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Signature Argentina: Pampas, Patagonia and Iguazú Falls

14 days from £4,233pp

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Signature Argentina: Pampas, Patagonia and Iguazú Falls:
Trip Dossier

Argentina is a vast country where much of the natural landscape is on a huge scale, ranging from sub-tropical jungle and desert canyons to frozen ice-caps. Beyond the infinite skies, shimmering glaciers and horizon-bending pampas, this is the cradle of the tango and a producer of fine wines. Its capital, Buenos Aires, is one of Latin America’s most stylish; its people, cultured and welcoming. This heritage, forged by waves of immigrants (including Italians, English and Welsh), is unique. This tour will give you a real taste of the variety the huge country has to offer the visitor.

The waterfalls surrounded by rainforest at Iguazú are utterly awe-inspiring. The lake district is peppered with waterfalls, azure lakes and snow-dusted volcanoes. Further south you are in wilderness Patagonia, with immense glaciers and sprawling sheep ranches. Finish with some relaxation time on a polo ranch in the pampas close to Buenos Aires.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to your hotel.

Day 2

City tour including visit to Teatro Colón. Dine at a live tango show.

Day 3

At leisure in Buenos Aires.

Day 4

Fly to Iguazú Falls, visit the Brazilian side of the Falls.

Day 5

Visit the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Day 6

Fly to Bariloche, northern Patagonia, in the lake district.

Day 7

Sail to Victoria Island and explore Arrayanes wood.

Day 8

Full day excursion in Nahuel Huapi National Park; visit Tronador Glacier.

Day 9

Fly to El Calafate in southern Patagonia.

Day 10

Drive into Los Glaciares National Park; visit the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Day 11

Boat across Lago Argentino to see Upsala glacier; lunch at historic estancia.

Days 12-13

Fly to Buenos Aires. Transfer to an estancia on the Pampa.

Day 14

Transfer to airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to your hotel.
 

Transfer to hotel in Recoleta, a smart residential quarter in Buenos Aires with belle époque and Italianate architecture.

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Tango, Buenos Aires

Day 2

City tour including visit to Teatro Colón. Dine at a live tango show.
 

Guided tour of the city including the Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded with the Obelisk - an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of the best in the world. There’s a guided tour of its lavish interior.

On to the Plaza de Mayo, with the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. Continue to the colourful bohemian barrio of La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Drive north to Palermo, an elegant neighbourhood of wide avenues lined with colonial mansions. Finally, visit the artistic district of Recoleta, stopping at the cemetery where generations of the Argentinian elite have been buried, including Evita.

In the evening you’ll dine at one of the capital’s many tango shows where you can appreciate the athletic skills of the dancers.

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Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires

Day 3

At leisure in Buenos Aires.
 

A full day at leisure to explore the many facets of Argentina's capital city. Your city tour will have given you an overview of its distinctly different neighbourhoods but you may welcome the opportunity to retrace your steps or discover new ones. Soak up the atmosphere of bohemian San Telmo, perhaps have lunch in leafy Palermo or browse the upmarket shops of Recoleta.

If you'd like to explore further afield we can organise a full-day trip across the River Plate to Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay. Colonia was founded in 1680 and UNESCO has recently declared its beautifully preserve historic core a World Heritage Site. The modern part of town is lively and neat, its wide avenues lined with trees. The historic centre has narrow, winding cobbled streets with colonial buildings. One feature of many provincial Uruguayan towns is the number of 60 and 70-year-old cars that are still in use.

Other options include a trip to the River Plate delta. With elegant suburbs such as Tigre and San Isidro and its network of rivers and channels, the delta region is an attractive and popular retreat for residents of Buenos Aires, a world away from the big city.

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San Telmo

Day 4

Fly to Iguazú Falls, visit the Brazilian side of the Falls.
 

Transfer to the airport for your flight to Puerto Iguazú on the border with Brazil. Transfer to your hotel just outside the town with views over the river. From here, you'll be taken on a memorable excursion to the Brazilian side of the falls. Cross the bridge which spans the Iguazú river and links the cities of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and Foz do Iguaçu in Brazil. You'll board a (shared) national park service here and continue by road for the final stretch to the falls themselves.

There's a walkway of about a kilometre, with viewpoints at strategic intervals - you get a panoramic view of the whole sweep of the cataracts - an entirely different experience from the Argentine side. Towards the end of the walk, there's an observation tower adjacent to the falls, and a walkway at the bottom takes you out for a closer and much wetter (plastic macs on sale) experience.

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Iguazu Falls - from the Brazilian side

Day 5

Visit the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.
 

There’s a guided excursion to the Argentine side of the falls. Start at the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display illustrating the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest. From here, a little natural-gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas station where the Upper Walk begins.

This sequence of causeways and passerelles links dozens of tiny, basalt islands at the top of the rock face. These walkways cross the myriad streams of the Río Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. A succession of lookout points allows your gaze to follow the water, as it plunges onto the rocks below.

You can then continue to the Lower Walk, which involves stairs, and gives you a totally different view of these falls. Climb back up to the train and continue to Devil's Throat Station. From here, a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river to the thunderous Garganta del Diablo, which offers a spectacular vantage point peering into the thundering vortex below. This is a full day tour (around 6hrs) and there's about 3km of walking.

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Toco toucan, Iguazu National Park

Day 6

Fly to Bariloche, northern Patagonia, in the lake district.
 

Transfer to airport for flight to Bariloche in the lake district. San Carlos de Bariloche is the main town in Argentina's lake district, on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi. The town is a centre for skiing in winter (July and August), and walking in summer - set against a stunning backdrop of glacial green-blue lakes framed by the mountains of the Andes.

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Argentina's idyllic lake district

Day 7

Sail to Victoria Island and explore Arrayanes wood.
 

Full day guided excursion to Victoria Island and Arrayanes Wood. Transfer to Lake Nahuel Huapi and sail for 30mins to the port at Anchorena on Victoria Island, where there is time to explore the network of trails on foot. The island is almost all dense evergreen forest - cypress, spruce, pine, monkey puzzle tree, coihue and so on. There are also lots of wild flowers and blackberry and rose bushes.

The island is a habitat for large woodpecker, hummingbirds and Patagonian geese, as well as other fauna such as deer and wild boar. Re-embark the boat and continue to Quetrihué for a visit to the myrtle forest of Bosque de Arrayanes, known for its centenary trees, smooth and cinnamon in colour with white flowers and purple fruit.

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Bariloche

Day 8

Full day excursion in Nahuel Huapi National Park; visit Tronador Glacier.
 

Guided excursion to Tronador mountain and the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Follow the road along the lakeshores of Lago Gutierrez and Lago Mascardi, the so-called 'Lake of the Seven Colours'. Beyond, the road emerges from a dark forest to reach Ventisquero Negro composed of black rock and ice. The cacophony of sound that accompanies ice and rockslides is where the 'Thunderer' (Cerro Tronador) gets its name.

Continue to the base of the mountain, the highest peak in the Nahuel Huapi National Park at 3,554m. Head past scenic lakes, waterfalls and rushing rivers, culminating in an uphill walk to reach the viewpoint of the Cascada La Alerces.

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Tronador

Day 9

Fly to El Calafate in southern Patagonia.
 

Transfer to airport to fly to El Calafate in southern Patagonia. Transfer to your hotel in this resort town on the southern shore of turquoise Lago Argentino. Tourism in the last twenty years has transformed it into a bustling entrepôt for access to the nearby scenery of glaciers, lakes and impossibly steep peaks. It still has a bit of a frontier feel, though it is very busy in summer.

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El Calafate

Day 10

Drive into Los Glaciares National Park; visit 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 the viewing platform overlooking the glacier. The thundering shards of falling ice are a breathtaking 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 five kilometres wide and stands 60m above the surface of the lake. Its ice masses are fed by the southern continental ice field from the west, and from other smaller surrounding glaciers.

Later, 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 11

Boat across Lago Argentino to see Upsala glacier; lunch at historic estancia.
 

Guided excursion to Estancia Cristina. This full-day trip departs from the jetty at Punta Bandera, a 45min drive from El Calafate and explores the iceberg-strewn fingers of Lago Argentino. There are about 15 bumpy minutes as the comfortable motor cruiser crosses the southern arm of the lake. Soon, the first icebergs come into view as the boat continues towards the Upsala Channel and the vast Upsala Glacier. It isn't possible to get close to the glacier because of the floating ice in its vanguard but the surrounding scenery is wonderful.

Continue into the Cristina Channel, and dock at Estancia Cristina. Explore one of Patagonia's most remote historic estancias, established in 1914 by English pioneer Joseph Masters and named after his daughter. Some of the infrastructure was damaged by fire in 2009, but a guided tour will take you to its surviving buildings and museum. Have lunch before going on an easy, guided walk along the nearby river.

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Icebergs Lago Argentino

Days 12-13

Fly to Buenos Aires. Transfer to an estancia on the Pampa.
 

Fly from El Calafate to Buenos Aires and drive to Estancia La Sofia in the yawning cattle pastures of the pampas.  It’s a small, friendly and intimate place with only six guest rooms and a roaring fire in the living room on chilly nights. Here you can take an optional polo lesson if you so wish, or just relax and enjoy the ambience.

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Gauchos on the Argentine pampa

Day 14

Transfer to airport.

Essential information

Transport

4 flights (longest 3.5hrs); 2 scenic road journeys (both 2.5hrs).

Accommodation

At all levels, we prefer smaller hotels with some local character; whether boutique, one of a local chain or independent. On the occasions where we use an international chain, we choose properties with some historic or other unique features.

This trip uses upper mid-range hotels with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating. The estancia is an intimate, cosy, family-run property.

Meals

Breakfast daily; dinner days 2, 12; lunch day 11; full board day 13.

Included excursions

  • Buenos Aires city tour, including Teatro Colón.
  • Dinner at a live tango show.
  • The Argentine side of the Iguazú Falls.
  • Brazilian side of the Iguazú falls.
  • Victoria Island and explore Arrayanes wood, lake district.
  • Full day excursion in Nahuel Huapi National Park and Tronador glacier.
  • Full day excursion and boat trip to Perito Moreno glacier.
  • Boat trip across Lago Argentino and lunch at historic estancia.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Buenos Aires 3; Iguazú falls 2; Bariloche 3; El Calafate 3; Estancia 2.

Included in the journey price

•    Services of our team of experts in our London office.
•    Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
•    All land and air transport within Latin America.
•    Accommodation as specified.
•    Meals as specified.
•    Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

•    International flights to Latin America.
•    Tips and gratuities.
•    Meals other than specified.
•    Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
•    Optional excursions.*

*Where a local company organises an optional excursion it does so as a principal and not as an agent of Journey Latin America.

N.B. Occasionally local governments may impose additional levies to taxes already paid on tickets, if this should happen, the payment is made locally.

Optional excursions

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentinian peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$40 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $10 per person for a half day and $20 for a full day for guides and half that for drivers.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidlines can be found in our  Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Given the spectacular size of Argentina, there is a fair bit of travelling on this holiday however, in short bursts, not long days. Be prepared for some early mornings ahead of the excursions and potentially some extreme weather in Patagonia.

This holiday is suitable for all able reasonably fit visitors, including families. In other cases if you have a disability or other special requirements, please do call us. 

Climate

In Buenos Aires, October to November and March to April see temperatures between 15 and 25°C and a good deal of sunshine. January to February are hot, with temperatures over 30°C.

The lake district has weather not dissimilar to the UK’s, but with more sunshine in summer and perhaps more rain in winter.

The weather in the south is notoriously unpredictable throughout the year. In Patagonia during the southern hemisphere summer (October to March) you should be prepared for everything from a blizzard to a heat wave. Strong winds and rain are possible at any time and it can get extremely cold.

Clothing and special equipment

In the southern hemisphere summer it will be hot in Buenos Aires so take loose-fitting, light clothing for maximum comfort. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. 

For day-to-day wear in Patagonia you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. If you plan to eat in smart restaurants, although clothing is not formal (no need for jacket and tie), something quite smart would be appropriate.

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for pools.
 
Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following; polio; tetanus,hepatitis A, typhoid. For specific requirements you must consult your GP

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Clients with a different nationality should refer to our Briefing Dossier and check with the relevant consulate.

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