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Active Patagonia: Classic treks in Argentina and Chile

14 days from £3095pp

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Active Patagonia: Classic treks in Argentina and Chile

14 days from £3095pp

Private Journey


Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel in the Providencia district.

Your hotel is in the pleasant residential and commercial quarter of Providencia. Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with lofty snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle.

 Poorer districts sprawl on the outskirts. The historic core, although small, has some notable buildings of cultural significance.

Day 2

Fly to Punta Arenas, transfer to Eco Camp in Torres del Paine National Park.

Fly to Punta Arenas in southern Patagonia (4-5hrs).  On a clear day you have other-worldly views of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan. The region’s fortunes were  briefly revived during gold rush, but the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool.

Drive on into Torres del Paine National Park. The scenery becomes more dramatic as you approach the towering massif which looms up on the horizon./p>

This superb wilderness is dominated by a monumental granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). Guanacos graze peacefully while ostriches scamper across the plains and condors soar above.

Road to Torres del Paine

Day 3

Trek along the Valle del Francés – part of W Trek.

Head off on a part of the “W” trek, so named after the shape of the route. You’ll set off on a beautiful trek to Valle Francés (French Valley) along a steep trail which infiltrates the very heart of the Paine Massif. How deep you go depends on the groups’ rhythm. An active walk leads you to the hanging bridge over the Rio Francés at the foot of the south-eastern face of the massif, where there is a truly stupendous view.

Next, you continue up to the upper section of the valley.  Here you’ll picnic and rest for a while. An optional trek to the remote, bleaker Mirador Britanico is possible if members of the group don’t want to rest. After lunch you descend through a rippling terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until reaching the peaceful shores of turquoise Lake Pehoe.

Torres del Paine

Day 4

Hike towards the Grey Glacier – part of W Trek.

Hike along the shores of Lake Pehoe to the northern end of glacial Lago Grey. The lake’s chilly waters are dotted with icebergs which have broken off from the wall of Glacier Grey which plugs the lake. Board the boat and sail to the forbidding blue face of the glacier. There's plenty of time to marvel at this calving ice monster during the boat ride across the lake. From Lago Grey’s southern end you transfer to the Eco Camp.

In poor weather, you’ll trek up to the sightseeing point offering a spectacular view of the glacier. Then you’ll return on foot to Paine Grande and take a catamaran to Pudeto’s dock.
Glacier Grey

Day 5

Hike to the foot of the towers, the “Torres” del Paine.

The goal today is to complete the most celebrated trekking trail in Torres del Paine.Walk towards Hostería Las Torres and join the uphill path to Ascencio valley on the towers’ eastern face. Emerald green southern beech forests and rustling streams border the trail towards the valley.

Climb the steep moraine, a mass of boulders leading towards one of the world's most famous views overlooking the towers, gigantic vertical slabs of rocks rising like an open hand towards the sky. These are the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. After an uphill slog, the towers eventually come into full view, rising majestically before you, with the glacial lake visible below. After feasting on the view and your picnic, you backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio valley.

Torres del Paine

Day 6

By public coach to El Calafate, Argentina.
It’s an all-day public coach journey towards and over the frontier to Argentina across the bleak and scantily-populated Patagonian steppe, but the beauty of the mountainous scenery is staggering. 

In the afternoon you reach the shores of the milky turquoise Lago Argentino, and the little town of El Calafate, where you are based for a couple of days. This resort town is 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.

El Calafate

Day 7

Guided excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier and boat trip.

Guided excursion to Perito Moreno glacier. Depart 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 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.

Day 8

By public coach to El Chaltén in Fitz Roy mountains.
A 3hr coach 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 using crampons.

Road to El Chalten

Day 9

Start the M Trek; 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 2 day hike.  

A 30mins’ 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 Capri lagoon. There are no running water or shower facilities; however, water is provided for washing. Campsites have 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 campsites will already be set up.

Fitz Roy trekking

Day 10

Trek to the Laguna Torre, overnight in El Chaltén.
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.

Day 11

Boat to the Glacier Viedma, trek on the glacier.
It is a 15km drive to the tiny port of Bahia Tunel, located in a hidden natural bay a few hundred meters from the delta. At 9am, set sail for the Glacier Viedma on board the purpose built Huemul. It has a capacity for 55 passengers and has been built to afford the best views of the dramatic landscape both on deck and inside.

En route, you'll see unobstructed views of the Fitz Roy massif and Huemel peak with the first glimpse of the glacier at Cape Hornos.

After about an hour, disembark at a rocky headland located in front of the glacier. Another short walk takes you to the perfect vantage point from which to see the glacier and visit some unusual ice caves. To get closer still, there's a 3hr ice trek across the glacier with crampons. 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. Continue to El Calafate.

Trekking Argentina

Day 12

Fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to city-centre hotel.
Fly to 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.

Buenos Aires

Day 13

At leisure in Buenos Aires.
At leisure in Buenos Aires.  Discover the classic places specified above, or stroll around Puerto Madero, the refurbished port district where former dock installations and features have been preserved alongside a string of excellent restaurants and loft conversions.

Beyond the city limits, consider a   trip across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay.  Travel along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, to this peaceful little port, where you can wander among cobbled streets lined by colonial houses, or have a meal or drink in the yacht club.

Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for international flight home.

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