This 13-day Patagonian trek is designed for adventurers and includes the best outdoor viewpoints in two countries. Explore the peaks, valleys, and glaciers of Torres del Paine, and then cross the border from Chile into Argentina to discover more of the stunning panoramas through hikes, boat tours, and more in El Calafate and El Chaltén. You’ll also have time in two capital cities—embark on a sightseeing tour in Santiago and wind down the trip on your own in Buenos Aires.

Highlights

  • Go sightseeing along the hills and squares of Santiago, the Chilean capital
  • Enjoy an up-close encounter at the Perito Moreno Glacier, and walk across the ice
  • Explore Torres del Paine National Park via hiking, mountain biking, and kayaking
  • Trek through Laguna de los Tres with its iconic collection of mountains and glaciers

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Santiago Santiago
Day 2 Tour Santiago, Valparaiso, and Viña del Mar Santiago
Day 3 Fly to Punta Arenas and drive to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Days 4-6 Explore Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 7 Travel to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 8 Travel to El Calafate - Tour Los Glaciares National Park El Calafate
Day 9 El Calafate - Tour Argentino Lake and Estancia Cristina El Calafate
Day 10 Travel to El Chaltén El Chaltén
Day 11 El Chaltén - Hike in Cerro Torre Valley El Chaltén
Day 12 El Chaltén - Hike in Laguna de los Tres El Chaltén
Day 13 Travel to Buenos Aires Buenos Aires

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Santiago

Welcome to Santiago!
Welcome to Santiago!

Welcome to Chile! Upon arrival at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL), you’ll make the transfer to your hotel of choice. Once you are checked in, you’ll have the remainder of the day to explore Santiago on a guided city tour.

Santiago is the cultural, political and financial center of Chile, and is home to the regional headquarters of many multinational corporations. The city outskirts are surrounded by vineyards, and Santiago is within an hour of both the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

On your tour, you can expect to visit sites such as the below:

  • The hill of Santa Lucia, where you can visit Caupolicán Terrace while admiring the Hidalgo Castle, a former Spanish fortress, and views of the city
  • Constitution Square, along with La Moneda Palace, which is the current seat of government
  • Plaza de Armas, the main square that is home to the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Palace of the Royal High Court, and the Main Post Office, among other historic buildings
  • San Cristobal Hill, where you can explore the Central MarketMapocho StationForestal Park, and the Museum of Fine Arts

Day 2: Tour Santiago, Valparaiso, and Viña del Mar

Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas

For the first half of the day, you’ll do some more touring of Santiago. Then, head west on an excursion to central Chile's Pacific Coast. On this trip, you'll be visiting neighboring cities: Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.

First, travel through the green and fertile valleys of Curacavi and Casablanca, with their fruit plantations, olive trees, and orchards. You’ll head toward Valparaiso, a picturesque harbor located by the Pacific Ocean baptized by the Spaniards during the 16th century. The ride includes a tour through the narrow avenues of the port, the Plaza Sotomayor—flanked by the Maritime Authority building—and the Monument, which was built for the Iquique Heroes. In front of this monument is the Prat Wharf with its bustling port activity, thanks to large vessels and cranes at work. The Artilleria Funicular railway is one of the oldest means of transportation in use, and allows for prime sightseeing on the bay, along with viewing the remarkable architecture of the old houses on the hills. Next, you’ll embark on a city tour through the winding streets of the financial and commercial area.

Then, you’ll head to Viña del Mar, a summer resort also called Ciudad Jardín, due to the beauty of its parks and meadows. Quinta Vergara Park is an excellent example, noted for its wide promenades and exotic trees. Inside the park, you’ll find the Fine Art Museum, with its important collection of works from Chilean painters. The tour continues to the traditional Plaza Vergara and then to the heart of the city, through scenic avenues with shaded trees. Next, the visit the iconic casino building and the traditional promenade of Perú Avenue. Then, it will be time for lunch, followed by a drive along the coast bordering the beaches of Las Salinas, Reñaca, and Con-Con.

You’ll return to Santiago in the evening to enjoy the night at your leisure.

Day 3: Fly to Punta Arenas and drive to Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park

After breakfast, you’ll go to the airport to take a flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival, you’ll transfer to the Torres del Paine area. Your trip specialist can guide you ahead of time, according to your budget, to pick the best lodging option available. In making this decision, you can choose from an all-inclusive program, or a stay with full boarding and meals, plus excursions and activities, as well as transportation. To get the most out of the region, the recommended minimum stay is three nights.

Once you arrive in Torres del Paine, there will be plenty of Patagonian exploration to do. Depending on your arrival time, you can do some discovery in Torres del Paine National Park. The park is known for its striking mountains and dramatic blue icebergs and lakes, and you will spend plenty of time within the park throughout the next leg of your trip.

Then, enjoy your first evening in the region at your leisure.

Days 4-6: Explore Torres del Paine

The lagoon the the Torres base
The lagoon at the Torres base

Over the course of the next few days, you can enjoy all of the accommodations provided at your hotel of choice. Typical activities available include kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, and simply taking in the surrounding views of the Andes. Some exciting excursions to bookmark within the park include the following:

  • Hike through Ascencio Valley: Visit the base of Torres mountain with its beautiful glacier-fed lagoon
  • Visit Grey Glacier: You can drive into the heart of the park and hike to natural landmarks, including Lago Grey, which is home to several icebergs, before venturing to the glacier; you can also view the glacier on a boat tour
  • Explore Laguna Azul and Laguna Amarga: Follow in the footsteps of Patagonia’s first foreign visitor, Lady Florence Dixie, and enjoy tours through these two lagoons, as well as beautiful mountain views
  • Go to Lake Pehoé: Here, you will see the iconic Cuernos (horns) that are twin peak rock formations
  • Trek to the French Valley: Take the W Trek, which includes a deliberate detour to lead you to this valley viewpoint with curving cliffs
  • Experience EcoCamp Dome after sunset: On a clear night, this is the best place to stargaze in the area, since there is no light pollution
  • Travel to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field: You will need to complete the full Torres del Paine Circuit Trek to reach this vista from the John Gardner Pass; the trip is challenging, but provides great reward—the Ice Field occupies the entire western side of the park but is known as an incredible viewpoint

Day 7: Travel to El Calafate

El Calafate Lake in Argentina
El Calafate Lake in Argentina

Today, you will take a private transfer to El Calafate. The drive takes approximately 5 hours, and you will be required to cross the border from Chile into Argentina. This process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the season. The road leading to your first view of Argentina provides incredible backdrops along the way. Once you arrive, you’ll check in to your hotel of choice.

Considering the long day of travel, take some time to rest this evening.

Day 8: El Calafate - Tour Los Glaciares National Park

Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier

Today includes a 4-hour visit to Los Glaciares National Park. You’ll depart from the hotel and head toward the park entrance and Ventisquero Perito Moreno, which is a 1-hour commute. Take a slow drive along panoramic, zigzagging road for around 9 miles to visit the main vista point, bordering the Lago Roca lake shores. Upon arrival, you’ll stop for 2-3 hours for short walks in the area along the 2-mile vantage point in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the short walks, you will be able to witness the “ice detachment” phenomenon, where you’ll hear the hollow sounds of ice and watch the pieces fall and become smaller floating glaciers. Periodically, the glacier advances over the L-shaped Argentino Lake, forming a natural dam that separates the two halves of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore. With no escape route, the water-level on the Brazo Rico side of the lake can rise by up to 98 feet above the level of the main lake. The enormous pressure produced by the height of the dammed water finally breaks the ice barrier holding it back, in a spectacular rupture event. This dam/rupture cycle is not regular and recurs naturally at any frequency between once a year and less than once a decade.

Following your tour, you’ll return to El Calafate. You can then choose between two additional, optional excursions in the area. The first is a nautical safari, which includes a one-hour catamaran ride for close-up views approaching the front wall of the glacier. Or, you can choose a moderate minitrekking adventure, which is a 5-hour trip that departs from Bajo de las Sombras Bay—about 3.7 miles before the glacier balconies—where you’ll navigate across the Rico Arm, enjoying the views of the glacier’s front walls and iceberg channel. You’ll disembark on the opposite shore, where specialized mountain guides will welcome you and lead you to a small shelter. Then, groups of 20 follow their guides along the lake’s shore toward the edge of the glacier. Once on the ice, the guides put each participant in a pair of crampons and explain how to walk with them. The 2-hour circuit that follows introduces you to the landscape of the glaciers: streams, small lagoons, gullies, and plenty of ice formations of the most incredible blue hues. The ice surface you walk over is irregular, but firm and safe. You’ll learn about the flora, fauna and general glaciology of the region. After the walk, a stroll through the forest brings you back to the boat, where you’ll to head back to the port.

Day 9: El Calafate - Tour Argentino Lake and Estancia Cristina

Icebergs floating on Argentino Lake
Icebergs floating on Argentino Lake

Today, you’ll embark on a full-day adventure. After breakfast, take the 30-minute commute to Puerto Banderas to depart on an 8:15 am ship. Sail among icebergs on Argentino Lake and take in the views of the Upsala Glacier.

After this first tour, you’ll be transported to the port of Estancia Cristina at 11:30 am. Then, you’ll board a boat and ride for 3 hours from the port to the site.

Estancia Cristina was founded in 1914 by Joseph Percival Masters, an Englishman who came to Patagonia with his wife in 1900. Masters named his home Estancia Cristina in honor of his daughter, Elinor Cristina Masters. Once you arrive, you can choose from three different activity programs, depending on your preference:

  • Classic: Visit the museum, the chapel, and take a short trek up to the Caterina River
  • Discovery: Visit the museum, and then take the ride via 4x4 up to the continental ice hut, where you’ll trek to the Upsala viewpoint
  • Trekking: Take a 4x4 ride up to the Upsala viewpoint and descend to the unique Cañadon de los Fosiles valley with sea fossils

In the afternoon, you’ll depart back to Puerto Banderas, arriving at approximately 7 pm. Enjoy the evening at your leisure.

Day 10: Travel to El Chaltén

Mt. Fitz Roy
Mt. Fitz Roy

Today, a private driver will take you on the 2.5-hour drive to El Chaltén. The first part of the trip is scenic with views of the wilderness. Your first stop is La Leona, by the Santa Cruz River. This is an old traditional waypoint designed for early sheep wool traders. Soon, you’ll start seeing the Fitz Roy and the Viedma Glacier in a distance.

El Chaltén is a small mountain village in Patagonia, located near the continental ice fields. It is known as a trekking capital. Rising sharply above the flat town are Fitz Roy’s two peaks towering at 11,171 feet, with Cerro Torre behind them, at 10,262 feet. During the summer months (December-March) trekkers make their way to explore the many lagoons, lakes, glaciers, and mountains within. The Patagonia steppe is inhabited by herds of guanacos, foxes, partridges, pumas, deer, and rheas, who roam the area freely.

Get comfortable at your selected hotel and enjoy some rest in preparation for the eventful day awaiting tomorrow.

Day 11: El Chaltén - Hike in Cerro Torre Valley

Cerro Torre
Cerro Torre

In the morning, you’ll embark on a full-day hike in the Cerro Torre Valley in Los Glaciares National Park. To start, hike less than a mile to the Torre Lake glacier for a close view—weather permitting—of the slender shapes that make up Cerro Torre and its neighbors, Egger (9,350 feet) and Steinhardt (8,957 feet). The trail runs along beech forest, bogs, and shrubland. From the camp, a short hike takes you to Laguna Torre, enclosed by debris, and with the Glacier Grande calving on its west side. It is usual to see icebergs pushed by the wind on the coast of the lagoon. The thin and elegant 10,262 feet of Cerro Torre and the Adela range in the continental icefields create a stunning background to complete the panorama.

Enjoy your pre-packed lunch, and after your adventure, you will have the evening to enjoy on your own.

 Day 12: El Chaltén - Hike in Laguna de los Tres

Laguna de los Tres
Laguna de los Tres

In the morning, pack your boxed lunch before starting your day. Today will include a full day of trekking to Rio Blanco basecamp and the Laguna de los Tres vantage point for a beautiful view—weather permitting—of the complete Fitz Roy massif. The jagged group is formed by Mt. Guillaumet (8.461 feet), St. Exupery (8,392 feet), Mermoz (8,963 feet), and Juarez, among others. Directly across a small glacial lake rises Mt. Fitz Roy (11,073 feet), almost two miles of vertical wall in a single bound. For those with spare energy, a further walk leads you to Piedras Blancas glacier. The majority of today's hike is of moderate difficulty and unfolds through native lenga tree forests. The last hour to the viewing point is a difficult 3,871 feet—steep and somehow difficult—with some big, loose blocks in the path. However, id the weather is nice, the view is worth it, and will be one of the highlights of your Patagonia trip.

Duration: 7-9 hours

Distance: 11 miles

Day 13: Travel to Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires City
Farewell, Buenos Aires

Today, you’ll get on the road back to El Calafate—which is approximately a 2.5-hour drive—in order to head to the airport to catch your flight to Buenos Aires. When you arrive in Buenos Aires, you will check in to your hotel for an overnight stay. Take the evening to explore the capital city, before departing tomorrow, or continuing on your South American journey.