This active trip highlights two UNESCO-listed parks in South America with some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. Start off in Argentine Patagonia for several days in Los Glaciares National Park—home to a whopping 13 major glaciers and the iconic Mt. Fitz Roy. Next is Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia for snow-capped peaks, thundering waterfalls, and turquoise lakes. Kick off the adventure in Buenos Aires for a taste of big-city culture.

Highlights

  • Boat to Perito Moreno, a rare glacier that is advancing (vs. retreating)
  • Stay in a colorful village overlooking spectacular views of Los Glaciares
  • Take stunning hikes with views of Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre
  • Explore the best sites of Torres del Paine with a guide
  • Hike to the base of the Paine massif for a true Patagonian experience

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate - Transfer to El Chaltén El Chalten
Day 3 Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 4 Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre El Chalten
Day 5 El Chaltén to Perito Moreno Glacier - Transfer to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 6 El Calafate to Torres del Paine - Driving Tour Torres del Paine
Day 7 Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers Torres del Paine
Day 8 Transfer to El Calafate - Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City

The Obelisco, a central monument in Buenos Aires
The Obelisco, a central monument 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 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 - Transfer to El Chaltén

Very little traffic on this route
Very little traffic on this route

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, a vehicle will pick you up for the three-hour drive to El Chaltén. If the skies are clear, you'll be treated to incredible views of Mount Fitz Roy along the way. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to acclimate to your new surroundings. Take the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing evening sampling one of El Chaltén's many restaurants and craft-beer bars.

Day 3: Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy

If lucky, you'll catch a sunrise in Mt. Fitz Roy
If lucky, you'll catch a sunrise in 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, as many of these treks can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. The hike you'll 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 because from its shores you have a panoramic view of three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.

At the end of the day's hike, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén.

Day 4: Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre

Dawn at Laguna Torre
Dawn at Laguna Torre

Today, you'll leave from town on foot with your own guide. On this trek, you'll traverse a glacial valley that has fascinated geologists due to its perfect "U" shape, the result of the area once being covered by large swaths of ice. The total distance of this hike is 14.9 miles (24 km) and takes about six hours to complete.

The hike will take you through bright green lenga forests and around lagoons until you reach the day's final destination: Laguna Torre. This glacial lake sits at the foot of the sharp granite peak of Cerro Torre, and here you'll find the glacier that feeds the lake as well. After spending some time at the lake and admiring the views, you'll return to El Chaltén along the same path.

Day 5: El Chaltén to Perito Moreno Glacier - Transfer to El Calafate

Turquoise hues on a sunny day
Turquoise hues on a sunny day

You're in for an exciting full-day excursion. It starts with a pick up from your hotel in El Chaltén, followed by a one-hour transfer to Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park you'll catch your first glimpse of 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. 

While not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is indeed the star of the show. It's also unique in that it is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, a factor that results in the calving mentioned above. Upon arrival, you'll be able to admire Perito Moreno from a number of different vantage points via the network of wooden walkways strategically situated in front of the glacier. Even better, you'll also get up close and personal with its massive ice wall on a short boat tour. 

After a day spent discovering the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, you'll transfer to El Calafate to enjoy the evening as you please.

Day 6: El Calafate to Torres del Paine - Driving Tour

Look for guanacos in and outside of the park
Look for guanacos in and outside of the park

Rise and shine! This morning, you'll get an early morning pickup from your accommodation in El Calafate and depart towards neighboring Chile for a day tour in Torres del Paine National Park. The drive will take about four hours depending on congestion at the border. Keep your camera close—as you approach the park you will be able to see some of the local fauna, including many species of birds, as well as the guanaco, a wild camelid related to the llama. 

Once inside, you'll spend the day making picturesque stops at some of Torres del Paine's most famous views including stunning colored lakes, the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine), the glacially fed Grey Lake, and the thundering waterfalls of Salto Grande. There will be a nice stop for lunch, and you'll have time to work the legs with a few short hikes over the course of the day. 

After the tour is finished, you'll be dropped at the entrance of the park for a transfer to your lodging near Torres del Paine.

Day 7: Torres del Paine: Trekking to the Base of the Towers

The base of Torres del Paine
The base of Torres del Paine

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 18 km (11 miles) 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 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, at the end of which you'll arrive back to the hotel.

Day 8: Transfer to El Calafate - Flight to Buenos Aires - Departure

Catch some views from the plane on the way back to El Calafate
Catch some views from the plane on the way back to El Calafate

Goodbye, Patagonia! This morning you'll transfer to the El Calafate Airport (FTE) for your flight to Buenos Aires. If the weather permits you may even get a great view of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field—a real treat! Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, you'll connect to the international airport for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Los Glaciares & Torres del Paine - 8 Days
Map of Los Glaciares & Torres del Paine - 8 Days