- Take a stroll over Buenos Aires' Puente de Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset
- Grab an ice ax and take a trek along one of South America’s most famous glaciers
- Boat to Isla Martillo for huge colonies of Gentoo and Magellanic penguins
- Pick from a range of hikes with stunning views of Mt. Fitz Roy
- Spend a day trekking and canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park
|Day 1||Arrive in Buenos Aires, Explore the City||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 3||El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park - Perito Moreno Glacier Hike||El Calafate|
|Day 4||Free Day in El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 5||El Calafate to El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 6||Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy||El Chalten|
|Day 7||Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre||El Chalten|
|Day 8||Free Day in El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 9||El Chaltén to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 10||Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City||Ushuaia|
|Day 11||Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park||Ushuaia|
|Day 12||Beagle Channel Cruise||Ushuaia|
|Day 13||Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton||Ushuaia|
|Day 14||Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, Explore the City
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 walking areas 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: Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate
This morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport for your flight to El Calafate, a city that sits on the shores of Lago Argentino and is known as the gateway to Argentina's glaciers. If you can, get 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. 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—a great place for a pre-dinner drink before exploring the town's dining scene.
Day 3: El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park - Perito Moreno Glacier Hike
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 4: Free Day in El Calafate
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 5: El Calafate to El Chaltén
After breakfast, a vehicle will pick you up for the three-hour drive to El Chaltén. If the skies are clear, you'll be treated to incredible views of Mt. Fitz Roy along the way. Because of this infamous peak, the town is nicknamed "hiker's paradise" due to the abundance of mountaineering options all around (which you'll soon discover).
Upon arrival, check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to acclimate to your new surroundings. Perhaps you'll want to take a walk in town before a relaxing evening sampling El Chaltén's many restaurants and craft-beer bars.
Day 6: Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy
This morning you'll embark on a full-day hike. 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 range of Fitz Roy and offer wonderful opportunities for day hikes.
Let it be known that most options can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. The hike you'll likely be embarking on this morning is 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 Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.
At the end of this 16-mile (26 km) route, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén for a much-deserved rest.
Day 7: Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre
Today, you'll leave from town on foot with your own guide. On this trek, you'll traverse a glacial valley that has fascinated geologists due to its perfect "U" shape, the result of the area once being covered by large swaths of ice. The total distance of this hike is 14.9 miles (24 km) and takes about six hours to complete.
The hike will take you through bright green lenga forests and around lagoons until you reach the day's final destination: Laguna Torre. This glacial lake sits at the foot of the sharp granite peak of Cerro Torre, and here you'll find the glacier that feeds the lake as well. After spending some time at the lake and admiring the views, you'll return to El Chaltén along the same path.
Day 8: Free Day in El Chaltén
Today you'll have the whole day to discover more of El Chaltén and (if you're still up for it) additional hiking trails at your own pace. In fact, you can choose when and where to go since all the paths are self-guided, clearly marked, and well maintained.
If you've accomplished major treks in previous days, this is your chance to check out some more relaxing trails from town. For an easier option, there's a short 1.9-mile (3 km) walk with views of lenga forests and the Rio de las Vueltas. This option also allows the chance to see all kind of birds including woodpeckers.
You can also embark on a two-hour brisk hike amid native forest to a lagoon with deep blue waters. This is Laguna Capri—a lake that sits at the foot of the mountains with more unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif.
The Salto El Chorrillo is a thundering waterfall located a short walk from town, making it the perfect activity for a relaxing walk along flat ground and through a sparse woodland area. There are plenty of rocks to sit and enjoy the serene landscape of water running over a cliff, into a river below.
Another option is to visit the Huemul Glacier, about an hour outside of town. Named after a native deer, the hike up to the glacier and the lake will bring you through some of the most picturesque scenery in the area, past rivers and streams, and through virgin forests. A nice reward is the view of Cerros Torre and Fitz Roy from the top.
When you're done exploring more of the area, head back into town and enjoy some of the best beer in the country. For instance, Don Guerra—a local spot—has a great happy hour and pub food on the menu.
Day 9: El Chaltén to El Calafate
This morning is your last chance to explore the El Chalten area on this trip. If you haven't done so already, head on an early hike to see the Fitz Roy Massif light up at sunrise. There's also the hiking path that leads to the foot of Cerro Torre complete with amazing views of the namesake lake and glacier.
In the afternoon, you will be picked up from your hotel by a minivan and travel to El Calafate. Arrive in the evening and check into your hotel.
Day 10: Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City
After breakfast in El Calafate, you'll pack up and transfer 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'll have the rest of the day to explore as you see fit. This day will be relatively relaxed since the next day will feature more physical, outdoors activities.
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. As you walk around the colorful shops and buildings, notice 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 11: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park
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 Ushuaia National 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 12: Beagle Channel Cruise
After breakfast in Ushuaia, head to the pier to board a boat for a local cruise. Today's 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.
As you pass through the channel, 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. If the winds are calm, you can even hop ashore on one of the islands’ bridges, collect giant shells, and see the opposite coast which stretches across both Chile and Argentina. Before making your way back to Ushuaia, see the famous Les Eclaireurs, the so-called "Lighthouse at the End of the World".
Day 13: Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton
After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for full-day penguin excursion. The trip starts off from the Ushuaia pier, where you'll catch a bus traveling to Estancia Harberton via Route 3. After merging into Route J, the road continues through rugged Fuegian forests until reaching the docking point.
From here, you'll embark on a semi-rigid rubber boat for an up-close experience on an island featuring a Magellanic penguin colony (amongst other species). This guided tour includes a hike where you will learn about the penguins' characteristics and natural habitat, lasting about 90 minutes with visits to both Isla Martillo and Estancia Harberton. Expect plenty of great photo opportunities.
At the end of the tour, you'll return to Ushuaia in time to have dinner out on the town.
Day 14: Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, Depart
This morning, head to the Ushuaia airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, then connect to your international flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!
More Great Patagonia Itineraries
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