Please make your own way to the group hotel in Calafate. A pre-trip briefing will be given around 6pm in your hotel, please ensure you are in the hotel lobby at this time.
We drive 4 hours across the vast Argentine steppe to Chalten, a village in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park and one of the last tracts of wilderness in Argentina. We will make our base here and spend the next few days hiking in the Los Glaciares National Park. This is a long and tiring day, however our journeys end is rewarded with the spectacular granite peaks of Fitz Roy looming above our lodge, and the long summer nights which allow us to enjoy our first few hours on the edge of the Patagonian wilderness.
For three days we journey into the park on impressive day hikes in the company of an experienced hiking guide. The options available to us include a trip to Laguna Torre and the base of Cerro Torre or Laguna de los Tres and Fitzroy Base Camp. The valleys and mountains are all very individual in their beauty and we aim to contrast these views during our visit as well as appreciating the birdlife and flora. Each day walk varies in length, however you should be prepared to walk for 6-8 hours per day, and more if the group decides to hike to Laguna de los Tres. Los Glaciares was declared a UNESCO World Heritage area in 1982 and after trekking in the area you will find it easy to see why.
The journey today will take four hours and we plan to arrive in El Calafate by lunchtime. The afternoon is at leisure to browse through the many souvenir shops, or walk down to the shores of Lake Argentino at dusk where flamings and other water birds are found.
Today is a full day tour to Perito Moreno glacier which is on a shared service basis with other travellers. This impressive glacier advances across Lago Argentino. We depart Calafate by bus and drive to the Perito Moreno Glacier Area to take a 20 minute boat ride across the lake before disembarking and hiking through a beautiful forest to the side of the glacier. Here you will be given a short lecture about the geography and how to walk in crampons. You spend approximately 1-3 hours walking through crevasses and exploring the peculiar ice landscape, before returning to the lake front via the forest, catching glimpses of the bright blue glacier through the trees. You then have the opportunity to take a look at the glacier from the viewing platforms. The ice trekking option on the Perito Moreno Glacier is unfortunately only available for people between 10 and 65 years of age without any type of special pre-existing medical condition (further information upon request). This is due to the insurance stipulations of the local authorities which are unfortunately non-negotiable and personal travel insurance will not suffice. For those over 65 (and those who would prefer not to participate in the ice trek) we have a fantastic alternative which provides the opportunity to see the south wall of the glacier. Travellers on this option will depart Calafate with the group and travel to the pier together. On arrival, you will embark on a different boat in the Bajo de las Sombras Bay and journey towards the glacier wall. A distance of around 300 m will be kept from its face, the perfect position to view the glacier and if luck is with us, witness the ice calving off. Following this another area close to the glacier will be visited where we can enjoy a walk through the forest and view the ice from different angles. The rest of the group will rejoin us and we will travel back to Calafate. Please remember to visit the supermarket in El Calafate the night before for lunch provisions. Alternatively there are a few snack kiosks and a restaurant at Perito Moreno.
We drive five to six hours across the vast Argentine steppes to the Chilean Patagonia. Our stop tonight is at the fishing village of Puerto Natales situated on the Ultima Esperanza Fiord.
A spectacular day cruising towards Torres del Paine NP, we enjoy impressive glaciers tumbling down from the mountains and beautiful panoramic views. Many past travellers rate this as one of the best days on this trip. From Puerto Natales we join our boat trip to the massive Balmaceda Glacier which calves into the Ultima Esperanza Fjord. After lunch in a beautiful location on the fjord, we continue onto the National Park by Zodiac, and hope to observe herds of guanaco and rhea as we approach the towering peaks. The Towers of Paine are right before us, as we enter the National Park. This boat trip certainly is the best and most interesting way to arrive into Paine. Our day ends with a short drive to a catamaran across Lake Peh to our refugio. There are superb views of the Paine Massif from the Paine Grande Refugio. Overnight Refugio/camping
Today we commence the first leg of the famous "W" hike in Paine. Out trail offers stunning views of Lago Grey, the Towers of Paine and the Grey Glacier. It is immediately clear the scale of the ice and rock in this dramatic landscape. Towering above us the Cuernos del Paine, or "Horns" of Paine and Paine Grande, the highest peak in the massif. This morning is a 3-4 hour hike to view the awesome Grey Glacier and the Continental Icecap beyond. We return on the same trail to Refugio Paine Grande, past mountain lakes edged with wildflowers and stunning views down to the larger lakes below. As a day hike it is possible to walk as far as you wish and turn around, although the trail today has fairly gentle undulations with few steep sections. Walk approx 6-8 hours. Overnight Refugio/camping
The hike can be relatively easy or more difficult depending on group preference. The easy option is to walk the direct route to Refugio Los Cuernos which will take 4-5 hours. However we recommend taking a detour up French Valley on day 11 depending upon local weather conditions, to experience fantastic views of glaciers, waterfalls and be surrounded by the granite peaks of Paine. The valley is exciting because you hear the thundering of the river, and the creaks and groans of the French Glacier. The views down to the lakes and forests below are also outstanding. This side trip can be 4-5 hours which means this day could be around 9-10 hours in total. On the second day one we can ascend 700 m into the Bader Valley, another "hanging" U shaped valley with yet more superb close up views of the towers from an unusual perspective. The distance is short and the round trip would take no more than 6 hours. Most of the hike is steep and follows an ill defined trail to a deep drop. We rarely see many people on this hike, since it is not an obvious trail and very few people do it. Today we thankful to our experienced and knowledgeable guides who can guide us off the beaten track and show us these highlights. Nevertheless, the wind can be so strong that quite often we can not cross the gate of the valley, and sometimes the park authorities close the trail. Our Refugio Los Cuernos is set above the lake and has great views of the Paine Massif. We spend 2 nights at Refugio Los Cuernos/camp close by and these 2 days are slightly flexible allowing the group to walk into the French Valley or Bader Valley on the first or second day
Our hike today will take 5-6 hours and follows the scenic Lake Nordenskj ld. We trek through awe-inspiring scenery today passing by emerald glaciated lakes with the Torres del Paine Massif in the background. A steep ascent takes us to the riverside Refugio for the night. Overnight Refugio/camping
Early this morning we ascend the Rio Ascensio to the base of the towers of Paine to hopefully glimpse the towers as the sun hits them, changing them from grey to a vivid red. This will be a 3 hour return trek with some steep sections. We return to the refugio for breakfast and continue down to Refugio las Torres, effectively completing the "W" trek. Overnight Refugio/camping.
This morning we take drive back to Calafate. The drive will take around 5 hours and we should arrive in Calafate by 2pm. Please do not plan to depart Calafate before 3.30 pm