Day 1: Join tour in Buenos Aires
Join tour Buenos Aires and check-in to our hotel. Here we find ourselves in the midst of Argentina's vibrant capital, located on the southern shores of the Rio de la Plata.
Since its founding by Pedro de Mendoza in 1536 the city has thrived on trade and its vibrant streets are filled with an eclectic mix of European architectural styles, with
Spanish, French and Italian classicism rubbing shoulders with remnants of Victorian grandeur. Gaining independence from its Spanish overlords in 1816 the city grew to
rival the great cities of Europe, its wide avenues and elegant squares earning it the title of the Paris of the South.
Day 2: In Buenos Aires; tour of the Argentinian capital
Today we will take a tour of the city, exploring the major landmarks around the Plaza de Mayo, site of the famous mass demonstrations by supporters of Juan Domingo Peron in 1945, organised by his wife Eva. We'll also visit the elaborate mausoleums of the famous Recoleta Cemetary, the final resting place of some of Argentina's most revered figures, including Eva Peron herself. Our tour will also takes us via Palermo Park and the colourful vibrancy of La Caminito in the La Boca district of the city. Settled originally by Italian migrants, the area is famed for its colourful houses and lively street performers. You can even come across the tango being performed on some street corners,
highlighting the city's connection with this most Latin of dances. This evening we have an opportunity to enjoy something of Buenos Aires' dazzling nightlife and soak
up the pulsating rhythms of one of South America's most captivating cities.
Day 3: Fly to Ushuaia; free afternoon to explore
Today we transfer to the airport for the flight to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, spectacularly located on the Island of Tierra del Fuego at the very tip of the South American continent. Depending on the flight times, you may be departing in the very early hours for your internal flight. Beyond this remote port lies the Beagle Channel and then the open waters of The Drake Passage, where the deep rich waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans converge amidst some of the most challenging seas on earth. This afternoon is free, flight time permitting. You may explore this remarkable city at the end of the earth and visit the Maritime Museum, housed in what was once the prison, to learn a little something about the harsh realities of life on these unforgiving oceans. Alternatively you can take a half day trip out into the Beagle Channel itself to experience a little something of the power and majesty of these southern oceans or visit Harberton Estancia to see the Penguins. A trip to the nearby Glacier Martial affords some superb views out across the Beagle Channel to the Chilean islands beyond (weather permitting). NB - depending on the flight times to Ushuaia breakfast will be taken either at the hotel in Buenos Aires or in flight.
Day 4: Walks in Tierra del Fuego National Park
Tierra del Fuego translates as the Land of Fires and today we have time to explore the nearby national park. Separated from Patagonia by the waters of the Magellan Strait, Tierra del Fuego is a landscape of lakes, forest and tundra, set beneath an imposing backdrop of ragged mountain peaks. This morning we take a forest trail to Lapataia Bay, taking in the expansive views and hopefully coming across some of the abundant wildlife in the area. These peaks and valleys, filled with Lenga and Guindo trees which provide a rich haven for Patagonian grey foxes and condors . After lunch we return to Ushuaia and have a free afternoon to further explore the area.
Day 5: Bus and ferry to Punta Arenas
After breakfast this morning we depart by public bus and spend our day travelling across Tierra del Fuego, crossing the Magellan Strait by ferry and entering Chile, to complete our journey to Punta Arenas later this afternoon. One of the largest maritime settlements in the region and the first Chilean settlement along the waters of the Magellan Strait, Punta Arenas was founded in the mid 19th century, beginning its life as a penal colony and growing rich on sheep ranching and (before the opening of the Panama Canal) the vital facilities that it offered to shipping traversing the dangerous routes through the southern oceans. Tonight we will have a chance to enjoy some local specialities, such as king crab, and perhaps sampling some of the excellent Chilean wines before retiring for the evening.
Day 6: Drive to Torres del Paine National Park
A landscape of rugged mountains, turquoise coloured glacial lakes and spectacular wildlife, the majestic vistas of Chilean Patagonia are some of the most scenic and environmentally diverse regions on the planet. Travelling north across the Patagonian steppe, with it's desolate rolling plains and views of the peaks of the Cordillera in the distance, we head first for the city of Puerto Natales, our gateway into the sumptuous landscapes of the Torres del Paine National Park. Founded in 1911 this southerly coastal town is a shipping port and a transport hub for almost everyone heading for the Paine Park and in fine weather the cafes are filled with travellers and crowds gathering for the big event - the arrival of the Navimag boat from Puerto Montt. After a brief stop in the town we continue towards the magnificent landscapes of the park, surely one of the most beautiful natural vistas on earth and a place once described by Alberto de Agostini as one of the most spectacular sights that the human imagination can conceive. Blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, the 934 square miles of land was turned into national park in 1959 and takes its name from the Tehuelche Indian word payne
meaning blue, apt acknowledgment of the striking turquoise lakes that abound in this astonishing place. Our dramatic drive takes us via the Milodon Cave to our accommodation in Torres del Paine.
Day 7: Discover Torres del Paine National Park on foot
Torres del Paine is a stunningly beautiful national park, lying amidst a region of ice-capped peaks, silent blue glacial lakes and wild hill country. We have several options here to enjoy this incredible place. Included in the trip is a full day of fairly easy hiking and lookout points, as we don our walking boots and take on a comfortable 8km wildlife hike from Lake Sarmiento to the Laguna Amarga. At first the area seems barren but it is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. It's not unusual to see large numbers of guanacos here, as well as black-necked swans, upland geese and pink flamingos. We may even be fortunate enough to spot condors, or even the elusive puma. There are also more than 20 sites of ancient cliff paintings approximately 6000 years old along the trail. We continue to the Cascada Paine, a stunningly situated falls under the backdrop of the jagged peaks of the Torres.
For those who prefer something more challenging, you have the option of undertaking the 20km trek to the base of the Torres del Paine. The hike culminates in one of the most impressive lookouts in the park, over the spectacular Torres - imposing pinnacles of sharp granite that rise up over 2600m to pierce the sky. The entire hike is full of breathtaking panoramas as you pass by glacial lakes, river valleys and mountain forest. If you would like to undertake this trek, your Explore Leader will need to know by day 2 of the trip, in order to ensure that a guide is in place for you. Please also note that the Torres hike is not included, whereas the day exploration is.
Day 8: In Torres del Paine National Park; optional boat trip
On our second day in Torres del Paine, we will start the day with a visit to a viewpoint where we will enjoy stunning panoramas of Lake Pehoe. Next, we will head to Mirador Cuernos where we will see views of the Valle del Frances (approximately 2 hours walk). In the afternoon, there is the opportunity to take an optional zodiac trip on the Serrano River to witness the Serrano Glacier. For those not interested in the boat trip, other options include walking to the Claudio Lagoon or to the Nuria river. (both walks are approximately 2 hours).
Day 9: Travel to Calafate
After breakfast we depart for the Argentinean border at Cerro Castillo, crossing the vastness of an empty, treeless plateau, where the only signs of life are the occasional estancia sheltering behind a windbreak of rare trees. Our destination is Calafate, situated on the southern shores of Lago Argentino, an unassuming little community that has been declared the national capital of the glacier region and the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park (approximately 6 hours drive).
Day 10: Full day visit to Perito Moreno Glacier
Today we have a full day visit to the awe-inspiring Perito Mereno Glacier, a highlight which ranks as one of South America's most magnificent sights and arguably one of the world's greatest spectacles. Fed by the vast expanse of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, the glacier covers some 250 sq km and presents us with an impressive list of statistics. It stretches of over 30km and at its deepest point is over 700m thick. It is advancing at a rate of 700 metres per year, but is estimated to calve off great chunks at probably the same rate, meaning that it has remained pretty much stationary for nearly a century. All in all it is a natural masterpiece of quite spectacular majesty. Whilst at the glacier, there will be the chance to either trek on the ice (an age limit of 65 years applies due to Glaciares National Park regulations) or take a boat ride to get closer to the glacier face.
Day 11: Drive to El Chalten; optional walks in the Huemul reserve
Today we drive to the picturesque town of Chalten (approximately 3 hours), lying at the confluence of the De las Vueltas and Fitzroy Rivers in Los Glaciares National Park. Arriving at approximately 11am we will have lunch before checking in, the afternoon is free to explore the town and its surrounding trails. You will have the option to visit the Huemul reservation, a private pristine reserve 16kms from Chalten, with numerous trails to explore. Although you don't get the spectacular views that you have come to expect from Torres, the park is beautiful in its solitude and is home to a diverse number of species including condors, foxes and the magellanic woodpecker.
Day 12: Hikes in the El Chalten area
Over the next day and a half we have the opportunity to explore the stunning Fitzroy Massif. Today you may choose to take the option to set out with a local guide, weather permitting, to cover the distance to the base of Fitzroy Mountain, whose unmistakable summit is almost permanently covered in cloud, a phenomenon that was believed to be smoke by the indigenous Tehuelche who named it Chalten (Smokey mountain). The mountain reaches a height of some 3405m and its forests and slopes are home to a unique array of wildlife, including the elusive huemel, a small deer and the majestic (and far from small) condor, one of the largest land birds on the planet. The scale and grandeur of this setting, where the glaciers seem to hang suspended between the jagged peaks, makes this walk a truly rewarding excursion and the return journey will take us some 8-9 hours (approx. 21km). Please note this walk is moderate to challenging due to the distance covered and the type of terrain, there are other shorter walks available on self-guided trails should you prefer or you may take the time instead to relax around the town of Chalten and its stunning surrounds.
Day 13: Free morning, fly to Buenos Aires
This morning is left free to further explore the area, and there are a number of short walks that you could undertake, such as the 45min walk to the condor lookout, or the 2 hour (6km) easy walk to the Chorrillo del Salto waterfall. After making the most of our final time in these beautiful surroundings, we fly back to Buenos Aires this afternoon.
Day 14: Fly Trelew
Today you fly to Trelew. Situated in the northwest of Argentinean Patagonia, on the Chubut River, the town can trace its Celtic routes back to the 1860s, when this small community was established by Captain Sir Love Jones-Parry and Lewis Jones. Today it provides the ideal base from which to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Valdes Peninsula and can boast the distinction of being one of the only places outside of Wales where the annual Eisteddfod is performed. Please note while staying in Trelew transfers and excursions are not in a private vehicle but may be shared with others.
Day 15: Full day discovering the Valdes Peninsula wildlife
A UNESCO site of some significance for the conservation of marine mammals, the Valdes Peninsula covers over 3600 square kilometres of salt lakes and coastline that provides vital breeding grounds for southern elephant seals, southern sea lions and the endangered southern right whale. These rich Atlantic waters are also the hunting ground of orcas, which have developed a unique strategy that sees them beaching themselves on the barren shores to take full advantage of the breeding colonies of seals occupying the rocky peninsula. Away from the waters the area is also populated by large numbers of rheas and guanacos, as well as over 180 species of birds, including the Antarctic pigeon. Today we take a full day trip around Valdez visiting the reserve and its museum, before continuing by bus to Puerto Piramides a small village lying on the Golfo Nuevo where the whales come each spring to breed. In October and November it may be possible to take a boat trip into the bay for a close-up view of the whales basking and diving amongst the sheltered waters of the bay (optional excursion, dependent on local weather conditions). From here we continue along the coast to Caleta Valdes to view some colonies of elephant seals en route back to Trelew. You may wish to add on the optional visit to the Estancia San Lorenzo - this excursion would be added onto your included Valdez Excursion. This needs to be pre arranged the day before.
Day 16: Optional Punta Tombo penguin visit, fly back to Buenos Aires
This morning is left free. You have the option to visit the Punta Tombo, before your return flight to Buenos Aires
Day 17: Trip ends Buenos Aires
Our trip ends this morning in Buenos Aires.
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