Patagonia Wilderness & Wildlife Photo Expedition
Please note: Beginning in 2025, Photo Expeditions will be 13 days long with a new itinerary. Details coming soon!
Day 1: El Calafate, Argentina
Our Patagonia photography adventure begins on arrival in El Calafate. Meet your Expedition Leader and fellow photographers at a welcome dinner this evening. On the edge of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, El Calafate was originally a hub for wool traders in the early 20th century. It became an important tourism base when Los Glaciares National Park was created in 1937 and remains so today.
Day 2: Los Glaciares National Park—Private Cruise to Perito Moreno Glacier
Discover one of Patagonia's premier highlights with a private boat cruise on Lago Argentino in Los Glaciares National Park. We disembark for a short hike along a secluded shoreline to arrive at a viewpoint overlooking the face of Perito Moreno Glacier. Among the most famous of the more than 50 outlet glaciers spilling from the 6,500-square-mile Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Perito Moreno is one of very few advancing glaciers on the planet. Almost 200 feet high, it winds down from the perpetual snowfields of the Andes to its terminus in the vast lake, calving icebergs into the turquoise water. Back aboard the boat, get close-up shots of the glacier’s imposing blue face, which spans more than 3 miles across. Ashore, it's just a short distance to the official entrance for sightseeing at Perito Moreno, with boardwalks in the area offering varied photo vantage points on the glacier and ice-littered lake.
Day 3: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Driving across pampas and steppe, we enter Chile to reach Torres del Paine National Park. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the park is home to a host of wildlife including puma, guanaco, fox, huemul (South Andean deer) and armadillo. An impressive array of birdlife is resident here, too: we may have a chance to photograph eagles, hawks, rheas, buzzards and South American condors back from the brink of extinction. Dominating the horizon are the famous Torres del Paine—“Towers of Paine"—igneous rock spires millions of years old.
A highlight is a stay at renowned EcoCamp Patagonia. Domed suites are modeled on traditional Kawesqar huts, blending artfully with the natural landscape. Warm and wind-resistant, these nomad-style dwellings offer outstanding views and a total immersion in nature. There are plenty of hours ahead to photograph the beauty of this stunning landscape: at the height of the southern summer, the sun doesn't set till around 11 pm. In its golden rays, watch fuzzy guanacos grazing on the steppe, backdropped by a row of mountain spires straight out of a fairytale. As the sun finally dips below the horizon, the peaks are bathed in rosy alpenglow—perfect light for stunning images.
Days 4–6: Photographing Torres del Paine / Puma Tracking
Spend three full days exploring Torres del Paine National Park, with a flexible schedule to accommodate light conditions and weather whims. Photograph the Paine massif from varied angles, with roaming guanacos, Andean condors and native flora in the foreground. Classic Magellanic subarctic forest species are on display here—lenga, ñire and coihue, a tall evergreen that can reach 140 feet. If we’re lucky, we may spy the Magellanic woodpecker and the huemul, a rare Chilean deer that is a national symbol found on the coat of arms on Chile's flag.
Our Expedition Leader plans each day’s itinerary based on weather conditions and visibility. Among our options, we may hike to a viewpoint overlooking Los Cuernos, a famous outcrop of dark granite horn-like spires. Brilliant blue Lake Pehoe reflects the serrated peaks like a mirror, and we follow its shoreline to Salto Grande Falls, which thunders down from Lake Nordenskjold above. In the northern part of the park, Laguna Azul offers a wholly different vantage point on the famous Torres del Paine. We may also stop at Cascada del Rio Paine to photograph this series of terraced waterfalls.
In the park, search for pumas along the sendero de la fauna—the animals' trail—so dubbed for the many guanacos that frequent the route. It winds through a favorite puma hunting area where we may see remains of camelids that the tawny cats have preyed upon. "Puma" is the name the Incas gave to this agile predator, which is also known as a cougar or mountain lion. High rock formations flank the path, providing dwellings and lookouts for these stealthy felines. While pumas are notoriously elusive, we have been able to photograph them regularly in recent seasons. We'll hope to further that luck on a walk through known puma territory, as our Expedition Leader teaches us how to scout for signs of their presence.
Day 7: Estancia Cerro Guido—Conservation & Gaucho Traditions
After a last morning of exploring around EcoCamp Patagonia, we travel to Estancia Cerro Guido where we spend two nights. Established by European pioneers at the end of the 19th century, this is the largest cattle ranch in the history of Chilean Patagonia, still a working livestock and agricultural enterprise on nearly a quarter-million acres. Dedicated to conservation leadership, the ranch has sought to achieve coexistence between livestock and wildlife, demonstrating that both can flourish in harmony. Improving the condition of its grasslands has attracted native fauna, including grazing guanacos. Given its location on a biological corridor with Torres del Paine National Park, wildlife on its vast expanse is abundant, and we sometimes spot gray fox, puma and Darwin’s rhea, a large flightless bird that is a relative of the ostrich and stands three feet tall. Look up, too, to see Andean condors soaring overhead.
Cattle and sheep are looked after by gauchos, the traditional Patagonia cowboys who travel the fields on horseback, and we learn about their history and culture on a tour of the ranch today, which also showcases its conservation achievements. Visit the stable, learn how sheep dogs work the herds, and see the organic gardens where produce is grown to supply the kitchen that provides our outstanding meals. Tuck in at night into beautifully appointed accommodations in restored 1920s cottages built by original English pioneers.
Day 8: Cerro Guido—Puma Tracking Safari
An exciting adventure is in store today: a chance to participate in Cerro Guido’s puma research project, which was launched in 2019. Early this morning, head into the field with professional puma trackers who are dedicated full-time to studying pumas that live on the ranch. Through observation with binoculars, review of camera traps, presentation of video material and informative talks, the research team shares their daily work with us, noting achievements and explaining challenges. We’ll learn a great deal about Patagonia’s most magnificent feline predator as well as the varied wildlife of the region and how to facilitate harmonious coexistence between livestock and these native dwellers in the wild. Along the way, we keep a close watch for pumas, with cameras at the ready for possible sightings.
Day 9: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Drive south this morning with views of Lago el Toro en route to reach our lunch stop at Puerto Natales on Ultima Esperanza Sound, where black-necked swans and gulls bob in the sapphire sea. Backdropped by the Paine Massif, Riesco Mountains and glaciers of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the sound, whose name means "last hope," was so dubbed in 1557 by the mariner Juan Ladrilleros, who was seeking the Strait of Magellan. The body of water represented his final hope to find the strait after exploring the intricate maze of channels between the Pacific Ocean and the mainland. It was not until 1830 that another major expedition sailed through the fjords of Ultima Esperanza: the first British expedition of the sloop HMS Beagle. From here we continue southward to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan, stopping at Nao Victoria for striking landscape shots. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner.
Day 10: Punta Arenas / Depart
A transfer to the airport is included this morning to meet departing flights.
Please Note: This itinerary is meant as a guideline and can change due to the unpredictable nature of the wind and weather in Patagonia. On some occasions, conditions may require us to deviate from our intended itinerary, in which case we will provide the best available alternative. And we'll make a great adventure of it!