- See the highlights of Buenos Aires on walking tours
- Get up close to the thundering falls at Iguazú
- Embark on memorable Patagonian hikes in El Chaltén
- Visit the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier
- Conquer the trails in Chile's famous Torres del Paine
|Day 1||Arrive in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Optional Activities||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Free Day in Buenos Aires||Buenos Aires|
|Day 3||Fly to Puerto Iguazú, Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)||Puerto Iguazú|
|Day 4||Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side)||Puerto Iguazú|
|Day 5||Fly to El Calafate, Transfer to El Chaltén||El Chaltén|
|Day 6||Self-Guided Hike in El Chaltén||El Chaltén|
|Day 7||Transfer to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 8||Perito Moreno Glacier Tour||El Calafate|
|Day 9||Transfer to Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)||Torres del Paine|
|Day 10||Day Hike in Torres del Paine||Torres del Paine|
|Day 11||Transfer to Punta Arenas||Punta Arenas|
|Day 12||Fly to Coyhaique via Puerto Montt||Coyhaique|
|Day 13||Full-Day Queulat National Park Tour||Coyhaique|
|Day 14||Transfer to Puerto Río Tranquilo||Puerto Río Tranquilo|
|Day 15||Marble Caves Kayak Tour||Puerto Río Tranquilo|
|Day 16||Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas||Puerto Varas|
|Day 17||Day Trip to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park||Puerto Varas|
|Day 18||Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park||Puerto Varas|
|Day 19||Transfer to Pucón||Pucón|
|Day 20||Lagunas Andinas Trekking||Pucón|
|Day 21||Fly to Santiago, Depart|
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires (Argentina), Optional Activities
Welcome to Argentina! South America's second-largest country is a land of natural wonders, frontier culture, fine wine, and sizzling steak. Visitors are immediately hooked, particularly after catching their first glimpse of Buenos Aires. The nation's capital is unique because its spirit is wholly Latin American, while its grand facade exudes European charm. You'll experience it yourself when you walk down wide boulevards lined with historic Baroque and neoclassical architecture.
When you arrive, a driver will pick you up at the terminal for the transfer to your hotel. After checking in, you can embark on a self-guided tour, starting at the famous Obelisco monument. Located in the heart of the city, it sits in the middle of 9 de Julio Ave, the world's widest city street (it spans a whopping 16 lanes). From there, you can walk to the Teatro Colón. This neoclassical opera house has been one of the most handsome buildings in Buenos Aires since its opening in 1908.
Head east from the opera house to Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood. Nearby is the pink-hued Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace), while farther south, you can stroll the cobbled streets of romantic San Telmo, the oldest neighborhood in the city. When dinnertime arrives, do like the locals and head to a parrilla (steakhouse) to enjoy a thick, juicy steak drizzled with chimichurri sauce.
Day 2: Free Day in Buenos AiresYou'll have the entire day free to wander around the city on your own. Perhaps start the day with a traditional Porteño breakfast of coffee and medialunas (half-moon-shaped pastries). Then, you can explore some of Buenos Aires' famous barrios (neighborhoods). Palermo is a trendy district known for its excellent restaurant scene and expansive city parks. Recoleta is an old-money enclave defined by its Baroque buildings and famous cemetery. It's the final resting place of some of the country's most prominent historical figures, including Eva Perón.
Day 3: Fly to Puerto Iguazú, Explore Iguazú Falls (Brazilian Side)
In the morning, you'll transfer back to the airport and catch a two-hour flight to the far north of Argentina. You'll arrive in Puerto Iguazú, located in tropical Misiones province at the tri-borders with Brazil and Paraguay. This city is the gateway to Iguazú Falls, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the second-largest waterfall system in the world after Victoria Falls. Needless to say, it's one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of South America.
At the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. There's no time to waste, as you'll head out to discover Iguazú Falls National Park. On a half-day tour, you'll visit the Brazilian side (as opposed to the Argentine side) of the falls. It's an excellent introduction to Iguazú, as the Brazilian side offers easily accessible viewpoints without the extensive walking required on the Argentine side.
First, transfer to the visitor center at the park entrance. There, you'll hop on a bus for a 30-minute ride through tropical forest to a lookout point offering great views of the falls on the Argentine side. Then, it's a short hike along the Río Iguazú to the Brazilian side. The walkway passes over the river to the Salto Floriano (Floriano Falls) and affords more great views of the lower Iguazú. This excursion also allows you to acclimate to the warmer weather—temperatures here top 90°F (32°C) in the summer months).
Day 4: Explore Iguazú Falls (Argentine Side)
Today you'll come face to face with the grand spectacle of Mother Nature that is Iguazú. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the ride into Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. Here, you'll begin your full-day tour in the subtropical forest. Your bilingual guide will point out some animals that live here, including coatis, capuchin monkeys, and various birds like antbirds, toucans, manakins, and parrots.
Continue the hike along both lower and upper walkways that weave around the cascades (prepare to get wet!). One highlight is traversing the boardwalk at the top of Iguazú to the famous Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), one of the largest of Igauzu's falls. From a viewing area, you can peer over the edge and see the thundering falls plunge 262 feet (89 m) to the river below (an experience not for the faint of heart). At the end of the tour, a driver will pick you up and take you back to your hotel in Puerto Iguazú.
Day 5: Fly to El Calafate, Transfer to El Chaltén
After breakfast at the hotel, you'll transfer to the airport in Iguazú and catch a flight back to Buenos Aires. Once there, you'll board a connecting flight three hours south to El Calafate. Welcome to Patagonia! Known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, this charming town is located on the shores of Lago Argentino, the nation's biggest freshwater lake. Select a window seat to enjoy stunning views of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field as you fly over it.
However, El Calafate isn't your final destination today. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the three-hour transfer north to El Chaltén. This town lies above Lago Viedma and is a hub for some of the best mountain hikes in Patagonia. If the skies are clear on the drive in, you'll have incredible views of Mount Fitz Roy, the toothlike 11,020-foot (3,359 m) granite mountain that looms over El Chaltén. Once in town, you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day free. Perhaps enjoy a relaxing evening out at one of El Chaltén's many restaurants and craft beer bars.
Day 6: Self-Guided Hike in El Chaltén
Today you get to choose your own wilderness adventure on a self-guided hike. The area surrounding El Chaltén offers a wide range of hiking paths with varying difficulty levels, all of which are maintained and well-marked. One easy option that leaves right from town is the 1.9-mile (3 km) walk to Cerro Torre viewpoint, which takes about an hour. Here, you can enjoy views of the Río Las Vueltas and lenga beech forests. This area is home to many types of birds, including woodpeckers, finches, and the rare Andean condor.
If you aren't ready to turn around just yet, continue up to Laguna Torre. This eight-hour hike leads to the lake and an impressive viewpoint looking out to Mount Fitz Roy and the emerald waters of Laguna de los Tres. An alternative itinerary is to wake up before dawn and hike up to Laguna de los Tres in time to see the sunrise, which turns the surrounding peaks fiery shades of vermillion. It's a memorable sight.
Day 7: Transfer to El CalafateAfter breakfast, a driver will pick you up for the ride back to El Calafate. Check into your hotel, then enjoy a free day relaxing in town and giving your muscles a break after all that hiking. Take this time to browse the local shops and dine at some fine local restaurants. Be sure to sample the local cuisine, like roast Patagonian lamb, and Argentine staples like ojo de bife (ribeye steak) and empanadas. You'll want to wash it down with a glass or two of malbec from the Mendoza wine region.
Day 8: Perito Moreno Glacier Tour
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Meet your driver in the morning and head out on a tour of Los Glaciares National Park. The ride there takes about an hour, and as you enter the park, you'll catch your first glimpse of the mighty Perito Moreno. This expansive glacier flows down from the Andes over the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino, ending 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.
Upon arrival, you can admire Perito Moreno from several different vantage points via the network of wooden walkways strategically situated in front of it. Even better, you'll have the option for a boat ride to get up close to its massive ice walls, which reach heights of 198 feet (60 m). After a day on the water and wandering the boardwalks around Perito Moreno, you'll transfer back to El Calafate.
Day 9: Transfer to Torres del Paine (Chile)
Wake up early and meet your driver for the 4.5-hour ride south into Chile and Torres del Paine National Park. This legendary protected area covers 700 square miles (1,810 sq km) in Chilean Patagonia and is renowned for its circuit treks. These day hikes and multi-day excursions take visitors around a landscape of unspoiled mountains, lakes, glaciers, valleys, and more. Upon arrival, you'll check into your lodge in the park and can spend the day relaxing. Make sure to get plenty of rest—you're going hiking tomorrow.
Day 10: Day Hike in Torres del Paine
If you like, rise at dawn to enjoy sunrise views over Torres del Paine. Eat a hearty breakfast because today you have your choice of excursions. If you'd prefer a half-day trip, scenic, easy hikes will take you around famous lakes and glaciers in the park. These include stops at famous landmarks like Salto Grande, a raging aquamarine cascade that channels water between the lakes of Nordenskjöld and Pehoé.
Or you can opt for a full-day trek. The most famous is the hike to Base Torres. This 11.2-mile (18 km) excursion begins on a scenic trail up Mount Almirante Nieto, which features expansive views of Nordenskjöld and the Asencio Valley below. After two hours of hiking, you'll reach Refugio & Camping Chileno, where you'll break for lunch.
Then it's another hour of hiking past ancient lenga forests until you arrive at a moraine. The next part is a 45-minute hard scramble to the top and Mirador Base Torres. In this spot, three granite pillars jut out of the ground over a silver lagoon and make for the best view in the park. You'll also see the towering peaks of nearby Torre Sur, Condor's Nest, and Glacier Torre. After admiring the views, you'll hike back down the trail.
Day 11: Transfer to Punta Arenas
Meet your driver this morning and leave Torres del Paine on a four-hour drive south to Punta Arenas. This major transport hub is located 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 crème de la crème of Patagonian society.
Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel. Then, if you like, you can spend the rest of the day exploring. The perfect starting point for a walk around town is the Plaza Muñoz Gamero. 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) but it's surrounded by grand neoclassical mansions once owned by the moneyed sheep-ranching families of the 19th century.
If you like, watch the sun go down at Mirador Cerro de la Cruz. This viewpoint overlooks the city out to the Strait of Magellan. It's a great place to see your first Patagonian sunset. Later, enjoy dinner at one of the restaurants in town. 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 12: Fly to Coyhaique via Puerto Montt
This morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Punta Arenas and catch a two-hour flight north to Puerto Montt. This city in southern Chile is the gateway to the scenic Lake District and its famous volcanoes. Also, Puerto Montt is the location of the start of the Carretera Austral, the 770-mile (1,240 km) scenic highway that passes through some of the most beautiful parts of Patagonia.
Upon arrival, you'll board a connecting flight one hour south to Coyhaique. Located in Chile's unspoiled Aysén region and surrounded by snowcapped peaks and glacial rivers, this city is a hub for exploring the wilderness of Patagonia. You'll embark on just such an adventure tomorrow.
Day 13: Full-Day Queulat National Park Tour
Meet your guide in the morning and transfer north from Coyhaique to Queulat National Park. This pristine natural gem covers 1,541 square miles (3,989 sq km) in Chile's Aysén region and boasts much cultural significance. It's the ancestral home of the Chono, a now-extinct people who, for thousands of years, navigated the waterways and channels of this region in canoes, hunting and fishing. The name "Queulat" is actually a Chono word meaning "sound of waterfalls."
You'll discover the park's many highlights on a full-day tour. Led by your guide, you'll hike along park trails through native lenga forests, passing alongside fjords and rivers and scrambling over rocks on your way up to gorgeous waterfalls. Along the way, you'll spot exotic wildlife denizens of the forest, like black woodpeckers, Andean armadillos, and huemuls (Andean deer). You'll return to your hotel in Coyhaique at the end of the day.
Day 14: Transfer to Puerto Río Tranquilo
Hit the road again in the morning on a four-hour scenic transfer south to Puerto Río Tranquilo. This remote town is located on the north shore of Lago General Carrera, Chile's largest lake, which straddles the border with Argentina. This vast glacial lake is renowned for its vivid turquoise waters, picturesque surroundings, and the distinctive marble caves along its shoreline.
The drive down to Puerto Río Tranquilo may be long, but it's packed with dramatic scenery as you make your way through Cerro Castillo National Park and its thick Nothofagus forest, passing Laguna Chiguay and into the Río Murta Valley before reaching the azure waters of General Carrera. Once in town, you'll check into your accommodation for the night.
Day 15: Marble Caves Kayak Tour
Day 16: Fly to Puerto Montt, Transfer to Puerto Varas
In the morning, you'll transfer north by vehicle to the airport in Balmaceda village. There, you'll catch a flight back to Puerto Montt. Upon arrival, another driver will pick you up for the 30-minute ride north to the town of Puerto Varas. Here, you'll check into your hotel and then enjoy lunch.
After eating, you can head out for a walk around town. This charming village sits on the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue and contains a captivating mix of German architecture and Indigenous Mapuche heritage. You certainly won't miss the snowcapped cone of Osorno, an 8,700-foot (2,652 m) stratovolcano that looms large over Llanquihue.
Day 17: Day Trip to Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Today, you'll meet a driver and head out to explore the wonders of Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. The country's oldest national park spans 2,260 square miles (5,845 sq km) in Chile's Lake District and is famous for its diverse landscapes. These include dense forests, glacial lakes, and the iconic Petrohué Waterfalls.
The park tour will take you up 4,068 feet (1,240 m) to the Osorno Mountain Ski Center. Here, you'll enjoy panoramic views out to Osorno as well as the Cabulco volcano looming over the shimmering lake below. From here, you can take a chair lift higher up to a couple more great viewpoints.
Then you'll head down and embark on a hike through evergreen forest to the Saltos del Petrohué, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. The trail follows the Río Petrohué and features more incredible views of Osorno. From the falls, continue to Lago Todos Los Santos, where you can enjoy a relaxing sailboat ride across glassy waters fringed by mountains and volcanoes. At the end of the day, you'll return to your hotel.
Day 18: Trekking in Alerce Andino National Park
After breakfast, transfer back to Puerto Montt by vehicle. Then it's another 30 minutes south to the coastal town of Lenca, the gateway to Alerce Andino National Park. This 151-square-mile (393 sq km) rainforest biosphere is bounded by an estuary and filled with hiking trails winding up soaring mountains and around glassy lakes and wetlands.
The trail you'll follow today runs along the edge of the Río Chaicas. The scenery in this part of the Lake District is nothing short of spectacular. You'll pass through great swaths of temperate forests abounding with mañio, tepa, arrayán, and alerce trees. You'll also stop at Chaiquenes and Triangulo—two tranquil mountain lagoons that happen to be great spots for bird-watching (keep an eye out for kingfishers and black woodpeckers). At the end of the trek, you'll return to Puerto Varas.
Day 19: Transfer to PucónIn the morning, board a bus for a four-hour scenic transfer north to Pucón, located at the edge of the Lake District in Chile's Araucania region. This famous village sits on the shore of Lago Villarrica in the shadow of the towering Villarrica volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in South America. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can spend the rest of the day relaxing on the lakeshore.
Day 20: Lagunas Andinas TrekkingGet ready for the final trekking adventure of this itinerary. In the morning, you'll meet your guide and transfer to Mamuil Malal Pass, a scenic mountain pass located at the border with Argentina. This scenic wilderness area is a bit off the beaten path, yet it offers incredible hiking through its lenga and Araucaria forests. This full-day hike follows a relatively easy forest trail around secluded lakes and lagoons. Besides spotting native wildlife like Magellanic woodpeckers, the trail affords stunning views of the Lanín volcano, whose snowcapped cone rises an impressive 12,293 feet (3,747 m).
Day 21: Fly to Santiago, Depart
Today marks the end of this grand Patagonian adventure. In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport and board a plane to Santiago, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Adiós!
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