Day 1: Trip begins in Buenos Aires
Arrive in Buenos Aires, Argentina's 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.
You will be met on arrival in Buenos Aires by a driver, and taken to your centrally-located hotel. You can either arrive into either Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP) or Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), a 30 minute or 1 hour drive respectively from our hotel. There are no activities planned today, so feel free to arrive in Buenos Aires at any time. For those booking their own flights, you will just need to let us know your flight details no later than three weeks prior to departure, in order to be met on arrival.
If your flight arrives earlier in the day, you could explore this lively city by wandering the city streets, admiring the impressive architecture and relaxing parks, or enjoy the traditional Porteno pastime of people watching from the many sidewalk cafes.
Day 2: In Buenos Aires; explore the diverse barrios of the Argentinian capital
Take tour of the city on foot and on public transport with a local guide, 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. Visit 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. Discover artistic San Telmo, as well as the dockside area of Puerto Madero. San Telmo has a superb antiques market on Sundays, where you may frequently find some live tango dancing - it's worth bearing this in mind when you look at dates.
The afternoon is free for you to do some solo exploration. You might want to seek out the elaborate mausoleums of the famous Recoleta Cemetary, the final resting place of some of Argentina's most revered figures, including Eva Peron herself, as well as the superb collection of gardens in Palermo Park.
Day 3: Fly to Ushuaia; free afternoon for glacier visits or penguin spotting
Transfer early to the airport today 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. Flight times to Ushuaia change regularly throughout the year, so it may be the case that you depart 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 wish to spend some time exploring 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, there are different boat trips available into the Beagle Channel, which allow you to experience a little something of the power and majesty of these southern oceans.
All boat trips allow for wildlife spotting. One trip to the Isla de los Lobos is on a small yacht, taking in Bird Island and the sea lion island, as well as the Les Eclaireurs lighthouse. Another trip offers a longer excursion going further into the Beagle Channel, where you may spot (in addition to the above) cormorants and albatross. This boat trip also takes you to see the two penguin colonies on the Isla Martillo. Here you can view Magellanic and Gentoo penguins from the boat as well as, luck permitting, the King Emperor penguin. The third boat trip that we have listed in our Optional Excursions information also takes you to Isla Martillo, as well as the historic ranch at Harberton that dates back to the late 1800s. For this third trip we use the only local tour company with permits to land on the island, in small groups, and this will give you the chance to walk among the penguins at a respectful distance. Due to the limited numbers permitted we recommend booking this particular excursion in advance through Explore - all price details are in the Optional Excursions information within your trip notes. The other trips can be booked locally through our agent, who have an office in central Ushuaia.
Day 4: Discover the Tierra del Fuego National Park
Explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park today with your local guide. Translating as the Land of Fires, this National Park is separated from Patagonia by the waters of the Magellan Strait, and plays home to a magnificent landscape of lakes, forest and tundra, set beneath an imposing backdrop of ragged mountain peaks. Take a leisurely walk along 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, provide a rich haven for Patagonian grey fox and condor. After lunch you'll return to Ushuaia with a free afternoon to further explore the area.
Day 5: Travel across the Magellan Strait to Punta Arenas, by bus and ferry
It's a long travel day today, as you'll spend the whole day on various types of transport to cross into Chile. A private driver will take you to the public bus terminal, from where you'll take the bus across Tierra del Fuego, crossing the Magellan Strait by ferry. The ferry crossing leads to border control (fruit and nuts cannot be taken into Chile - a small but important note if you like travelling with these snacks!), from where you'll get back on the bus towards Punta Arenas. The entire journey will take approximately 12 hours including the ferry crossing, border control and several stops. From the bus stop to the hotel in Punta Arenas is a 10 minute walk.
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. Take the opportunity tonight to taste some local specialities, such as king crab, and perhaps sampling some of the excellent Chilean wines before retiring for the evening.
Day 6: Drive across the Patagonian Steppe 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, you'll take a shared transfer that passes through the city of Puerto Natales and the gateway into the sumptuous landscapes of the Torres del Paine National Park.
Torres del Paine contains what must surely be some of the most beautiful natural vistas on earth - it was once described by the priest and mountaineer 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. This dramatic drive ends at the perfectly located accommodation in Torres del Paine.
Day 7: Hike to Base Torres for spectacular mountain views
Undertake one of the park's most famous day hikes today, with the challenging 22km trek to the base of the Torres del Paine. The entire hike is full of breath-taking panoramas as you cross glacial lakes, passing through river valleys and mountain forest, culminating 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 total ascent and descent of the hike is 950m, taking you from a starting altitude of 30m to the peak of 980m, over approximately ten hours of walking time. The terrain is hilly, with mainly small and undulating slopes until the last kilometre, which is a steep push to the top. You'll be hiking in a group of other travellers today, sharing the hiking guide with a maximum of 10 people.
Day 8: Discover Torres del Paine National Park on foot and by bus
On your second day in Torres del Paine, you'll head out in another shared excursion to explore the park by vehicle and on foot. Start the day with a visit to Lake Grey, a lake the epitomises the rugged nature of Torres del Paine, with it's spectacular views of Glacier Grey backed by jagged mountains. Continue to the stunning panoramic viewpoints over Nordenskjold and Pehoe Lakes, the windy shores of the Laguna Azul and the cascading waterfalls of Paine and Salto Grande in this all-encompassing excursion around the national park. There will, of course, be opportunities for some short walks amid the wild landscapes.
Day 9: Travel to Calafate, the gateway to the Glaciares National Park
Travel back into Argentina today, with a private transfer to the bright blue waters of Laguna Amarga before joining a shared transfer to Calafate. Cross the vastness of an empty, treeless plateau, where the only signs of life are the occasional estancia sheltering behind a windbreak of rare trees, and traverse the Argentinian border at Cerro Castillo. The final 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. The drive should take approximately 6-7 hours today and again, the hotel is only a few minutes' walk away from the bus stop.
Day 10: Full day visit to Perito Moreno Glacier
Today you have a full day visit to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno 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 at its deepest point is over 700mwith an impressive list of statistics. It stretches 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.
During the visit today, you'll be taking a boat trip to witness the sheer enormity of the glacier wall at close quarters, before driving back to Calafate.
Day 11: Drive to El Chalten
Take a shared transfer to the picturesque town of Chalten (approximately 3 hours), lying at the confluence of the De las Vueltas and Fitz Roy Rivers in Los Glaciares National Park. Arriving in the early afternoon, 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: Hike to the base of Mount Fitz Roy
Over the next day and a half, you have the opportunity to explore the stunning Fitz Roy Massif. Set out with a local guide, weather permitting, to cover the distance to the base of Mount Fitz Roy, 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 (smoky mountain). The mountain reaches a height of some 3405m, and our aim is to reach the base at around 1200m. Its forests and slopes are home to a unique array of wildlife, including the elusive huemel, a small deer and the majestic 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.
The hike is on a well-marked trail covering a variety of terrain, from atmospheric forest and flowing rivers to open mountain scenery. The total ascent and descent is approximately 730m, over a distance of 22km. This return journey will take some 8-9 hours.
Day 13: Fly to Buenos Aires
It's a three hour drive back to Calafate this morning, in time for an afternoon flight to Buenos Aires. The rest of the afternoon and evening is at your leisure - you may wish to book a tango show for a truly Latin experience.
Day 14: Trip ends Buenos Aires
Your trip ends today, and you will be taken to the airport to meet your international flight. There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Buenos Aires, either Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP) or Ezeiza International Airport (EZE), at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day, luggage storage facilities are available at the hotel.
Touring with Explore
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With Explore, you'll get to see your destination from a whole new perspective that takes you away from the typical well-trodden tourist track. You'll have the chance to meet, dine and stay with local people, rest in authentic accommodation with other like-minded explorers and travel to must-see destinations with a unique Explore twist.
From family trips to holidays for solo travellers; cycling tours to wildlife safaris; trekking on mountains or exploring miles of scenic coastline; self-guided holidays or small group trips; there is something for every kind of traveller with Explore. They will provide their expert knowledge, exciting itineraries and outstanding service as part of their sustainable travel experiences which take you under the skin of the country you're visiting for the adventure of a lifetime.