Perfect for travelers looking to experience more of Patagonia and see Argentina's natural wonders, this thirteen-day itinerary includes a visit to the famed Perito Moreno glacier and stops in Ushuaia—the southernmost city in the world—to see penguins and trek in Tierra del Fuego National Park. You'll hike through the rugged mountain scenery around Mount Fitz Roy, learn to dance the tango and experience the crashing immensity of Iguazú Falls, all in one trip. 

Highlights

  • Learn to dance like a local in Argentina's capital
  • Get up close to Perito Moreno—a glacier that is actually advancing
  • Choose between several hikes with stunning views of iconic Mount Fitz Roy
  • See the thundering Iguazú Falls from both the Brazilian and Argentine sides

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires & Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires Walking Tour & Tango Lesson Buenos Aires
Day 3 Buenos Aires to Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 4 Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton Ushuaia
Day 5 Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 6 Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 7 Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour El Calafate
Day 8 From El Calafate to El Chaltén El Chaltén
Day 9 Full-Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy El Chaltén
Day 10 El Chaltén to El Calafate & Fly to Iguazú Falls Puerto Iguazu
Day 11 Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side) Puerto Iguazu
Day 12 Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian side) - Fly to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 13 Depart Buenos Aires  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires & Explore the City

The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco, a monument 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 and is 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 sauce (made of garlic, herbs, and vinegar). 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: Buenos Aires Walking Tour & Tango Lesson

Don't miss San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires
Don't miss San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in Buenos Aires

The absolute best way to experience the heart and soul of Buenos Aires is on foot. After a hearty breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a fun four-hour walking tour of this European-inspired metropolis, accompanied by an English-speaking guide. 

A few highlights include: 

  • Plaza San Martín, which is located at the end of downtown's commercial pedestrian thruway, Florida Street. This leafy plaza is named after one of the heroes of Argentina's independence movement, General José de San Martín. 
  • The Obelisco, a monument that sits at the nexus of the city where the 16 lanes of Ave. 9 de Julio cross bustling Corrientes Ave. Here you'll find Buenos Aires' theater and music district. It's a hub of activity any day of the week, but it's particularly lively on weekend evenings. 
  • Colón Theatre, a nearly 2,500-seat teatro that is perpetually vying with Rio de Janeiro's Theatro Municipal for the title of most opulent opera house in South America. The building's elegant neoclassical exterior and pitch-perfect interior acoustics make it a must-see.  
  • Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires' main square and home to the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace. The famous "pink house" (as the presidential palace is colloquially known), is also rife with history. It's on this balcony that Juan Perón made some of his most famous speeches with his glamorous wife, Evita, at his side. 
  • Metropolitan Cathedral is the principal Catholic church in the city and another historic building that also faces the Plaza de Mayo. It was consecrated in 1791 but its earliest origins date back to the late 16th century, when a humble chapel first sat on the current site.
  • Puerto Madero, whose shimmering office towers and central canal make this one of the sleekest neighborhoods in the city. Upscale restaurants can be found here, as can the Puente de la Mujer (Woman's Bridge). 
  • San Telmo, which is BA’s oldest neighborhood and boasts a vibrant tango and arts scene. Its antique markets, cobbled streets dotted with faroles (French streetlamps), and old brick buildings with wooden balconies all add to the uniquely bohemian atmosphere. Sundays are especially abuzz with activity as the main street market comes alive around Plaza Dorrego.
  • La Boca is a well-preserved historic neighborhood that's nearly as old as San Telmo. It's home to the colorful Caminito Street, a pedestrian zone teeming with old restaurants and tanguerías.

In the evening you'll experience an unforgettable night of dinner and tango performances in one of the best tanguerias in Buenos Aires. Tango is a romantic dance that tells the story of loss and heartbreak, passion and love. You'll get lost in the atmosphere as you listen to the melancholy rhythms of the bandoneon and watch the dances of fish-netted and besuited bailanderos. After their performance, you'll have the chance to step out onto the dance floor for a tango lesson from the pros. 

Day 3: Buenos Aires to Ushuaia

Sunrise in Buenos Aires
Sunrise in Buenos Aires

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 the middle of a large bay with a rocky coast, surrounded by the snowcapped Martial Range. The city has a charming downtown and a lovely port, which you'll have the rest of the day to visit. 

Day 4: Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton

Gentoo penguins in Isla Martillo
Gentoo penguins in Isla Martillo

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for a full-day penguin tour. The trip starts at the Ushuaia pier, where you'll catch a bus to Estancia Harberton and drive through rugged Fuegian forests until you reach the dock, where your boat will be waiting for you.

From here, you'll board a semi-rigid rubber boat that will take you to an island and give you a chance to see a Magellanic penguin colony (among other species) up close. This guided tour includes a 90-minute hike to both Isla Martillo and Estancia Harberton, where you will learn about the penguins and their natural habitat. Expect plenty of great photo opportunities.

At the end of the tour, you'll return to Ushuaia in time for dinner and a night out on the town.

Day 5: 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. 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, and you'll 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 for a hot lunch. Then it's time to start the canoe ride down the Lapataia River, which leads to Lapataia Bay, your ultimate destination. Located in the Beagle Channel, Lapataia Bay sits at the end of the Pan-American Highway, which starts all the way up in Alaska and crosses the entire American continent. 

Day 6: Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate

Lago Argentino
Lago Argentino

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

Upon arrival at El Calafate, another driver will take you to your hotel. Spend the rest of the day relaxing, or venture into town to see the many quaint shops and cute cafes. You can also get some information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium, a multi-media center ice museum that has interactive displays and lots of information about glaciers—it even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 7: Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Today, you're in for an excitement-packed tour. After breakfast at your hotel, it's time to 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 and ends abruptly in a great wall of ice that curves around the lake. You'll see "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, you'll head back to El Calafate for a free evening.

Day 8: From El Calafate to El Chaltén

Journey down the famous Ruta 40, in Patagonia
Journey down the famous Ruta 40, in Patagonia

After breakfast, it's time to board your bus for the three-hour journey along Ruta 40 to El Chaltén. Located about 125 miles (200 km) from El Calafate in the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park, El Chaltén is a small town that's been nicknamed "Hiker's Paradise" for the many beautiful, easily-accessible trails that surround it.

Once you arrive and check in to your hotel, set out on a short hike to Laguna Capri, or check out some of the other short trails nearby. 

Day 9: Full Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy

View from Laguna de los Tres
View from Laguna de los Tres

This morning you'll embark on a full-day adventure into the northern part of Los Glaciares National Park. El Chaltén is the perfect starting point for such an excursion because there are a number of trailheads just outside of town. Many of these lead into the Fitz Roy range and offer wonderful opportunities for day hikes.

In this case, a "day hike" does mean a full day of hiking, since most options can take up to 11 hours, depending on which route you take. The hike you'll likely be embarking on this morning goes to Laguna de los Tres. The trail leads up through an alpine forest, complete with views of Piedras Blancas glacier, all the way up to the lake. Laguna de los Tres earned its name due to the panoramic view of the three peaks: Fitz RoyPoincenot, and Torre.

At the end of this 16-mile (26 km) hike, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén for a much-deserved rest.

Day 10: El Chaltén to El Calafate & Fly to Iguazú Falls

Iguazú Falls in the afternoon light
Iguazú Falls in the afternoon light

In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel in El Chaltén and take you to the airport in El Calafate. A domestic 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 region's crown jewel: Iguazú Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world.

Upon arrival in the city of Puerto Iguazú, you'll have the rest of the day free to relax or visit the Three Borders Landmark in the tri-border area between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

If you feel up for it, you can also spend a half-day visiting the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls (as opposed to the Argentine side). This is a good introduction to the falls, as visiting the Brazilian side involves less walking and offers a couple of easily accessible viewpoints. You'll be able to get some beautiful views of the falls without too much effort. 

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

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 drop you off at the entrance of Iguazú National Park, the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure, a full-day tour that involves walking the three circuits that weave around the falls. Each of these offers different vantage points from which to view the water. 

The three circuits include:

  • The upper circuit (1 hour) is made up of 2,624 feet (800 m) of walkways elevated above the jungle floor to avoid disrupting the natural paths of indigenous fauna. On this route, you'll see the upper portion of Iguazú, including countless panoramic vistas of the surrounding falls.
  • The lower circuit (2 hours) is 5,250 feet (1,600 m) long and is also made up of elevated walkways, which go directly below and around the falls. This circuit takes you near the base of the falls and right up to the crashing torrents of water. You'll be able to feel the magnitude of the falls from up close.
  • The Devil's Throat (2 hours) is the star of the show. A small tourist train leaves from the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the path. You'll walk 3,937 feet (1200 m) over the river until you reach the viewing platform. From there you'll be able to peer 269 feet (82 m) down into the water, as the highest of Iguazu's falls thunders all around you.

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

Day 12: Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian side) - Fly to Buenos Aires

View of Iguazu Falls from Brazil
View of Iguazú Falls from Brazil

Now that you have seen the Argentine side of the Iguazú Falls it's time to visit the Brazilian side (if you haven't already), which takes half a day. Once you arrive you'll have a panoramic view of the entire waterfall complex that you visited yesterday and get an overall sense of its vastness. Needless to say, the photo opportunities from this side are incredible. 

In the afternoon, you'll transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. Enjoy the rest of the evening on your own to relax or visit any of the restaurants or lounges you missed at the beginning of the trip.

Day 13: Depart Buenos Aires

Goodbye, Buenos Aires!
Goodbye, Buenos Aires!

Enjoy one last breakfast in Buenos Aires. When it's time to leave, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport for your flight home. Buen viaje! 

Map

Map of Discover Argentina's  Highlights: Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Iguazú Falls - 13 Days
Map of Discover Argentina's Highlights: Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Iguazú Falls - 13 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Oct 31, 2019