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Peaks, Lakes & Glaciers of Patagonia

An Exclusive Andean Adventure Into of Some of the Most Dramatic Alpine Landscapes on Earth
Day 1: El Calafate, Argentina
Our Patagonia adventure begins upon arrival in El Calafate, where we meet our Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner this evening.

Day 2: Petrified Forest / El Chaltén
Today we cross the broad expanse of Patagonian steppe that sprawls beyond El Calafate. Along our drive we admire magnificent views of Lago Argentino, cross several river valleys, and drink in the panorama of the Southern Andes and Mount Fitz Roy. At La Leona Petrified Forest a gentle hike reveals fossilized remnants of a warm, humid prehistoric Patagonia as we observe 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 being identified. Wind and water erosion occur rapidly, so each season we encounter new surprises. Continuing to El Chaltén, we arrive in the small alpine-styled town that is the hub of Patagonia adventure travel.

Day 3: Laguna Capri Hike or Laguna Torre Trek
An easy hike to Laguna Capri rewards us with an iconic view of Mount Fitz Roy 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 in an excursion boat across Lake Viedma to the glacier's face, then don crampons to walk safely atop the ice to examine crevasses and caves within the glacier's rugged blue surface. Viedma Glacier is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, one of 48 outlet glaciers that flows down from the nearly 6,500-square-mile mass of ice. The national park that is the glaciers' namesake – Los Glaciares – was created in 1937 and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

Day 5: Lago Argentino / Perito Moreno Glacier
This morning we enjoy bird watching 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. Next, it's on 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 where 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 of the glacier and icebergs.

Day 6: Upsala Glacier Cruise / Estancia Cristina
We cruise by catamaran across Lago Argentino to dramatic 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, the park is home to a host of wildlife including pumas and guanacos. A remarkable array of birds live here, too: 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 famed EcoCamp Patagonia, offering low-impact luxury in the wilderness. Our domed suites in this renowned accommodation 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 a complete immersion in nature. There are plenty of hours ahead to drink in this stunning landscape. During the southern summer the sun sets around 11 pm, offering magical evening light by which to admire 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 see 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. 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 dark 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
Travel to the eastern side of the park today 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 camelids upon whom the big, tawny cats have preyed. High rock formations flank the path, serving as dwelling and lookout points for the pumas. The felines 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 and spend the afternoon exploring the flora and fauna of the surrounding environs.

Day 10: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Our grand Patagonia adventure concludes today in 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 misty waters of the sound. Once we reach Punta Arenas, we gather for a farewell dinner to celebrate our final night in Patagonia.

Day 11: Punta Arenas / Home
A transfer to the airport is provided for flights home.

Physical Rating: Moderate

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