Embark on an unforgettable journey through Argentina and Chile on this 18-day itinerary. Start in Buenos Aires, then set out to visit the magnificent Iguazú Falls and tour the heart of Mendoza's wine country. A scenic bus trip over the Andes takes you across the border to Santiago, where you'll sample Chilean reds and stroll along the seaside in Valparaíso. Head to remote Patagonia to discover the breathtaking scenery of Torres del Paine National Park, then fly north to end your adventure in the arid Atacama Desert.

Highlights

  • Experience an evening of tango in lively Buenos Aires
  • Discover the thundering cliffs of Iguazú Falls
  • Tour & taste your way through the vineyards of Mendoza, Colchagua & Casablanca
  • Trek alongside lakes, rivers & lagoons in Chile's Torres del Paine National Park
  • Explore the lunar landscapes & geothermal wonders of the Atacama Desert

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Buenos Aires, Half-Day City Tour Buenos Aires
Day 2 Explore Buenos Aires - Optional Tango Dinner Show & Lesson Buenos Aires
Day 3 Free Day in Buenos Aires - Optional Gaucho Experience  Buenos Aires
Day 4 Fly to Puerto Iguazú, Explore Foz do Iguaçu  Puerto Iguazú
Day 5 Explore Iguazú Falls  Puerto Iguazú
Day 6 Fly to Mendoza, Heart of Argentina's Wine Country Mendoza
Day 7 Mendoza Horseback Ride & Winery Tour Mendoza
Day 8 Scenic Bus Transfer to Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 9 Wine Tasting & Vineyard Tour in the Colchagua Valley Santiago
Day 10 Casablanca Valley Wine Tasting & Visit Valparaíso Santiago
Day 11 Fly to Punta Arenas, Gateway to Torres del Paine Torres del Paine
Days 12-13 Explore Torres del Paine National Park Torres del Paine
Day 14 Fly to Santiago de Chile Santiago
Day 15 Fly to Calama, Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama San Pedro de Atacama
Day 16 Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons Excursion Atacama Desert
Day 17 Visit the Tatio Geysers & Puritama Hot Springs Atacama Desert
Day 18 Departure Day  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires, Half-Day City Tour

Spend your first day getting a taste of Argentina's capital
Spend your first day getting a taste of Argentina's capital

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 by far 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, venture out into the welcoming arms of Buenos Aires and explore with a guided city tour that showcases Buenos Aires' most famous sights and provides insight into Argentina’s history and culture.

You'll start from Plaza de Mayo to admire the Cathedral and the Cabildo (Old City Hall), then continue towards the traditional neighborhood of San Telmo, characterized by its old colonial houses and the cobblestoned streets. After a visit to La Boca to look around the colorful zinc houses that welcomed the first immigrants to this part of the city, you'll end in the famous Recoleta neighborhood, whose old French-inspired buildings feature arched doorways and long, yawning windows. It's also home to Recoleta Cemetery, the oldest and most famous final resting place in the city. 

Day 2: Explore Buenos Aires - Optional Tango Dinner Show & Lesson

The colorful traditional houses of San Telmo

Today you're free to explore Buenos Aires at your own pace. In the evening, you have the option of joining a guided excursion into the very heart of the San Telmo neighborhood for an unforgettable night of dinner and tango performances in one of the best tanguerias in the city. In a traditional venue that preserves the musical heritage of the city, you'll be immersed in the ambiance of the tango, listening to the melancholy rhythms of the guitar and bandoneon and watching the dances of fish-netted and besuited bailanderos. It's a dance that tells the story of loss and heartbreak, passion and love.  

And if that isn't enough, you'll even have the opportunity to get up on the dancefloor and partake in a tango class.

Day 3: Free Day in Buenos Aires - Optional Gaucho Experience

Argentinian gauchos in colorful garb
Argentinian gauchos in colorful garb

Today is free to spend at your leisure, with the option of leaving the city for a memorable gaucho experience at the Estancia Santa Susana.

Just as North Americans have their cowboys, Argentines have their gauchos. This frontier culture is strongest in the pampas (prairies) immediately surrounding the capital since this is where the country was first settled. Gauchos are national symbols in Argentina, whether it's the real-life horsemen who still exist today, or the folk heroes of epic Argentine poems, like Martín Fierro, whose stories are passed down over generations.

Today you'll be picked up in the morning and whisked off to Santa Susana, a working Argentine estancia (ranch). Here you'll enjoy a welcome reception that includes wine and empanadas. After a guided tour of the property, do some horseback riding (or perhaps enjoy a carriage ride) before settling in for a traditional folk music performance—where everyone's invited to get up and dance.

Lunch will be an Argentine asado (mixed grill) paired with even more of the country's fantastic wine. Real gauchos will then showcase their prowess with the bolas—traditional throwing weapons comprised of round weights connected by cords.  After lunch, you'll be treated to more entertainment. The gauchos will continue to showcase their abilities, this time as they perform a series of feats known as carreras de sortijas (ring races). These are typical in gaucho equine competition and showcase the cowboys' great skills on horseback. End the day at the estancia with a late-afternoon serving of mate, the popular tea-like infusion that is an indispensable part of Argentine culture. 

Day 4: Fly to Puerto Iguazú, Explore Foz do Iguaçu 

View of Iguazú Falls from the Brazilian side
View of Iguazú Falls from the Brazilian side

After breakfast, transfer to the Buenos Aires airport for your flight to Puerto Iguazú. This city is home to the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls, the world's largest waterfall system. Upon arrival in Puerto Iguazú, you will transfer to your hotel.

After settling in, hop over to the Brazilian side of the falls (Foz do Iguaçu) for a half-day tour. This site features a sweeping panorama of the entire waterfall system, giving you a better sense of the vastness of this natural wonder. In the afternoon, you'll transfer back to your hotel on the Argentinian side.

Day 5: Explore Iguazú Falls 

Touring Iguazú from the Argentine side
Explore Iguazú from the Argentine side

After breakfast at your hotel, a driver will pick you up and drop you off at the entrance of Iguazú National Park, on the Argentine side of the falls. This is where you will begin the day's adventure, a full-day tour that involves walking the three circuits that weave around the waterfall. Each of these offers different vantage points from which to view the water. The three circuits include:

  • The Upper Circuit (1 hour) is made up of 2,624 feet (800 m) of walkways elevated above the jungle floor to avoid disrupting the natural paths of indigenous fauna. On this route, you'll see the upper portion of Iguazú, including countless panoramic vistas of the surrounding cascades.
  • The Lower Circuit (2 hours) is 5,250 feet (1,600 m) long and is also made up of elevated walkways, which go directly below and around the falls. This circuit takes you near the base of the falls and right up to the crashing torrents of water. You'll be able to feel the magnitude of the waterfall from up close.
  • The Devil's Throat (2 hours) is the star of the show. A small tourist train leaves from the Cataratas Station and travels 18 minutes to Garganta Station, where you'll find restrooms, a snack bar, and the start of the path. You'll walk 3,937 feet (1200 m) over the river until you reach the viewing platform. From there you'll be able to peer 269 feet (82 m) down into the water, as the highest of Iguazu's Falls thunders all around you.

At the end of the tour, the driver and guide will pick you up and take you back to your hotel.

Day 6: Fly to Mendoza, Heart of Argentina's Wine Country

Pretty fountains in downtown Mendoza
Elegant fountains in downtown Mendoza

It is time to say goodbye to Iguazu! This morning, you'll head to the airport for your domestic flight to Mendoza where a wine experience awaits. Once you arrive in Mendoza, you will be picked up at the airport and taken to your hotel.

This relatively sleepy city of about a million people is more than the sum of its parts, as it sits in the heart of Argentina's world-famous wine region. This is ground zero for viticulture in the nation, and it's home to Argentina's flagship wine: malbec. There are also impressive landscapes and interesting sights all around the city, from the high peak of Aconcagua to the Mendoza River to the little villages that dot the countryside and date back to pre-hispanic times. Mendoza also features some breathtaking scenery and opportunities for outdoor activities. With the Andes Mountains looming over the area's vineyards, travelers can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. Of course, vineyard tours and wine tastings are also popular activities in the region. 

The rest of the day is free to relax and explore the city at your leisure. The center of Mendoza features expansive plazas and wide boulevards shaded by canopies of bushy green sycamore leaves. In stark contrast to Buenos Aires, people here move at a relaxed pace, making this the perfect city in which to enjoy a leisurely stroll. 

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Day 7: Mendoza Horseback Ride & Winery Tour

Horseback ride through vineyards near Mendoza
Horseback ride through vineyards near Mendoza

Tour the area's vineyards on horseback today, setting out from the Nieto Senetiner Winery for a 1.5-hour scenic ride through the vines. At the end of the ride, lunch will be served at the winery complete with empanadas, a traditional gourmet Argentine asado, and a selection of wines. After lunch, tour more of the winery on foot and enjoy a guided wine tasting.

Day 8: Scenic Bus Transfer to Santiago de Chile 

Santiago at dusk
Santiago at dusk

This morning you'll transfer to the Mendoza bus station and board a comfortable sleeper bus for an unforgettable journey through the mountains. The scenic seven-hour drive takes you over the Andes and through a panorama of sweeping, high-altitude landscapes. The route passes through the painted mountains and snow-capped peaks of  Aconcagua National Park and the tiny, postcard-worthy towns of Potrerillos and Uspallata before crossing into Chile to reach your final destination of Santiago

Day 9: Wine Tasting & Vineyard Tour in the Colchagua Valley

Discover the famous red wine region of Colchagua

Embark on a full-day wine experience today, traveling into the heart of the Colchagua Valley. Located 112 miles (180 km) south of Santiago and situated between the Andes and the Coastal Mountain Range, the valley’s granitic and volcanic soils merge with an arid Mediterranean climate to support a flourishing organic red wine industry known for berry and tobacco notes. 

Early in the morning, you'll leave Santiago and travel southwards, crossing the Cachapoal Valley to arrive in Colchagua's micro-valley of Apalta, home to the most premium wines in Chile. Here you'll visit the two prestigious vineyards of Viu Manent and Lapostolle and sample their finest wines in an environment both unique and magical. After an alfresco lunch among the vines to showcase the best of Chilean gastronomy and viticulture, return to Santiago in the afternoon. 

Day 10: Casablanca Valley Wine Tasting & Visit Valparaíso

Valparaíso street art | Photo taken by Beth S
Valparaíso's colorful street art 

Another full-day adventure awaits today, as you depart from your hotel in Santiago and transfer about an hour west towards the coast. Your destination is the Casablanca Valley, one of Chile's supreme white wine regions. Here you'll tour and taste your way through the vineyards of Casas del Bosque and Matetic before continuing to the coast and the port city of Valparaíso. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its colorful hillside neighborhoods, winding stairways, and abundance of street art. It's a throwback to a time when electric trollies coasted along the waterfront and funicular elevators carried people high into the hills.

On a city tour, you'll visit some famous sites, such as the 21 de Mayo lookout point, the National Congress, Plaza de la Victoria, and the famous Cafe Turri. Other highlights include visiting the former home of Chile's Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda, and enjoying sweeping views across the peaks of El Peral, Alegre, and Concepción. At the end of the tour, you'll transfer back to Santiago for the evening.

Day 11: Fly to Punta Arenas, Gateway to Torres del Paine

Photo taken by Chuck M
The towering peaks of Torres del Paine

After breakfast, a driver will meet you at your hotel and transfer you to the airport, at which time you'll catch your flight to Punta Arenas. Upon arrival at this small Patagonian city, you'll transfer by private car to your hotel.

You're now in the major transport hub in one of the most beautiful regions of Chile. Founded in 1848 on the eastern shore of the Brunswick Peninsula, Punta Arenas was once home to the creme de la creme of Patagonian society. Today it's a bustling tourist destination, and a gateway to some of the most impressive natural attractions in Patagonia, like Torres del Paine National Park and Magdalena Island

Days 12-13: Explore Torres del Paine National Park

A guanaco considers Torres del Paine
A guanaco under the peaks of Torres del Paine

The next two days are free for you to explore the natural wonders of Torres del Paine National Park. Take the opportunity to enjoy the park's various hiking trails and breathtaking views, choosing from one of many half or full-day tours. 

Regarding the shorter tours, you might be surprised at how much you can see of Torres del Paine in just three or four hours. Whether by foot, horse, or vehicle, these half-day guided excursions are packed with adventure and interesting information about the park’s flora, fauna, geology, and history. An experienced guide will take you to impressive natural wonders like the Salto Grande waterfall and Laguna Azul. Throughout the journey, you'll pass through exotic lenga forests abounding with wildlife. 

Full-day excursions tend to last between seven and ten hours, and they leave in the morning after breakfast at your hotel. Embarking on one of these outings allows you to explore the best hiking paths, horse trails, scenic roads, and the various lakes of Torres del Paine. For full-day tours, the hotel will prepare a box lunch that you can take with you, as well as enough water and snacks to keep you energized for your park adventure. One such optional full-day adventure is a boat tour to the famous Grey Glacier, which feeds the lake of the same name.

Day 14: Fly to Santiago de Chile

Adios, Chile!
Depart Torres del Paine National Park today

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 back to Santiago. Upon arrival, you'll have the remainder of the day to relax and explore at your leisure, perhaps visiting some cultural sites, wine bars, or restaurants you may have missed at the beginning of the trip.

Day 15: Fly to Calama, Transfer to San Pedro de Atacama

Experience the otherworldly landscapes of the Atacama

This morning, a transfer takes you from your hotel in Santiago to the airport for your flight to Calama. Upon arrival in Calama, you'll be transferred to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama. Located in the Antofagasta region of the high Chile arid plateau, this small town sits at the edge of the driest desert of the world. Its little adobe houses and cozy restaurants serve as a comfortable base to explore one of Chile’s most spectacular and dramatic landscapes.

Once you've settled in and relaxed after your flight, explore more of this remarkable region with a guided excursion into the nearby Moon and Death Valleys. Venture into the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountain Range) to reach the Valle de la Muerte (Valley of Death), a mountainous and sandy landscape of striking beauty, scattered with natural salt formations that resemble sculptures and works of art. Continue to the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) to admire its sand dunes and distinctive rock formations that have been shaped by thousands of years of wind and salt erosion, creating a remarkable lunar setting. End the tour with a colorful sunset from La Gran Duna (the Great Dune) before returning to San Pedro for the evening

Day 16: Atacama Salt Flats & Lagoons Excursion

Photo taken by Marvin (Toulouse) G
Explore salt flats and high plateaus on today's excursion

Today, embark on a full-day excursion into the Atacama Desert. After breakfast, a driver will pick you up at the hotel to head to the first destination: Laguna Chaxa. Located 31 miles (50 km) from San Pedro, this desert oasis sits in the middle of the Atacama Salar salt flats, also home to Los Flamencos National Reserve. Even from afar, you can spot the Chilean flamingos that call this reserve home—their pink feathers shining brightly against the contrasting blue of the shallow water.

At lunchtime, the tour will stop in Socaire, an agricultural village famous for its simple adobe homes, rustic chapel, and slow pace of life. Continue toward the Altiplano (high plateau) lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques, which are located at 13,779 feet (4200 m) in elevation. You might feel a bit lightheaded, so try not to exert yourself too much, and be sure to drink plenty of water! Enjoy the panoramic views of an Altiplano desert surrounded by towering volcanoes, and busy with wildlife, like flamingos, foxes, and vicunas.

The last stop on the tour is a visit to the town of Toconao, an oasis with a climate ideal for the cultivation of native fruits and vegetables. Stroll the streets, shop for handicrafts, and admire local homes cobbled together out of volcanic rocks. Make sure to visit the white-washed church, a national monument with its famous three-story belltower. 

As evening falls, you'll return to your hotel to enjoy the rest of the evening in town.

Day 17: Visit the Tatio Geysers & Puritama Hot Springs

Sunrise over the Tatio Geysers
Sunrise over the Tatio Geysers

Today's an early start as you depart the hotel at 4 am for the 1.5-hour trip to one of the most important geothermal fields in the world—the Tatio Geysers. Getting a jump on the day will pay dividends as you're rewarded with the unforgettable sight of a sunrise over the Atacama Desert.

At an altitude of 4,320 meters (14,173 feet), the Tatio Geysers are the highest in the world, and the contrast between the cold outside temperatures and the boiling water of the geothermal field beneath the earth's surface causes the pillars of steam here to rise as high as 10 meters (30 feet). Along the scenic return drive, you can enjoy beautiful landscapes as well as native plants and wildlife, such as Andean feather grass, the tolares (shrublands), and vicuñas.

In the afternoon, you'll transfer 18 miles (30 km) northeast of San Pedro de Atacama to the Puritama Hot Springs. This series of eight large geothermal pools are known for their sodium sulfate waters, which are heated by the surrounding volcanic elements. These hot springs have been used for centuries, beginning with the early Atacama people who took advantage of their medicinal properties. The warm waters are a palliative for many ailments, including arthritis, stress, and fatigue. So take a long hot soak and swim around at your leisure as the 91°F/33ºC water rejuvenates your body.  At the end of the outing, you'll transfer back to your hotel in San Pedro for the evening.

Day 18: Departure Day

Watch one last sunrise over Chile before catching your departing flight

Your South American adventure draws to a close today, as you're transferred to the Calama airport to catch your departing flight. ¡Buen viaje!

More Argentina & Chile Itineraries

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