port city is the main hub for excursions to Torres del Paine National Park, which was recently voted the 8th Wonder in the World.

On this extensive full-day tour, you'll visit some of Torres del Paine National Park's main attractions, such as the Amarga Lagoon. Nearby you'll find the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine), the glacially fed Grey Lake, and the thundering waterfalls of Salto Grande. At noon you'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the park before continuing on the excursion. Finally, at the end of the day, you'll return to El Calafate.

Day 6: From El Calafate to Bariloche

San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

After breakfast, a driver will meet you and transfer you to the local airport in El Calafate. You'll then catch a flight to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main city in Argentina's Lake District, which is home to some of the most impressive scenery in the entire country.

San Carlos de Bariloche was founded in 1902 on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, which itself is part of the larger Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. If you detect some indigenous influence in that name, you're correct. It comes from the Mapuche native people who once inhabited the area, and it means "jaguar island." The lake straddles the Chilean border, with the city of Bariloche located on the southeast shore. 

Upon arrival at Bariloche's airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Even though you may be tired from your flight, do try to get out and explore the city. The charming chalet-style buildings and alpine architecture can be seen and enjoyed on a brisk walk around, and the city center abounds with waterfront plazas, chocolate shops, and upscale restaurants. 

Some suggested activities in and around Bariloche include: 

  • Stroll Mitre Street, the main drag that runs through downtown. Here you'll experience all the buzzing commerce of the city, including souvenir shops, clothing stores, and confectioners. It also runs near the waterfront, which only enhances the pleasantness of the walk.

  • Visit the five-star Hotel Llao Llao, the nicest hotel in Bariloche, and quite possibly the nicest in all of Argentina. This expansive chalet-style hotel sits on a small peninsula overlooking the lake and is the embodiment of alpine luxury. Even if you're not staying here, you can stop in for a full afternoon tea service complete with decadent desserts like brownies and chocolate mousse. 

  • Ride a cable car to the top of Cerro Campanario. Located just a couple of kilometers outside town, the view from atop this 1,050-meter (3,444-foot) high mountain is nothing short of breathtaking as you're treated to panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi and the snow-covered mountains that surround it. There's also a restaurant and lounge at the top.

When dinnertime comes around, be sure to get out and sample the local cuisine. You'll find that it differs considerably than what's typically found in Buenos Aires. Here regional fare like wild boar and lake trout is popular and delicious, as is the fondue (a culinary addition first introduced by the city's Swiss immigrants).

Day 7: Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria

Take a boat ride on the vivid blue waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi
Take a boat ride on the vivid blue waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi

Today you'll have the pleasure of sailing around Nahuel Huapi Lake on a half-day tour. First, you'll transfer from Bariloche 30 minutes to Puerto Pañuelo, where you'll hop on a catamaran cruise bound for Isla Victoria. This is a little island located on the northern end of the lake and filled with unique flora. One such specimen is the Antarctic beech, an otherworldly tree defined by its deep red bark and serpentine, moss-covered roots. Some of the Antarctic beeches on Isa Victoria are over 600 years old. 

Once on the island, you can enjoy it as you see fit. There are hiking trails here if you feel like a bit of light exercise. Otherwise, pull up a seat on a pebbly beach and commune with nature as you gaze out at the glassy, crystalline waters. Don't fear about getting lost, as bilingual guides will never be far off. 

After the island, you'll visit the Quetrihué Peninsula portion of Los Arrayanes National Park. This relatively small park (just 17.3 square kilometers/6.7 square miles) is home to a vast arrayán (Chilean myrtle) forest. It's a sight to see, as the thin red stalks of these exotic trees jut skywards like long fingers reaching for the sky. Wooden walkways cut through the park, so you can enjoy the forest at your own pace. We defy you not to be inspired on your walk through the park—legend has it that Walt Disney got the inspiration for Bambi's forest after a visit to Los Arrayanes. 

Day 8: Bariloche History and Nature Half-Day Tour

Get to know Bariloche
Get to know Bariloche

In the morning you'll partake in an active history lesson as a guide leads you on a tour in and around Bariloche. Along the way, your guide will explain the legacy of the city and its surrounding locales. This tour comprises a classic circuit that covers the city as well as some of the most famous viewpoints outside of it, like Cerro Campanario and the Llao Llao Peninsula. The former offers panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi from its summit, while the latter is the site of the most impressive hotel in the country, Hotel Llao Llao. 

Over the course of this tour, your guide will explain how San Carlos de Bariloche evolved relatively quickly from a small mountain village into one of the most attractive and popular cities in Argentina. As you experience the natural beauty of the region and hike around its terrain, you'll begin to understand why Bariloche was voted Argentina's national capital of adventure tourism. At the end of the tour, you'll visit a local microbrewery for lunch and a beer tasting.

Day 9: Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina!
Goodbye, Argentina!

Having experienced Argentina's unforgettable south, you will transfer from your hotel to the airport and hop a flight back to Buenos Aires. This is where you started your journey and it's also where everything comes full circle, as you'll now take a connecting flight back home. 

Despite the bittersweet goodbye, rest assured that we will be waiting for you with open arms should you ever decide to return!