2020 Peaks, Lakes & Glaciers of Patagonia Itinerary
Day 1: El Calafate, Argentina
Our Patagonia adventure begins on arrival in El Calafate, where we meet our Expedition Leader and fellow travelers at a welcome dinner this evening.
Day 2: Lago Argentino / El Chalten
This morning, enjoy birdwatching on Patagonia’s largest freshwater lake, fed by the glacial meltwater of several rivers. More than 40 migratory bird species frequent Lago Argentino, including black-necked swans, flamingos
Day 3: Mt. Fitz Roy Vista Hike
North of El Chalten, we take a scenic hike through the Magellanic subpolar forest—the southernmost forest ecosystem on Earth—to reach magnificent vistas of the surrounding mountains. A gentle, rolling trail through the beech woodlands rewards our efforts with arresting views of glaciers and the Fitz Roy massif’s evocative spires. Walking above the Rio Blanco, we hike to the Piedras Blancas lookout, with a panorama over the glacier that lies in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing in silence, listen for
Day 4: Mirador del Torre / El Calafate
Today we hike from town to one of the most iconic views in Patagonia: the granite towers of Cerro Torre. A rolling trail through the valley rewards us with stunning views of the massif, easily identifiable by its gray spiked peaks. The highest point in the range is more than 10,000 feet, and the distinctive spires are a popular challenge for advanced rock and ice climbers. Cerro Torre itself was not successfully climbed until 1974. The surrounding views of glaciers, snowfields
Day 5: Los Glaciares National Park—Perito Moreno Glacier
The day's adventures in Los Glaciares National Park begin with a private boat cruise on the Brazo Rico, the southern arm of Lago Argentino. We disembark for a short hike along a secluded shoreline and through the forest to arrive at a vantage point on the southern face of Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the most famous of the 48 outlet glaciers spilling from the nearly 6,500-square-mile mass of ice that comprises the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Perito Moreno is also one of the few advancing glaciers on the planet. Nearly 200 feet high, it winds down from the perpetual snowfields of the Andes to its terminus in the vast lake, calving floating rafts of ice into the turquoise water. Reboarding our small vessel, we get a closer view on the jagged blue ice walls of the glacier's face, which spans more than 3 miles across. Back on shore, it's just a short distance to the official entrance for sightseeing at Perito Moreno, where boardwalks in the area offer varied viewpoints on the glacier and drifting icebergs.
Day 6: Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
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 puma, guanaco, fox,
A stay at renowned EcoCamp Patagonia offers low-impact luxury accommodations in the wilderness. Domed suites are modeled on traditional Kawesqa native huts, blending artfully with the wild landscape. Warm and wind-resistant, these nomad-style dwellings offer outstanding views and a complete immersion in nature. There are plenty of hours ahead to absorb the beauty of this stunning landscape. At the height of the southern summer, the sun doesn't set till around 11 pm, offering magical evening light by which to watch fuzzy guanacos grazing on the steppe, backdropped by the mythical-looking peaks. As the sun finally dips below the horizon, the spires are bathed in rosy alpenglow—a fitting finale to a fabulous day.
Days 7–9: Exploring Torres del Paine
Spend three full days exploring Torres del Paine National Park. Our schedule allows flexibility for the whims of weather and maximizing our views at the planet’s southern reaches. Traveling through the park, we’ll admire the Paine mountain range from varying angles, observing herds of guanacos, Andean condors and interesting flora along the way. All the classic species of a Magellanic subarctic forest are on display here—lenga, ñire and coihue, a tall evergreen that can grow to 140 feet. If we’re lucky, we may spy the Magellanic woodpecker and a rare Chilean deer called the huemel, a national symbol found on the coat of arms on Chile's flag.
Our Expedition Leader crafts each day’s itinerary with our local guide based upon weather conditions and visibility. Hike to a viewpoint overlooking Los Cuernos, famed for its dark granite horn-like spires. See brilliant blue Lake Pehoe reflect the serrated peaks like a mirror, and follow its shoreline to Salto Grande Falls, a thunderous cataract that pours into the lake from Lake Nordenskjold above. In the northern part of the park, clear days at Laguna Azul give us a view of the famous Torres del Paine from a completely different angle. We may also stop at Cascada del Rio Paine to view of this series of beautiful terraced waterfalls.
During our journey, we’ll seek out the resident puma, following the sendero de la fauna—the animals' trail—so dubbed for the many guanacos frequently seen along the route. It winds through a favorite puma hunting area where we may see the remains of camelids that the big, tawny cats have preyed upon. "Puma" is the name the Incas gave to this feline predator also known as a cougar or mountain lion. High rock formations flank the path, serving as dwellings and lookout points for the pumas. While these stealthy cats are notoriously elusive, we have been seeing more of them in the past few seasons. We'll hope to further that luck on a nature walk through territory they are known to frequent regularly, as our Expedition Leader helps us scout for signs of their presence. Each day, we return to EcoCamp Patagonia to spend the night.
Day 10: Puerto Natales / Punta Arenas
Our Patagonia adventure concludes as we depart the park and head to one of the world's southernmost cities, Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan. Along our leisurely drive, we'll stop for lunch and exploring in Puerto Natales, an attractive town on Ultima Esperanza Sound that serves as a gateway for trips into Chilean Patagonia. The town is backdropped by the Riesco Mountains, the Paine Massif and glaciers of the Southern Ice Field, while in the foreground, black-necked swans and gulls bob on the misty waters of the sound. In Punta Arenas, we gather for a farewell dinner to celebrate our Patagonia adventures.
Day 11: Punta Arenas / Depart
A transfer to the airport is provided for flights home.
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!
Physical Rating: Moderate to Difficult
This immersion in the spectacular scenery and wildlife of the Southern Andes is most fully enjoyed on foot. Weather is extremely variable in Patagonia, and travelers should be prepared for the possibility of high winds, intense sun, heavy rain and very cold temperatures. Though most hiking activities are moderate in terms of challenge and exertion, participants should have a high energy level to maximize enjoyment of this itinerary. Guests must be able to walk a minimum of 4 miles over hilly, uneven terrain that may cross wet or slippery surfaces, and to participate fully, they should be able to walk for 6 miles. Typical hikes are 3–6 miles (though opportunities for longer and/or more strenuous hikes are occasionally offered) in order to access areas of exceptional scenic beauty. In most cases, we can accommodate a slower or shorter alternative for travelers who prefer a less demanding route, but to reiterate, all guests must be able to walk a minimum of 4 miles over uneven natural terrain to fully appreciate this itinerary. Elevations generally range from 500 to 2,000 feet above sea level. Since Patagonia encompasses such a large area, and we aim to see as much of its natural beauty as possible, we also spend a moderate amount of time in vehicles driving between locations. Most days include drives of 2 hours or less, with stops along the way, although a few days involve 4- to 8-hour drives between major itinerary destinations.