Spot penguins in the wild, boat to a remote glacier, and hike through spectacular mountain scenery on this action-packed 11-day itinerary around Patagonia. After a day in Buenos Aires, fly to Ushuaia and explore Tierra del Fuego National Park. Then continue to El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. Finally, cross the border to Chile to discover the natural wonders of Torres del Paine and Bernardo O'Higgins National Parks.


  • Spend a day trekking and canoeing in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Boat to Isla Martillo to see Gentoo and Magellanic penguins in the wild
  • Get up close to one of South America's most famous glaciers
  • Hike to the base of the Paine Massif for the best view in Torres del Paine

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Buenos Aires, Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Fly to Ushuaia, Beagle Channel Cruise Ushuaia
Day 3 Trek & Canoe in Tierra del Fuego National Park Ushuaia
Day 4 See Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton Ushuaia
Day 5 Fly to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 6 Experience Perito Moreno Glacier El Calafate
Day 7 Enjoy a Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour El Calafate
Day 8 Transfer to Puerto Natales & Explore the Port Town Puerto Natales
Day 9 Trek in Torres del Paine National Park Puerto Natales
Day 10 Hike Mount Balmaceda & Serrano Glacier Puerto Natales
Day 11 Fly to Buenos Aires, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, Explore the City

Walk across the Puente de la Mujer in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Welcome to Buenos Aires! Nicknamed the "Paris of South America," the capital of Argentina is known for its European-inspired architecture, tango culture, and buzzing food scene. A driver will pick you up from the airport when you land and take you to your hotel, where you can rest and recharge after a long flight. A few hours later, venture out to explore the city center.

Visit the Obelisco, the city's most famous monument. It sits right in the middle of Avenida 9 de Julio, a busy avenue that's 16 lanes wide. Stop by the Teatro Colón, one of South America's premier opera houses, which opened in 1908. Stroll through Puerto Madero, an upscale waterfront neighborhood, and cross over the canal on the Puente de la Mujer (Woman's Bridge) at sunset. Finish with a traditional dinner at a parrilla (Argentine steakhouse).

Day 2: Fly to Ushuaia, Beagle Channel Cruise

Boating on the Beagle Channel

This morning, you'll fly to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. Ushuaia sits on a large bay with a rocky coast, surrounded by the snow-capped Martial Range. A scenic cruise awaits you today. Board a boat in Ushuaia's port and sail into the Beagle Channel. Along the journey, you'll get to see panoramic views of the coast and the city's skyline at the base of Mount Olivia and the Cinco Hermanos Mountains. The cruise will take you past the Isla de los Lobos, an island home to a large group of sea lions, then to Isla de los Pájaros, where various species of seabirds live, including Magellanic cormorants and imperial shags.

Continue sailing to Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. Your guide will point out points of interest onshore and across the channel, including Estancia Remolino (a remote ranch), Gable Island, and the naval base at Puerto Williams (located on Isla Navarino, Chile). After this six-hour tour, you'll return to Ushuaia and have a free evening. Be sure to try freshly caught seafood for dinner: centolla (king crab) is a local specialty.

Day 3: Trek & Canoe in Tierra del Fuego

Coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego
 Follow a coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego

Spend the day in Tierra del Fuego National Park, located just outside Ushuaia. From the park's entrance, hike 4.3 miles (7 km) on a coastal path that follows the Beagle Channel, passing remnants of ancient settlements once occupied by the native Yámana people. After this brisk three-hour trek, you'll reach Lago Roca, where you can relax and enjoy lunch. Then it's time to start your canoe ride down the Río Lapataia toward your ultimate destination, Lapataia Bay. Located in the Beagle Channel, Lapataia Bay sits at the end of the Pan American Highway and National Route No. 3. Return to Ushuaia in the evening.

Day 4: See Penguins on Isla Martillo & Estancia Harberton

See penguins in the wild in a Patagonian penguin colony

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for a full-day excursion to see penguins in the wild. The trip starts at the Ushuaia pier, where you'll catch a bus to Estancia Harberton and drive through rugged Fuegian forests until you reach the dock. Board a semi-rigid rubber boat that will take you to an island and give you a chance to see a Magellanic penguin colony (among other species) up close.

This guided tour includes a 90-minute hike to Isla Martillo and Estancia Harberton, where you'll learn about the penguins and their natural habitat. Expect plenty of great photo opportunities. At the end of the tour, you'll return to Ushuaia in time for dinner and a night out on the town.

Day 5: Fly to El Calafate

Icebergs on a lake in El Calafate
Icebergs on a lake in El Calafate

This morning, after breakfast, a driver will take you to the Ushuaia airport for your flight to El Calafate—your base to explore the stunning glaciers of southern Patagonia, including the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier. After the short trip, check into your hotel and take the rest of the day to relax or explore the colorful city. In the evening, head to the Laguna Nimez Reserve, where you can admire an array of native birds in the sanctuary and watch the sunset over Lago Argentino.

Day 6: Experience Perito Moreno Glacier

Enjoy the views of Perito Moreno
Enjoy views of Perito Moreno

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time to venture into Los Glaciares National Park. As you enter the park, 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 of ice that curves around the lake. Stick around to witness "calving," the awe-inspiring sight of ice breaking off the glacier and crashing into the waters below. A thundering crash echoes on the lake every time ice hits the water.

While it's not the only glacier in the area, Perito Moreno is the star of the park. It's also one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, which causes the calving mentioned above. You'll be able to admire Perito Moreno from a number of different perspectives, thanks to the network of wooden walkways that zigzag strategically in front of the glacier. You'll also see the massive ice wall up close on a boat tour. After a day spent viewing the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, you'll head back to El Calafate to enjoy a free evening.

Plan your trip to Patagonia
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 7: Enjoy a Full-Day Glacier Boat Tour

Tour the glaciers by boat
Cruise past ice walls and ancient glaciers on today's boat tour

In the morning, transfer to Punta Bandera Harbor and board a catamaran for a boat tour. As you travel north along the frozen waters of Lago Argentino, you'll weave between icebergs as you make your way toward the first site, Upsala Glacier. After crossing the Boca del Diablo (the narrowest part of the lake), you'll enter the Upsala Channel and the glacier.

Continue to the Spegazzini Channel, where you'll catch a glimpse of the Seco Glacier, a retreating wall of ice that is perpetually moving inland from the lakeshore. Finally, you'll reach Spegazzini Glacier, with ice walls 442 feet (135 m) tall. The tour ends with the boat's return to Punta Bandera.  

Day 8: Transfer to Puerto Natales & Explore the Port Town

Puerto Natales has a colorful waterfront
Puerto Natales' colorful waterfront

Venture into Chilean Patagonia today, traveling by bus to the port town of Puerto Natales. (The journey takes around five hours, depending on traffic conditions at the border.) Puerto Natales is the principal base for excursions into Torres del Paine National Park.

Upon arrival, you'll notice a stark contrast between this town and El Calafate: this town is far less touristy, even in peak summer months, and retains its air of small-town tranquility year-round. Stroll along the waterfront promenade in the evening. Puerto Natales sits on the Seno Última Esperanza (Last Hope Sound), and the water views are phenomenal at sunset. 

Day 9: Trek in Torres del Paine National Park

The base of the Paine Massif
A photo op at the base of the Paine Massif

After an early breakfast, you'll transfer to the park (a two-hour drive) and embark on one of its most popular hiking routes. Although it can be completed in less than a day, this hike is strenuous and requires a good level of physical fitness. 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'll enjoy views of pristine rivers, native forests, mountain peaks, and narrow valleys. You'll likely spot condors and black eagles, too.

Begin at the Las Torres Hostel and hike along the Río Ascencio, ascending 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. Once you arrive at the lagoon at the base of the Paine massif, you'll enjoy a delicious picnic lunch with a view. Descend the mountain and return to Puerto Natales for the evening.

Day 10: Hike Mount Balmaceda & Serrano Glacier

Start your boat tour in Puerto Natales
Start your boat tour in Puerto Natales

Early this morning, head to the dock at Puerto Natales and hop on a boat bound for Mount Balmaceda, located at the southern end of Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. The park is only accessible by foot or by boat! On the boat ride, you'll take in panoramic views of native forests. You're also likely to spot sea lions as you head north toward the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. You'll disembark and have an opportunity to enjoy views of these glaciers from land. After a short hike, arrive at Hosteria Perales, where a typical Patagonian barbecue awaits. In the afternoon, you'll return by boat to Puerto Natales.

Day 11: Fly to Buenos Aires & Depart

Street art in the San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires

The adventure has come to an end. After breakfast, you'll transfer to El Calafate's airport to catch your flight to Buenos Aires. From there, you'll take a flight home or continue on your journey. Safe travels!

More Great Patagonia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Patagonia? Check out these other Patagonia itineraries, explore other ways to spend 11 days in Patagonia, or discover the best time to visit Patagonia.


Map of Outdoor Adventures in Patagonia's National Parks - 11 Days
Map of Outdoor Adventures in Patagonia's National Parks - 11 Days
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated May 29, 2023