Having been intrepid travelers all over the world, we were honored when John and Diane came to Knowmad Adventures looking for a vacation focused on Patagonia travel, one that was an incredible adventure involving plenty of hiking, kayaking, and outdoor activities with great photo opportunities, but one that would also leave them feeling rested and rejuvenated. We welcomed the challenge and were happy to receive John’s email following the trip; “I would say the unanimous judgment was this was one of the best trips we have ever taken.” And now, we’re so happy to have just planned another adventure for this amazing group, an Ecuador and Galapagos trip next year.
Their first trip was planned with eight long-time travel mates. They had learned over the years that they like to see and do a lot, but that doesn’t translate to moving destinations daily. As no Patagonia travel trip with an outdoors and active focus is complete without visiting Torres del Paine National Park, we knew we wanted to recommend a trip including time in Chilean Patagonia. However, this group was also interested in exploring the vibrant scenes of Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as experiencing a warm, tropical feeling destination that was still active to top things off, so Iguazu Falls on the Argentine boarder stuck out as a good possibility.
This led us to recommending a Patagonia focused hiking trip combining the best of both Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, with an outdoor activity focus in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, an exciting introductory ice hike on Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, and then a relaxing stay at a Patagonian estancia, or ranch, with some horseback riding, fly fishing, and gaucho style barbecues. The trip also included in-depth guided explorations in Buenos Aires and a warm-weather finale at Iguazu Falls.
Custom Argentina and Patagonia Travel Itinerary
DAY 1:Minneapolis – Buenos Aires
Depart Minneapolis and fly to Buenos Aires. This flight should be an overnight flight with an a.m. arrival on Jan 8.
DAy 2: Buenos Aires
After arriving to the Buenos Aires (Delta 101 arriving BA at 7:55 a.m) airport you will be met by your Knowmad Adventures guide and after heading into the city you will embark upon a 3 hour walking tour through Recoleta (however if early-check in is available this walking tour could start after lunch if you prefer). A walking tour of Recoleta: this is the neighborhood that best expresses the Parisian architectural patterns adopted by the local aristocracy at the beginning of the 20th century, wishing to imitate the splendor of the French metropolis and build a small scale Paris in the heart of Buenos Aires. We start at Plaza San Martin, a square surrounded by magnificent palaces, which allow us to imagine the splendid life the wealthier classes lived during the belle époque. We continue down Arroyo Street, and walk along Avenida Alvear, where we admire the sumptuous mansions built by some of the most renowned Argentine families (Ortiz Basualdo, Pereda, Alzaga Unzue and Duhau). Our tour continues with a visit to the famous Recoleta cementery, the final resting place of the Buenos Aires elite families since 1870. This visit will make us discard the popular notion that “everybody is equal in death.” There are more than forty thousand ornate tombs and mausoleums, built in different artistic styles, rich in symbolism and iconography. A walk along its tree-lined avenues allows us to revisit the history of our country and the lives of former presidents, members of the elite, writers and politicians. We finish at Eva Peron’s mausoleum, a witness to her final triumph over the local upper classes. Following your walking tour it will be late enough in the day to have some lunch and check in to your apartment-hotel accommodations in the Recoleta neighborhood.
- No meals – Art Suites Apartments
Day 3: Buenos Aires – El Calafate
You will be picked up at your hotel and transfer privately to the Buenos Aires airport corresponding with your onward flight to Calafate where you will be met again and transferred to Hosteria your hotel to unwind. Enjoy a relaxed evening around your hotel located in a secluded estancia (but not far outside town) that overlooks Lago Argentina and the Patagonian steppe. Confirmed flight (8 passengers): AR 1694V Departing Buenos Aires at 12:05 PM and arriving to Calafate at 3:25 PM.
- B – Hosteria la Estepa
DAY 4: Crossing the Patagonian Steppe
Early in the morning you will be picked up at your hotel in Calafate (please be ready and waiting in the lobby with bags at 7:30 a.m. for a 7:45 a.m. pickup) packed and transferred to the bus station where you will be assisted in boarding an executive class bus that takes you to the border between Argentina and Chile. After passing through the border checkpoint and customs you will continue on by bus over the Patagonian steppe to Puerto Natales, Chile where you will be met by a Cascada Expediciones representative and taken for lunch before continuing on to Torres del Paine National Park. Another stop is at Cueva de Milodon, a massive prehistoric cave where the remains of a giant ground sloth were discovered in the 1890’s. The day ends with an overnight at the EcoCamp.
- B, L, D – EcoCamp
DAY 5: Hiking the Mighty Torres del Paine
Time for a great breakfast and lots of enthusiasm! Our goal today is to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine NP. After a filling breakfast the group and guide will go by van to the trailhead and connect with the winding uphill path to Ascencio Valley – the valley which supports the eastern face of the Towers’ base. Dry mountain spots, beech forests and small rivers are passed along the scenic walk into the valley. It’s not a difficult walk, but conserve your energy for the final challenge: the moraine. This mass of boulders is the last guardian before our face to face with the uplifting Torres del Paine. The moraine is sufficiently steep to consider doing it slowly and with a fair amount of precaution. After a considerable effort, the Towers come into full view, rising majestically before us with the glacial lake visible below. This is one of the most breathtaking sights in the world! The famous Torres del Paine (2, 900 m/ 9, 400 ft) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. Is there any better place on this planet to have lunch? At the feet of the mighty Torres del Paine we will enjoy life, the view, and a bite to eat! Once everyone is ready, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley, and return to the EcoCamp.
- B, L, D – EcoCamp
Day 6: Stepping into the Paine Massif’s Heart: Valle Frances
After breakfast, we start our day driving towards Pudeto dock, located by the shores of Pehoe Lake. Once there we board the catamaran that takes us to the northern west sector of the Lake from where we’ll start the challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley), taking a steep trail that goes into the very heart of the Paine Massif. How deep we go depends on our groups’ rhythm. An active walk leads us to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south east face of the Massif. From this point, we can enjoy our first truly wonderful view and then continue up the trail until reaching the upper prospects of the valley. The entire group of geological formations of the high valley can be admired here: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza! (Fortress). It’s time to have a picnic and recover from the walk. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is available as well. Next, we descend through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until reaching the Refugio Paine Grande, located in the peaceful shores of Lake Pehoe. Finally, upon reaching the Refugio, the luggage is organized and there’s time to talk about the day while enjoying a replenishing dinner.
- B, L, D – Paine Grande Lodge
Day 7:Torres Del Paine Hiking – Glacier Grey
Today we’ll hike from Paine Grande Lodge along the shores of mountain-lined Lake Pehoe to the northern end of glacial Lake Grey. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails to the blue face of Glacier Grey*. You’ll have lots of time to marvel at this calving glacier before the boat ride across Lake Grey with its floating pieces of ice. Your clothes and personal belongings are once again transported separately from the lodge in duffel bags. From Lake Grey’s southern end we transfer to the EcoCamp. If the weather conditions don’t allow us to navigate Lake Grey, no problem, we’ll instead hike to Glacier Grey. Then at Paine Grande we’ll board the catamaran to cross Lake Pehoe. From there, we’ll take a short drive back to the EcoCamp, where we’ll enjoy the night.
- B, L, D – EcoCamp
Day 8:Kayaking in Torres Del Paine
After breakfast our kayak specialists will pick us up to take us to the Grey River, located in the western area of Torres del Paine National Park. After a full explanation about the excursion and the equipment we are going to use, we will walk in the shore of the river with our kayaks for about 10 minutes in direction to the starting point of our adventure, from there we will paddle to the Lake to see the icebergs that may be floating in the “La Poza” área (only if the weather conditions allows it).Then we began the descent of the Grey River, enjoying the local environment with a privileged view to the Paine Massif. After a few hours we take a break to enjoy a box lunch.Continue paddling to the Serrano river, where the trip ends and we will take our transfer back to the Ecocamp.
- B, L, D – EcoCamp
Day 9:Torres del Paine – El Calafate
After breakfast board the van that will bring you to the border crossing at Cerro Castillo where you will be assisted in boarding a bus to Calafate. Here you will be met and taken to a remote estancia outside of town where you will have time to relax, unwind, enjoy friends, and make new ones while being a part of a Patagonian estancia.
- B, D – Estancia Nibepo Aike
Day 10 Estancia
Enjoy the day at your leisure in the beautiful, secluded, quiet property at Estancia Nibepo Aike. During your stay at the estancia in addition to relaxing with friends we recommend horseback riding and light hiking throughout the property with the estancias gauchos who will share their tradition-rich culture with you. In the evening you will enjoy a traditional Patagonian dinner with traditional music and preparation.
- B, L, D – Estancia Nibepo Aike
Take another day to relax and enjoy estancia life and the company of friends.
- B, L, D – Estancia Nibepo Aike
Day 12: Perito Moreno Glacier – Exploration and Glacier Walking
The walkways comprise seven balconies, each located at a different height and distance from the Moreno Glacier. As we descend from the higher to the lower balconies, we get closer and closer to the imposing mass of ice and we can see and hear huge chunks of ice breaking from the end of the glacier and falling into the water below, creating huge waves and incredible sounds. After exploring the various views of the glacier, the adventure heightens in the afternoon as you get the opportunity to walk on the massive glacier. We ship at “Bajo de las Sombras” bay, navigate Lake Rico enjoying the impressive views of the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier, and the “Canal de los Témpanos”. We disembark to begin a short walk towards the glacier, where we put on the crampons and begin our adventure on ice. We enjoy magnificent natural views and listen to a talk about the flora, fauna and glaciology. We visit the Glacier’s Observation Point and trails accompanied by our guide.
Note: The minitrekking excursion is suggested for people up to 65 years of age. If the guides feel that the clients are not going to be able to do the excursion an alternative activity will be scheduled. After the excursion we’ll return to Hosteria La Estepa (conveniently located closer to the glacier and the airport).
- B, Box Lunch – Hosteria la Estepa
Day 13 El Calafate – Buenos Aires
You will be picked up in the morning in accordance with your onward flight to Buenos Aires where you will be met and taken back to your accommodations at Art Suites in Recoleta. Confirmed flight: AR1871V departing Calafate at 10:20 a.m. arriving Buenos Aires at 1:16 p.m.
- B – Art Suites
Day 14:Images of Buenos Aires
Today you’ll enjoy a full day of exploring the wonderful city of Buenos Aires in addition to visiting the Sunday market at SanTelmo. Buenos Aires is undoubtedly the Latin American city that most closely resembles the cosmopolitan and aristocratic atmosphere of the big European capitals. But Buenos Aires is also much more than that, combining the multi-colored tin houses of La Boca with the popular tango ambience that thrives on the streets of San Telmo. This is the blend that makes Buenos Aires a unique and irresistible metropolis. This tour highlights these aspects of the city, through its history and culture: the historic development, the immigration process, specific cultural topics (soccer, tango music), its architectural heritage, Peronism and other interesting features of Argentine society. Our journey begins at Plaza de Mayo, the city’s foundational site and an important witness to our country’s political history. We visit the Pink House, our Presidential Palace, the Cabildo, our colonial town hall, and the neoclassical-style Metropolitan Cathedral, final resting place of Argentina’s founding father, General José de San Martín. We continue southwards to La Boca, one of the city’s most authentic and charming neighborhoods. It is a working class district, heavily shaped by Italian immigrants who came to our country in large numbers during the last quarter of the 19th century. The neighborhood’s colorful buildings and its characteristic tenement houses reflect the cheerful spirit of the Italian community. As in San Telmo in the 1970s, nowadays La Boca is being renovated, and more and more artists and TV producers are choosing this neighborhood to set up their workshops and studios. Here, we make a special visit to the mythical Caminito Street, which embodies everything that gives La Boca its distinctive spirit: the strong passion for soccer, the heavy presence of art and color, and the tango atmosphere. Heading back north across the river, we pay a visit to Puerto Madero, a port district that contrasts the other neighborhoods we visited. Puerto Madero is the result of an ambitious urban project, which began in 1991 and renovated more than 170 hectares of an abandoned port area, transforming it into the city’s new international district and at the same time accomplishing and old dream: integrating the river and the city. The huge warehouses and grain storage buildings have been renovated and redesigned, in order to create a new business, residential, hotel and gastronomic neighborhood.Travelers Eric Janus and Carolyn Chalmers depart – flight Delta 110 departing Buenos Aires at 9:20 p.m.
- B – Art Suites
Day 15:Whims of Buenos Aires
Enjoy a leisurely day exploring Buenos Aires on your own. We will provide a list of favorite places for shopping, eating, and meandering.
8:00 pm – Enjoy a dinner and tango show (executive seating area) at Esquina Carlos Gardel. Private transfers provided by ECG with pickup at your hotel.
- B, D – Art Suites
Day 16:Buenos Aires – Iguazu
You will be transferred to the Buenos Aires airport and fly to Iguazu where you will again be met by a Knowmad representative and transferred to your lodge in the jungle. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon poolside enjoying the grounds of your hotel. Confirmed flight (6 passengers): AR1728W departing BA at 9:50 a.m. arriving Iguazu 11:35 a.m.
- B – La Cantera Iguazu Lodge
Day 17:Iguazu National Park
Visit to the majestic Argentine falls and the Iguazú National Park, declared World Natural Heritage (UNESCO). We walk on the upper trails above the waterfalls, and the lower trails, at the feet and among the waterfalls. We visit the “Devil’s Throat” up to its balcony, appreciating it in its full splendor. You will also have the opportunity to boat to the base of the falls and enjoy them up close and personal (shared services with others). This adventure combines a jungle trip with a sailing to the falls. We drive through the rainforest of this National Park in a 4 by 4 open truck. After a 5 mile drive we arrive at Puerto Macuco. There, we ship on a zodiac boat in the lower Iguazú River and head upstream, discovering the falls little by little, until we finally a achieve a panoramic view of the Iguazú Falls; we finish with a nice shower under the falls. At the end of this exciting boat trip, our zodiac docks at the base of the lower circuit, in front of San Martin Island.
Suggestion: You should bring a bag with some extra clothes because you are going to get wet.
- B – La Cantera Iguazu Lodge
Day 18:Iguazu – Buenos Aires – Home
You will be picked up in accordance with your onward flight to Buenos Aires city airport where you will recover your baggage, be met by a Knowmad rep, and transferred to Ezeiza International Airport for your onward flight home. Depending on time you may be able to spend some time in Buenos Aires (Delta 110 leaving BA 9:20 p.m.) Confirmed Flight: LA 4025M Departing Iguazu at 1:30 p.m. and arriving BA at 3:20 p.m.
Arrival to U.S. in the a.m. connecting to Minnesota with an estimated early afternoon arrival.
Que disfruten la Aventura (Enjoy the adventure), Jordan
Jordan is a Co-Founder of Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. He was recently honored by Travel & Leisure as the A-List Top Travel Specialist for Chile, Argentina, and Peru. “Travel brings me incredible experiences and challenges, highlighting the world’s natural beauty while connecting me with inspiring people. I am convinced that travel makes us better people, and better people make a better planet.” Read Jordan’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.
For more information on Patagonia trips or vacations in Chile and Argentina, visit the all-knew www.KnowmadAdventures.com. We are the South American travel specialists that will work closely with you to build your perfect Patagonia vacation, or the trip of a lifetime in South America.