As I wrote recently, my own semi-spontaneous Patagonia excursions differ from those of visitors who cannot devote so much time to the Patagonia region that I enjoy every year. In contrast to that earlier itinerary, today I’ll suggest a rather different but overlapping trip to Patagonia; it starts in Buenos Aires and ends in Santiago, but takes in some alternative destinations and sights.
Arrival in El Calafate after morning flight from Buenos Aires. After hotel-check in, have a relaxing lunch at one of the city’s quality restaurants and, later, pay a visit to the Glaciarium, the remarkable ice museum on the western outskirts of town. Try a cocktail in its ice bar – the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere – before returning to town for dinner.
Morning departure for the Moreno Glacier, in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. For most visitors, contemplating the groaning ice and the seracs that splinter off its face is rewarding enough, but the more adventurous can strap on crampons for a hike across its crevasses.
Day 3: Early morning departure for El Chaltén, Argentina’s trekking capital, in the park’s northern sector. Weather permitting, a hike to see the scenic granite needles of FitzRoy or Cerro Torre – the trailheads are just minutes from the village. Overnight in the village, which has a surprising number of quality dining options.
Early departure for El Calafate and flight to Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, the “uttermost part of the earth.” Don’t miss the city’s Museo Marítimo which, despite its misleading name, is a prison museum that’s Argentina’s counterpart to Alcatraz.
Excursion to Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, where Argentina’s Ruta 3, the world’s most southerly highway, ends at Km 3,060 – the distance from Buenos Aires. In the early 20th century, convict labor built the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino, which is now a tourist train that also covers the route into the park. In late afternoon or early evening, board the ship for the Punta Arenas excursion.
From Ushuaia, the Patagonia cruise tour enters Chile, where you’ll enjoy sailing Cape Horn, Agostini Sound, and the Magellanic penguin colony at Isla Magdalena before anchoring at Punta Arenas. Accommodations in Punta Arenas or, alternatively, the seaside town of Puerto Natales.
Morning departure for the city of Puerto Natales and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, with accommodations in the park. Enjoy a road tour or, weather permitting, a hike to the base of the granite towers that give its its name.
If your schedule allows an extra day in the park, by all means take it. If not, return to Punta Arenas for a non-stop flight to Santiago, to prepare for the trip home.