Patagonia—located in Argentina and Chile—is, without a doubt, one of the world's most beautiful and undiscovered regions, and this 15-day itinerary includes adventures in both countries. Kicking off with some food, wine, and culture in Buenos Aires and Mendoza, you'll fly south to Argentine Patagonia for glacier trekking in Los Glaciares National Park. Continue across the border in Torres del Paine for a multi-day hike through Grey Glacier, French Valley, and the imposing towers of Las Torres.

Highlights

  • Kick off the trip with a tango performance and three-course dinner
  • Go wine tasting and kayaking near the Malbec vineyards of Mendoza
  • Walk along Perito Moreno glacier sporting crampons and an ice ax
  • Get bragging rights by completing a five-day trek in Torres del Paine
  • Spend a night in Puerto Natales for great restaurants and sunset strolls

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 4 Mendoza Vineyard Tour & Tasting Mendoza
Day 5 Potrerillos Half-Day Kayak Excursion Mendoza
Day 6 Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 7 Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 8 Free Day in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 9 El Calafate to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 10 W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno Torres del Paine
Day 11 W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos Torres del Paine
Day 12 W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande Torres del Paine
Day 13 W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 14 Puerto Natales to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 15 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 City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show

Dorrego Square in San Telmo
Dorrego Square in San Telmo

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of Buenos Aires as well as 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, South America’s widest avenue. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colon, the continent's most opulent opera house, and the iconic Obelisco monument.

You will also pass through the historic and architecturally impressive city center, home to the Congress Building, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). Then, walk along the upscale waterfront promenades of Puerto Madero before heading to the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. Afterward, you'll stop by La Boca, the city's original port.

In the evening, enjoy a scrumptious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and tango show, one of Argentina's most iconic cultural highlights. After this memorable experience, you'll head back to your hotel to relax for the night.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza

Plaza Independencia, Mendoza
Plaza Independencia, Mendoza

After breakfast, a driver will meet you and you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Mendoza. It's another world here when compared to Buenos Aires. This western region of the nation is a wild expanse of fertile land that's ground zero for the country's booming viticulture industry. A seemingly limitless number of vineyards abound here, with many producing Argentina's flagship wine grape: Malbec. Originally a French import, the Argentines took a largely ignored European berry and ran with it. The result is one of the most robust wines anywhere in the world.

Mendoza also features some breathtaking scenery and outdoor opportunities. With the Andes looming high above the area's vineyards, there is a wide range of opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.

Upon arrival in the city, you'll have the rest of the day to relax and explore at your leisure. The city center features expansive plazas and wide boulevards shaded by canopies of bushy green sycamore leaves. In stark contrast to Buenos Aires, people in Mendoza move at a relaxed pace, making this the perfect city to enjoy a tranquil stroll.

Suggested activities around town: 

  • Stroll Mendoza's famous parks. One of the most popular meeting spots for locals is Plaza Independencia with impressive fountains and elegant acacia trees. There's also Parque General San Martín for well-manicured grounds dotted with palm trees. 
  • Visit a museum. There are a few in Mendoza. One recommended option is the Museo del Pasado Cuyano, which features many exhibits on local history as well as collections of weapons from the independence era.
  • Enjoy some local cuisine. Mendoza sits in the middle of the rugged countryside at the foot of the Andes and fare here tends to be rustic. That said, you'll find a wide variety of eateries and many high-end options, too. There's none more famous and revered than 1884, the flagship restaurant of legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallman, who perfected the technique of cooking over an open flame. The food here is heavy on grilled meat and can best be described as "haute country." This is one of the most popular restaurants in Argentina, so be prepared to splurge. 

Day 4: Mendoza Vineyard Tour & Tasting

Malbec grapes in Mendoza
Malbec grapes in Mendoza

Today you will embark on a guided tour of two distinct wine-producing areas around Mendoza: the Maipú Valley and the town of Lujan de Cuyo. Maipú is located a mere 12 miles (20 km) away, while Lujan de Cuyo is located directly adjacent to Mendoza in the south.

The first winery tour includes a presentation on the viniculture process with a subsequent tasting. The second tour includes another tasting as well as more education about wine development. Lunch will be served in the winery's warehouse, where you will enjoy a gourmet menu paired with some of the best wines from the cellar.

Afterward, it's time to visit two more wineries before ending the day's excursion. With a full stomach and a head swirling with all the delicious varietals of Mendoza, you can spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening relaxing while enjoying your hotel's amenities.

Day 5: Potrerillos Half-Day Kayak Excursion

Potrerillos Dam, Mendoza
Potrerillos Dam, Mendoza

After breakfast, it's time for an hour-long transfer from your hotel to Potrerillos. This town is located in the foothills of the Andes and is known for beautiful views, along with great kayaking, hiking, and rafting opportunities. The damning of the Mendoza River here has created an artificial lake that is perfect for a kayaking excursion. Upon arrival, you will get your gear and receive an introductory safety talk from the professional guide. You'll spend a few hours kayaking on the lake and taking in the beautiful views.

In the afternoon, it's time to return to shore and transfer back to your hotel in Mendoza where you'll have free time to relax and explore at your leisure.

Day 6: Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate

Say goodbye to Mendoza!
Say goodbye to Mendoza!

This morning, you'll say goodbye to Mendoza and prepare for the next step of the journey. At an appropriate time, you'll be picked up and transferred to the local airport where you will fly back to Buenos Aires in order to connect to your flight to El Calafate—gateway to the glaciers. If possible, snag a window seat so you can take in the stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as you fly over it. 

Upon arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel, and then you'll have the rest of the day to explore this waterfront town on the shores of Lago Argentino. 

You can spend the rest of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. Maybe prime yourself with information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium. This multi-media center has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. For fun, it even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 7: Perito Moreno Glacier Trek

Trekking Perito Moreno
Trekking Perito Moreno

After breakfast at your hotel, you'll transfer 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 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. 

Believe it or not, you will be trekking on top of this glacier. It's a full-day excursion that involves walking over the ice while fully equipped with crampons and an ice axe. And while traversing Perito Moreno is certainly an active adventure, it's perfectly safe as you'll be accompanied by certified bilingual guides. So enjoy crossing deep blue ice crevices and hiking over meltwater streams as you experience Perito Moreno up close. 

During the day you'll also have ample time to witness the glacier from one of the many viewing platforms in the park. These platforms are accessible via a network of boardwalks that run along the shores of the lake. They offer the best vantage points and sweeping views of the glacier, making for great photo opportunities.

Day 8: 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 9: El Calafate to Torres del Paine

Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park
Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park

Today, you'll transfer from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, which takes about 2.5 hours. On the way there, pass through rolling grasslands home to rheas, guanacos, Patagonian hares, and even condors. Make sure to have your passport on hand, as you will cross the border to Chile before ending up at Torres del Paine.

After entering the park through the Laguna Amarga entrance, you'll ride a shuttle to your camp, a comfortable lodge right next to the Torres del Paine—a place that offers some of the most dramatic landscapes in South America. Keep an eye out for wild guanacos as they roam the windy plains. In addition to the namesake mountains, other highlights of the park include:

  • Salto Grande: a 213 ft high waterfall
  • Laguna Amarga: a water-filled caldera
  • Cuernos del Paine: magnificent granite spires in the shape of horns
  • Lake Pehoé: a beautiful lake that reflects the Cuernos del Paine

Day 10: W Trek Day 1/4: Mirador Base Torres to Refugio el Chileno

Mirador Base Torres
Mirador Base Torres

Today, you will embark on a trekking adventure into Torres del Paine National Park. The excursion begins around 9 am with a one-and-a-half-hour ascent featuring stunning views of the hanging glacier at Mount Almirante Nieto (2,670 m) as well as nearby lakes. Once you reach Refugio el Chileno, you can drop off your bags and take a quick break to refuel.

You'll then hike for another hour past ancient lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. From here it's a challenging steep ascent for 45 minutes until you reach the top, which is known as Mirador Base Torres. "Mirador" in English means "viewpoint,"  and this little section of the mountain, with the Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Paine) looming over a green lagoon, is the best view in the park. From here you can also marvel at the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.

After spending some time enjoying the views at Base Torres, you'll then hike back to Refugio el Chileno to rest up for the evening. 

Hiking distance: 11 miles (18 km)
Hiking duration: 6.5 hours

Day 11: W Trek Day 2/4: Refugio el Chileno to Refugio Los Cuernos

Lake Nordenskjöld
Lake Nordenskjöld

After breakfast, you'll depart Refugio el Chileno for a more moderate day of hiking. After passing by the Paine Massif you'll pass the base of Mount Almirante Nieto. Then it's more hiking for 4.5-6 hours, during which you're treated to views of Lake Nordenskjöld's emerald waters, impressive hanging glaciers, and fascinating local flora. Eventually, you will reach the Cuernos sector of the park and spend the night in Refugio Los Cuernos, a welcoming refuge nestled on the hillside in the heart of Torres del Paine.

Hiking distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Hiking duration: 4.5 hours

Day 12: W Trek Day 3/4: The French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande

The French Glacier
The French Glacier

Prepare for the longest, most arduous, but also the most rewarding day of trekking on the W circuit. The morning starts with a two-hour hike around Lake Nordenskjöld. Upon reaching the Campamento Italiano sector, you'll leave your bags at the camp and carry on with a small daypack containing the day's necessary food, water, and extra clothing.

Then it's a 1.5-hour ascent beginning at the French River Valley, passing the French Glacier, and finishing at the "British camp," which is a group of primitive log shelters once used by English hikers. Nearby you'll find the Mirador Britanico (British Viewpoint), which features one of the most amazing panoramic views in the park. The mountains of Cerros, Paine Grande, Catedral, Hoja, Máscara, Espada, Aleta de Tiburón, and Cuerno Norte Horn can all be seen from this viewpoint.

Afterward, you'll return on the same path to Campamento Italiano and pick up your bags. You'll then continue on to Refugio Paine Grande, on the shores of Lake Pehoé, and settle in here for the evening.

Hiking distance: 10.7 miles (17.3 km)
Hiking duration: 7 hours

Day 13: W Trek Day 4/4: Glacier Grey to Puerto Natales

Icebergs floating in Lake Grey
Icebergs floating in Lake Grey

In the morning, you'll depart from Refugio Paine Grande on a hike through native forest and along Lago Grey. After about two hours you'll get your first glimpses of Glacier Grey, the giant mass of ice that feeds the lake, and the peaks of the Cordon Olguin.

You'll cap your Torres del Paine adventure by hopping aboard the Grey III catamaran and taking a tour of the lake as well as getting up close to the glacier. The catamaran will then leave you at the shore in the Pudeto sector of the park, where a vehicle awaits to transport you back to Puerto Natales. In the evening, you can relax in your hotel and rest after a long day.

Hiking distance: 6.8 miles (11 km)
Hiking duration: 4 hours

Day 14: Puerto Natales to El Calafate

Sunset in El Calafate

In the morning or afternoon, a driver will pick you up from the designated meeting point in Puerto Natales and transfer you back to El Calafate (about 3.5 hours).  

Upon your arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the remainder of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. If you haven't seen it yet, you can also visit the Glaciarium. This multimedia center has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. 

Day 15: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, 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 & Torres del Paine - 15 Days
Map of Best of Argentina & Torres del Paine - 15 Days
Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Feb 20, 2019