This 11-day trip combines urban culture, outdoor excursions, and vineyard relaxation for a real Argentinian adventure. After exploring Buenos Aires, fly to El Calafate—jumping off point for Los Glaciares National Park—and trek along a massive glacier that is actually advancing. Next, is high-altitude Mendoza (world-famous for Malbecs) for wine tastings before returning to the capital for a tango performance.

Highlights

  • Start the trip with a late-night steak drizzled in chimchurri sauce
  • See the capital's best sites and neighborhoods on a half-day tour
  • Visit wineries and soak in hot springs near Mendoza
  • Trek along a glacier equipped with crampons and an ice ax
  • Experience a tango performance and three-course dinner on your last night

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Fly to Mendoza Mendoza
Day 3 Mendoza Wine Tour Mendoza
Day 4 Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour Mendoza
Day 5 Termas de Cacheuta Hot Springs Day-Trip Mendoza
Day 6 Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 7 Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 8 Ice Rivers Express Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 9 Free Day in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 10 Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 11 Goodbye Buenos Aires!  

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 - Fly to Mendoza

Tango dancers at a flea market in San Telmo
Tango dancers at a flea market in San Telmo

This morning, you'll have more time to explore the capital before heading to Mendoza in the afternoon. In fact, you'll visit several areas of Buenos Aires on a classic 3-hour sightseeing tour, which stops for photos opportunities. The itinerary includes the Recoleta Cemetary, Palermo Woods, the Obelisk, Colon Theatre, Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo, La Boca, Puerto Madero, and other notable neighborhoods. 

After the tour, you'll have time to pack your luggage in preparation for your transfer to the airport. This is where you'll catch a flight to Mendoza. 

Upon arrival in Mendoza, you'll have free time to explore. This relatively sleepy city of about a million people is more than the sum of its parts, as it sits in the heart of Argentina's world-famous wine region. This is ground zero for viticulture in the nation, and it's home to Argentina's flagship wine: Malbec. There's also impressive landscapes and interesting sights all around the city, from the high peak of Aconcagua to the Mendoza River to the little villages that dot the countryside, like Uspallata, which date back to pre-hispanic times.

You'll have free time to explore the city as you see fit. Or maybe, you'd just like to lounge by the swimming pool and make reservations for dinner at one of Mendoza's best restaurants. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy your day in Argentina's wine capital.

Day 3: Mendoza Wine Tour

Sample some Malbec varietals
Sample some Malbec varietals

It's time to get out and explore beyond the city while discovering the region's wine culture. On this circuit, you'll visit the most famous wine destinations around Mendoza, from the area around the town of Luján de Cuyo to the fertile soil of the Maipú Valley. It's a fun-filled excursion that mixes equal parts wine history with wine tasting.

First the history. Over the course of the tour, you will glean insight into how Mendoza rose over the centuries to become Argentina's premier wine-making region. It began with Jesuit priests and European immigrants who settled here and combined their wine-making knowledge with the irrigation techniques (canals and ditches) handed down from the Huarpe indigenous people. It was through these methods that the Huarpes transformed a vast desert into a productive oasis. The end result is that this region is now home to renowned wineries producing high-quality varietals that are deservedly famous on the global viniculture stage.

You'll visit two wineries that still rely on traditional irrigation methods as well as others that use the latest technology in the winemaking process. On tours of the bodegas' facilities, you'll learn about vinification methods, processing, bottling, and even the labeling of wines. Of course, this is all accompanied by a tasting of the different varietals these bodegas offer. You'll also get to sample locally grown olives, artisanal cheeses, and eat Malbec grapes right off the vine!

Day 4: Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour

Drive into the Andes
Drive into the Andes

Today you'll explore the untamed landscapes and historic sites found just outside the city of Mendoza. The tour starts early, as there's a lot of ground to cover. After a pickup outside your hotel, you'll drive along the Mendoza River and enjoy views of the Cordón del Plata mountain range, a subset of the Andes that is a popular trekking destination. You'll also pass by the Potrerillos Dam, which is notable for distributing all the water for the vineyards of the region. It's also home to hydroelectric power plants that produce 20% of the energy Mendoza consumes.

Continue to Uspallata, a pre-Hispanic indigenous settlement, which at one point was the southernmost territory of the Inca Empire. There are archeological remains here, including the Bóvedas de Uspallata, a series of conical-shaped smelting furnaces built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. Then you'll head to the villages of Picheuta, Polvaredas, Punta de Vacas, and the Los Penitentes ski resort, where you can hop on a chairlift up to a summit featuring panoramic views of the area.

Later, drive to the Puente del Inca, a natural arch that forms a bridge over the Las Cuevas River. You'll now be on the ascent as you climb 9,022 feet (2,750 m) above sea level to a viewpoint at Cerro Aconcagua. At 22,841 feet (6,962 m), this is the highest mountain in the Americas. Other highlights include a visit to the glacial lake of Laguna Horcones.

Your final destination on the day's adventure is the European-style village of Las Cuevas, located just before the Chilean border at 10,498 feet (3,200 m) above sea level. Between Las Cuevas and the international tunnel to Chile, there is a path that leads to Christ the Redeemer of the Andes. This monument sits at 12,572 feet (3,832 m) above sea level and symbolizes the union between Argentina and Chile.

Day 5: Termas de Cacheuta Hot Springs Day-Trip

Geothermal pools at the foot of the Andes
Geothermal pools at the foot of the Andes

Today, you'll take a scenic drive outside of Mendoza to the thermal waters of Termas de Cachueta. There's nothing quite like the rejuvenating properties of geothermal hot springs. Whether you're stressed, sore, or simply looking for a bit of good old fashioned romantic relaxation, the Termas de Cacheuta is just what the doctor ordered.

Cradled in a narrow valley surrounded by the Cordón del Plata, this luxurious natural spa and resort features a network of stone lagoons filled with thermal waters. Here you'll enjoy a full day of thermal hydrotherapy, which includes a sauna in a natural grotto, a soak in thermal relaxation pools, mineral mud therapy, and a dip in freshwater infinity pools overlooking the Mendoza River. Afterward, wash off in Finnish and Scottish-style showers and relax on a lounge chair in the solarium. You are then free to reserve a deep-tissue massage (not included) to further help the natural detoxification process. 

The day's outing also includes a criollo (country) buffet lunch (including a vegetarian buffet and salad bar), and a full barbecue spread with beef, pork, chicken, and grilled vegetables. In the afternoon, you'll return to Mendoza where you'll have free time for dinner.

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: Ice Rivers Express Boat Tour

The main attraction of Los Glaciares National Park is not only Perito Moreno. In fact, there are other massive glaciers to get to know while here, especially Spegazzini and Upsala.

With this boat tour, you will get close enough to the glacier walls that you will actually feel them on your fingertips. After a quick safety session, you and your group will set sail on a catamaran and start navigating between icebergs in the frozen waters of Lake Argentino, all the way to Upsala Glacier. 

The most impressive occasion happens when you arrive at Spegazzini's striking height of 442 feet (135 m)—nearly double the height of the obelisk in Buenos Aires. From here, you will then sail towards the other channels for more spectacular scenery and glaciers. 

Once the tour is complete, you'll return to El Calafate for the night.

Day 9: 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 10: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Dinner & Tango Show

A cobbled street in San Telmo
A cobbled street in San Telmo

After completing a wonderful adventure in Argentina's deep south, you will be transferred to the El Calafate airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. 

Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, a private car driver will take you to the hotel again where you'll have the rest of the day to sightsee, perhaps taking advantage of anything you may have missed at the beginning of the trip. 

In the evening, it's time for "dinner and a show" of the highest order. You'll savor the hallmark dishes of Argentina while enjoying the most spectacular tango show in Buenos Aires. As the deft performers move to the music of love, sorrow, and passion, you'll dine on flaky empanadas, succulent steak, and decadent dulce de leche (vegetarian options available).

But the night doesn't end with the meal. After dinner, more professional dancers will take part in a show-stopping performance of traditional Argentine folkloric music.

Day 11: Goodbye Buenos Aires!

Goodbye Buenos Aires
Goodbye Buenos Aires

Enjoy your last hours in the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires. At the scheduled time, your driver will pick you up and transfer you by private car to Ezeiza International Airport, where you'll catch your return flight home.

Map

Map of Classic Argentina: Mendoza & Patagonia - 11 Days
Map of Classic Argentina: Mendoza & Patagonia - 11 Days