This 15-day adventure dives into Argentina and Chile's deep south by land and sea. Starting in Buenos Aires, you'll get up close to massive glaciers, sail the pristine channels and fjords on a multi-day cruise, and enjoy the magnitude of Patagonia's most famous—and therefore scenic—national parks. Mixing relaxation and adrenaline, the tours are flexible for those who prefer more (or less) challenging activities.

Highlights

  • Go canoeing and trout fishing while staying in the world's 'southernmost city'
  • Take epic hikes in two national parks: Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares
  • Cruise through some of Patagonia's most remote waterways and landscapes
  • Trek along the advancing Perito Moreno glacier wearing crampons
  • Kick off the trip with a day to explore Buenos Aires

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City Buenos Aires
Day 2 Buenos Aires to Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 3 Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
Day 4 Trout Fishing in Ushuaia Ushuaia
Day 5 Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 1 of 5 Ushuaia
Day 6 Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 2 of 5 Ushuaia
Day 7 Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 3 of 5 Ushuaia
Day 8 Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 4 of 5 Ushuaia
Day 9 Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 5 of 5 Ushuaia
Day 10 Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 11 Hike to the Base of the Towers - Return to Puerto Natales Puerto Natales
Day 12 Puerto Natales to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 13 El Calafate to Los Glaciares - Perito Moreno Glacier Trek El Calafate
Day 14 Hiking in El Chaltén - Return to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 15 Fly from El Calafate 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: Buenos Aires to Ushuaia

Sunrise in Buenos Aires
Sunrise in Buenos Aires

After breakfast this morning, you'll transfer to the Buenos Aires airport for your flight to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city at the edge of the vast South American continent.

Upon arrival, check into your hotel room and explore your new surroundings. Located in a large bay featuring a rocky coast and surrounding snowcapped Martial Range, Ushuaia features a charming downtown and scenic dock area. This day will be relatively relaxed since the next day will feature more physical, outdoorsy activities.

Day 3: Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego

Coastal trail in Tierra del Fuego
Coastal trail 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 4: Trout Fishing in Ushuaia

Fly fishing in Ushuaia
Fly fishing in Ushuaia

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time for a day of trout fishing with a local guide. This is your chance to partake in a fun and relaxing activity prevalent in this part of Patagonia. In fact, Ushuaia is one of the best places in Argentina to fish for trout, including brown, rainbow and brook species, so you will be in excellent hands.

First, you'll be picked up at your hotel for a ride to a river near Ushuaia. From here, you'll receive all the gear, fishing equipment, and instructions necessary for casting a line.

Once the excursion is complete, you will be taken back to your hotel where you will have time to rest before dinner.

Day 5: Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 1 of 5

Board your cruise in Ushuaia in the early evening
Board your cruise in Ushuaia in the early evening

Today, you'll have a free day in Ushuaia before boarding your Australis cruise to Punta Arenas. The boat leaves from the harbor in the early evening, so take advantage of anything you may have missed in town in previous days. 

After boarding, there will be a welcome toast and introduction from the captain and crew. Your ship then departs for one of the most remote corners on the planet. During the night, you'll traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as you turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.

Day 6: Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 2 of 5

Monument at Cape Horn
Monument at Cape Horn

Today, you'll wake up on board surrounded by views. For early risers, your cruise crosses Nassau Bay and enters the remote archipelago that comprises Cape Horn National Park at the break of dawn. Weather and sea conditions permitting, you can go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos).

Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition—and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland—Cape Horn is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument (currently awaiting repair after being damaged by fierce winds).

Sailing back across Nassau Bay, you'll anchor at fabled Wulaia Bay, one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for its mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography.

After a visit to the Australis-sponsored museum in the old radio station—which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area—passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooded mountain behind the bay. On all of these, you stroll through an enchanted Magellanic forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, and ferns to reach panoramic viewpoints overlooking the bay.

From here, return to the ship for the rest of the evening.

Day 7: Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 3 of 5

Pia Glacier
Pia Glacier

Throughout the night, you'll cruise your way through glaciers around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial Channel, Magdalena Channel, and Cockburn Channel. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, your captain will tack eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again.

By morning you'll enter Pia Fjord and board another boat for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking, you'll take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea. Those who are interested can take a longer and more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier. 

After this excursion, you'll reboard and make your way further west along the Beagle Channel entering another long fjord where you'll drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for the 2nd shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia that's actually gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. This time we hike through the virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding—it's a very steep, negligible trail with rough footing—and not for everyone. For those who choose to stay onboard, the captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so that everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.

Day 8: Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 4 of 5

Look for Andean condors along today's route
Look for Andean condors along today's route

Early this morning, you will sail through the Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound. From there it is possible to see the glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range—some of them reaching all the way to the water.

Once you arrive, you will be able to disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon, which was formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier, until you reach a spot right in front of the ice mass with stunning views.

In the afternoon, you will approach the Condor Glacier and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean Condors in the area.

Day 9: Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas - Day 5 of 5

Isla Magdalena's primary residents
Isla Magdalena's primary residents

After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and return to the Strait of Magellan, your captain will anchor off near Isla Magdalena, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins.

At the break of dawn, weather permitting, you'll go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. (For birders, many other bird species are also found on the island.) During months when the penguins dwell elsewhere, this excursion is replaced by a ride to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions.

Following the excursion, you'll finish the cruise with a short ride south along the strait. Disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for late morning. You'll have the rest of the day to relax in your hotel or explore the city before you head back to the wilderness. 

Day 10: Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine

Guanacos in Torres del Paine
Guanacos in Torres del Paine

Early this morning, depart from your hotel in Punta Arenas for Torres del Paine National Park. On the way, you'll certainly spot some of the local fauna, including many species of birds as well as the guanaco, a wild camelid related to the llama.

Upon reaching Torres del Paine it's time to start the extensive full-day tour. You'll visit some of the park's main attractions, such as the Amarga Lagoon, which features views of the iconic peaks of the Horns of Paine (part of the Cordillera Paine). You'll also trek alongside Salto Grande, the famous thundering waterfalls found in this national park. At noon, you'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the park before continuing on the excursion. Finally, at the end of the day, return to your hotel (also in the park) to enjoy a relaxing evening.

Day 11: Hike to the Base of the Towers - Return to Puerto Natales

Base of Torres del Paine
Base of Torres del Paine

After breakfast, you'll head up to the base of Torres del Paine 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. After your hike, you'll transfer back to Puerto Natales.

Day 12: Puerto Natales to El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier, near El Calafate
Perito Moreno Glacier, near El Calafate

In the morning or afternoon, a driver will pick you up from the designated meeting point in Puerto Natales and transfer you about 3.5 hours to El Calafate. This town sits on the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which is home to Los Glaciers National Park. The most famous landmark in this protected area is Perito Moreno, a 250-square-kilometer ice formation that is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world. 

Upon your arrival at El Calafate, another transfer will take you to your hotel. You can spend the remainder of the day relaxing or venture out and enjoy the quaint cafes and shops around town. You can also prime yourself with information on the nearby glaciers by visiting the Glaciarium. This multimedia 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 13: El Calafate to Los Glaciares - Perito Moreno Glacier Trek

Trekking Perito Moreno
Trekking Perito Moreno

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 14: Hiking in El Chaltén - Return to El Calafate

The road into El Chalten with Mt. Fitz Roy in the distance
The road into El Chalten with Mt. Fitz Roy in the distance

Today, get ready for an exclusive expedition from El Calafate. After a morning pick-up at your hotel, you'll take the mythical Route 40 bordering Lake Argentino and crossing the Santa Cruz River. Here your guide will tell you about Darwin's experiences with Fitz Roy, who navigated the river.

Continue from here to the Rio La Leona and drive along its canyon. After 75 minutes, you will get to the old hotel Paso La Leona (almost a museum of Route 40), where you can have coffee with homemade cakes. You will continue along Lake Viedma and stop at a viewpoint where you can appreciate the Viedma Glacier and surrounding mountains.

You'll arrive at El Chaltén after three hours on the road. Say hello to the Park Ranger and then continue to hiking trails that lead to the most wonderful viewpoints of either Cerro Fitz Roy or Cerro Torre. Your trekking guide will advise you about the various options according to your physical state and will deliver maps of the enabled trails. For lunch, you'll pack a box lunch in your backpack so that you can enjoy on the trail (in case of inclement weather, you can have lunch in a restaurant near the area).

In the late afternoon, and depending on the season of the year, you'll make the return trip to El Calafate for the night.

Day 15: Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires - Departure

Sunset in Buenos Aires
Sunset in Buenos Aires

This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight back to Buenos Aires. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the international airport for your return flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Patagonia Wilderness Excursion - 15 Days
Map of Patagonia Wilderness Excursion - 15 Days