Glaciers and Peaks of Patagonia

Glaciers and Peaks of Patagonia

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 15 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers


Day 1: Arrival at El Calafate
Arrive at El Calafate airport and transfer into town to your accommodation. The rest of the day is at leisure and later in the afternoon, enjoy a welcome dinner. Overnight Hosteria Hainen or similar (D)                                  

Day 2: El Chaltén – Laguna Capri
After breakfast we travel 220 km to El Chaltén, a small and picturesque village at the foot of Fitz Roy & Cerro Torre massif. We make a stop half way to enjoy local pastries and hot coffee. Once in El Chaltén, we start our trek. We carry in our packs only the necessary items for these 2 nights and 3 days in which we’ll overnight in our Full Camps inside the National Park. What we don’t need is left behind at the office and you will find it back at your accommodation when we arrive back to El Chaltén on day 4. We hike up a gentle slope on Fitz Roy trail to gain height over the River de las Vueltas valley up to the first viewpoints over Fitz Roy massif, which we will first spot after a couple of hours walking. From these first viewpoints, another 2 hours of gentle walking across bogs and forests take us to our camp, from where we will enjoy a spectacular view of all the Fitz Roy group spires rising from the surrounding glaciers. Overnight camping (BLD)                           

Camping Notes for Days 2 and 3:
Full camps are pitched up early in the season, so we find the camp ready upon arrival. It offers comfortable igloo type tents for 1 or 2 passengers, with insulation mat and sleeping bags. The camp also features a spacious dinning tent, a kitchen tent, tables, benches or chairs and a full set of table service and kitchenware. The sanitary services are latrine-type (rural area).

Day 3: Cerro Fitz Roy - Laguna de Los Tres
Early in the morning, before the first coffee, we can try to match up the morning light getting pink in Fitz Roy granite walls. You only need this to feel the trip is worthwhile. But of course the day offers much more. After breakfast, carrying only day personal items such as our parka, gloves, our camera, water bottle and box lunch, we hike along Fitz Roy trail up to Rio Blanco, climbers basecamp to the east side of the mountain. From here a steep 1 hour trail leads us to one of the most spectaculars viewpoints of the National Park: Laguna de los Tres, with its zephyr blue colour, lies at the foot of the massif, offering full close up views of Fitz Roy massif spires and glaciers. Each wall raises something from 600 to 1500 metres above the surrounding glaciers. Fitz Roy, with its 3405 metres above sea level, is considered the “King of Patagonia” and also considered one of the three most beautiful mountains on Earth (together with Alpamayo in Perú and K2 in the Karakoram). We hike back to our camp in the late afternoon. Approximate walking time is 5 to 6 hours today. Overnight Camping (BLD)

Day 4: Cerro Torre – El Chalten
Today we walk south along Lagoons Madre and Hija Valley and down to Fitz Roy river valley, where we meet the Cerro Torre trail. The trail runs along beech forest, bogs and shrubland and leads to Laguna Torre, enclosed by moraines and with Glacier Grande calving in its west side. It is usual to see icebergs pushed by the wind in the coast of the lagoon. The thin and elegant 3128 metres of the Cerro Torre group and the Adela range in the background complete this spectacular view. This afternoon we hike back to El Chalten along the Cerro Torre trail. Overnight Hosteria Pudu Lodge or similar (BL)   

Day 5: El Chalten – Loma del Pliegue Tumbado
Our goal for today is to scale the 1500 metre Loma del Pliegue Tumbado located south of the Cerro Torre Valley. It offers some of the best views over the different group of mountains, glaciers and lakes that feature in this region. From the lower terraces to the summit, you will be afforded spectacular views of Fitz Roy, Torre and the glacial valley in between. From the summit, the bonus is the sight of Paso Del Viento and some of the mountains that rise from the Patagonian Icefield. Depending on the abilities of the group we will walk the lower terraces or to the summit, a long but gentle climb on scree. The lower part of the mountain is covered by shrubland and forest. Arrive back in Chalten by late afternoon. Overnight Hosteria Pudu Lodge or similar (BL) 

Day 6: El Chalten – El Calafate
Today is time to relax at leisure to visit the town or to go on optional excursions around the area. For example, visit Lago Del Desierto, an attractive lake which historically has been disputed between Argentina and Chile. Later in the afternoon we return to El Calafate. Overnight Hosteria Hainen or similar (B)    

Day 7: El Calafate – Perito Moreno Glacier
Visit one of the world’s natural wonders, the Perito Moreno Glacier. The glacier flows down from the Patagonian Icefield, a huge sheet of ice that at 22000 square kilometres is the third largest glacial area in the world, after Antarctica and Greenland. Because of the unusual and favourable local conditions, this glacier is the only one in the world that shows a closure and rupture process. The road leads to the very front of the glacier, which will be only metres in front of you. The roar of the chunks of ice falling inside the glacier or from the glacier into the lake is a special and unique experience. The journey to the glacier is around 80 km (1 ½ hours) across the steppe and the journey is usually a good opportunity to see different species of birds. Later return to El Calafate. Overnight Hosteria Hainen or similar (B)

Day 8: El Calafate - Torres Del Paine National Park
Today we have an early start for a 6-hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. We drive across the steppe, following sections of the legendary route 40, to circumnavigate an impressive range in between Calafate and Paine. Cross the Argentinean/Chilean border at Cancha Carrera/Cerro Castillo. After the border crossing continue to the National Park. Approaching the park, we start to see the different mountains that feature prominently in the area such as Paine Grande, the Horns, Admiral Nieto and the Towers. Once we enter the park enjoy a short 1 to 2 hours walk to get familiar with the epic landscape. There should be opportunities to see wildlife such as Guanacos, Lesser Rheas, Condors and all types of wetland species. The park is also rich in interesting flora. Overnight camping (BLD)

Day 9: Paine Towers – Ascensio River Valley
An early start walking towards the bridge over the Ascensio River, the start of the iconic Paine Towers Trail. After an hour of relatively steep uphill walking we arrive inside the valley itself. A gentle downhill section leads us to Refugio Chileno, a cosy and comfortable mountain lodge, where those who do not wish to do the full day hike can stop and relax and then head back to the lodge. Continue up a gentle slope by the river and through beech forest. A final climb on the moraine leads us the Towers Viewpoint: a spectacular glacial lagoon with three magnificent towers rising vertically 1000 metres from the glacier. The view here is quite extraordinary. The full hike today is approximately 7 – 8 hours in duration with stops. Overnight camping (BLD)

Day 10: Lake Pehoe crossing – French Valley
Early this morning we take a short 1-hour drive to Port Pudeto to board a catamaran that crosses Lake Pehoe. At the far side of the lake we embark on the French Valley Trail. The trail skirts the southern slopes of Paine Grande and Lake Skottberg. After around 2-3 hours of continuous rolling terrain we reach the hanging bridge over the French River. This breath-taking location is at the foot of both the 2700 metres south east face of Paine Grande (to the west) and the Horns, with its characteristic black sedimentary rocks to the east. Continue walking 1 hour to reach breath-taking viewpoints of the surrounding area. After lunch we retrace our steps back to the port, where we sail back and return to the refuge. Walking time today is approximately 5-6 hours with stops. Overnight camping (BLD)

Day 11: Lake Grey
Bid farewell to the spectacular landscapes of Torres Del Paine. Drive for around 2 hours to the shores of Lake Grey and view the western slopes and peaks of Paine Grande. Spend around 2 hours walking its southern shore, a truly beautiful area. This afternoon, continue to the windswept but picturesque fishing town of Puerto Natales located on the shores of the Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) Fjord. Overnight Hosteria Francis Drake or similar (BL)

Day 12: Puerto Natales – Río Grande
A long drive today but very much a worthwhile one. Continue south to reach the legendary Magellan Strait, and board the ferry to cross the Strait. Once in Tierra del Fuego (literally translated as the Land of Fire, due to the fires seen on land by the first white sailors, having been lit by the indigenous people), continue for around 2 hours to reach Estancia Las Hijas, where a classical lamb dish cooked in the classical Patagonian barbecue style will be waiting for us. Overnight Estancia Las Hijas or similar. (BLD)

Day 13: Río Grande – Ushuaia – Tierra del Fuego National Park
Following breakfast we visit the estancia and by mid-morning continue south to visit Lake Fagnano situated in the middle of the Andes Mountains. Continue to our last destination: Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. This afternoon we continue to Tierra del Fuego National Park. The National Park is in the South West corner of the Argentinean side of the island bordering Chile. In Tierra del Fuego the mountains literally come right down to the sea. Overnight Hosteria Los Naranjos (BL)

Day 14: Ushuaia – Beagle Channel boat trip
After breakfast we board our boat for a trip on the legendary Beagle Channel. Visit Alicia Island to observe a colony of Sea Lions and the Island of Birds where we can see Cormorants and the lighthouse Les Eclaireurs built in 1919. Return to port with a backdrop of the Darwin Range to the West and the Andes looming above Ushuaia. This afternoon is at leisure but it is possible to take an optional excursion (paid locally USD 130) to Estancia Harberton to see a colony of Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins. Overnight Hosteria Los Naranjos (B) 

Day 15: Ushuaia – Ushuaia Airport - Departure
This morning enjoy some leisure time where you can take in the museums or the interesting architecture of the town. Later transfer to the airport for your onward flight arrangements. (B)        


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