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Active Argentina: Walking in Patagonia

14 days from £3,180pp

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Active Argentina: Walking in Patagonia

14 days from £3,180pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel.
 
Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest.

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Day 2

At leisure to explore the city.
 

Transfer to your hotel in Buenos Aires. The capital is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills. 

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest.

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Puerto Madero

Day 3

Fly to El Calafate, transfer to hotel.
 
Transfer to airport and fly to El Calafate in Southern Patagonia (3hrs), a small tourist resort with a frontier feel situated on the banks of milky turquoise Lago Argentino.  Argentina’s Patagonia is a remote land of endless grassy plains, granite mountain peaks tipped with eternal snows, cool blue lakes dotted with icebergs and immense blue-tinged glaciers. Transfer to your hotel.
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Day 4

Excursion to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
 
Guided excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s an early morning departure from El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park, a 90min drive to the walkways and viewing platform overlooking the glacier. The thundering shards of falling ice are a breath-taking spectacle as you pass at a safe distance along the walkway in front of the Canal de los Tempanos, which separates Brazo Rico from the main part of the lake.

The glacier is a staggering 5km wide and stands 60m above the surface of the lake. Its ice mass is fed by the southern continental ice field from the west, and from other smaller glaciers in the vicinity.

In the afternoon, board the Safari Nautico or Moreno Fiesta for an hour-long cruise on the lake beneath the glacier, with a commentary. Alternatively, you can just walk and contemplate, away from the other visitors.

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Perito Moreno

Day 5

Public coach to El Chaltén in the Fitz Roy Mountains
 
A 3hr journey from El Calafate bus station takes you deep into Los Glaciers National Park. Wildlife to look out for includes guanaco and the ostrich-like rhea. The road skirts the turquoise waters of Lago Viedma, with views of the Viedma glacier. On a clear day, an hour before arriving in El Chaltén, the whole of the Fitz Roy massif comes into view - a fantastic taste of what lies ahead. Transfer to your hotel.

Make preparations for tomorrow’s start of a moderate intensity, fully guided trek reaching the Piedras Blancas glacier viewpoint of the striking Fitz Roy mountain face, continuing along the Cerro Torre valley with glimpses of its spectacular centrepiece of jagged peaks. Finally there’s an ice trek over the Viedma glacier in crampons.

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Fitz Roy

Day 6

Hiking in the Rio Blanco valley, camp overnight.
 
The snow-strafed, almost skeletal, jagged peaks which rise up from a harsh, oft barren landscape around Mount Fitz Roy frame the territory of some of Latin America's most dramatic, visually jaw-dropping trekking routes. You'll see some of the best sights in this two day hike.  A 30min drive takes you along the banks of the Rio de las Vueltas to the Blanco river and the start of this private two-day trek. There are good views of the northeast face of Mount Fitz Roy, the crimson Mount Electrico and the stunning, ice-jacketed Mount Aniversario.

From here, the trail takes you into a dense sub-Antarctic beech tree forest, the bright green foliage a welcome relief from the harsh rocky slopes. The trail traces the banks of the Blanco river before rising up through the valley. There are great views of Piedras Blancas glacier, which descends from the heart of a granite labyrinth into a small lagoon and thence into the chilly waters of Rio Blanco. Continue walking along the valley, cross the river and rise to discover expansive views over silvery Laguna de los Tres: this is widely agreed to be one of the continent's most breath-taking vistas. Enjoy your packed lunch with the face of Mount Fitz Roy spread out in front of you. Hike back to camp at Poincenot.

There is neither running water nor shower facilities at the camp site; however, water is provided for washing. The campsite has a long drop-style toilet. All this is a small price to pay for the breathtaking wilderness scenery. You do not need to carry a tent or camping gear as the campsite will already be set up.

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Day 7

Trek to the Laguna Torre, camp overnight.
 
After breakfast at the camp, start hiking south and over a pass into the Fitz Roy river valley. You'll pass the Madre y Hija lagoon (mother and daughter, a larger lake attached to a smaller one), an expanse of rippling blue water fringed by the rugged beech forested slopes of steep, battleship-grey and tawny mountains.

Hike through the gnarled, fairy-story woodland to Mount Torre Valley where on a clear day you will observe the vertical slopes of Mount Torre, one of the world's most challenging climbs. Arrive at Torre Lagoon and pause for a picnic overlooking this awesome sight. Trek back to El Chaltén following the Fitz Roy river through stunted sub-Antarctic forest and overnight at your hotel.

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Hiking at Fitz Roy

Day 8

Boat to the Glacier Viedma, trek alongside the glacier. Return to El Calafate.
 

The Viedma glacier, part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, is over a mile wide at the point where it debouches into Lago Viedma. On today's excursion you'll hike not on the ice but alongside it and to vantage points above the ice, with chances to take photographs and learn about the glacier's accelerated retreat in recent years. It's a 15km drive from El Chalten to the tiny port of Bahia Tunel, located in a hidden natural bay a few hundred meters from the delta. Set sail for the Viedma glacier, en route passing icebergs and after about an hour, disembark at a rocky headland located in front of the glacier. From here, you'll spend about 3 hours exploring the rocky landscape which frames the Viedma glacier's spectacular expanse of moraine-clogged ice. Your guide will be able to identify where and why the glacier has retreated, and from various natural lookouts you'll be able to appreciate its multihued folds and crevasses. Given the nature of the terrain this is a moderately difficult activity but the distance walked not substantial - around 5-7km. Re-board the Huemul for the return trip (45 mins), which crosses in front of the glacier for some close up views, before returning to Bahia Tunel. Return to El Chalten and continue by bus to El Calafate; overnight.

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Viedma hiking

Day 9

Fly to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Transfer to your hotel.
 

Transfer to the airport and fly to Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city, on the island of Tierra de Fuego. The city has grown rapidly in recent years, partly as a result of government incentives to settlers and its establishment as a Free Port, and partly a tourist centre - most Antarctic cruises leave from the port here. The setting is spectacular; jagged mountains hem in the town down to the shore of the Beagle Channel. Transfer to your hotel.

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Ushuaiai

Day 10

Begin ‘End of the World Trek’ to Laguna del Caminante, camp overnight.
 
The dense forests, high mountains and glaciers of Tierra del Fuego are a surprise to you arriving from the bleak Patagonian steppes further north.  The forested landscape of the National Park surrounds the world's southernmost city, Ushuaia.  Here, at the tip of the continent, spring and summer days are long and it's not normally very cold, but it can be windy and wet and you should expect four seasons in one day, every day, and in no particular order...

Your 3 day trek takes you over passes and through the valleys inland from Ushuaia, to beautiful lakes and to the summit of the rarely-visited Mount Tonelli.

There are not many places in the world where you can hike in a virtually unvisited wilderness within just a few kilometres of an international airport and busy port, but this trek in the mountains behind Ushuaia offers you the opportunity to do just that. It is so remote - if you can use that word in this context - that you walk along narrow trails forged by guanacos rather than humans, and many of the spiky mountain peaks in this protected national park are as yet unnamed. Carved through by icy streams, waterfalls and glaciers, mantled by evergreen forests and carpeted with boggy, flower-speckled grassland, and framed by needle-sharp icy peaks, it is a tortured landscape of incredible natural beauty. It's a circuit, and local conditions will dictate if you go up the Andorra valley or climb down it: it's the same amount of climbing either way, of course, and the gradient is similar.

This is not an extreme trek; anyone of good fitness, who is reasonably sure-footed and does not harbour a fear of heights, should be able to manage easily and enjoy the experience.

From Ushuaia, you head inland and travel by road towards the Andorra valley, along a road lined with small homesteads. Start walking up through woodland, sun-dappled if you are lucky, alongside swift streams, crossing makeshift bridges. It is easy walking to start with; you may pause for a snack or lunch on a grassy meadow with views across the valley to the towering build of a snow-smothered and sharply glaciated mountain range, the Cordón Vinciguerra. You emerge above the trees with great mountain views and descend through coarse grassland peppered with lumpy rocks to a sheltered site on the shores of Laguna del Caminante: a perfect place to camp, but without any facilities. If there is time you may want to explore the forest-fringed shoreline of this tranquil, silvery lake.  Pitch your tents among the trees for a two night stay; you'll be served a camper's afternoon tea and later, dinner. Retire for the night in a wilderness place undisturbed by the noise of any human activity.

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Tierra del Fuego

Day 11

Trek in the Superior Valley, camp overnight.
 
After breakfast prepared by your guides, you set off on a day trek, so you only need to carry equipment for the day: the essential walking poles,  your valuables and documents, a camera, binoculars, hat, wet weather gear, warm jacket, sunglasses and sun-cream - you never know what weather you are going to be graced with.

Climb for 4hrs slowly and steadily up a tiny guanaco track alongside lakes and through a glaciated valley (the path falls away to a steep slope in places, you need a bit of a head for heights), across a dried up lake bed frequented by a couple of lonely horses, and up a steep, stony path to the summit of Mount Reber, at 1,120m approximately above sea level. En route you pass the snout of a retreating glacier, testament to the effects of global warming.

From the peak, you have 360° panoramas of rows of snow-draped, jagged peaks including the Sierra Darwin in Chile, beyond which on a clear day you'll spy the cobalt waters of the Beagle Channel and Lake Fagnano in the deepest heart of Tierra del Fuego.  This is true virgin territory: you'll see no roads, tracks, buildings fences...it's Patagonia in the raw. Return to the camp site in 2 hrs.

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Tiera de Fuego trek

Day 12

Hike back towards Ushuaia, transfer to hotel.
 

On the last day return to Ushuaia via Paso de la Oveja, less wooded than the outbound trip - you climb up a high stony path to a pass framed by rocky mountain cliffs sheltering pouches of glistening snow. Descend, traversing a guanaco trail which grips the contours of a grey-green, U-shaped glaciated valley, above the tree-line until you dive into the forest for a wooded walk eventually emerging within sight of the city of Ushuaia, where you are collected by vehicle and taken to your hotel. (5 hrs).

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Tierra del Fuego trekking

Day 13

Fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to central hotel for final night of the holiday.

Day 14

Transfer to airport for your flight home.

14 days from £3,180pp

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