Arrive Argentina today and transfer independently to your comfortable hotel. Spend your free time exploring the amazing architecture of Buenos Aires, or simply relax after your long international flight. Overnight.
A morning flight takes you to the lively town of El Calafate to begin our Argentina travels. Upon arrival, you'll begin the four hour drive across the rugged landscape toward Chalten. Along the way, enjoy the magnificent geography of the region as you drive through the mountains, passing stunning lakes and winding rivers. After settling into your hotel, meet your trekking guide for a briefing of the next day's trek.
Your four day trekking adventure begins today as we hike through subantarctic forest and passing the small glacier lake named Piedras Blancas that is situated below and filled by waters from a glacier that bears the same name. Your route runs parallel with the Rio Blanco before you begin the toughest part of your trek - a fifty minute climb that zigzags up a 45º slope. Your efforts are more than rewarded when you arrive at the eerily still glacial Laguna de Los Tres with one of Patagonia's best panoramic vistas (and quite possibly in the world)! Enjoy lunch and take in the view of Mount Fitz Roy, which hovers above you amidst the clouds. Continue on to your campsite at Poincenot. 7 hours of hiking covering 9 miles (14 km).
After breakfast, we start our trek to Camp Torre and pass two lagoons appropriately named Madre and Hija (Mother and Daughter). We'll be passing through a living natural history lesson on glaciation and learn about the history that created this stunning landscape. We'll keep our eyes out for Andean condors, Magellenic woodpeckers and other Patagonian wildlife along our way. This segment lasts four hours to get to the camp. There is an optional extra hike from Lago Torre to Mirador Maestri for an extra two hour hike to the old base camp for climbers who explored the Torre Massif in the early 1970's. 6 hours of hiking covering 7 miles (10 km) if completing the full hike.
After an early breakfast, today's hike takes you through dense southern beech forest to descend toward the valley of the De las Vueltas River, being rewarded with the most stunning views on either side of great mountain ranges before returning to El Chalten. A vehicle will then take you to Bahia Tunel, a small harbor on Lago Viedma at the mouth of the Tunel Rio, to embark for a quick boat trip across Lago Viedma en route to Viedma Glacier, one of Argentina's largest glaciers. You will then don crampons, and after some instruction, begin to trek on the Viedma Glacier (this is designed for people who have never tried ice hiking with crampons). You'll have a sack lunch with you so that you can enjoy the ethereal experience of picnicking on the glacier, with the jagged Adela mountain chain rising beyond. After your glacial adventure exploring some of the ice caves and crevasses, descend to the glacier's lateral moraine for the boat trip back across the lake and return to El Chalten. 6 hours hiking (2.5 hours on the glacier) covering 9 miles (14 km).
For your last views of the Fitz Roy, hike from El Chalten to Pliegue Tumbado range with great vantage points of the area you have hiked over the past days with Lake Capri, Torre Glacier, and Mount Fitz Roy as well as of Mount Huemul and Lago Viedma to the south. Return to El Chalten for a late afternoon transfer to El Calafate. 8 hours of hiking covering 13 miles (21 km).
Today you'll drive into Parque Nacional Los Glaciares for views of the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier. This huge advancing glacier is more than 3 miles wide at its front and over 20 stories high. You'll take a boat across Lago Argentino and pass the massive front wall of blue ice, all the while watching for icebergs. After landing on a small beach you'll start hiking through the beech forest to the ice pack of the glacier and have the opportunity to hike on the glacier with crampons (This Glacier trek has a minimum age of 12 and a maximum age of 65. Alternate excursions are available for those under 12 or over 65 years of age). You'll eat your lunch sitting on the lateral moraine of the glacier, where you can absorb the magnificence of the glacier's anatomy and listen to its thunderous concerto of groaning and cracking ice dropping into the lake below. Tonight, sample some of El Calafate's Patagonian nightlife!
Take the bus to Puerto Natales (5.5 hour bus trip on a comfortable bus) before setting off for your drive to Torres del Paine National Park (two hours in a private vehicle). On the way, stop at an enormous cave that once sheltered a prehistoric sloth, the Milodón. You'll arrive to the EcoCamp, a deluxe tent camp of large igloo-shaped tents built to minimize environmental impact while providing a comfortable setting. You'll find no noisy diesel generators or destructive septic systems. Instead, EcoCamp provides candlelight, feather comforters, composting toilets, and plenty of quiet to enjoy your spectacular surroundings.
Click here for detailed W Circuit hiking itinerary
Look out for Andean condors as you begin a relaxed hike along the shores of Lake Nordenskjold this morning. Your path follows the Paso Los Cuernos trail under the Paine massif west towards the Refugio Los Cuernos. Your day is spent hiking between the turquoise lake to the south and the imposing mountains and vertical rock walls to the north and below the Cuernos (horns) of black slate that sit atop the grey granite of the massif. The views are magnificient from the refugio, nestled in the center of this landscape and protected from the Patagonian wind. The refugio provides clean dormitory style accommodations where you can swap stories with travelers from around the world.
Waking to a brisk Patagonia morning, you'll prepare for one of your fullest hiking days. Your first trail takes you from Lago Nordenskjold to Camp Italiano and ascends Mirador del Frances. Your route follows undulating terrain of rich grasslands, sparse forest and the torrents off Frances River. Upon reaching the lookout point, you are treated to magnificent views of Frances Glacier and the lakes below. You'll descend in the afternoon to the charming Paine Grande Mountain Lodge on the shores of Lake Pehoe.
You'll begin today's hike through dense forests to Mirador Grey. Here you're rewarded with views of the towering walls of Grey Glacier and floating icebergs below. This huge glacier represents the end of the Southern ice field. Depending on conditions, you might continue another few hours to the very walls of the glacier. Your pathway leads you through a rainforest very different from the equatorial Amazon and more akin to the Pacific Northwest's ecosystem. Along the way you'll spot some of the 115 species of birds and learn a bit about this unique southern forest. In the afternoon, you'll embark on the ferry and set off across the Lago Grey. Passing amongst icebergs of fantastic colors and shapes. From the decks of the boat, you can appreciate the vastness of the glacier. Occasionally there are times when such large chunks have fallen from the Glacier that it becomes impossible to navigate the ferry too close. You will disembark on the banks of Lago Grey and transfer back to the EcoCamp where dinner and drinks are waiting for you.
On either day depending on the best weather conditions you'll hike to the foot of the gigantic spires of El Paine (8 hours roundtrip). Weather permitting, you'll witness the most famous sight of the Torres del Paine - the three granite monoliths reaching 9,400 feet- a testament to the massive glacial forces that carved them out of the earth. The other day is saved to walk to the Mirador Laguna Azul and then to the eastern side of Sarmiento Lake, a good spot to observe guanaco. Later you'll hike the Paso Las Cornizas with a view of the Paine River, Pehoe Lake, and the Paine massif. Back at EcoCamp, enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate the experiences of the past week and say your goodbyes to your wonderful hosts.
Early this morning, you'll transfer to Punta Arenas for the late afternoon flight to Santiago (must be a flight departing after 3:00 pm from Punta Arenas).
With a few more days, you can add extensions to the Atacama Desert, Isla Chiloe, a cruise around Tierra del Fuego to Argentina, or rafting in the Lakes District to continue your Patagonia travel adventures.
$755 single supplement
Not applicable to Days 8-13 for the nights in refugios and the EcoCamp. Single accommodations not available in Torres del Paine