- Enjoy a free-flowing wine and tango show in Buenos Aires
- Visit several vineyards in Mendoza on a fun and educational tour
- Take a boat to Perito Moreno—a glacier that is actually advancing
- Dine on locally-caught seafood in Ushuaia, like king crab
- Cruise through the Beagle Channel and look for diverse marine wildlife
|Day 1||Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City||Buenos Aires|
|Day 2||Buenos Aires City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show||Buenos Aires|
|Day 3||Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza||Mendoza|
|Day 4||Mendoza Wine Tour||Mendoza|
|Day 5||Full-Day Tour & Trek in Aconcagua National Park||Mendoza|
|Day 6||Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 7||Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour||El Calafate|
|Day 8||Free Day in El Calafate||El Calafate|
|Day 9||Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City||Ushuaia|
|Day 10||Trekking & Canoeing in Tierra del Fuego||Ushuaia|
|Day 11||Beagle Channel Cruise||Ushuaia|
|Day 12||Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Departure|
Day 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires - Explore the City
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 walks 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 City Tour - Dinner & Tango Show
After breakfast, you'll join a fascinating tour for an overview of Buenos Aires as well as a better understanding of Argentina’s history and culture. During this three-hour tour, you will visit Retiro as well as Avenida 9 de Julio, South America’s widest avenue. Along this street, you'll see the Teatro Colon, the continent's most opulent opera house, and the iconic Obelisco monument.
You will also pass through the historic and architecturally impressive city center, home to the Congress Building, Plaza de Mayo, Avenida de Mayo, and the Casa Rosada (Presidential Palace). Then, walk along the upscale waterfront promenades of Puerto Madero before heading to the oldest neighborhood in the city, San Telmo. Afterward, you'll stop by La Boca, the city's original port.
In the evening, enjoy a scrumptious meal accompanied by free-flowing wine and tango show, one of Argentina's most iconic cultural highlights. After this memorable experience, you'll head back to your hotel to relax for the night.
Day 3: Fly from Buenos Aires to Mendoza
After breakfast, a driver will meet you and you'll transfer to the airport to catch your flight to Mendoza. It's another world here when compared to Buenos Aires. This western region of the nation is a wild expanse of fertile land that's ground zero for the country's booming viticulture industry. A seemingly limitless number of vineyards abound here, with many producing Argentina's flagship wine grape: Malbec. Originally a French import, the Argentines took a largely ignored European berry and ran with it. The result is one of the most robust wines anywhere in the world.
Mendoza also features some breathtaking scenery and outdoor opportunities. With the Andes looming high above the area's vineyards, there is a wide range of opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.
Upon arrival in the city, you'll have the rest of the day to relax and explore at your leisure. The city center features expansive plazas and wide boulevards shaded by canopies of bushy green sycamore leaves. In stark contrast to Buenos Aires, people in Mendoza move at a relaxed pace, making this the perfect city to enjoy a tranquil stroll.
Suggested activities around town:
- Stroll Mendoza's famous parks. One of the most popular meeting spots for locals is Plaza Independencia with impressive fountains and elegant acacia trees. There's also Parque General San Martín for well-manicured grounds dotted with palm trees.
- Visit a museum. There are a few in Mendoza. One recommended option is the Museo del Pasado Cuyano, which features many exhibits on local history as well as collections of weapons from the independence era.
- Enjoy some local cuisine. Mendoza sits in the middle of the rugged countryside at the foot of the Andes and fare here tends to be rustic. That said, you'll find a wide variety of eateries and many high-end options, too. There's none more famous and revered than 1884, the flagship restaurant of legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallman, who perfected the technique of cooking over an open flame. The food here is heavy on grilled meat and can best be described as "haute country." This is one of the most popular restaurants in Argentina, so be prepared to splurge.
Day 4: Mendoza Wine Tour
It's time to get out and explore beyond the city while discovering the region's wine culture. On this circuit, you'll visit the most famous wine destinations around Mendoza, from the area around the town of Luján de Cuyo to the fertile soil of the Maipú Valley. It's a fun-filled excursion that mixes equal parts wine history with wine tasting.
First the history. Over the course of the tour, you will glean insight into how Mendoza rose over the centuries to become Argentina's premier wine-making region. It began with Jesuit priests and European immigrants who settled here and combined their wine-making knowledge with the irrigation techniques (canals and ditches) handed down from the Huarpe indigenous people. It was through these methods that the Huarpes transformed a vast desert into a productive oasis. The end result is that this region is now home to renowned wineries producing high-quality varietals that are deservedly famous on the global viniculture stage.
You'll visit two wineries that still rely on traditional irrigation methods as well as others that use the latest technology in the winemaking process. On tours of the bodegas' facilities, you'll learn about vinification methods, processing, bottling, and even the labeling of wines. Of course, this is all accompanied by a tasting of the different varietals these bodegas offer. You'll also get to sample locally grown olives, artisanal cheeses, and eat Malbec grapes right off the vine!
Day 5: Full-Day Tour & Trek in Aconcagua National Park
After breakfast in Mendoza, get ready for some spectacular scenery as you embark on a full-day driving tour* through the Argentinian Andes. The first part of the drive gets you into the small mountain villages such as Uspallata, Puente del Inca, Penitentes, and Horcones.
From here, the drive continues uphill where you'll stop for a short trek that reaches the viewpoint of Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America rising a whopping 22,837 feet (6,961 m).
At the end of the trek, you'll return to the car and drive back to Mendoza for the evening.
*This 9-hour trip includes private transportation, a bilingual guide, lunch, a snack, and the entrance ticket to Aconcagua National Park.
Day 6: Fly from Mendoza to El Calafate
This morning, you'll say goodbye to Mendoza and prepare for the next step of the journey. At an appropriate time, you'll be picked up and transferred to the local airport where you will fly back to Buenos Aires in order to connect to your flight to El Calafate—gateway to the glaciers. If possible, snag 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, and then you'll have the rest of the day to explore this waterfront town on the shores of Lago Argentino.
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 7: Perito Moreno Boat & Walking Tour
Today, you're in for an exciting full-day excursion. It starts with a pick up from your hotel in El Calafate, 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 boat tour.
After a day spent discovering the glacier and wandering the numerous trails, you'll head back to El Calafate to enjoy the evening as you please.
Day 8: Free Day in El Calafate
Today, you'll have a relaxing (or not so relaxing) free day to either arrange a spa treatment at a nearby resort or venture out and discover more adventures in and around El Calafate. Perhaps, you'd like to see more glaciers in Los Glaciares National Park, go horseback riding on a nearby ranch, or join a kayaking tour.
For a break from the glaciers, you can also take a short 15-minute walk from El Calafate to an ecological reserve called Laguna Nimez. The protected area is a haven for a great variety of birds including the Chilean flamingo, and there is a self-guided boardwalk which takes visitors around the whole reserve.
Another museum option (besides the Glaciarium) is the town's history museum: Centro de Interpretación Histórica. It covers the history of Patagonia since the ice age, including useful information on glaciers, as well as dinosaurs, extinct animals, indigenous peoples, and the formation of other geographical landscapes.
Day 9: Fly from El Calafate to Ushuaia - Explore the City
After breakfast in El Calafate, you'll pack up and transfer to the airport for your flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Upon arrival, a driver will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel where you'll have the rest of the day to explore as you see fit. This day will be relatively relaxed since the next day will feature more physical, outdoors activities.
Located on a bay in the Patagonian region of Tierra del Fuego, the city sits between the jagged peaks of the Martial Mountains and the silver waters of the Beagle Channel. This is also the same waterway where Charles Darwin found himself when he was riding the HMS Beagle almost 200 years ago. Make sure to get out and walk along the waterfront for a better glimpse of the majestic mountains and impressive channel.
Suggested activities in and around town:
Stroll the streets of downtown. As you walk around the colorful shops and buildings, notice an endearing jumble of architectural styles with everything from mock chalets to tumbledown wooden cottages.
Stop in at the Prison Museum. The building that houses Ushuaia's Maritime Museum was actually once an old prison. Constructed at the turn of the 20th century, some 600 convicts occupied 380 cells until the prison's closing in 1947. The history harkens back to a time when the worst of Buenos Aires' populace were banished to the perceived "end of the world." Even today, much of the prison looks unchanged since its doors closed.
Visit the Museo del Fin del Mundo, or "End of the World" Museum. Located on the waterfront, this small museum features fascinating exhibits on the region's natural and indigenous history. You'll also find extensive bird and sailing exhibits.
Head to Laguna Esmeralda. A few miles outside of Ushuaia, this is an easy afternoon hike for all levels. Also, the shores of this turquoise lake are great for photos and stopping to enjoy nature.
- Sample the local cuisine. The region is famous for its seafood, particularly centolla (king crab). Try it au gratin—it'll likely be the most decadent meal of your trip.
Day 10: Trekking & Canoeing 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 the 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 11: Beagle Channel Cruise
After breakfast in Ushuaia, head to the pier to board a boat for a local cruise. Today's excursion sails through the Beagle Channel, one of the region’s most important waterways named after the HMS Beagle, a 19th-century British ship that once carried Charles Darwin to South America.
As you pass through the channel, you'll get breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Ushuaia and the entire bay. Be on the lookout for diverse marine wildlife such as cormorants and sea lions, especially near the Lobo and De Los Pajaros islands. If the winds are calm, you can even hop ashore, collect giant shells, and look out to the opposite coast, which stretches across both Chile and Argentina. Before making your way back to Ushuaia, see the famous Les Eclaireurs, the so-called "Lighthouse at the End of the World."
Day 12: Fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires - Departure
This morning, head to the Ushuaia airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, then connect to your international flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!