This 13-day adventure in Patagonia is perfect for wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor excursionists. From Buenos Aires, you'll travel south to the Atlantic coast, which is home to exotic marine life including sea lions, penguins, and right whales. Then venture to Tierra del Fuego and, like Darwin himself, sail the Beagle Channel before heading back north to the most impressive glacier in the region, Perito Moreno.

Highlights

  • Enjoy late night dining at an authentic parilla in Buenos Aires
  • Spot whales and Commerson dolphins during a boat trip in Puerto Madryn
  • Get up close with sea lions while snorkeling in Puerto Madryn
  • Discover Patagonia's wildlife on a coastal hike in the forest
  • Tour awe-inspiring glaciers Los Glaciares National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Fly to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 3 Tour Punta Tombo Penguin Colony Puerto Madryn
Day 4 Explore Península Valdés - Whale-Watching Tour Puerto Madryn
Day 5 Snorkel with Sea Lions in Puerto Madryn Puerto Madryn
Day 6 Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City Ushuaia
Day 7 Discover Tierra del Fuego National Park Ushuaia
Day 8 Boat Tour to Gable Island - Nature Hike Ushuaia
Day 9 Free Day in Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 10 Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 11 Explore Los Glaciares National Park El Calafate
Day 12 Discover El Calafate El Calafate
Day 13 Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires' colorful La Boca neighborhood
Buenos Aires' colorful La Boca neighborhood

Welcome to Argentina! The capital city of Buenos Aires is known as the "Paris of South America" and the "Queen of El Plata." Famous for its mix of European ambiance and Latin American culture, it's the birthplace of the tango and abounds with cobbled streets and beautiful Baroque architecture.

Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will transfer you to your hotel for check-in. Once you've had the chance to rest, you can head out and explore. The city center is your best starting point.

Day 2: Fly to Puerto Madryn - Golfo Nuevo Tour

Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Be prepared for an exciting and action-packed day! Your driver will pick you up at your hotel in Buenos Aires and transfer you to the airport for a domestic flight to Trelew. After arriving in Trelew, you will travel a short distance to the city of Puerto Madryn, known as the departure point for nearby Península Valdés. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the best place to discover endemic animals in their natural habitat. This includes sea lions, penguins, guanacos, whales, and orcas. 

After you have explored some of Península Valdés independently, you can join a three-hour guided tour of some of the most fascinating parts of the area. The first stop is Cerro Avanzado, where your guide will explain the geology of the Patagonian soil here, and tell you about 35-million-year-old sea fossils. You will then head to the cliffs near Golfo Nuevo (New Gulf) and descend to the picturesque beach, which offers wonderful photo opportunities. Lastly, you will stop at Punta Lomas, which is home to sea lions and cormorants.

Afterward, return 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 and stroll around this tranquil city. It is a safe, walkable community, and the charming waterfront promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants, lots with patio seating and ocean views.

Day 3: Tour Punta Tombo Penguin Colony

See the penguins at Punta Tombo

Today involves a boat tour down the Atlantic coast, which ends at one of the most incredible destinations in Patagonia: Punta Tombo. 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. You will then board a ship and start the tour. As you head down the Patagonian coast, keep an eye out for the charming black-and-white Commerson dolphins, known to be the smallest dolphin species in the world. 

The tour continues down to Punta Tombo and its famous penguin colony. This tiny protected area is less than a square mile, but home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in Latin America, which is estimated at over a million. You will be able to explore the site on foot, wandering among these cute, waddling critters. While touching the penguins is prohibited, photos are 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 an exciting full-day tour—on both land and sea. The tour starts in Península Valdés. The first stop is the Istmo Ameghino Interpretation Center. Through various educational exhibits, you will gain insight into the different types of fauna that can be found in this peninsula. There is also an astounding 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 starting point for today's oceanic boat tour. 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 that Patagonia is famous for.

Your day isn't 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 birds including cormorants, egrets, rheas, and flamingos. In the late afternoon, you will return to your hotel where you can recharge or stroll through the city.

Day 5: Snorkel 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 and Puerto Madryn is one of them. In the morning, a guide will pick you up at your hotel and transport you to their office where you will change into swimwear. You will then board a boat at Puerto Pirámides, on Península Valdés, and depart for a nearby bay, which is full of sea lions. 

After arriving, you will put on the provided wetsuit and get the provided equipment ready. You will then hop into the water. While you may feel 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. You can expect to be mesmerized by the friendly sea lions during this unforgettable experience.

Day 6: Fly to Ushuaia - Explore the City

Sunset over Laguna Esmeralda
Sunset over Laguna Esmeralda

After breakfast in El Calafate—you will pack up and be transferred to the airport for your flight 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 will have the rest of the day to explore this charming resort town. 

Located on a bay in the Patagonian region of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel. This is the same waterway Charles Darwin explored when he was traveling on the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Be sure to get out and walk along the waterfront for a better glimpse of the craggy mountains and wide channel.

Day 7: Discover Tierra del Fuego National Park

Coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego
A 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 8: 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 a largely uninhabited location, the first estancia (ranch) in Tierra del Fuego, Harberton Ranch. Here, you will 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.

After exploring the area, 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, along with authentic Patagonian wine. 

After the meal, you will have the chance to explore more of this gorgeous island on a scenic hike. The hike includes crossing over beaver dams and passing through forests as you head to the shores of the Beagle Channel. After arriving at the shores, a boat will return you to Harberton Ranch, and you will hop on a bus back to your hotel.

Day 9: Free Day in Ushuaia

Gentoo penguins on Isla Martillo
Gentoo penguins on Isla Martillo

Today you're free to do as you please in Ushuaia! You can spend more time seeing the sights in town or join an organized excursion.

Day 10: Fly from Ushuaia to El Calafate

El Calafate, Argentina
El Calafate, Argentina

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

After arriving in El Calafate, 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 11: Explore Los Glaciares National Park

Ice
Ice "calving" in Perito Moreno

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 of ice. After arriving, you can admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points thanks to the network of wooden walkways around the glacier. You will also get the chance to see the massive ice wall up close on a boat tour. 

Day 12: Discover El Calafate

Reserva Laguna Nimez
Reserva Laguna Nimez

You have the full day to relax in El Calafate and explore this charming city however you like.

Day 13: 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 in Buenos Aires, you will be transferred to the international airport for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Best of Argentina: Buenos Aires to El Calafate - 13 Days
Map of Best of Argentina: Buenos Aires to El Calafate - 13 Days