If you love hiking, this active 14-day trip highlights Patagonia's best trails with some of the most spectacular scenery in the world (thanks to two UNESCO-listed parks). Start off in Argentine Patagonia for Los Glaciares National Park—home to 13 glaciers and the iconic Mt. Fitz Roy. Then head across the border to Torres del Paine National Park, dominated by snow-capped peaks, turquoise lakes, and rare wildlife.

Highlights

  • Gear up and trek along a massive glacier that is actually advancing
  • Get a taste of two Patagonian mountain villages: El Calafate & El Chaltén
  • Take day hikes with views of both Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre
  • Explore the best sites around Torres del Paine, on foot and boat
  • Kick off the adventure 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 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 El Chalten
Day 5 Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy El Chalten
Day 6 Hike to Mirador Cerro Torre El Chalten
Day 7 El Chaltén to El Calafate El Calafate
Day 8 El Calafate to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Day 9 Hike to the Base of the Paine Massif Torres del Paine
Day 10 Hike the French Valley Torres del Paine
Day 11 Boat Trip to Glacier Grey Torres del Paine
Day 12 Hike to Lake Pehoé Torres del Paine
Day 13 Hike Lake Nordenskjöld Torres del Paine
Day 14 Torres del Paine to Santiago - 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

Lago Argentino
Lago Argentino

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

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 4: El Calafate to El Chaltén

Look for views of Mt. Fitz Roy on your way to El Chalten
Look for views of Mt. Fitz Roy on your way to El Chalten

After breakfast, 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. Because of this infamous peak, the town is nicknamed "hiker's paradise" due to the abundance of mountaineering options all around (which you'll soon discover).

Upon arrival, check into your hotel and have the rest of the day to acclimate to your new surroundings. Perhaps you'll want to take a walk in town before a relaxing evening sampling El Chaltén's many restaurants and craft-beer bars.

Day 5: Hike to Mt. Fitz Roy

View from Laguna de los Tres
View from Laguna de los Tres

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 since most options can last up to 11 hours depending on which route you take. The hike you'll likely 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 due to the panoramic view of the three peaks: Fitz Roy, Poincenot, and Torre.

At the end of this 16-mile (26 km) hike, you'll descend the mountain and return to your hotel in El Chaltén for a much-deserved rest.

Day 6: 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 7: El Chaltén to El Calafate

Hiker at the base of Cerro Torre
Hiker at the base of Cerro Torre

This morning is your last chance to explore the El Chalten area on this trip. If you haven't done so already, head on an early hike to see the Fitz Roy Massif light up at sunrise. There's also the hiking path that leads to the foot of Cerro Torre complete with amazing views of the namesake lake and glacier.

In the afternoon, you will be picked up from your hotel by a minivan and travel to El Calafate. Arrive in the evening and check into your hotel.

Day 8: El Calafate to Torres del Paine

Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park
Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park

Today, you'll transfer from El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, which takes about 2.5 hours. On the way there, pass through rolling grasslands home to rheas, guanacos, Patagonian hares, and even condors. Make sure to have your passport on hand, as you will cross the border to Chile before ending up at Torres del Paine.

After entering the park through the Laguna Amarga entrance, you'll ride a shuttle to your camp, a comfortable lodge right next to the Torres del Paine—a place that offers some of the most dramatic landscapes in South America. Keep an eye out for wild guanacos as they roam the windy plains. In addition to the namesake mountains, other highlights of the park include:

  • Salto Grande: a 213 ft high waterfall
  • Laguna Amarga: a water-filled caldera
  • Cuernos del Paine: magnificent granite spires in the shape of horns
  • Lake Pehoé: a beautiful lake that reflects the Cuernos del Paine

Day 9: Hike to the Base of the Paine Massif

Base of Torres del Paine
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 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 and then you'll head to your hotel.

Day 10: Hike the French Valley

Views from the lookout point at the French Valley
Views from the lookout point at the French Valley

Today you will hike into the heart of the park to visit another iconic area of Torres del Paine: French Valley. After breakfast, you will meet your guide and transfer to the Pudeto Ranger Station, located on the shore of Lake Pehoé. From here it's a half-hour catamaran cruise across to the lake where you'll arrive at the trailhead and begin your trek.

The first part of the trail is relatively flat and leads along the north side of Lago Skottsberg to Refugio Italiano, which is located at the bottom of the French Valley. Here you'll break for water and snacks. Afterward, you'll have the option to continue deeper into the French Valley along a steep trail through lenga forest. Roughly 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from Italiano, you'll reach a viewpoint near the Horns of Paine that affords wide views of the French Glacier hanging down from Mount Paine Grande. From here we will make our way back to the hotel and you can spend the remainder of the day relaxing.

Day 11: Boat Trip to Glacier Grey

Grey Glacier
Grey Glacier

This morning, you'll board the Grey III catamaran for a tour of Glacier Grey, which feeds the lake of the same name, Lago Grey. The boat travels across the lake and stops close to the glacier, which gives passengers a prime vantage point to snap photos of its massive ice walls. The Grey III then continues to the other side of the lake, where you'll disembark and make your way to the Bigfoot Basecamp to begin an epic ice hike.

This portion of the trip starts at Islatak Island with a hike up the glacial moraine. After an hour, you'll reach the ice, gear up, and learn the basics and safety protocols of glacier hikes from a pro. Equipped with an ice ax, crampons, helmet, and harness, you will then walk onto the Grey Glacier, where you will step over blue crevasses, hop over meltwater streams, and pass alongside ice caves. It's truly a singular experience. 

Following your ice hike excursion, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 12: Hike to Lake Pehoé

A boat glides through Lake Pehoe
A boat glides through Lake Pehoe

This morning, fill up with an energizing breakfast and then prepare for a four-hour hike to Lake Pehoé (between Refugio Grey and Refugio Paine Grande). If you haven't seen it up close yet, this turquoise jewel sits underneath the iconic Paine Massif and will likely take your breath away. 

If you would like to keep going, you can continue past the camp for a spectacular view of the glacier and a chance to cross one of the park's famous suspension bridges. 

Upon return, collect your belongings and begin your hike towards Paine Grande where you will camp along a different area of Lake Pehoé's shore for more chances to take in the views, especially at sunset.

Day 13: Hike Lake Nordenskjöld

Lake Nordenskjöld
Lake Nordenskjöld

This morning, you'll have breakfast at camp and then prepare for another four-hour hike. Today's route first follows the shore of Lake Nordenskjöld at the foot of the Cuernos where you'll make your way towards Refugio & Camping Chileno, located in the Asencio Valley.

Along the way, you'll begin a hike up Almirante Nieto, a mountain with incredible views of both the lake and the valley. You'll cross a few rivers, hop along rocks, and catch glimpses of glaciers and the mountaintops hovering over you.

Once you reach camp, spend some downtime relaxing before dinner and a good night's sleep. 

Day 14: Torres del Paine to Santiago - Departure

Goodbye, Torres del Paine
Goodbye, Torres del Paine

Today, you’ll take a private transfer from Torres del Paine National Park to the Punta Arenas airport. You'll then hop on a domestic flight to Santiago. From there you'll meet your connecting flight home. ¡Buen viaje!

Map

Map of Patagonia's Best Day Hikes - 14 Days
Map of Patagonia's Best Day Hikes - 14 Days