Hiking in Patagonia - 15 Days
- Gear up and trek along a massive glacier that is actually advancing
- Get a taste of two Patagonian mountain villages: El Calafate & El Chaltén
- Take day hikes with views of both Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre
- Explore the best sites around Torres del Paine, on foot and boat
- Go canoeing and cruise through the Beagle Channel to finish the trip
|Day 1||Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 3||El Calafate to Los Glaciares - Perito Moreno Glacier Trek||El Calafate|
|Day 4||El Calafate to El Chaltén - Hike to Laguna Capri||El Chalten|
|Day 5||Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy||El Chalten|
|Day 6||Hiking in El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 7||El Chaltén to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 8||El Calafate to Torres del Paine||Torres del Paine|
|Day 9||Hike to the Base of the Paine Massif||Torres del Paine|
|Day 10||Hike the French Valley||Torres del Paine|
|Day 11||Hike to Grey Glacier - Transfer to Puerto Natales||Puerto Natales|
|Day 12||Puerto Natales to Ushuaia||Ushuaia|
|Day 13||Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego||Ushuaia|
|Day 14||Beagle Channel Cruise||Ushuaia|
|Day 15||Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Departure|
Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City
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 walking areas 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 thrives after dark, and it's not uncommon for locals to have dinner well past nine in the evening, especially on weekends.
Day 2: Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate
This morning, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer 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, get a window seat so you can take in 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 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.
Day 3: El Calafate to Los Glaciares - Perito Moreno Glacier Trek
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 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, 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. And while traversing Perito Moreno is certainly an active adventure, it's 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.
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 4: El Calafate to El Chaltén - Hike to Laguna Capri
After breakfast, you will go to the bus station in El Calafate 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 124 miles (200 km) and takes between 3-4 hours. You'll travel predominantly up Ruta 40, the famous Patagonian highway that cuts through great expanses of barren steppe 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 5: Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy
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 a "day hike" means a full-day since most options can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. The hike you'll likely be embarking on this morning is to Laguna de los Tres. The 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 due to the panoramic view 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 much-deserved rest.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 6: Hiking in El Chaltén
Today you'll have the whole day to discover numerous hiking trails at your own pace. 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. In fact, you can choose when and where to go since all the paths are self-guided, clearly marked, and well maintained.
Let it be known that a "day hike" means a full-day since most options can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. If you're up for the challenge, hiking to the foot of Cerro Fitz Roy and Laguna de los Tres is highly recommended for impressive views of Fitz Roy and the whole massif. The trail leads up through an alpine forest, complete with views of Piedras Blancas Glacier, all the way up to the lake. In fact, Laguna de los Tres earned its name due to the panoramic view of the three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre. This trek becomes difficult at the end but is worth the effort—in other words, keep a camera close.
There are many relaxed trails available, too. For an easier option, head out from town on a short 1.9-mile (3 km) walk with views of lenga forests and the Rio de las Vueltas. This option also allows the chance to see all kind of birds including woodpeckers. For more mountain views, head to the Cerro Torre lookout.
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 with more unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif.
No matter how you spend your day in the outdoors, you'll return to your hotel for time to explore more of the bar and restaurant options around El Chaltén.
Day 7: El Chaltén to El Calafate
This morning is your last chance to explore the El Chalten area on this trip. If you haven't done so already, head on an early hike to see the Fitz Roy Massif light up at sunrise. There's also the hiking path that leads to the foot of Cerro Torre complete with amazing views of the namesake lake and glacier.
In the afternoon, you will be picked up from your hotel by a minivan and travel to El Calafate. Arrive in the evening and check into your hotel.
Day 8: El Calafate to Torres del Paine
Today, you'll transfer from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, which takes about 2.5 hours. On the way there, pass through rolling grasslands home to rheas, guanacos, Patagonian hares, and even condors. Make sure to have your passport on hand, as you will cross the border to Chile before ending up at Torres del Paine.
After entering the park through the Laguna Amarga entrance, you'll ride a shuttle to your camp, a comfortable lodge right next to the Torres del Paine—a place that offers some of the most dramatic landscapes in South America. Keep an eye out for wild guanacos as they roam the windy plains. In addition to the namesake mountains, other highlights of the park include:
- Salto Grande: a 213 ft high waterfall
- Laguna Amarga: a water-filled caldera
- Cuernos del Paine: magnificent granite spires in the shape of horns
- Lake Pehoé: a beautiful lake that reflects the Cuernos del Paine
Day 9: Hike to the Base of the Paine Massif
After breakfast, you'll head up to the base of the Torres del Paine towers on one of the most popular hiking routes in the park. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. However, the stunning views at the base of the Paine massif make it well worth the effort.
The trekking route covers 11 miles (18 km) and lasts about nine hours. Every step of the way you will enjoy views of beautiful scenery comprised of rivers, native forest, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. You'll likely even spot some impressive local avian varieties, like condors and black eagles.
Your route will begin at the Las Torres Hostel and will take you over the Ascencio River, at which point you'll ascend about 1.5 miles (2.5 km) to a lookout featuring panoramic views of the valley below and the surrounding mountains. Then you'll continue through sections of lenga forest until the remaining 45-minute stretch, which is a steep ascent that involves a hard scramble over a moraine to the final path leading up to the viewpoint.
This is the hardest portion of the hike, however, once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine Massif and stare up at the nearby Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) jutting into the sky, you'll likely forget all about your exhaustion. Upon arrival, you’ll have ample time to rest by the lagoon and marvel at the amazing rock formations as you enjoy a delicious picnic lunch.
Afterward, you'll begin the return trip back down the trail. The descent takes approximately four hours and then you'll head to your hotel.
Day 10: Hike the French Valley
Today you will hike into the heart of the park to visit another iconic area of Torres del Paine: French Valley. After breakfast, you will meet your guide and transfer to the Pudeto Ranger Station, located on the shore of Lake Pehoé. From here it's a half-hour catamaran cruise across to the lake where you'll arrive at the trailhead and begin your trek.
The first part of the trail is relatively flat and leads along the north side of Lago Skottsberg to Refugio Italiano, which is located at the bottom of the French Valley. Here you'll break for water and snacks. Afterward, you'll have the option to continue deeper into the French Valley along a steep trail through lenga forest. Roughly 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Italiano, you'll reach a viewpoint near the Horns of Paine that affords wide views of the French Glacier hanging down from Mount Paine Grande. From here we will make our way back to the hotel and you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing.
Day 11: Hike to Grey Glacier - Transfer to Puerto Natales
After an early breakfast this morning, you'll begin a 4-hour hike from Refugio Paine Grande to the Grey Mountain Hut. This is a lovely trek that encompasses lakes, mountains, forests, waterfalls, and rivers in order to get to the impressive Grey Glacier—a giant mass of ice that feeds Grey Lake and the peaks of the Cordon Olguin. You'll cap your Torres del Paine adventure by hopping aboard a boat to cruise through the lake, which gets you even closer to the glacier for great photo ops.
From here, you'll be dropped off at Hosteria Grey where a private transfer will be waiting for you to take you to Puerto Natales (3-4 hours) where you will stay for the night. In the evening, you can relax in your hotel and rest after a long day.
Day 12: Puerto Natales to Ushuaia
Begin today with an early breakfast in Puerto Natales before commencing the big journey to Ushuaia, located at the far southern end of the continent in the Argentine side of Patagonia.
First, you'll board a bus in Puerto Natales, which will make a connection in Punta Arenas. Then, continue by ferry to the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego through the fabled Strait of Magellan. The total trip takes around 14 hours—upon arrival at Ushuaia, you'll make your way to your hotel and get ready for tomorrow's adventure.
Day 13: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego
Today, you'll spend a day in Tierra del Fuego National Park, one of the most frequently visited places around Ushuaia. It's close to the city and isn't expensive to enter, which means it's wide open for locals and visitors alike. There are many wonders within its 155,000 acres, so you'll want an experienced guide to show you the best hikes, lakes, and lookout points.
On this day trip, you'll have a specialized guide to help you discover the natural beauty within the park. You'll get to know the ins and outs of this protected paradise, from seaside mountains to freshwater rivers to subantarctic forests and tranquil bays.
You'll depart from your hotel by minibus for the short ride to the entrance of Ushuaia National Park. Then it's a 4.3 mile (7 km) hike on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel. You'll have prime views of the channel along the way, but you'll also get to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna of the area. You'll also pass remnants of ancient settlements once occupied by the Yámana indigenous people.
After this brisk three-hour trek, you'll reach Lago Roca where you can relax and enjoy a hot lunch. Then it's time to start the canoe ride down the Lapataia River. This waterway leads to your ultimate destination, Lapataia Bay. Located in the Beagle Channel, it sits at the end of the Pan American Highway and Nacional Route No. 3.
Day 14: Beagle Channel Cruise
After breakfast in Ushuaia, head to the pier to board a boat for a local cruise. Today's excursion sails through the Beagle Channel, one of the region’s most important waterways named after the HMS Beagle, a 19th-century British ship that once carried Charles Darwin to South America.
As you pass through the channel, you'll get breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Ushuaia and the entire bay. Be on the lookout for sightings of diverse marine wildlife such as cormorants and sea lions, especially near the Lobo and De Los Pajaros islands. If the winds are calm, you can even hop ashore on one of the islands’ bridges, collect giant shells, and see the opposite coast which stretches across both Chile and Argentina. Before making your way back to Ushuaia, see the famous Les Eclaireurs, the so-called "Lighthouse at the End of the World".
Day 15: Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Departure
This morning, head to the Ushuaia airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, then connect to your international flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!