Leave the tour bus crowds behind and enjoy an adventure through Patagonia. On this journey, you'll do it all, from swimming with sea lions in Puerto Madryn to following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin as you travel down the Beagle Channel. After exploring Tierra del Fuego, you'll return to the north and El Calafate, where you'll get up close with Perito Moreno, a glacier with a surface area of nearly 100 square miles.

Highlights

  • Discover Buenos Aires on a walking tour
  • Explore the coast off Puerto Madryn, home to whales, penguins, and sea lions
  • Take a boat ride along the Beagle Channel
  • Enjoy a coastal hike and canoe ride in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Tour Perito Moreno, one of the most impressive glaciers in the region

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 3 Tour the Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo Puerto Madryn
Day 4 Explore Península Valdés - Whale Watching Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 5 Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City Ushuaia
Day 6 Go Hiking and Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 7 Boat Tour to Gable Island - Nature Hike Ushuaia
Day 8 Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 9 Discover Los Glaciares National Park El Calafate
Day 10 Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore Buenos Aires

The Obelisco in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco 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 famous for its passion. This can be seen in Argentina's rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), the country's most popular sport. 

When you arrive at the airport, your driver will take you to your hotel where you will have the chance to recharge from the journey. Once you are well-rested, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The city center is your best starting point.

Day 2: Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour

A beach near Puerto Madryn
A beach near Puerto Madryn

Be prepared for an exciting and action-packed day! A driver will pick you up at your hotel in Buenos Aires and transfer you to the airport for a domestic flight to Trelew. Upon arrival in Trelew, you will travel a short distance to the city of Puerto Madryn—famous for being the jumping-off point for nearby Península Valdés. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the best place to witness endemic animals in their natural habitat, including sea lions, penguins, guanacos, whales, and orcas. 

After you have had some time to explore Península Valdés, you can join a three-hour guided tour of some of the most fascinating locales in the area. The first stop is Cerro Avanzado, where your guide will explain the geology of the Patagonian soil here as well as the finding of sea fossils that date back 35 million years. You will then head to the cliffs near Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf) and descend to the beach which offers wonderful photo opportunities. From here, you'll visit Punta Lomas where you can spot sea lions and cormorants.

Afterward, you will return to Puerto Madryn. You will have the rest of the afternoon and evening to spend at your leisure. Feel free to stretch your legs and stroll around this tranquil city. It's a safe, walkable community and the charming waterfront promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants, some with patio seating and ocean views.

Day 3: Tour the Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo

Magellanic penguins sharing a moment
Magellanic penguins sharing a moment

Today involves a boat tour down the Atlantic coast that ends at one of the most incredible destinations in Patagonia: Punta Tombo. This tiny protected area (less than a square mile) is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in Latin America.

A driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to Puerto Rawson, a fishing village located about 31 miles (50 km) south of Puerto Madryn. From here, you will board a ship and start the tour. As you head down the Patagonian coast, keep an eye out for spectacular black-and-white Commerson dolphins, believed to be the smallest dolphin species in the world. 

The tour continues down to Punta Tombo to the famous penguin colony. The colony was once home to over a million Magellanic penguins, although exact estimates vary. Everywhere you look here you'll see countless penguins. You'll even be able to explore the area on foot among these cute, waddling critters. With so many abounding in the area, it may be tempting to reach out and touch them, but take note that this is not allowed. Photos, on the other hand, are more than welcome.

Day 4: Explore Península Valdés - Whale Watching Tour

Whale breaching near Puerto Madryn
Whale breaching near Puerto Madryn

After breakfast in Puerto Madryn, a driver will pick you up at your hotel for a full-day tour, by both land and sea, starting in Península Valdés. The first stop will be the Istmo Ameghino Interpretation Center. Through various educational exhibits, you will gain insight into the different types of fauna that call this peninsula home. There's even a lookout tower featuring stunning views of two magnificent bodies of water: the Golfo Nuevo and Golfo San José.

After visiting the interpretation center you will continue to Puerto Pirámides. This is the embarking point for today's oceanic wildlife excursion. Once aboard the ship, you will sail along the coast and enjoy several opportunities for wildlife spotting. Keep your eyes peeled for sea lions and (if you're lucky) right whales and killer whales. You will also pass a local lighthouse that epitomizes all the seafaring splendor and rugged coastal beauty for which Patagonia is deservedly famous.

Your day isn't quite over after the boat ride. On the way back to Puerto Madryn you will pass some salt flats as well as Isla de Pájaros, an island abounding with different avian species including cormorants, egrets, rheas, and flamingos. In the late afternoon, you'll complete your tour and return to the hotel.

Day 5: Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City

Early morning in Ushuaia
Early morning in Ushuaia

After breakfast in Puerto Madryn, you will have the chance to pack up before flying down to Ushuaia, known as the southernmost city in the world. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel where you will have the rest of the day to explore the city. 

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 riding the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Be sure to get out and walk along the waterfront for a better glimpse of the majestic mountains and impressive channel.

Day 6: Go Hiking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego

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

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 four-mile (six-kilometer) 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.

Day 7: Boat Tour to Gable Island - Nature Hike

Take a boat ride on the Beagle Channel
Take a boat ride on the Beagle Channel

Today's excursion is a scenic journey to the largely uninhabited location home to the first estancia (ranch) in Tierra del Fuego, Harberton Ranch. This full-day tour involves a boat ride (with up to 20 passengers) to beautiful locations along the Beagle Channel.

From your hotel, you'll leave Ushuaia and head eastbound. Upon arrival at Harberton Ranch, you can visit the Marine Mammal Museum (called Acatushún), as well as the surroundings of what is one of the first foreign settlements in Tierra del Fuego.

Next, you will board a motorboat and head to Martillo Island where you will see Magellanic penguins in their natural habitat. The boat tour continues to the main attraction, the enormous Gable Island. Here lunch will be served with Patagonian wine, soft drinks, and mineral water. 

After the meal, you will have the chance to explore more of this gorgeous island as you embark on a hike. The walk includes crossing over beaver dams and passing through forests on your way to the shores of the Beagle Channel, where you will find your boat and return to Harberton Ranch. From here, you will hop on a bus back to your hotel.

Day 8: Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate

Icebergs on a lake in El Calafate
Icebergs on a lake in El Calafate

After breakfast, your driver will transfer you to the airport in Ushuaia for your flight to El Calafate, a regional hub home to the stunning glaciers of southern Patagonia, including the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier.

After arriving, your driver will transfer you to your hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to rest or explore this charming city. In the evening, consider stopping by the Laguna Nimez Reserve, where you can admire a diverse array of endemic birds in the sanctuary and watch the sunset over Lago Argentino.

Day 9: Discover Los Glaciares National Park

View Perito Moreno up close on a boat tour
View Perito Moreno up close on a boat tour

After breakfast, you will head to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter this protected area, you will catch your first glimpse of the majestic Perito Moreno. This expansive glacier flows down from the Andes over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino and ends abruptly in a great wall of ice that curves around the lake. You may also 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 echoes around the lake. 

Perito Moreno is not the only glacier in the area but it is the most famous in the park. It is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, which is what causes the calving mentioned above. Upon arrival, you can admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points thanks to the network of wooden walkways positioned in front of the glacier. You will also get the chance to see the massive ice wall up close on a boat tour. 

Day 10: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure

Sunset in Buenos Aires
Sunset in Buenos Aires

This morning, your driver will take you to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival, you will transfer to the international airport for your return flight home. Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Best of Argentina: Buenos Aires to Southern Pantagonia - 10 Days
Map of Best of Argentina: Buenos Aires to Southern Pantagonia - 10 Days