Perfect for active travelers, this 12-day itinerary highlights both Argentine Patagonia and Argentina's Lake District. You'll begin in El Calafate, the heart of Patagonia, to explore the region's impressive landscapes, including the towering Perito Moreno glacier. Then, you'll travel to El Chaltén to enjoy day hikes and stunning vistas featuring the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. Top it all off in the beautiful Lake District with a visit to Bariloche, where you'll be treated to tasty hot chocolate as well as hiking and kayaking adventures.

Highlights

  • Hike on the surface of the famous Perito Moreno glacier
  • Tour Lago Argentino by boat and visit many 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 City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 4 Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 5 Punta Bandera Harbor - Glacier Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 6 Transfer to El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 7 Full Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 8 Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 9 El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to Bariloche Bariloche
Day 10 Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria Bariloche
Day 11 Kayaking & Trekking on Mascardi Lake Bariloche
Day 12 Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

The Obelisco in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco 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 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 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 landmark 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 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 comes alive after dark, and it's common for locals to have dinner after 9pm, especially on weekends. 

Day 2: Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show

Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo
Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating 3-hour tour about the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s history and culture. During the tour, you'll visit the neighborhood of Retiro and Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. 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 Mayo, Avenida 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 scrumptious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and a tango performance, which is one of Argentina's most iconic, cultural highlights. After this memorable experience, you'll head back to your hotel to relax for the night.

Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate

Beautiful views of Lago Argentino
Beautiful views of Lago Argentino

In the morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and take 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, choose a window seat to enjoy 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 to enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. You can also learn about nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium, a multi-media center that has an ice museum, various interactive displays, and educational information regarding glaciers. It even has a bar made totally of ice.

Day 4: Perito Moreno Glacier Trek

Hikers trekking Perito Moreno
Hikers 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 into 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 will reverberate in your 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. Traversing Perito Moreno is an adventure, it's perfectly safe as 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 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 5: Punta Bandera Harbor - Glacier Boat Tour

Get up-close views of the glaciers by boat
Get up-close views of 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 of these on a full-day boat excursion around Lago Argentino. In fact, you will get so close to the glaciers' walls that you'll practically be able to reach out and touch them.

The morning starts with a transfer to Punta Bandera Harbor where you'll hear a quick speech about safety. You'll then board a modern catamaran in the mid-morning 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 442 feet (135 m) 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 6: Transfer to El Chaltén

Up-close vistas of Mount Fitz Roy
Up-close vistas of Mount Fitz Roy

After breakfast, head to the bus station in El Calafate to board a bus to El Chaltén. This is a northbound journey that covers about 124 miles and takes between 3-4 hours. Ride along Ruta 40, the famous Patagonian highway that cuts through great expanses of barren steppe, and affords views of snowy peaks on the horizon.

Eventually, the popular tourist town of El Chaltén will be in sight. The second you arrive, its appeal is apparent. 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.

Day 7: Full Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy

View from Laguna de los Tres
View from Laguna de los Tres

Today you'll set out on a full-day outing in Los Glaciares National Park. El Chaltén is the perfect starting point for hiking because there are a number of trailheads that start just outside of town. Many of these lead into the Fitz Roy range and offer wonderful opportunities for day hikes.

A "day hike" here means a full day of hiking, since most trails can take up to 11 hours to complete, depending on which route you take. The hike you'll most likely take today goes to Laguna de los Tres. The trail leads up through an alpine forest—where you'll have beautiful views of Piedras Blancas Glacier—and all the way up to the lake. Laguna de los Tres earned its name from the panoramic view it offers of the three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.

At the end of this 16-mile (26 km) hike, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén for a well-earned rest.

Day 8: Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén

Admire the view from Laguna de los Tres
Admire the view from Laguna de los Tres

Today, the day is yours to discover numerous hiking trails at your own pace. You can choose when and where to go since all the paths are self-guided, clearly marked, and well-maintained.

If you're up for it, go for a "day hike," which can last up to 11 hours, depending on the route you choose. Trails lead up from town and through alpine forests, with a diverse range of landscapes along the way. One of the most popular full-day treks is to Laguna de los Tres, with rewarding views of Mount Fitz Roy, the Poincenot, and the Torre.

There are easier trails, too. For an easier option, head out on a short 1.9-mile walk with views of lenga forests and the Rio de las Vueltas. This option also allows you to see all kinds of birds, including woodpeckers. For more mountain views, head to the Cerro Torre lookout. Or, set out on a 2-hour brisk hike amid the native forest, to a lagoon with deep blue waters. This is Laguna Capri—a lake that sits at the foot of the mountains with unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif. 

No matter how you spend your day outdoors, make sure to return to your hotel in time to enjoy restaurant and bar options in El Chaltén.

Day 9: El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to Bariloche

Civic Center in downtown Bariloche
Civic Center in downtown Bariloche

Today is 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 on a flight north (about two hours) 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. The name 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. This region is beautiful and you'll be able to experience its majesty on nature hikes and excursions.

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, 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 and near the waterfront. Here you'll experience all the buzzing commerce of the city, including souvenir shops, clothing stores, and confectioners.

  • 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, which differs considerably from Buenos Aires. Wild boar and lake trout are regional fare and are popular and delicious, as is the fondue—a culinary addition first introduced by the city's Swiss immigrants.

Day 10: 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 to Puerto Pañuelo, taking 30 minutes, 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 wish. There are hiking trails if you want to exercise and immerse yourself in nature. Otherwise, pull up a seat on a pebbly beach and relax as you gaze out at the glassy, crystalline waters. Don't fear about getting lost, as bilingual guides will be nearby. 

After the island, you'll visit the Quetrihué Peninsula portion of Los Arrayanes National Park. This relatively small park (just 17.3 square kilometers/6.7 square miles) 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 skyward like long fingers reaching for the sky. Wooden walkways cut through the park, so you can enjoy the forest at your own pace. Legend has it that Walt Disney got the inspiration for Bambi's forest after a visit to Los Arrayanes.

Day 11: Kayaking & Trekking on Mascardi Lake

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

Today is a special day with 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 get 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 forests 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 in the late afternoon.

Day 12: Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina!
Goodbye, Argentina!

Having experienced Argentina's unforgettable south, you will transfer from your hotel to the airport for a flight to Buenos Aires. You'll then transfer to the international airport where you'll catch your flight home. Adios!

Map

Map of Discovering Argentine Patagonia: Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chaltén, Bariloche - 12 Days
Map of Discovering Argentine Patagonia: Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chaltén, Bariloche - 12 Days