This is an active adventure, perfect for those passionate hikers and excursionists who can't get enough of the great outdoors. First, head to El Calafate to explore the region's impressive landscapes, including the towering Perito Moreno glacier. Next, travel to El Chaltén to enjoy day hikes and stunning vistas featuring the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. Top it all off with a visit to the beautiful Lake District to enjoy some hiking and kayaking adventures.

Highlights

  • Hike on the surface of the famous Perito Moreno glacier
  • Tour Lago Argentino by boat and visit even more glaciers
  • Hike around El Chaltén and enjoys views of the iconic peaks of Mt. Fitz Roy
  • Visit Bariloche, the largest city in Argentina's beautiful Lake District
  • Kayak around Lago Mascardi and enjoy a nature hike all in the same day

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires - Flight to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 3 Perito Moreno Tour and Glacier Hike El Calafate
Day 4 Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 5 El Calafate to El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 6 Trekking Mt. Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 7 Free Day in El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 8 El Chaltén to El Calafate & Transfer to Bariloche Bariloche
Day 9 Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria Bariloche
Day 10 Kayak/Trekking on Mascardi Lake - Full Day Bariloche
Day 11 Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

Spend your first day getting a taste of Argentina's capital
Spend your first day getting a taste of Argentina's capital

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 pedestrian areas in a city famous for its paths. 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 - Flight to El Calafate

 Sunset over Lake Argentino from El Calafate
 Sunset over Lake Argentino from El Calafate

After breakfast in Buenos Aires, you'll fly into El Calafate—the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

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.

Watch the Patagonian sunset over the Laguna Nimez Nature Preserve or simply rest up for tomorrow's adventure.

Day 3: Perito Moreno Tour & Glacier Hike

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

You're in for a big day. 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. 

Believe it or not, today you'll trek on top of this glacier. It's a full-day excursion (age-range 10-65) that involves walking over the surface while fully equipped with crampons and an ice ax. And while traversing Perito Moreno is certainly an active adventure, it is 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 and personal. 

During the day you'll also have time to witness the glacier from one of the many viewing platforms in the park. These platforms are accessible via a network of walkways 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 4: Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour

Tour the glaciers by boat
Tour the glaciers by boat

Aside from Perito Moreno, there are a number of other incredible masses of ice in Los Glaciares National Park. You'll get a chance to visit a few others on a full-day boat excursion around Lago Argentino. On this tour, you will be so close to the glaciers' walls that you'll practically be able to reach out and touch them.

In the morning you'll transfer to Punta Bandera Harbor where you'll listen to a quick speech about safety. You'll then board a modern catamaran around 10:30 am and embark on your journey. As you travel north along the frozen waters of Lago Argentino, you'll weave between icebergs as you make your way towards the first site: Upsala Glacier. After crossing the Boca del Diablo (the narrowest part of the lake), you'll enter the Upsala Channel and shortly afterward reach the glacier.

The next destination is the towering Spegazzini Glacier. However, as you enter the Spegazzini Channel you'll first catch a glimpse of the Seco Glacier, a retreating wall of ice that is perpetually moving inland from the lakeshore. Finally, you'll reach Spegazzini. With ice walls 135 meters (442 feet) tall, just being near this towering behemoth will be enough to make you shiver.  

The tour ends with the boat's return to Punta Bandera where you'll transfer back to your hotel.

Day 5: El Calafate to El Chaltén

Journey down the famous Ruta 40, in Patagonia
Journey down the famous Ruta 40, in Patagonia

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 desert 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 6: Trekking Mt. Fitz Roy

Laguna de los Tres
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 most popular of these hikes is to Laguna de los Tres. This 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 7: Free Day in El Chaltén

Hike up to Laguna Torre
Hike up to Laguna Torre

Today, you will have a clear schedule to enjoy El Chaltén and its surrounding region any way you see fit. As you already know, there are a number of great day hikes just outside of town.

A couple recommended treks include:

  • Los Condorés/Los Aguilas. Spanning just six km (3.5 miles), this is the shortest hike in the park and can be completed in 1.5-2 hours. Even though it's a brisk hike, the rewards are many as the trail leads to the two easily accessible viewpoints of Los Condorés and Los Aguilas. From here you'll get good views of the Fitz Roy, Torre, and Adela massifs, as well as the Río de las Vueltas Valley below. 
  • Laguna Torre. This hike is more involved, as it covers 24 km (15 miles) and typically takes 6-7 hours to complete. Therefore it's a good option if you want to spend most of the day on the mountain. Be prepared for a steep trek over the initial hour until you reach the first viewpoint, Mirador Torre. You'll continue along the Fitz Roy River until you reach Laguna Torre, a glacial lake cradled next to the mountain of the same name. Continue along the lake's north shore and you'll reach another viewpoint, Mirador Maestri, which offers great views of the mountain's peak.

Note that any of the trails you find outside of town are going to be well marked and lead to magnificent viewpoints.

Day 8: El Chaltén to El Calafate & Transfer to Bariloche

Bariloche sits on Lago Nahuel Huapi
Bariloche sits on Lago Nahuel Huapi

Prepare yourself for a big travel day. In the morning you'll leave your hotel in El Chaltén and transfer to El Calafate by bus. From there you'll hop a flight north to San Carlos de Bariloche, the main city in Argentina's Lake District. This region is home to some of the most impressive scenery in the 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 native influence in that name, you're correct. It comes from the Mapuche indigenous 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'll likely be tired from your bus ride and flight, 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. Don't miss the famous hot chocolate, too!

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 mountain 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 sample the local cuisine. 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 9: Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria

Take a boat ride on the vivid blue waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi
Take a boat ride on the vivid blue waters of Lago Nahuel Huapi

Today you'll have the pleasure of sailing around Nahuel Huapi Lake on a half-day tour. First, you'll transfer from Bariloche 30 minutes to Puerto Pañuelo, where you'll hop on a catamaran cruise bound for Isla Victoria. This is a little island located on the northern end of the lake and filled with unique flora. One such specimen is the Antarctic beech, an otherworldly tree defined by its deep red bark and serpentine, moss-covered roots. Some of the Antarctic beeches on Isa Victoria are over 600 years old. 

Once on the island, you can enjoy it as you see fit. There are hiking trails here if you feel like a bit of light exercise. Otherwise, pull up a seat on a pebbly beach and commune with nature as you gaze out at the glassy, crystalline waters of the lake. Never fear about getting lost, as bilingual guides will never be far off. 

After the island, you'll visit the Quetrihué Peninsula portion of Los Arrayanes National Park. This relatively small park (just 17.3 square kilometers) is home to a vast arrayán (Chilean myrtle) forest. It's a sight to see, as the thin red stalks of these exotic trees jut skywards like long fingers reaching for the sky. Wooden walkways cut through the park, so you can enjoy the forest at your own pace. We defy you not to be inspired on your walk through the park—legend has it that Walt Disney got the inspiration for Bambi's forest after a visit to Los Arrayanes. 

Day 10: Kayak/Trekking on Mascardi Lake - Full Day

Enjoy lunch on the shore of Lago Mascardi
Enjoy lunch on the shore of Lago Mascardi

This is a special day as you'll get to embark on a combined excursion that mixes kayaking on Lago Mascardi with a nature trek through the forest. The adventure begins with a pickup at your hotel followed by a 45-minute drive south of Bariloche along the famed Ruta 40 to the lake.

Your first destination is a lakeshore campsite owned by the local indigenous community. Here you'll hop into your kayak and begin paddling for Playa Leones, the most beautiful beach on Mascardi. Once you arrive at this tranquil pebble beach you'll be able to relax on shore and enjoy the surrounding wilderness.  

Afterward, you'll embark on a nature trek through native coihue forest until you reach a secluded lagoon. Then it's time to head back to Playa Leones, where you'll enjoy lunch while relaxing on the shore. Finally, you'll kayak back to the starting point and return to Bariloche.

Day 11: Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina
Goodbye, Argentina

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 the country will be waiting for you with open arms should you ever decide to return!