Depart London for overnight flight to Buenos Aires, the cosmopolitan capital of Argentina.
Those on group flights will arrive early this morning and transfer to a hotel in the centre of the city. This morning has been left free to relax and in the afternoon we have a guided tour of the main sights of Buenos Aires (approx 3 hours). Those on land-only arrangements should meet at the hotel in the morning.
An early flight this morning to El Calafate (not included in the price for land only bookings). We join our land transport at the airport and drive out on to the barren plateau of Patagonia. For most of the journey the road is good and so we should cross into Chile (with a change of vehicles at the border due to current restrictions) and arrive at Puerto Natales in the afternoon.
We drive into Torres del Paine National Park along a scenic road leading straight from Puerto Natales. We will spend the night at Rio Serrano campsite, which has magnificent views of the Peaks. The rest of the day is left free to explore the area on foot, or there is optional sightseeing elsewhere in the park.
Today we have a full day walking in the northern part of the park. We begin by trekking to Lago Grey, along the western slopes of the Paine Massif - in the distance we get good views of the impressive Grey Glacier. Icebergs, some as large as houses, frequently break from the 200m thick face of the glacier and plunge into the freezing waters of the lake. We hike to the lookout at Cerro Ferrier, which offers the best panoramic views of the park. We spend the night in the campsite at Rio Serrano.
This morning we drive to Las Torres to begin our full day trek up to the Paine Towers base camp. The 8 hour walk takes us right to the foot of the gigantic granite peaks of the Towers. Weather permitting we will be rewarded with fantastic views of the monoliths. We spend the night at Las Torres Campsite.
Our final morning in the park should give us a chance to see some of the wildlife that abounds here, including guanacos, rheas, flamingos and armadillos. Leaving the park, we drive north into Argentina to the little town of El Calafate, which stands on the shores of Lago Argentino. El Calafate is a thriving tourist centre, which owes its name to the bush with blueberries which is a feature of the countryside here.
Today we make an excursion to one of the most famous geological sights in the world, the Perito Moreno glacier. Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers that are stable, with seasonal fluctuations in the position of its snout. It calves into Lake Argentino and sometimes the terminus creates a natural damn and part of the lake becomes land locked. The water level rises until it suddenly breaks the ice damn and bursts. Every so often it is possible to see huge lumps of ice break off and fall into the lake to float away as icebergs. There is an option to take a boat trip and then to trek on the glacier (not included).
We continue north along Lago Argentino, an exceptionally beautiful lake. Further on, after passing the eastern end of Lago Viedma, we head northwest to El Chalten. After lunch we head to the campsite at the Fitz Roy Adventure Camp and have some time to relax, or to continue to Lago del Desierto for an afternoon walk. We will be camping in the Fitzroy region for the next week.
Today we hike up the Loma del Diablo, giving magnificent views of the sheer sided slab of granite that is Mount Fitzroy. The walk is in a private reserve and, weather permitting, we may be able to reach the peak.
Today we visit Viedma Glacier by boat and have the option to do an ice trek on Viedma Glacier. Firstly we drive from the camp to Bahia Tunel and then sail to the snout of the glacier (approx 1 hour by boat). Those who do not want to walk on the glacier can enjoy the sailing trip to Viedma and return to camp. The rest of the group will be given instructions on using the equipment and will set off for a walk of approximately 3 hours duration. We will see interesting crevasses, moulins and other glacial features. Crampons are provided and no experience of ice walking is necessary for the trek. (N.B. days 9 and 10 can interchange according to weather conditions and availability, aiming for the best views on the Loma del Diablo hike). We return to camp in the afternoon.
Today we will hike to Fitz Roy Base Camp (Rio Blanco), Laguna de los Tres and Cerro Torre Base Camp, via Madre and Hija lakes. We stay at a permanent camp in Thorwood tonight so it is recommend that you carry as little as possible - everything will be provided, including sleeping bags. You will rejoin your belongings at Toro Camp tomorrow.
Today we cross the Fitzroy River and then we have a steep climb up the Paso de las Agachonas and onto the attractive ridge of the Pliegue Tumbado, with panoramic views of the Agujas (needles) and the whole massif. We arrive finally at Laguna Toro, at the snout of the Rio Tunel glacier, an impressive glacial setting.
Day 14 - 15
From the lake we cross the Rio Tunel, maybe making a tyrolean traverse or maybe wading. We then climb about 700m to the Paso del Viento, quite a demanding route through some extremely wild glacial terrain. From the pass we look down to the Viedma glacier, part of the vast Hielo Sur, the Southern Continental ice cap, and enjoy magnificent views of the Fitzroy and Cerro Torre ranges. We return to camp the same way. Depending on the weather conditions, we hike to Paso del Viento on one day, and the other day is for relaxing at Toro Camp.
We head back to El Chalten by descending the valley of the Rio Tunel with one river crossing.
Free day Free in El Chalten for relaxation or optional excursions.
We transfer to the airport at El Calafate for the flight back to Buenos Aires (not included in the price for land only bookings).
The trip ends in Buenos Aires after breakfast this morning. Those on group flights will transfer to the airport for the flight back to London