Designed for outdoor enthusiasts, this active itinerary will take you to the highlights of Argentine Patagonia. After a walking tour and a tango show in Buenos Aires, you'll head to El Calafate where you'll traverse the towering Perito Moreno glacier with a guide.  Next, you'll travel further south in Patagonia to El Chaltén for long hikes near the iconic Mount Fitz Roy. Then, you'll visit the charming city of Bariloche for a kayak tour on Lake Macardi.

Highlights

  • Kick off the trip with dinner and a tango show in Buenos Aires
  • Traverse the surface of Perito Moreno Glacier on a guided glacier hike
  • Hike around El Chaltén and enjoy views of the iconic peaks of Mt. Fitz Roy
  • Visit the forest where Walt Disney gained inspiration
  • Kayak around Lago Mascardi and enjoy a nature hike all in the same day

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Explore Buenos Aires Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show Buenos Aires
Day 3 Boat Excursion to Tigre Buenos Aires
Day 4 Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 5 Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 6 Glacier Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 7 Free Day in El Calafate El Calafate
Day 8 Transfer to El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 9 Full Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 10 Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 11 Free Day in El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 12 El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to Bariloche Bariloche
Day 13 Half-Day Excursion to Isla Victoria Bariloche
Day 14 Kayaking & Trekking on Mascardi Lake Bariloche
Day 15 Activities around Bariloche Bariloche
Day 16 Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Explore Buenos Aires

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 famous for its mix of European ambiance and Latin American zest for life. The birthplace of Argentina's rich tango heritage, home to some of the most beautiful architecture and the richest museums, and the nucleus of its fútbol (soccer) culture—a sport for which Argentinians have unbridled enthusiasm.

When you arrive at the airport—most likely Ezeiza International—your driver will take you to your hotel where you will have the chance to recharge from the journey. Once you're rested up, be sure to venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore. The city center is your best starting point.

Suggested activities include:

  • Admire Plaza de Mayo, the city's oldest and most important square, and a site of both celebrations and protests. The plaza is ringed by ornate government buildings, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the 1580 town hall. In the middle of the landscaped plaza, the Pirámide de Mayo was built in 1811 as a monument to the May Revolution of 1810, which gave the nation independence from Spain.
  • Visit the Obelisco, which might be the most famous landmark in the city. Erected in 1936, the stone obelisk commemorates the 400th anniversary of the city's founding. Sitting right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, and boasting a whopping 16 lanes, makes 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. You can take a tour through the incredibly elaborate opera house or watch a show here. The Colon's stunning neoclassical facade has been regarded as one of the most beautiful buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
  • Stroll through Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood adjacent to Buenos Aires' downtown. Puerto Madero is known as the "new money" financial center of Buenos Aires. There is a lively walking route worth exploring and a canal lined with bars and restaurants. Enjoy a romantic stroll over the canal on the Puente de la Mujer at sunset—the innovative, modern footbridge swings open to allow boat traffic to pass.
  • Dine at an Argentine steakhouse, or parilla. When dinnertime arrives, enjoy an authentic 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).  Plan on dining late—Buenos Aires' culture thrives after dark, and it's common to have dinner after 9 pm, especially on weekends. 

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

Views of Teatro Colon
Views of Teatro Colon

After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of the city of Buenos Aires,  Argentina’s history and culture. During this 3-hour 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 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 visiting the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. After, you'll stop by the city's original port, La Boca.

In the evening, enjoy a delicious meal accompanied by glasses of wine and a tango performance, one of Argentina's most well-known cultural highlights. After this spectacular show, you'll head back to your hotel to for a good nights rest.

Day 3: Boat Excursion to Tigre

The canals of Tigre
The canals of Tigre

Today you will travel up the Río de la Plata to the point where it converges with the Paraña River Delta, which is comprised of a series of islands, about an hour north of Buenos Aires. During the boat ride, enjoy views of the city skyline from the deck. You will enter a network of freshwater canals and sail among the many islands that make up this unique region. 

The main port on these canals is in Tigre, a Venetian-style village whose small-town, relaxing atmosphere stand in stark contrast to Buenos Aires' bustling energy.  You'll spend the better part of the day so enjoy free time to stroll the waterfront, stop in at the cafés and bistros, visit the museums, and experience this riverside gem any way you like. 

Suggested activities include:

  • Browse Puerto de Frutos. Right on the water, you'll find the "Port of Fruits," a maze of craft markets, produce stalls, artisanal goods, and even garden centers. You're sure to find the perfect snack or souvenir to appeal to your tastes and interests. 
  • See the town on a tour bus. The Bus Turistico is a hop on/hop off tour bus that covers the basic highlights of Tigre as it drives along the waterfront. The circuit lasts about an hour and is a quick and relaxing way to get to know this town.
  • Visit Tigre's museums. The Museo de Arte is the most popular house in the Belle Epoch-inspired Tigre Club and features a grand collection of Argentine art spanning two centuries. The Naval Museum and the Museo de Maté are other highlights worth a visit. The latter is a fun little place that offers an overview of maté (a herb cultivated in the Paraná region of the country for tea) with tastings at their "mate bar."

After a day discovering this town, board a train back to Buenos Aires. Your tour officially ends at the Retiro station, where you'll have the rest of the evening to explore on your own.

Day 4: Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate

Sunset in El Calafate
Sunset in El Calafate

In the morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and take you to the airport for your flight to El Calafate. Known as the gateway to Argentina's glaciers, the city is located on the shores of Lago Argentino, the nation's biggest freshwater lake. If possible, select 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 wander around and enjoy the quaint cafés and souvenir shops around town. You can 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. Don a coat, boots, and gloves to enjoy a drink at the museum's Glaciobar BrancaIt, Argentina's first ice bar.

Day 5: Perito Moreno Glacier Trek

Hiking Perito Moreno
Hiking Perito Moreno

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be taken to Los Glaciares National Park. Entering the park, you'll catch your first glimpse of the majestic glacier, Perito Moreno. This expansive ice mass flows down from the Andes Mountains into the waters of Lago Argentino, ending abruptly in a great wall curving around the lake. With a little luck and patience, you may witness "calving," the inspiring sight of ice breaking off the facade and crashing into the calm waters below. When ice hits the water, a thundering crash will reverberate in your ears. 

Believe it or not, you'll be trekking on top of this glacier—your full-day excursion involves walking over the ice while fully equipped with crampons and an ice ax. Traversing Perito Moreno is an amazing adventure, and a perfectly safe one, as you'll be accompanied by certified bilingual guides who know the terrain intimately. Enjoy the thrill of crossing over deep blue ice crevices and hiking over meltwater streams as you experience Perito Moreno up close. 

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 boardwalks that run along the shores of the lake and offer the best vantage points to see sweeping views of the glacier.

Day 6: 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 have the opportunity 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 begins with a transfer to Punta Bandera Harbor where you'll hear a quick safety speech. Then, you'll board a modern catamaran 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. Entering theSpegazzini Channel you'll see the Seco Glacier, a retreating wall of ice that is perpetually moving inland from the lakeshore and eventually you'll reach Spegazzini. With ice walls 442 feet (135 m) tall, just being near this towering behemoth is enough to make you shiver.  

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

Day 7: Free Day in El Calafate

Take an excursion to Reserva Laguna Nimez.
Take an excursion to Reserva Laguna Nimez.

Today, you have a free day to explore El Calafate. Arrange a spa treatment at a resort or head out and find more adventures in and around El Calafate, such as horseback riding on a ranch or joining a kayaking tour.

For a break from the glaciers, you can also take a short 15-minute walk from El Calafate to the Reserva Laguna Nimez ecological reserve. This protected area is a haven for a great variety of birds, including the Chilean flamingo. A self-guided walk takes visitors around the whole reserve on the boardwalk. 

Besides the Glaciarium, you can visit the town's history museum: Centro de Interpretación Histórica. Covering the history of Patagonia since the Ice Age, the museum offers useful information on glaciers, as well as dinosaurs, extinct animals, Indigenous Peoples, and the formation of other geographical landscapes.

Day 8: Transfer to El Chaltén

Welcome to El Chaltén with views of Mt Fitz Roy
Welcome to El Chaltén with views of Mt 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 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.

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 around.

Day 9: Full Day Hike to Laguna de Los Tres & Mt. Fitz Roy

Hikers near Laguna de los Tres
Hikers near 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 the route you take.  You'll most likely hike to Laguna de los Tres today. 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 10: Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén

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

Today is yours to enjoy.  You can easily take a self-guided tour and choose from a variety of trails without fear of getting lost since all the paths are clearly marked and well-maintained.

If you have the energy, you can opt for a "day hike," which can last up to 11 hours depending on the route you choose. Trails lead from town up through alpine forests and feature a diverse range of landscapes. One of the most popular full-day treks is to Laguna de los Tres, offering rewarding views of Mount Fitz Roy and its Aguja Poincenot granite spire. 

There are easier trails, too. You can head out on a short, 1.9-mile walk through lenga forests and along the Rio de las Vueltas. This option allows you to see various endemic birds, such as woodpeckers. For even more mountain views, head to the Cerro Torre lookout. Or set out on a two-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. 

In the evening, after a day spent enjoying nature, you'll return to your hotel in time to enjoy a leisurely dinner and a nightcap in El Chaltén.

Day 11: Free Day in El Chaltén

Beautiful views of Laguna Capri
Beautiful views of Laguna Capri

Today you'll have the whole day to discover more of El Chaltén and (if you're still up for it) additional hiking trails at your own pace. In fact, you can choose when and where to go since all the paths are self-guided, clearly marked, and well-maintained.

If you've accomplished major treks in previous days, this is your chance to check out some more relaxing trails that depart from town. For an easier option, there's a short 1.9-mile (3 km) walk with views of lenga forests and the winding Rio de las Vueltas. This option gives you the chance to see all kinds of birds including—if you're lucky—condors and eagles. 

You can also 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 which offers unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif. 

The Salto El Chorrillo is a pretty waterfall located a short walk from town, and the relaxing walk to it runs along flat ground and through a sparse woodland area. There are plenty of rocks to sit and enjoy the serene landscape of water running over a cliff and into a river below.

Another option is to visit the Huemul Glacier, about an hour outside of town. Named after a native deer, the moderately strenuous hike up to the glacier and the lake will bring you through some of the most picturesque scenery in the area, past rivers and streams and through virgin forests. A nice reward is the view of Cerros Torre and Fitz Roy from the top.

When you're done exploring more of the area, head back into town and enjoy some of the best beer in the country. For instance, Don Guerra—a local spot—has a great happy hour and pub food on the menu.

Day 12: El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to Bariloche

Civic Center in downtown Bariloche
Civic Center in downtown Bariloche

In the morning you'll leave your hotel in El Chaltén and transfer to El Calafate by bus. From there you'll take a 2-hour 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.

Founded in 1902,  San Carlos de Bariloche is 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 means jaguar island. The lake straddles the Chilean border, with the city of Bariloche located on the southeast shore.  You'll be able to experience the majesty of this region on nature hikes and excursions.

Upon arrival at Bariloche's airport, a driver will meet you and take you to your hotel. Even though you may be tired from your flight, try to get out and explore the city.  Chalet-style buildings and alpine architecture can be seen on a walk around the city center, which 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 best 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 with decadent desserts, such as 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 surrounding it. Enjoy a drink at the lounge or a meal at the restaurant at the top.

Be sure to sample the local cuisine at dinner, 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 13: 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 take a thirty minute transfer from Bariloche to Puerto Pañuelo, where you'll board 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, including the Antarctic beech.  Some of the Antarctic beeches on Isla Victoria are over 600 years old and are an otherworldly tree defined by its deep red bark and serpentine, moss-covered roots.

Once on the island, you can enjoy it as you wish. There are plenty of hiking trails if you want to immerse yourself in nature. Don't worry about getting lost, as bilingual guides will never be far off. Otherwise, relax on the pebbly beach as you gaze out at the glassy, crystalline waters.

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 leisure. Legend has it that Walt Disney got the inspiration for Bambi's forest after a visit to Los Arrayanes.

Day 14: 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 forty-five 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 jump into your kayak and begin paddling for Playa Leones, a beautiful pebble beach on Mascardi. Once you arrive at this tranquil beach, you'll be able to relax on shore and enjoy the surrounding wilderness.  

Afterward, you'll embark on a hike 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 15: Activities around Bariloche

Choose a kayak ride around the lake
Choose a kayak ride around the lake

Today you can choose between two exciting excursions around Bariloche.

The first option is a Kayak trip on Lago Mascardi. This V-shaped lake lies about 18 miles (30 km) south of Bariloche and is a popular spot due to its calm, glassy waters and pebble beaches. On the drive down you'll be treated to a number of beautiful sights, including Lake Gutierrez and Cerro Catedral—Argentina's premier ski destination. You'll also cross the Continental Divide before arriving on the shores of Lake Mascardi where it meets the Manso River.

This is your starting point from which you will embark on a moderate 2-3-hour kayak excursion. First, you'll navigate through the Tronador (east-west) branch of Mascardi, paddling over turquoise waters and flanked by evergreen forest surrounded by the dramatic mountains of Nahuel Huapi. You’ll stop in at a remote beach to have lunch and relax before paddling back.

Another option is an off-road mountain-biking trip. This excursion follows a route through the suburbs of Bariloche and into the Andes foothills. It's a moderate ride comprised of mostly backroads and dirt tracks, many flat but some with uphill ascents (and one long downhill stretch). Starting from the hotel, you'll transfer to the base of Cerro Catedral to begin the 2-3-hour bike ride.

Along the way, you'll enjoy beautiful panoramic views featuring Lake Gutierrez, Lake Moreno, and the surrounding mountains. Highlights include riding across creeks and visiting Colonia Suiza, a traditional village dotted with chalets that was founded by Swiss pioneers in the late 19th century. The ride finishes with a refreshing beer tasting at a traditional microbrewery.

Day 16: Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure

Goodbye, Argentina!
Goodbye, Argentina!

The tour comes to an end today. A driver will pick you up from your hotel and take you to the airport to return to  Buenos Aires. You'll then go to the international airport where you'll catch your flight home.

Map

Map of Discover Argentine Patagonia: Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chaltén, Bariloche - 16 Days
Map of Discover Argentine Patagonia: Buenos Aires, El Calafate, El Chaltén, Bariloche - 16 Days