With 10 days you can explore and enjoy some of the most incredible sites and national parks in the Southern Cone, that great expanse of Patagonia that covers both Argentina and Chile. This adventure is tailor-made for outdoor enthusiasts, as it involves visits to glaciers, mountain trekking, and hiking some of the most famous peaks in the region, such as Mt. Fitz Roy.

Highlights

  • Visit Perito Moreno, the most famous glacier in Patagonia
  • Embark on multi-day excursions into Torres del Paine National Park
  • Tour Lago Argentino by private catamaran
  • Trek to Lago Grey, an unforgettable glacial lake

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Argentina & Transfer to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 2 Visit Perito Moreno Glacier El Calafate
Day 3 El Calafate to El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 4 Hike to Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 5 El Chaltén to El Calafate & Transfer to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 6 Torres del Paine Full-Day Excursion Puerto Natales
Day 7 Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers Torres del Paine
Day 8 Lago Grey - Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 9 Puerto Natales to Argentina El Calafate
Day 10 Farewell Patagonia  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Argentina & Transfer to El Calafate

Passing through Buenos Aires
Passing through Buenos Aires

Welcome to Argentina! You'll arrive at Ezeiza International Airport, which is located outside of the capital of Buenos Aires. Also known as the "Paris of South America," this is one of the most romantic cities on the continent. However, for the purposes of this epic adventure, you'll be eschewing city life in favor of Argentina's natural wonders.

A driver will meet you at Ezeiza and transport you directly to the local airport, Aeroparque, located near the city center. Here you'll hop another flight, this one bound for the Patagonian destination of El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

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.

Day 2: Visit Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

You're in for an exciting full-day excursion. It starts with a pick up from your hotel and 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 3: El Calafate to El Chaltén

Off to El Chaltén
Off to El Chaltén

After breakfast, you will go to the bus station in El Calafate (transfer not included), where you will board a bus bound for Los Glaciares National Park, specifically the town of El Chaltén. This is a northbound journey that covers about 200 km (124 miles) and takes around three hours. You'll travel predominantly up Ruta 40, the famous Patagonian highway that cuts through great expanses of barren steppe and affords views of snowy peaks on the horizon.

Eventually, you'll reach the popular tourist town of El Chaltén. The second you arrive you'll see its appeal. El Chaltén sits at the foot of the iconic Mount Fitz Roy and is nicknamed "hiker's paradise" due to the abundance of mountaineering options all around.

You don't have to wait to discover the area, either. Upon arrival, you'll 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 and offers an unobstructed view of the jutting granite towers of the Fitz Roy massif. 

After the hike, you will transfer to your hotel and relax for the remainder of the day.

Day 4: Hike to Fitz Roy

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

This morning you'll embark on a full-day excursion into 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 range of Fitz Roy and offer wonderful opportunities for day hikes.

Let it be known that by "day hike," we mean all day long, as many of these treks can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. The hike you'll 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 because from its shores you have a panoramic view of three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.

At the end of the day's hike, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén.

Hiking Distance:  26 km (16 miles)
Hiking Duration: 8-11 hours

Day 5: El Chaltén to El Calafate & Transfer to Puerto Natales

The waterfront in Puerto Natales
The waterfront in Puerto Natales

Today will be filled with travel as you cross into Chilean Patagonia from Argentina. The first order of business is to transfer back to El Calafate, where you will have a portion of the afternoon free to enjoy lunch and/or a stroll around town. In the late afternoon, you will hop on a southbound bus headed for the Chilean town of Puerto Natales. This journey can take upwards of five hours depending on traffic conditions at the Argentina/Chile border.

Puerto Natales is the principal base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. Upon arrival, you'll notice a stark contrast between this town and El Calafate/El Chaltén. This coastal hamlet is far less touristic (even in the peak summer months) and retains its air of small-town tranquility practically year round. 

The best activities in Puerto Natales also happen to be the mildest. The town offers simple pleasures, like strolling its waterfront promenade. It sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound, which affords views northward to the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and it looks phenomenal at sunset. You can also get out and meander among the brightly painted residential houses with their corrugated tin roofs. 

Still, rather than sightseeing, what you should focus on here is getting some good rest before your excursion into Torres del Paine. After a hearty dinner, we recommend hitting the hay at a reasonable hour so you can be bright eyed and bushy tailed the next morning.

Day 6: Torres del Paine Full-Day Excursion

Guanacos in Torres del Paine
Guanacos in Torres del Paine

In the morning you'll depart from Puerto Natales on a two-hour drive to Torres del Paine National Park. Along the way, you'll stop to visit the Cuevas del Milodón (Mylodon Caves), located about 25 km (15 miles) outside of town. The largest of this network of caverns houses a replica of a mylodon, a giant herbivore that became extinct in the late Pleistocene era. The remains of other extinct animals have also been found here, including the prehistoric cave bear, Patagonian panther, and the saber-toothed tiger. After visiting the caves, you'll continue on to Torres del Paine. On the way, you'll certainly spot some of the local fauna, including many species of birds as well as the guanaco, a wild camelid related to the llama.

Upon reaching Torres del Paine it's time to start the extensive full-day tour. You'll visit some of the park's main attractions, such as the Amarga Lagoon, which features views of the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine). You'll also trek alongside Salto Grande, the famous thundering waterfalls found in this national park. At noon, you'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the park before continuing on the excursion. Finally, at the end of the day, you'll return to Puerto Natales.

Day 7: Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers

Cuernos del Paine
Cuernos del Paine

After breakfast, you'll head up to the base of the famous Torres del Paine towers on one of the most popular hiking routes in the park. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. However, the stunning views at the base of the Paine massif make it well worth the effort. 

The trekking route covers 18 km (11 miles) and lasts about nine hours. Every step of the way you will enjoy views of beautiful scenery comprised of rivers, native forest, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. You'll likely even spot some impressive local avian varieties, like condors and black eagles. 

Your route will begin at the Las Torres Hostel and will take you over the Ascencio River, at which point you'll ascend about 2.5 km to a lookout featuring panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. Then you'll continue through sections of lenga forest until the remaining 45-minute stretch, which is a steep ascent that involves a hard scramble over a moraine to the final path leading up to the viewpoint. 

This is the hardest portion of the hike, However, once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine Massif and stare up at the nearby Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) jutting into the sky, you'll likely forget all about your exhaustion. Upon arrival, you’ll have ample time to rest by the lagoon and marvel at the amazing rock formations as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.

Afterward, you'll begin the return trip back down the trail. The descent takes approximately four hours, at the end of which you'll arrive back to the hotel.

Day 8: Lago Grey - Return to Puerto Natales

Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey

The morning is yours to enjoy however you see fit. You can partake in an optional excursion, or you can spend these few hours relaxing at Refugio Grey. In the afternoon, however, you will board the Grey III catamaran, which will transport you to Glacier Grey where you can get close-up views of its massive ice walls. You'll definitely want to take photos. 

After arriving on the other side of the lake, you will disembark and transfer back to Puerto Natales.

Day 9: Puerto Natales to Argentina

Enjoy your last afternoon in El Calafate
Enjoy your last afternoon in El Calafate

In the morning you'll hop on a bus bound for El Calafate, Argentina. You'll arrive in the afternoon, whereupon you'll check into a cozy B&B near the center of town. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy as you see fit. No doubt after all your trekking and excursions the previous days, you'll likely prefer a nice evening stroll about town and quiet dinner before hitting the hay and recharging those batteries.

Day 10: Farewell Patagonia

Goodbye Patagonia
Goodbye Patagonia

After breakfast take a moment or two to reflect on all the exciting memories you've made over the course of the previous week. Relish them, because today you say goodbye to not just Patagonia, but Chile and Argentina as well. 

At the scheduled time a driver will pick you up and transfer you El Calafate Airport, where you'll hop a flight back to Buenos Aires and meet your connecting flight home. Upon takeoff, be sure to look out the window and enjoy one final glimpse of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field from your window. Take a mental photo and savor it as a little keepsake until you decide to return. 

Map

Map of Best of Southern Patagonia - 10 Days
Map of Best of Southern Patagonia - 10 Days