- Explore the Magellan Strait by zodiac
- Hike the famous granite towers of Torres del Paine National Park
- Kayak Lago & Rio Grey
- Admire the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier
- Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mount Fitz Roy
|Day 1||Arrive in Santiago & Fly to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 2||Explore the Wildlife of the Magellan Strait||Punta Arenas|
|Day 3||Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 4||Hike to the Famous Granite Towers in Torres del Paine National Park||Torres del Paine|
|Day 5||Kayak Lago & Rio Grey||Puerto Natales|
|Day 6||Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 7||Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour, Transfer to El Chalten||El Chalten|
|Day 8||Hike to Mount Fitz Roy||El Chalten|
|Day 9||Ice Trekking at Cagliero Glacier||El Chalten|
|Day 10||Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre||El Chalten|
|Day 11||Farewell Patagonia, El Chalten to El Calafate & Departure|
Day 1: Arrive in Santiago & Fly to Punta Arenas
When your international flight to Santiago International Airport touches down, catch your domestic flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, transfer to your hotel and get settled in.
You're now in the major transport hub in one of the most beautiful regions of Chile. Founded in 1848 on the eastern shore of the Brunswick Peninsula, in its heyday, Punta Arenas was home to the creme de la creme of Patagonian society. Today, it's a popular tourist destination that provides easy access to some of the most impressive natural attractions in Patagonia, like Torres del Paine National Park and Magdalena Island. There are also several sites in and around town that deserve your attention.
Suggested activities include:
- Stroll the Plaza Muñoz Guerrero. This is a good starting point for a walk around the city. Not only is this leafy central plaza a gem (the pathways are lined with French street lamps and a statue of Magellan sits in the center), it's surrounded by impressive architecture, like grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the monied sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.
- Tour the Palacio Sara Braun, one of the imposing mansions fronting the plaza. If you want to get an idea of just how much wealth the sheep trade generated in the 19th century, take a tour of this former home. Inside is a testament to luxury in the form of opulent dining halls and billiard rooms.
- Take a seaside walk. In recent years, Punta Arenas has revitalized its waterfront area, so come and enjoy the boardwalks and outdoor spaces, complete with artistic sculptures.
- Visit the Reserva Nacional Magallanes. If you're interested in an active excursion just outside the city, head a few miles west of Punta Arenas to this 33,000-acre forested reserve (known locally as Parque Japonés). The self-guided nature trail lined with lenga and coigue trees makes for a great, brisk hike.
- Watch the sun go down at Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. This viewpoint overlooks the city all the way out to the Strait of Magellan. It's a great place to see your first Patagonian sunset.
Be sure to head out in the evening and enjoy a local dinner. Seafood is a staple, so sample some local specialties, like chupe de centolla (souffle of king crab), as well as oysters, scallops, and other shellfish.
Day 2: Explore the Wildlife of the Magellan Strait
Today's adventure will involve navigating the Magellan Strait in a zodiac boat! Journey to the San Isidro area in search of the beautiful Austral dolphin, a species native to the waters around southern Chile that's known for their unusual black and gray coloring. It's common to find groups of up to 12 adults, and see them swim alongside the boat or soar in their acrobatic jumps. Keep an eye out for sea lion colonies, as well as a variety of sea birds, such as albatross and petrels, and penguins as you hold tight and navigate the choppy seas on this exhilarating excursion.
The trip starts from 7:00 in the morning from Punta Arenas. After you are picked, you'll travel one hour to the launch point where you will enjoy breakfast and gear up in a semi-dry suit. This excursion includes your transport to and from Punta Arenas, complete equipment for the journey, and lunch and snacks, including a glass of local Chilean wine.
The total duration of this trip is 10 hours.
Day 3: Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales
In the morning, catch a bus bound for Puerto Natales. This trip will take about five hours (depending on congestion at the border), and along the way, you'll get your first glimpses of the Patagonian Pampas. If you're lucky, you may spot some of the local wildlife, including guanaco and nandu.
Upon arrival, settle into your accommodation and then head to the Dittmar Adventures office for a trip briefing, where you'll be able to ask any last-minute questions as well as pick up all of your tickets and vouchers for the next few days' adventures.
The small port city of Puerto Natales is the main base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park. It's far less touristic than many other Patagonian hubs and thus retains its air of small-town tranquility. Enjoy the town's simple pleasures, like strolling its waterfront promenade, which sits on the Ultima Esperanza Sound. Facing north from here, you'll see the peaks of Cerro Benitez and Cerro Toro, and the view is phenomenal at sunset. After your walk, check out one of the numerous restaurant options in town for dinner.
Day 4: Hike to the Famous Granite Towers in Torres del Paine National Park
Hop on a bus from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (Laguna Amarga Main Entrance) this morning. The total distance is 70 miles (112 km), and the drive takes about two hours, with a short stop at Cerro Castillo Village. The scenery along the way will be incredible, as you'll get your first glimpses of Torres del Paine's massive peaks as well as some of the local fauna like guanacos.
Arrive at the Laguna Amarga main entrance and register yourself with the park office. Then it's a quick shuttle ride to the Las Torres sector where you'll check-in and leave your heavier bags before trekking up the mountain. From here, you'll hike up Mt. Almirante Nieto, which features stunning views of the Asencio Valley below and Lake Nordenskjold. After two hours of hiking, you'll reach Refugio Chileno, an excellent spot for lunch or a rest.
It's another hour of hiking past ancient lenga forests before arriving at a moraine. The next part is a challenging steep ascent for 45 minutes until you reach the top, which is known as Mirador Base Torres. "Mirador" in English means "viewpoint," and this little section of the mountain, with the Cuernos Del Paine (Horns of Paine) looming over a green lagoon, is the best view in the park. From here, you can also marvel at the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Central Tower, North Tower, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre, all set amidst the sweeping backdrop of the Patagonian highlands.
After spending some time enjoying the views at Base Torres, you'll then hike back to Refugio Torre Central to rest up for the evening.
Hiking Distance: 11.2 Miles (18 km)
Hiking Duration: 8 Hours
Day 5: Kayak Lago & Rio Grey
After breakfast, you'll be picked up by your kayaking guide and take a short transfer to the shores of Lago Grey. After gearing up and brushing up on safety, you'll set said towards the mouth of the lake, to a magnificent iceberg graveyard where chunks of ice that have broken off from Glaciar Grey gather before melting. From here, enjoy spectacular views of the Paine Massif and its western mountain range, as well as the famous Cuernos del Paine.
After you've gotten comfortable with your kayak on the lake, begin your descent onto Rio Grey. You'll start to face some more technical turns and an adventurous paddle through the rapids and canyons of the Grey River, and be rewarded with sweeping views of the Sierra Toro. Upon reaching the Grey Bridge, stop to replenish your energy and enjoy a picnic-style lunch. After lunch, continue paddling towards the confluence of the Serrano River, where you'll meet with the support vehicle again at the Serrano Village and be brought back to Puerto Natales for the evening.
Day 6: Bus from Puerto Natales to El Calafate
In the morning, hop on a bus bound for El Calafate in Argentina and check into a cozy B&B near the center of town. The rest of the afternoon and evening is yours to enjoy as you please. After all your trekking and excursions of the previous days, you'll likely prefer an evening stroll about town and a quiet dinner before hitting the hay and recharging those batteries.
Day 7: Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour, Transfer to El Chalten
Today is devoted to an exciting all-day excursion. Start 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.
While not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is definitely 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 several 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, where you will catch your onward transfer to El Chalten.
Day 8: Hike to Mount Fitz Roy
This morning you'll embark on a full-day excursion into Los Glaciares National Park. With several trailheads just outside of town, El Chaltén is the perfect starting point for treks into the Fitz Roy range and offers fantastic opportunities for day hikes.
Many of these full-day treks can take 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 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 its shores offer panoramic views 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 9: Ice Trekking at Cagliero Glacier
Today's excursion is for the truly adventurous!
After breakfast, you'll be transferred to the Los Huemules Reserve just outside of El Chalten. Start by hiking through a dense lenga forest on a well-maintained trail until you reach the Laguna Diablo. Here you'll gear up for the next part of the trip, a hike that skirts the northern margin of the lake on very irregular terrain until you reach the "via ferrata." This gentle rock climbing route has been prepared with steel wires and artificial steps, so that passengers can move autonomously with specially designed harness belts. Before beginning this section, your guide will provide you with all the necessary equipment and brief you on traverse the moraine safely.
After completing half a mile of the harnessed course, you're rewarded with stunning up-close views of the Cagliero Glacier. From here, your guide will fix each participant with crampons and do a brief lesson of ice hiking. For the next 1-2 hours, you'll explore the glacier on foot, depending on the group's physical level and climatic conditions. After this unrivaled outdoor experience, return the same way you came, on the via ferrata and the forest until you meet your transfer back to El Chalten.
Day 10: Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre
After breakfast, head out of town on foot for a memorable hike to Laguna Torre. 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 11: Farewell Patagonia, El Chalten to El Calafate & Departure
Make sure to take a moment or two to reflect on all the exciting memories you've made over the previous week before saying your farewells to Patagonia today.
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.