Those on the group flight will be met at the airport and transferred to our hotel in Buenos Aires. Those on land only arrangements should make their own way to the start hotel this afternoon. Our local leader will meet us today for a briefing and take us on a short walking tour of the city, discovering its wealth of history and culture. The evening is free for you to choose one of the many excellent restaurants, most serving the legendary Argentine steaks!
This morning we fly from Buenos Aires to El Calafate and transfer to the small mountain town of El Chaltén. The town enjoys a beautiful location in Los Glaciares National Park with breathtaking views of Mount Fitzroy and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
We set off amidst incredible mountains and valleys for a day walk. First we hike to Cerro Fitzroy Base Camp with amazing views of the striking massif ahead. In the afternoon we continue to the picturesque Laguna de los Tres, a glacial lake whose still waters reflect the three main peaks of the range. This is a full day of walking over fairly rough terrain, but with impressive, rugged scenery along the way.
Today has been left free to enjoy an additional trek or an optional boat trip to another highlight of this area: the Viedma Glacier. In the late afternoon we take the public bus to El Calafate.
Today we visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. This immense jagged sheet of ice stretches over 3 miles across Lago Argentino and rises 200ft out if its cold waters. It is the fastest moving glacier on the planet and the eerie creaks and thunderous groans add a certain atmosphere of anticipation. Every so often an office block sized chunk of ice calves from its face into the water below before slowly floating down the lake as a giant iceberg. An optional boat trip gives an even greater appreciation of the immense scale of this wonder and a hike on the glistening surface is truly unforgettable.
We will spend a second day here to allow exploration of the town's surroundings. It is possible to take a gentle walk along Lago Argentina to see birdlife (including flamingos), or a slightly more demanding hike for some fantastic views stretching over the Patagonian Steppe and towards the mountainous border with Chile. Alternatively you can join an optional excursion to a local Estancia or to Todo Glaciares - this navigation includes Upsala Glacier, Bahia Onelli (where pieces of glacier are floating in the water), Spegazzinni Glacier and also the north face of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
A long drive across the border into Chile today before we arrive in one of the world's most beautiful national parks, Torres del Paine (please note that due to local regulations we must change buses at the border). We may have time after we check-in for a short walk next to Laguna Amarga or Laguna Azul, which offer great panoramic views of the Paine Massif and the striking granite Horns of Paine.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest highlights of the park is to hike up to the base of the Towers of Paine. The walk itself is beautiful, trekking through forests and offering some fantastic views across the park. Although not a difficult trek, the last few feet can be a bit of a scramble so you need a reasonably good level of fitness. The reward on reaching the small lake at the base of these sheer granite peaks however, far outweighs the effort involved.
Today we will see the main highlights of the park as we drive towards the Park Administration buildings at Rio Serrano. The granite horns are the most recognisable feature of the park and can be seen from various viewpoints. We will also stop close to Lake Nordenskjold and Lake Pehoé, as well as at the two waterfalls of Salto Grande and Salto Chico. Please note that weather conditions will affect the itinerary in the park. In the afternoon we transfer to Cerro Sombrero in a private vehicle and during this journey we'll have a short ferry trip across the Magellan Straits.
Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire) is named after the original inhabitants who used to light bonfires to ward off the winter chill. Crossing the island we'll have views of the most southerly part of the Andes before catching our first glimpses of Ushuaia at the end of the world! This is a long driving day but we use a private bus to make the journey more comfortable. We should arrive at our hotel around 7pm depending on weather conditions and traffic. We advise you to take plenty of water and snacks for the journey.
We'll spend this morning in the stark wilderness of Tierra del Fuego National Park, walking amongst the varied terrain, flora and fauna. In the afternoon there is an optional boat ride along the Beagle Channel to see marine wildlife including penguins, sea lions and many species of water bird including a flightless duck! We are also afforded fantastic views of Ushuaia and its backdrop of often snow-capped peaks as we head out on the boat. For those wanting more adventure or not wishing to trek, an optional full-day 4WD excursion will be on offer which will take us deep into the wilds of Tierra del Fuego where any more conventional transport would fail to reach, including the remote Lakes Fagnano and Escondido (please note it is not possible to see penguins on this tour).
We have some free time this morning in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. There are great views from the hills leading up to the Martial Glacier and some small shops to pick up souvenirs. Ushuaia has just one museum, housed in the former prison, which is worth a visit. This afternoon we fly back to Buenos Aires and should arrive in time to visit one of the excellent tango shows in the old quarter of San Telmo (optional) and enjoy a last group meal together.
Depending on the time of your flight home you may have another chance to see more of cosmopolitan Buenos Aires. After last night's tango show we might be tempted to learn a few steps, or watch it in the streets and plazas - particularly in the old quarter of San Telmo. A visit to the grave of Evita in the remarkable Recoleta Cemetery, said to be the most expensive real estate in the world, is possible. Those on group flights will leave today for the flight back to London.