This adventurous two-week trip combines the best destinations Argentina has to offer with a range of outdoor activities and wildlife. On the itinerary are two cities (Buenos Aires and Ushuaia), a UNESCO-listed peninsula, and two national parks known for glaciers and hiking trails. There's also whale watching, snorkeling with sea lions, and a visit to South America's largest Magellanic Penguin colony for the ultimate photo ops.

Highlights

  • Get the lay of the land in Buenos Aires with a guided bicycle tour
  • Explore a UNESCO-listed peninsula known for orcas, penguins, and sea lions
  • Boat through the Beagle Channel near the southernmost city in the world
  • Take a coastal hike and canoe ride in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Spend a day walking and boating around massive glaciers in Patagonia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires Bicycle Tour Buenos Aires
Day 3 Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 4 Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 5 Península Valdés & Whale Watching Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 6 Snorkeling with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 7 Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City Ushuaia
Day 8 Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 9 Gable Island & Harberton Ranch Tour Ushuaia
Day 10 Free Day in Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 11 Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 12 Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour El Calafate
Day 13 Free Day in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 14 Fly from El Calafate 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 Bicycle Tour

Your mode of transport: a bamboo bicycle
Your mode of transport: a bamboo bicycle

Today you'll get to experience the city on two wheels as opposed to two feet. On this full-day bicycle tour, you'll zip along the capital and visit every major neighborhood in and around the center of Buenos Aires. Moreover, you'll be doing so on a bambucicleta, an eco-friendly bike handmade from, you guessed it, bamboo. It's the perfect way to engage in responsible tourism around the city.

In the morning you'll meet your guide at the forecourt of the Museo de Armas (weapons museum), located on the south end of Plaza San Martín (transfers not included). Make sure you arrive ready to go, but there's no need to overextend yourself. This excursion is low-to-medium difficulty and is designed for leisure rather than endurance. Bikes and helmets are included, as is lunch, bottled water, and insurance.

The first neighborhood you'll hit is Puerto Madero, a mega-port that was once obsolete but has now been transformed into a modern business and finance center. Here you'll visit the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, an 865-acre protected area fronting the water, and share a round of yerba mate (a tea that is a cultural touchstone in Argentina). Afterwards, continue south to the La Boca neighborhood and La Bombonera, the home stadium of famous local fútbol (soccer) club, the Boca Juniors. You'll also visit the famous and colorful Caminito Street, which abounds with art, music, and tango dancing.

Then it's off to the oldest area of Buenos Aires, San Telmo, where you'll enjoy a traditional lunch that includes a wide range of carnivorous Argentine delights. Not to worry, though, as the menu can be adapted to accommodate vegetarians. Next, you'll visit nearby Plaza de Mayo and breathe in the rich air of Argentina history.

From the south of the city, you'll now peddle to the north, where the historic working-class barrios give way to the upper-class enclaves of the aristocracy. First, it's the Retiro neighborhood, which is famous for its ornate buildings and baroque architecture. This leads to the famous Recoleta neighborhood, where old French-inspired buildings feature arched doorways and windows.

Your next destination is the Recoleta Cemetery, the oldest and most famous final resting place in the city. Here lies the remains of the most prominent historical figures and the most famous citizens of Argentina including Eva "Evita" Peron. The grand architecture of the family crypts makes this an awe-inspiring place to wander around. 

Before ending the tour, you'll visit the historic and trendy neighborhood of Palermo, notable for its restaurants and expansive parks designed by legendary Argentine/French landscape architect Charles Thays.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour

A beach near Puerto Madryn
A beach near Puerto Madryn

Today, it's time to continue the adventure! 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'll transfer to the city of Puerto Madryn—famous for being the jumping on/off point for nearby Península Valdés, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the best place to view a variety of animals in their natural habitat, including sea lions, penguins, guanacos, whales, and orcas. 

Once settled, you can join a 3-hour tour that starts by visiting panoramic vistas and important sites in and around the area. When you arrive in Cerro Avanzado, your guide will explain the geology of the Patagonian soil and recognition of sea fossils that date back between 11 to 35 million years. You'll then get up close to the cliffs near Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf) and descend to the beach for plenty of photo ops. From here, you'll visit Punta Lomas and look for sea lions and cormorants.

On the return trip, you'll pass by Punta del Este, Argentina's glitzy coastal town, before returning to Puerto Madryn where you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to spend at your leisure. Feel free to stretch your legs with a 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.

Also near Puerto Madryn is Gaiman—a small historic town founded by Welsh settlers in 1875. Gaiman has preserved many of its Welsh traditions with tea shops, chapels, and gardens sprinkled throughout town.

Day 4: Penguin Colony at Punta Tombo Tour

Magellanic penguins sharing a moment
Magellanic penguins sharing a moment

Today involves a boat tour down the Atlantic coast that culminates 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.

First, 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, be sure to keep an eye out for black-and-white Commerson dolphins, which are regarded as the smallest dolphin species in the world. 

The tour continues down to Punta Tombo to the aforementioned penguin colony. Exact estimates of how many Magellanic penguins live here vary, but at one point it was home to over a million. The population might hover near that figure even today, as everywhere you look here you'll see countless penguins. You'll even be able to explore the area on foot amongst these cute, waddling critters. With so many abounding in the area, it may be tempting to reach out and touch them, but alas, this is not allowed. Photos, on the other hand, are more than welcome.

After the tour concludes, you'll make the return trip up the coast and transfer back to your hotel. 

Day 5: 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 land and sea—starting in Península Valdés. The first stop will be the Istmo Ameghino Interpretation Center, which will act as a useful primer for your foray into this unique eco-system. Through various educational exhibits, you'll gain insight into the different types of fauna that call the peninsula home. There's even a lookout tower featuring stunning views of the Golfo Nuevo and the Golfo San José.

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

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

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Day 6: Snorkeling with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn

Snorkel with sea lions in Puerto Madryn
Snorkel with sea lions in Puerto Madryn

There are only a few places in South America where you can swim with sea lions in their natural habitat. Puerto Madryn is one such place. In the morning a guide will pick you up at your hotel and transport you to their office where you will change into your swimwear. You'll then board a boat at Puerto Pirámides, on Península Valdés, and depart for a nearby bay, which is full of sea lions. 

Upon arrival, it's time to hop in the water (wetsuits and equipment will be provided). If you're feeling apprehensive, there's no need to be. Sea lions are curious by nature and will swim up and offer a friendly hello. Also, a guide will be there every step of the way to offer specific instructions about what to do when a sea lion approaches. It's nothing short of an unforgettable experience.

Day 7: Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City

Early morning in Ushuaia
Early morning in Ushuaia

After breakfast in Puerto Madryn, you'll pack up and fly down 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. 

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. Walking around the colorful shops and buildings, you'll see 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. The history harkens back to a time when the worst of Buenos Aires' populace were banished to the perceived "end of the world." 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: Gable Island & Harberton Ranch Tour

Boat through the Beagle Channel
Boat through the Beagle Channel

Today's excursion is a beautiful journey to the largely uninhabited and peaceful location of the first "estancia" in Tierra del Fuego called Harberton Ranch. This full-day, active tour takes up to 20 passengers for a boat transfer, where you'll explore one of the roughest and most beautiful places in the Beagle Channel.

From your hotel, you'll leave Ushuaia and head eastbound. Upon arrival at Harberton Ranch, you'll be able to visit the Marine Mammal Museum called "Acatushún", and the surroundings of one of the first white men settlements in Tierra del Fuego.

Next, you'll board a motorboat headed towards Martillo Island where you'll have the chance to see penguins in their breeding lair. Navigation on the motorboat continues up to the main attraction of the day: the enormous Gable Island, where lunch—served with Patagonian wine, soft drinks, and mineral water—awaits.

After sipping coffee, you will go for a hike to explore more of this gorgeous island, crossing over beaver dams and passing through forests to reach the Beagle Channel shore where you'll take the boat to reach Puerto Harberton. This is where you'll hop on a bus transfer back to your hotel.

Day 10: Free Day in Ushuaia

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

Today is a free day in Ushuaia to do as you like! You can spend more time exploring the sites in town, or join an organized excursion.

Suggestions in the area include: 

  • Beagle Channel Cruise: This boat 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. You'll get breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Ushuaia and the entire bay. Be on the lookout for sightings of diverse marine wildlife such as cormorants and sea lions, especially near the Lobo and De Los Pajaros islands. 

  • Tierra del Fuego National Park: Close to the city for easy access, there are many wonders within the park's 155,000 acres. You can take a 4.3 mile (7 km) hike on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel where you'll have prime views of the channel along the way. You'll also pass remnants of ancient settlements once occupied by the Yámana indigenous people. 

  • Isla Martillo Penguin Excursion: Featuring a Magellanic penguin colony (amongst other species), a guided tour to Isla Martillo includes a hike where you will learn about the penguins' characteristics and natural habitat.

Day 11: Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate

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

This morning, after breakfast, you'll transfer to the airport in Ushuaia for your flight to El 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. 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 12: 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 13: 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 14: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure

Sunset in Buenos Aires
Sunset in Buenos Aires

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 Best of Argentina - 14 Days
Map of Best of Argentina - 14 Days