- Learn to dine and dance like a local in Argentina's capital
- Get up close to Perito Moreno—a glacier that is actually advancing
- Take a relaxing full-day glacier cruise, complete with a gourmet lunch
- Boat through a lesser-visited branch of the Lakes District
- Choose between several hikes with stunning views of Nahuel Huapi Lake
|Day 1||Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Buenos Aires Walking Tour - Tango Lesson||Buenos Aires|
|Day 3||Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 4||Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour||El Calafate|
|Day 5||Glaciers Gourmet Experience||El Calafate|
|Day 6||Estancia Cristina Excursion||El Calafate|
|Day 7||From El Calafate to Bariloche||Bariloche|
|Day 8||Bariloche History & Nature Tour||Bariloche|
|Day 9||Boat Tour of Tristeza Sound||Bariloche|
|Day 10||Hiking in Bariloche||Bariloche|
|Day 11||Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure|
Day 1: Arrival 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 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 Walking Tour - Tango Lesson
The absolute best way to experience the heart and soul of Buenos Aires is on foot. After a fortifying breakfast at your hotel, get ready for a fun 4-hour walking tour throughout this European-inspired metropolis with the aid of an English-speaking guide.
A few highlights include:
Plaza San Martín, located at the end of downtown's commercial pedestrian thruway, Florida Street. This leafy plaza, anchored by a majestic ombú tree, is named after one of the heroes of Argentina's independence movement, General José de San Martín.
The Obelisco, an icon that sits at the nexus of the city where the 16 lanes of Ave. 9 de Julio cross bustling Corrientes Ave. Here you'll find Buenos Aires' theater and music district. It's a hub of activity any day of the week but it's particularly alive on weekend evenings.
Colón Theatre, a nearly 2,500-seat teatro that is perpetually vying with Rio de Janeiro's Theatro Municipal for the title of the most opulent opera house in South America. The building's elegant neoclassical exterior and pitch-perfect interior acoustics make this building a must-visit.
Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires' main square and home to the Casa Rosada, Argentina's presidential palace. The famous "pink house" (as the presidential palace is colloquially known), is also rife with history. It's on the front balcony that dictator Juan Perón made some of his most famous speeches with his glamorous wife, Evita, at his side.
Metropolitan Cathedral, is the principal Catholic church in the city and another historic building that also faces the Plaza de Mayo. It was consecrated in 1791 but its earliest origins date back to the late 16th century when a humble chapel first sat on the current site.
Puerto Madero, whose shimmering office towers and central canal make this one of the most elegant neighborhoods in the city. Upscale restaurants can be found here, as can Puente de la Mujer, a bridge whose sleek and sensual lines define its title of "Woman's Bridge."
Barrio San Telmo, which is BA’s oldest neighborhood and boasts a vibrant tango and arts scene. Its antique markets, cobbled streets dotted with faroles (French streetlamps), and old brick buildings with wooden balconies all add to the uniquely bohemian atmosphere. Sundays are especially buzz with activity as the main street market comes alive around Plaza Dorrego.
- Barrio La Boca is a well-preserved historic neighborhood that's nearly as old as San Telmo. It's home to colorful Caminito Street, a pedestrian zone teeming with old restaurants and tanguerías.
In the evening you'll experience an unforgettable night of dinner and tango performances in one of the best tanguerias of Buenos Aires. It's venues such as these that preserve the musical heritage of the city. You'll feel it in the ambiance, you'll hear it in the melancholy rhythms of the guitar and bandoneon, and you'll see it in the dances of fish-netted and besuited bailanderos. It's a dance that tells the story of loss and heartbreak, passion and love.
If that's not enough, you'll have the opportunity to get up on the dance floor and partake in a tango class.
Day 3: 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.
Day 4: Perito Moreno Full-Day Tour
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 get up close to the glacier 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 5: Glaciers Gourmet Experience
Today, you'll take part in an exciting full-day cruise through one of the most wonderful places in Southern Patagonia: Los Glaciares National Park. Sailing aboard the Glaciers Gourmet will allow you to enjoy the highest standard of comfort and gourmet cuisine for a truly memorable experience.
If you haven't seen it in previous days yet, this UNESCO-listed park offers a magnificent combination of forests, lakes, mountains, and more than 200 glaciers. The most renowned pieces of ice include Spegazzini, rising 442 feet (135 m) above sea level, Upsala covering an entire valley with a length of 32 miles (53km), and Perito Moreno, a massive glacier that is constantly advancing and calving—one of nature’s most impressive sights.
In the morning, you'll be picked up at your hotel in El Calafate to join the scenic cruise. Lunch will be served on board, and you'll return to El Calafate in the early evening.
Day 6: Estancia Cristina Excursion
There's more activity in store for you today. Starting early, a driver will pick you and other passengers up from your respective hotels and transfer you 28 miles (45 km) to the port at Punta Bandera, located on Lago Argentino. The drive along this route is scenic and pleasant, affording sweeping views of the Patagonian countryside and the charming wooden houses that intermittently dot the landscape.
Having reached the port, you'll board a modern ferry and embark on a journey on the Upsala Channel, passing towering icebergs along the way. After taking the time to admire glaciers along the way, you will continue sailing north and into the Cristina Channel. At the far end of this channel is the disembarking point for Estancia Cristina. Expect to arrive late morning.
Estancia Cristina is one of the most impressive ranch-style lodges in the region. It was founded in 1914 by pioneers and built on a valley once covered by the Upsala Glacier. A visit to the Folkloric Museum here (located in an old sheep-shearing shed), offers insight into the history of the estancia. The surrounding scenery is nothing to scoff at either—all around are impressive panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rivers, lakes, and glaciers.
All told, you will stay here for about six hours. After the museum, you'll embark on a 6-mile (9.5 km) journey by 4x4 over an unpaved road that ascends into the mountains. After reaching the Continental Ice Field Refuge, you will exit the vehicle and begin a 20-minute walk featuring views of glacial landscapes and Andes mountains until you reach the Upsala viewpoint. Here you will have an unobstructed view of the eastern face of the Upsala Glacier as well as Lake Guillermo and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
In the late afternoon, you will board the boat again and begin the return to Punta Bandera. After landing, you will transfer back to your hotel.
Day 7: From El Calafate to Bariloche
After breakfast, a driver will meet you and transfer you to the local airport in El Calafate. You'll then catch a flight to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main city in Argentina's Lake District, which is home to some of the most impressive scenery in the entire country.
San Carlos de Bariloche was founded in 1902 on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, which itself is part of the larger Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. If you detect some indigenous influence in that name, you're correct. It comes from the Mapuche native people who once inhabited the area, and it means "jaguar island." The lake straddles the Chilean border, with the city of Bariloche located on the southeast shore.
Upon arrival at Bariloche's airport, a driver will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. Even though you may be tired from your flight, do try to get out and explore the city. The charming chalet-style buildings and alpine architecture can be seen and enjoyed on a brisk walk around, and the city center abounds with waterfront plazas, chocolate shops, and upscale restaurants.
Some suggested activities in and around Bariloche include:
Stroll Mitre Street, the main drag that runs through downtown. Here you'll experience all the buzzing commerce of the city, including souvenir shops, clothing stores, and confectioners. It also runs near the waterfront, which only enhances the pleasantness of the walk.
Visit the five-star Hotel Llao Llao, the nicest hotel in Bariloche, and quite possibly the nicest in all of Argentina. This expansive chalet-style hotel sits on a small peninsula overlooking the lake and is the embodiment of alpine luxury. Even if you're not staying here, you can stop in for a full afternoon tea service complete with decadent desserts like brownies and chocolate mousse.
- Ride a cable car to the top of Cerro Campanario. Located just a couple of kilometers outside town, the view from atop this 1,050-meter (3,444-foot) high mountain is nothing short of breathtaking as you're treated to panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi and the snow-covered mountains that surround it. There's also a restaurant and lounge at the top.
When dinnertime comes around, be sure to get out and sample the local cuisine. You'll find that it differs considerably than what's typically found in Buenos Aires. Here regional fare like wild boar and lake trout is popular and delicious, as is the fondue (a culinary addition first introduced by the city's Swiss immigrants).
Day 8: Bariloche History & Nature Tour
This morning, you'll partake in an active history lesson with a guided tour in and around Bariloche. Along the way, he or she will explain the legacy of the city and its surrounding locales. This tour comprises a classic circuit that covers the city as well as some of the most famous viewpoints outside of it, like Cerro Campanario and the Llao Llao Peninsula. The former offers panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi from its summit, while the latter is the site of the most impressive hotel in the country, Hotel Llao Llao.
Over the course of this tour, your guide will explain how San Carlos de Bariloche evolved relatively quickly from a small mountain village into one of the most attractive and popular cities in Argentina. As you experience the natural beauty of the region and hike around its terrain, you'll begin to understand why Bariloche was voted Argentina's national capital of adventure tourism. At the end of the tour, you'll visit a local microbrewery for lunch and a beer tasting—a fun way to end the excursion!
Day 9: Boat Tour of Tristeza Sound
After breakfast in Bariloche, you'll take a scenic boat excursion that starts in López Bay, where you'll navigate along a remote, lesser-visited branch of Nahuel Huapi Lake called Tristeza Sound. Expect to see beautiful mountains and waterfalls surrounding this part of the lake, and if the weather conditions are good, you can appreciate a beautiful view of the Tronador Mountain.
Once you reach the shore, you will start a hike in the forest among amazing unique tree species like coihues and alerces (larch trees). The trail climbs all the way up to a group of waterfalls coming down from the Frey River for great photo ops. When you return to your boat, you'll enjoy lunch on board as you make your way back to the starting point.
Day 10: Hiking in Bariloche
Today you're going to partake in a healthy Lake District experience, and you don't have to travel far from Bariloche in order to do it. A car will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to Llao Llao Municipal Park, located just a few miles northwest of the city. This protected area is situated on the lakeshore and takes up a relatively small area of Nahuel Huapi (just 3,000 acres). Still, here you'll find some of the most stunning scenery in the region as well as a network of well-maintained hiking paths.
The hike you'll embark on is a moderate one that follows old trails and covers many of the area's natural highlights. One of these, Cerro Llao Llao, is the largest mountain within the park boundaries, standing 3,363 feet (1,025 m) high. You can hike up to the top of it where you'll be treated to postcard-worthy views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Other points of interest you'll pass on this half-day excursion include the sandy beaches of Villa Tacúl, the ancient Puente Romano (Roman Bridge), and the little-visited Hidden Lake. Throughout the trip, you'll be making your way through Patagonian forest with towering Arrayán and lenga trees flanking the pathways. You'll also stop at vantage points that offer panoramic views of Lake Nahuel Huapi, Lake Moreno, Puerto Blest, the Brazo Tristeza fjord, Mount López and Mount Capilla, before returning to Bariloche for the night.
Day 11: Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure
Having experienced Argentina's unforgettable south, you will transfer from your hotel to the airport and hop a flight back to Buenos Aires. This is where you started your journey and it's also where everything comes full circle, as you'll now take a connecting flight back home.
Despite the bittersweet goodbye, rest assured that South America will be waiting for you with open arms should you ever decide to return!