- Explore Buenos Aires on foot and hit a steakhouse for dinner
- Walk on Perito Moreno glacier sporting crampons and an ice ax
- Hike to Laguna Capri's bright blue lake surrounded by native forests
- Take a scenic trail to watch the sunrise over Fitz Roy massif
- Trek with a local historian in Bariloche (followed by a beer tasting)
|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 National Park - Perito Moreno Glacier Hike||El Calafate|
|Day 4||El Calafate to El Chaltén - Hike to Laguna Capri||El Chalten|
|Days 5-6||Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén||El Chalten|
|Day 7||El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to Bariloche||Bariloche|
|Day 8||Half-Day Bariloche History & Nature Tour||Bariloche|
|Day 9||Explore the Mountains & Glaciers of Tronador Hill||Bariloche|
|Day 10||Bariloche 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 National Park - Perito Moreno Glacier Hike
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 around three 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.
Days 5-6: Self-Guided Hiking in El Chaltén
Today is your chance to choose your own exciting adventure in the wilderness. The area surrounding El Chaltén—and Los Glaciares National Park, in general—offers a wide range of hiking paths with varying levels of difficulty. You can choose where and when to go since all paths are maintained and well-marked.
One easy option from El Chaltén includes a 1.8-mile (3 km) walk to Cerro Torre viewpoint, which will take you around an hour. Here you can enjoy views of Rio de las Vueltas and lenga forests, and you'll be in the vicinity of all kinds of birds including woodpeckers!
Those who aren't ready to turn around yet can continue all the way to Base Torre—an 8-hour-long hike to an impressive view to Mt. Fitz Roy and the emerald waters of Laguna de los Tres. Though this hike becomes difficult in the end, it’s totally worth it. A local secret: seize the day by waking up early to watch the sunrise at Laguna de los Tres where the peaks often turn bright red—a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nature lovers.
Day 7: El Chaltén to El Calafate - Transfer to 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. 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. 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. 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. You'll find that it differs considerably than what's typically found in Buenos Aires. 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 8: Half-Day Bariloche History & Nature Tour
This morning, you'll partake in an active history lesson with a guided tour in and around Bariloche. Along the way, he or she will explain the legacy of the city and its surrounding locales. This tour comprises a classic circuit that covers the city as well as some of the most famous viewpoints outside of it, like Cerro Campanario and the Llao Llao Peninsula. The former offers panoramic views of Lago Nahuel Huapi from its summit, while the latter is the site of the most impressive hotel in the country, Hotel Llao Llao.
Over the course of this tour, your guide will explain how San Carlos de Bariloche evolved relatively quickly from a small mountain village into one of the most attractive and popular cities in Argentina. As you experience the natural beauty of the region and hike around its terrain, you'll begin to understand why Bariloche was voted Argentina's national capital of adventure tourism. At the end of the tour, you'll visit a local microbrewery for lunch and a beer tasting—a fun way to end the excursion!
Day 9: Explore the Mountains & Glaciers of Tronador Hill
Today, you'll experience the spectacular scenery in and around Tronador Hill. This is a bit of misnomer though since Tronador is less of a hill and more like the tallest mountain in the Andean lake area.
Your private guide will pick you up for this 10-hour excursion that starts with a ride along a scenic driving route on Mascardi Lake. You'll continue driving under a huge Cohue forest where you'll begin a trek to the beautiful Cesares Waterfall.
From here, keep moving through Manso River Valley towards Pampa Linda and eventually Ventisquero Negro Glacier where you'll hear the booming sound of calving ice chunks. Somewhere along the way, you'll enjoy lunch surrounded by natural forests, mountain views, and glaciers of Tronador Mountain.
Later in the day, you'll return to Bariloche where you'll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to enjoy at leisure.
Day 10: Bariloche to Buenos Aires - Departure
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 South America will be waiting for you with open arms should you ever decide to return!