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Patagonia Photo Expedition

Capture stunning images of extraordinary alpine and glacial landscapes--and wildlife, too!
Day 1: El Calafate, Argentina
Arrive in El Calafate, where we meet our Expedition Leader and enjoy a welcome dinner this evening. Our leader, an outstanding South American nature photographer, will provide an orientation to our itinerary with an overview of the photography highlights that lie ahead.

Day 2: Petrified Forest / El Chaltén
We spend today driving across the broad expanse of the Patagonian steppe that sprawls northeast from El Calafate. Along our drive there are possibilities for great shots of Lago Argentino, several broad river valleys and the panorama of the Southern Andes and Mount Fitz Roy. At La Leona Petrified Forest we take a gentle hike through fossilized remnants of a warm, humid prehistoric Patagonia. We'll see enormous tree trunks that date back millions of years, heaps of fossilized broken bones, and occasionally whole leg bones of large reptiles, some of which are still in the process of being identified. Wind and water erosion occur rapidly, so each season we encounter new surprises. Continuing to El Chaltén, we arrive in the small town known as the Trekking Capital of Patagonia.

Day 3: Laguna Capri Hike or Laguna Torre Trek
An easy hike to Laguna Capri rewards us with an iconic view of Mt. Fitz Roy's spires rising above the tranquil waters. A more strenuous option is an all-day trek to Laguna Torre, one of the most exquisite settings in Patagonia. A trail through beech forest and bog ascends to the lake, nestled at the base of Mount Torre. The granite spire rising above the lake has been eroded by wind and ice into one of the world's most distinctive alpine profiles. Below the peak, icebergs float peacefully on the lake, drifting with the wind.

Day 4: Viedma Glacier Trek
An exciting adventure awaits today, a trek on the Viedma Glacier, the largest in Los Glaciares National Park. We cruise by boat across Lake Viedma to the glacier's face, then don crampons to walk safely atop the ice as we examine the crevasses and caves beneath the glacier's rugged blue surface. Viedma Glacier is part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, one of 48 outlet glaciers that flow down from the nearly 6500-square-mile mass of ice. The national park that is the glaciers' namesake – Los Glaciares – was created in 1937 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

Day 5: Lago Argentino / Perito Moreno Glacier
This morning, we enjoy bird watching and photography on Lago Argentino, Patagonia's largest freshwater lake fed by the glacial meltwater of several rivers. More than 40 migratory species frequent the lake, including black-necked swans, flamingos and silvery grebes. Then we're off to one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders, Perito Moreno Glacier. One of very few advancing glaciers on the planet, Perito Moreno is Patagonia's most famous. Nearly 200 feet high, it winds down from the perpetual snowfields of the Andes to its terminus in Lago Argentino. Here, it crowds the water with enormous floating rafts of ice that calve from its massive face. We'll do some light hiking in the area for varied views and photographic opportunities of the glacier and icebergs.

Day 6: Upsala Glacier Cruise / Estancia Cristina
Cruise by catamaran across Lago Argentino to magnificent Upsala Glacier, a large valley glacier with an imposing blue face nearly five miles across. Unlike Perito Moreno, this glacier is retreating rapidly, leaving a jagged puzzle of ice floes. We disembark at Estancia Cristina, an early 20th-century sheep farm where the traditional gaucho way of life once prevailed. After a lunch of lamb roasted on a spit, we'll ride in 4-wheel-drive vehicles to a lookout for stupendous views of the surrounding peaks and Lago Argentino far below.

Day 7: Torres del Paine National Park
Driving across pampas and steppe, we enter Chile and Torres del Paine National Park. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, beautiful and pristine, the park is home to a host of wildlife, including pumas and guanacos. A remarkable array of birds lives here: we may see eagles, hawks, lesser rheas, buzzards and South American condors returned from the brink of extinction. Dominating the horizon are the famous "horns and towers of Paine," igneous rock spires millions of years old.

We stay at renowned EcoCamp Patagonia, offering low-impact luxury in the wilderness. Our domed suites are modeled on traditional Kawesqa native huts, blending artfully with the wild landscape. Warm and wind-resistant, our nomad-style dwellings afford superlative views and an unparalleled immersion in nature. There are plenty of hours ahead to drink in this stunning landscape, camera in hand. During the southern summer the sun sets around 11 pm, offering magical evening light by which to photograph the furry guanacos grazing on the steppe and the mythical-looking peaks on the horizon, bathed in the sunset glow.

Day 8: Laguna Inge / Botanical Safari / Lake Pehoe
Rising at dawn to witness and photograph the sunrise (weather permitting), our day begins early with a hike to Laguna Inge, watching overhead for Andean condors and eagles hunting hares and small rodents. Our return route from the lake winds around Almirante Nieto Mountain, taking us back to the EcoCamp where we'll enjoy a guided exploration of the flora around the camp, offering great close-ups of wildflowers. This afternoon we drive across the park, surveying the snow-clad massif of Paine Grande, highest in the range, and Los Cuernos, famed for its black granite, horn-like spires. On a calm day, brilliant blue Lake Pehoe reflects the serrated peaks like a mirror. We follow its shoreline to Salto Grande Falls, a thunderous cataract pouring into the lake from Lake Nordenskjold above. We return to EcoCamp in time for a hearty dinner.

Day 9: Torres del Paine Hiking
Today we travel to the eastern side of the park to follow the "sendero de la fauna" – the animals' trail – so dubbed for the many guanacos often seen along the way. It winds through a favorite puma hunting area where we may see the remains of guanacos upon which the big tawny cats have preyed. High rock formations flank the path, serving as dwelling and lookout points for the pumas. They are highly elusive, however, and sightings are rare. We'll also visit a cave en route with ancient paintings decorating the walls, mostly representing guanacos. This afternoon we return to EcoCamp to explore the flora and fauna of the surrounding environs.

Day 10: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Our adventure continues today as we set out for one of the world's southernmost cities, Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan. Along our leisurely drive, we'll stop for lunch and exploration time in Puerto Natales, an attractive town on Ultima Esperanza Sound that serves as a gateway for trips into Chilean Patagonia. From town one can see the Riesco Mountain Range, the Paine Massif, and the Southern Ice Field Glaciers, while in the foreground, black-necked swans and gulls bob on the often-misty waters of the sound. Once we reach Punta Arenas, we gather for a dinner near the town's main square.

Day 11: Magdalena Island Penguin Colony
A wondrous sight is in store today as we visit one of the largest penguin colonies in Chile. We travel by Zodiac across the Strait of Magellan to uninhabited Magdalena Island, where thousands of Magellanic penguins come to breed each summer. We'll capture all their antics with our cameras, watching them waddle and fall flat on their faces as they negotiate obstacles on land. Yet they are agile swimmers, remarkably graceful in the water. En route we may also see sea lions that inhabit nearby Marta Island. Our grand nature adventure concludes in Punta Arenas, where we enjoy a farewell dinner to celebrate our final night in Patagonia.

Day 12: Depart Punta Arenas
A transfer to the airport is provided for flights home.

Physical Rating: Moderate

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