Experience the sophistication of Buenos Aires, the mesmerizing force of the Iguazu Falls and the spectacular glaciers of El Calafate in a single trip. This 12-day itinerary travels to Argentina's historic capital and then across Patagonia, seamlessly blending urban bustle, outdoor adventure, and small-town charm.

Highlights

  • Explore the energetic neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the birthplace of tango
  • Discover Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world
  • See giant glaciers and plummeting waterfalls up-close
  • Kayak, hike, and sail through a variety of landscapes across three national parks

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour & Dinner and Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Buenos Aires to Ushuaia & Beagle Channel Ushuaia
Day 4 Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 5 Off-Road Adventure Ushuaia
Day 6 Arrive in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 7 Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour El Calafate
Day 8 Estancia Cristina Excursion El Calafate
Day 9 Fly from El Calafate to Puerto Iguazú Puerto Iguazú
Day 10 Argentine side of Iguazú Falls Puerto Iguazú
Day 11 Brazilian Side of Iguazú Falls & Return to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 12 Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires

Puerto Madero at night
Solar Flower in Buenos Aires

Welcome to Buenos Aires! Also known as the "Paris of South America," the capital of Argentina is a city defined by passion—from its rich tango heritage to its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), the country's most popular sport. 

When you land, a driver will pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel, where you can rest and recharge after your long flight. But make no mistake: you'll be itching to see what the city has to offer. So after a quick break, make sure to venture out and explore. The best starting point is the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the city's most famous monument. 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 one of the widest avenues in Latin America.
  • Stop by the Teatro Colón, one of South America's premier opera houses, which is known worldwide for its incredible acoustics. Even if you plan to take a tour or catch a show here later, it's still worth passing by to take in the exterior architecture. The Colon's neoclassical façade has made it one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
  • Stroll through 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 places to walk in the city. Take a romantic stroll by crossing over the canal on the Puente de la Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 
  • Dine at a classic Argentine parilla (steakhouse). When night falls, enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with delicious chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce). Buenos Aires is a late-night city, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends. 

Day 2: City Tour, Dinner, and Tango Show

Tango Dancing
Couple dancing tango

After breakfast, a guide will pick you up to take you on a city tour to give you 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, one of South America’s widest avenue, where you'll see the Teatro Colón and the Obelisco.

You will also walk through the history city center, where you'll see the Congress Building, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Argentina's Presidential Palace). Then you'll walk along Puerto Madero's upscale waterfront before heading to San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. You'll also stop by Recoleta to see the cemetery and Plaza Francia before heading to La Boca, the city's original port.

In the evening you'll experience an unforgettable night of dinner and tango at one of the best tanguerias in Buenos Aires. It's venues such as these that preserve the musical heritage of the city. You'll feel it in the ambiance, you'll hear it in the melancholy rhythms of the guitar and bandoneon, and you'll see it in the dances of fish-netted and besuited bailanderos. It's a dance that tells the story of loss and heartbreak, passion and love.

Day 3: Buenos Aires to Ushuaia & Beagle Channel

Ushuaia's Landscape
Ushuaia

After breakfast, you'll travel to the Buenos Aires airport for your flight to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, which sits at the edge of the vast South American continent.

Ushuaia is in a large bay with a rocky coast, surrounded by the snowcapped Martial Range. The city has a charming downtown area and a lovely port. 

After checking into your hotel, board a boat in Ushuaia's tourist port and sail into the Beagle Channel. As the boat sails further into the channel, you'll get a chance to see panoramic views of the coast and the skyline of the city at the base of Mount Olivia and the Cinco Hermanos Mountains

The cruise will take you southwest and pass the Isla de los Lobos, a nondescript rocky island that happens to be the home of a large group of sea lions. You'll have ample opportunity to see these majestic creatures and take plenty of photos. Then, it's off to Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island), where various species of seabirds live, including Magellanic cormorants and imperial shags. It's a birder's dream, so keep your binoculars and camera lens up and ready.

The furthest you'll sail today is Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, which is located on the northernmost island in Les Eclaireurs Islands. Here you'll see part of the Monte Cervantes, an ocean liner that sank in 1930. Your guide will also point out many points of interest onshore and across the channel, including Estancia Remolino (a remote ranch), Gable Island, and the naval base at Puerto Williams (located on Navarino Island, Chile). After the tour you'll return to Ushuaia's port. From there you can spend the remainder of the day enjoying your hotel's amenities and exploring the town.

Day 4: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego

Canoeing down the Lapataia River
Canoeing down the Lapataia River

Today you'll spend the day in Tierra del Fuego National Park, one of the most popular spots near Ushuaia. There are lots of things to see within the park's 155,000 acres. Your specialized guide will show you the best hikes, lakes, and lookout points and help you discover the natural beauty of the park. You'll get to know the ins and outs of this protected paradise, from seaside mountains to icy rivers to subantarctic forests and tranquil bays.

A minibus will drive you a short way from your hotel to the entrance of the park. From there you'll hike 4.3 miles (7 km) on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel. You'll have great views of the channel along the way, and you'll also get to see the diverse flora and fauna of the area up close. The trail also passes 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. Afterwards, canoe down the Lapataia River until you reach the southern end of the Pan-American Highway, the world's longest drivable road. This important trans-continental route begins in Alaska and covers the entire length of the Americas. At night, return to your hotel in Ushuaia.

Day 5: Off-Road Adventure

Lago Escondido
Lago Escondido
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Today you're going on a fun off-road 4x4 drive in the Southern Andes outside of Ushuaia. Your driver will maneuver on muddy tracks through forests and rivers, up to the banks of Lago Escondido (Hidden Lake)—which gets its name from its isolated location at the bottom of a valley—and on to the enormous Lago Fagnano. Other stops on the drive include the Carbajal and Tierra Mayor Valleys, Garibaldi Pass, Bronzovich sawmill, and a few beaver dams.

For lunch, your guides will prepare a barbecue, accompanied by some Argentine Malbec. In the afternoon, you'll return to Ushuaia where you'll have a bit of free time to enjoy the city. 

Day 6: Arrive in El Calafate

El Calafate Lake, Argentina
El Calafate Lake, Argentina

Transfer to the local airport for your flight to Calafate, a regional hub for visits to the stunning glaciers of Southern Patagonia, including the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier. After a short flight, arrive, check into your hotel, and take the rest of the day to relax or explore the charming city. If you want more information on the region visit the Glaciarium, a multi-media ice museum, with various interactive displays and information about glaciers. It even has a bar made totally of ice.

In the evening, try to stop by the Laguna Nimez Reserve, where you can admire an amazing array of endemic birds in the sanctuary and watch the sunset over Lago Argentino.

Day 7: Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Today, you're in for some excitement. After breakfast at your hotel, you'll make the one-hour trip to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park you'll catch your first glimpse of the 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 of ice that curves around the lake. You'll witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the glacier and crashing into the tranquil waters below. Every time ice hits the water a thundering crash echoes on the lake. 

While it's not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is definitely the star of the park. It's also one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, which is what causes the calving mentioned above. You'll be able to admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points thanks to the network of wooden walkways that zigzag strategically in front of the glacier. You'll also be able to see the massive ice wall up close on a boat tour. 

After a day spent viewing the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, head back to El Calafate to enjoy a free evening.

Day 8: Estancia Cristina Excursion

View from Estancia Cristina
View from Estancia Cristina

Today, a driver will pick you and other passengers up early in the morning and drive 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. 

Once you reach the port, you'll board a ferry and embark on a journey on the Upsala Channel, passing towering icebergs along the way. As you reach the northern section of the channel you'll see the western front of the Spegazzini Glacier. A 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, you'll disembark at 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 in a valley once covered by the Upsala Glacier. A visit to the Folkloric Museum (located in an old sheep-shearing shed), offers insight into the history of the estancia. And the surrounding scenery is breathtaking—all around you'll see panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers. 

All told, you'll stay for about six hours. After the museum, set out 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 through the 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 return to Punta Bandera. After disembarking, you will be taken back to your hotel.

Day 9: Fly from El Calafate to Puerto Iguazú

Rainbow at the Iguazu Falls
Iguazú Falls

Today, you will fly to the other end of Argentina to reach Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. After stopping briefly in Buenos Aires, you will arrive in Puerto Iguazú and be transferred to your hotel. Take the rest of the day to soak up the warm tropical weather and relax by the pool. In the evening, you can check out the Three Borders Landmark—a museum and monument located at the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

Day 10: Argentine side of Iguazú Falls

Bird's Eye View of Iguazu Falls
View of Iguazú Falls

After breakfast, start your exciting full-day visit to the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls. Roam along scenic paths and get breathtaking views of over 200 majestic waterfalls.

Stop for some lunch at noon, and if you still want more thrills, embark on the Great Adventure tour where you sail up the river right beneath the falls. If you choose to join the boat tour make sure you bring a change of clothes—you will definitely get soaked. Later in the afternoon catch the tourist train to the single largest waterfall in the park, the jaw-dropping Devil's Throat. Then, return to your hotel and wind down.

Day 11: Brazilian Side of Iguazú Falls & Return to Buenos Aires

The Devil's Throat
Rainbow over Iguazú Falls

After breakfast, a half-day excursion will take you to the Brazilian side of the Iguazú Falls, where you will be treated to panoramic views of the entire complex and get an overall sense of the vastness of the falls. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. We'll meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel. 

Day 12: Depart from Buenos Aires 

Sunset in Buenos Aires
Sunset in Buenos Aires

Enjoy one last breakfast in Buenos Aires. When the time comes, drive the airport for your departing flight and head home. Buen viaje! 

Map

Map of Best of Argentina: Ushuaia, El Calafate & Iguazú Falls - 12 Days
Map of Best of Argentina: Ushuaia, El Calafate & Iguazú Falls - 12 Days