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

Highlights

  • Experience the magic of tango in Buenos Aires
  • 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

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 Wine Tour Mendoza
Day 5 Mendoza's High-Altitude Mountain Tour Mendoza
Day 6 Termas de Cacheuta Hot Springs Day-Trip Mendoza
Day 7 Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 8 Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 9 Ice Rivers Express Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 10 Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires 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 Buenos Aires! Known as the "Paris of South America," the capital city of Argentina is defined by passion. This is exemplified in the rich tango heritage and its citizens' limitless enthusiasm for fútbol (soccer), by far 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 break, venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The best starting point is the city center.

Suggested activities include:

  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous monument in 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 one of the widest avenues in South America.

  • Stop by the Teatro Colón, 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 worth stopping to see its exterior architecture. 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 the city. Take a romantic stroll over the canal on the Puente de la Mujer ("Woman's Bridge") at sunset. 

  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse or parilla. When night falls, enjoy a thick, juicy steak (Argentina has some of the best beef in the world) drizzled with famous chimichurri (a garlic, herb, and vinegar sauce). 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

Tango dancers at a flea market in San Telmo
Tango dancers at a flea market 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'll visit the neighborhood of Retiro as well as Avenida 9 de Julio, one of South America’s widest avenues. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colón, 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 MayoAvenida 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 delicious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and a tango performance, which is one of Argentina's most iconic cultural experiences. After this memorable evening, you'll head back to your hotel for a good night's rest before your flight tomorrow.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza 

Independence Square, the biggest and most important square in Mendoza city

Today your driver will pick you up and take you to the airport for your flight to Mendoza. Once you arrive, you'll have the rest of the day free to explore the city and relax. 

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. In addition, you'll find 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 4: Mendoza Wine Tour

Sample some Malbec varietals
Sample some Malbec varietals

It's time to get out and explore beyond the city and discover the region's wine culture. On this tour, 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, there's the history. Over the course of the tour, you will glean insight into how Mendoza became Argentina's premier wine-making region. It began with the Jesuit priests and European immigrants who settled here and combined their wine-making knowledge with the irrigation techniques (canals and ditches) learned from the Huarpe indigenous people, techniques which had helped the Huarpes transform a vast desert into an agricultural oasis. Today, this region is home to renowned wineries producing high-quality varietals that are 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, all of this will be paired with tasting 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 5: 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 6: 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 Cacheuta. 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 7: 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. When it's 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—the 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. One option is to learn more about glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium, a multi-media center has includes and ice museum, and various interactive displays about glaciers. It even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 8: 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 echoes over the lake. 

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 walking on the Perito Moreno is certainly an adventure, it's also perfectly safe, and you'll be accompanied by certified bilingual guides. 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 see 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 9: Ice Rivers Express Boat Tour

Take a cruise through Los Glaciares National Park

Though the Perito Moreno is the main attraction of Los Glaciares National Park, there are other equally-impressive massive glaciers to visit while you're here, especially Spegazzini and Upsala.

With this boat tour, you will get close enough to the glacier walls that you will be able to touch them with 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 view you'll see at the foot of Spegazzini's striking, 442 foot-high wall (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 10: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires 

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 and souvenir shop. Enjoy your final evening in the city and spend time at your leisure. 

Day 11: Goodbye Buenos Aires!

Goodbye Buenos Aires
Goodbye Buenos Aires

Enjoy your last hours in the cosmopolitan capital of Buenos Aires. When it's time, your driver will pick you up and take you 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