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Best of Patagonia by Foot (7 - 12 days)

ArgentinaThis challenging itinerary covers the best trekking areas in Patagonia including Torres del Paine, Chile and  Argentina's El Chalten region.

Tehuelche Indians, the first inhabitants of the Patagonian plains, were the first to set eyes on the stunning granite colossus. On the Chilean side the towers were surrounded by a fantastic deep, blue lake, and accordingly, natives gave the name of "Paine" (the place of the blue waters); and on the Argentine side, as the main peak has always been enveloped in the clouds, it was christened "Chalten" (the volcano).Centuries later, those 3.375 meters of jagged, vertical, grey granite took the official name of Charles Darwin's captain - Robert Fitz Roy. Today, together with the climber's ultimate challenge - Mt. Torre (3.128 meters) in the northern section of "Los Glaciares" National Park, "Torres del Paine" National Park embodies the central trekking point of Patagonia, and one of the top five in South America.


2015 - 2016 Departure Dates and Costs

Departure each Monday from October to April

Tour Cost:
12 day combined trip $ 3,535 USD per person from Punta Arenas/ends in El Calafate

7 day Torres del Paine trek $ 2,250 USD per person from Punta Arenas

6 day El Chalten trek  $ 1,685 USD per person

Single travellers will be matched with a travel mate as there is no single accommodation available at the ecocamp and tents.  Trip starts in Punta Arenas, Chile and ends in Calafate, Argentina. Airfare can be added to join up with the trip in Chile or to extend the trip in Argentina.


Itinerary

Day 1 the Patagonic Adventure Starts, Torres del Paine NP, Chile (L,D)
The trip starts in Punta Arenas city during the morning either at your hotel or at the airport. From Punta Arenas we drive to the EcoCamp located in world famous Torres del Paine National Park. During summer the sun sets around 11 pm, so as you drive in you’ll have plenty of light to admire the Patagonian steppe with its guanaco and snow-peaked mountain horizon. Before arriving though, there are a couple stops. One is at Puerto Natales, a small but lively town on the shores of Seno Ultima Esperanza - “Last Hope Sound”. You are invited to check out the town, leave any luggage you will not need for the trek in our office, and finally enjoy a hearty lunch with delicious local food. The other stop is at Cueva de Milodon, a massive prehistoric cave where the remains of a giant ground sloth were discovered in the 1890’s. The surrounding area is very scenic with plenty of wild birds to be seen. The day ends with an overnight at the EcoCamp in Las Torres.

Day 2 Warming up in Los Cuernos (B,L,D)
We start our adventure in the Park with a pleasant walk through the curly Cuernos trail located beside beautiful Lake Nordenskjold. During this ‘appetizer walk’ we take in the park’s charming flora and fauna, its strong wind and the curious 4-seasons weather that will accompany us for the next days. As we advance through the trail we enjoy magnificent views of the park’s central lakes and the Paine’s Horns which are majestic black horn-like peaks of slate atop gray granite which crown the center of the Massif. We will of course stop to get some great first shots of the park and also enjoy a delicious box lunch to energize us for the rest of the walk. The trek ends at Refugio Los Cuernos, a small and cozy mountain refuge located by the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. The evening is left free to enjoy dinner and share experiences.

Day 3 Stepping into the Paine Massif’s Heart: Valle Frances (B,L,D)
After breakfast, we begin a challenging trek to Valle Frances (French Valley), a steep trail that goes into the very heart of the Paine Massif. How deep we go depends on our groups’ rhythm. An active walk leads us to the hanging bridge over the French River, located at the foot of the south east face of the Massif. From this point, we can enjoy our first truly wonderful view and then continue up the trail until reaching the upper prospects of the valley. The entire group of geological formations of the high valley can be admired here: Hoja (Blade), Máscara (Mask), Espada (Sword), Catedral (Cathedral), Aleta de Tiburón (Shark’s Fin) and the magnificent Fortaleza! (Fortress). It is time to have a picnic and recover from the walk. An optional trek to Mirador Britanico is available as well. Next, we descend through an undulating terrain of mixed grassland and light forest until reaching the Refugio Paine Grande, located in the peaceful shores of Lake Pehoe. Finally, upon reaching the Refugio, the luggage is organized and there is time to talk about the day while enjoying a replenishing dinner.

Day 4 Torres del Paine’s Big Daddy is on the Way: Glacier Grey (B,L,D)
Today we’ll hike from Paine Grande Lodge along the shores of mountain-lined Lake Pehoe to the northern end of glacial Lake Grey. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch before boarding the boat that sails to the blue face of Glacier Grey. You’ll have lots of time to marvel at this calving glacier before the boat ride across Lake Grey with its floating pieces of ice. You clothes and personal belongings are once again transported separately from the lodge in duffel bags. From Lake Grey’s southern end we transfer to the EcoCamp. If the weather conditions do not allow us to navigate Lake Grey, we’ll instead hike to Glacier Grey. Then at Pudeto we’ll board the catamaran to cross Lake Pehoe. From there, we’ll take a short drive back to Cascada EcoCamp in where we’ll enjoy the night.

Day 5 The Great Challenge: The Mighty Torres del Paine (B,L,D)
Time for a great breakfast and lots of enthusiasm! Our goal is to complete the most famous trekking trail in Torres del Paine NP. We walk from the camp site towards Hostería Las Torres and connect with the winding uphill path to Ascencio Valley – the valley which supports the eastern face of the Towers’ base. Dry mountain spots, beech forests and small rivers are passed along the scenic walk into the valley. It’s not a difficult walk, but energy should nevertheless be saved for the final challenge: the moraine. This mass of boulders is the last guardian before our face to face meeting with the uplifting Torres del Paine. The moraine is sufficiently steep to consider doing it slowly and with an adequate amount of precaution. After a considerable effort, the Towers come into full view, rising majestically before us with the glacial lake visible below. This is one of the most breathtaking sights of the world! The famous Torres del Paine (2, 900 m/ 9, 400 ft) consist of three gigantic granite monoliths, the remains of a great cirque sheared away by the forces of glacial ice. Is there any better place on this planet to have lunch? Of course! But since we are in Patagonia, at the feet of the mighty Torres del Paine, we will enjoy life, the view, and a bite to eat! Once everyone is ready, we backtrack along the same trail through Ascencio Valley, and return to the EcoCamp.

Day 6 Soft Day in the Eastern Lakes (B,L,D)
We hike to the Laguna Azul lookout where we have a gorgeous view of both the lagoon and granite towers. We continue along the eastern side of Lago Sarmiento to the calcium formations on the lake’s shores where guanacos are often seen. Later we trek to Paso Las Corneas with spectacular views of Rio Paine, Lake Pehoe and the massif of Paine. Depending on the group, we can also hike to the Toro lookout point that offers more soul-candy scenery - Lago Toro and the pampa, or steppe! Upon returning to the Ecocamp, a farewell dinner is celebrated. This is sadly our last night in Torres del Paine, we take notes and talk with our friends, relax, feel the strong Patagonic wind while watching the heavens above, all these days in the Park will be profound memories when we return home.

Day 7  Torres del Paine – Los Glaciers National Park, Argentina* or return to Punta Arenas (B)
Wake up early and start driving to Cerro Castillo border crossing to Argentina. In Castillo we board a regular bus to Calafate, a small town set on the edge of Los Glaciares NP amidst dramatic scenery and natural beauty. If there are other travel fellows starting from Calafate we will meet them in town. After some hours on the bus, we arrive to Calafate, where a local guide  meet us and give us a general explanation about the trip while we have lunch; after this we have a couple of hours to explore the down town. From the bus terminal we embark on about a 4 hour regular bus ride to Chalten, The drive is on isolated dirt roads across the pampas and along the northern end of Lago Viedma. Chalten is a tiny outpost beside the National Park at the foot of impressive Mount Fitzroy. Once we’ve checked in at the hotel, its time to get a well-deserved rest, which will be needed for the next couple of days!

Day 8 A precious hike to Laguna Torre (B,L)
We do a full day hike along Cerro Torre Trail to Laguna Torre, an extremely pretty mountain lake with majestic Mount Torre in the background. After breakfast, we walk eastward, following the trail through beech forests and bogs to a pleasant encounter with Fitroy River. We continue advancing and reach Camp Base de Agostini and then do a short hike to Laguna Torre, escorted in the west by Cerro Torre and the Adela range. Icebergs can be seen peacefully floating on Laguna Torre as the wind pushes them to the coast. We stop at different points to take in the magnificent view and enjoy a picnic. Later, we return to Chalten following the same trail. There is an optional day trip for those wanting to trek on Torre Glacier. Those taking this exciting option get up earlier and do it apart from the main group. Upon returning from the trek, the evening is free to enjoy a delicious dinner at one of Chalten’s cozy restaurants.

Day 9 The Challenge: Monte Fitzroy, Mountain of Mountains (B,L)
Today’s trek is to Laguna Los Tres with the best available view of Monte Fitzroy - THE landmark in Los Glaciares NP! Once again, a big breakfast and lots of enthusiasm is required. We begin our hike by heading towards silent Laguna Capri, passing just beside its northern corner. Then we follow the Fitz Roy Trail up to Rio Blanco, passing Poicenot, the mountaineering camp. Finally, a short but steep trail will take us to Laguna de Los Tres to take in one of the park’s most marvelous natural scenes! The turquoise-blue of the Lagoon is a stunning sight and this is of course is magnified by the accompanying view of Fitz Roy’s spires and glaciers. You will probably experience a Torres del Paine flashback. If Torres del Paine is the king mountain of Patagonia, Fitz Roy is surely the beautiful queen! Time for a picnic. In such a memorable place the food can not help but taste better than ever! When everyone is ready, we will hike back to Laguna Capri and continue along the trail back to tiny Chalten.

Day 10 Last steps in Chalten (B,L)
Today we will do a short morning trek following the Pliegue Tumbado trail. After an hour trekking up the hill we will reach an excellent viewpoint of the western bank of the Massif with great views of Cerro Torre and the picks around Mount Fitzroy. We come back to sadly prepare our luggage and start our way back to Calafate. We are transferred to the terminal and board the midday regular bus (in April we take the afternoon bus), following the same road filled with Argentinean pampas that welcomed us some days ago. We will arrive in Calafate in the afternoon with plenty of time to rest, walk around the town and look for a nice dinner.

Day 11 The Big Daddy is on the Way: Glacier Perito Moreno (B,L)
Once we finish enjoying an early breakfast we board the minibus and start the drive that will takes us to Perito Moreno Glacier. After a couple of hours we will reach Los Glaciares NP and continue driving to Bajo de las Sombras Bay sector, where we board  the boat that will sail approximately twenty minutes on Lago Rico reaching the south wall of the glacier. In the other side the guides give us a short talk about the formation of glaciers together with other interesting details about local geology. From this point we do a short walk to the edge of the glacier where we are given the crampons to be fitted to our shoes. Now we start the ice trekking adventure! Although we feel somehow strange walking with the crampons, it will take us just a few minutes to get used to it. As we walk ahead we face terrific views of the glacier and surroundings. Our trek finishes with a little ice bar serving whisky on freshly shopped millenary ice from the glacier, a cute touch. After the walk and having lunch we continue on to the footbridges with multiple view points of the glacier’s superb north wall with its incredible cracking walls. Here we are left free to enjoy the surroundings at our own leisure. After the thrilling encounter with the glacier, we drive back to Calafate. This is sadly our final night together.

Day 12    El Calafate Departure (B)
Tour ends after breakfast. (B)

Extensions are available on an individual basis.


Additional Information

Includes:

  • All transfers mentioned
  • Lodging as listed in the itinerary, fully equipped camps, refuges and hotels w/pvt bathroom - according to mentioned program above
  • Meals (B: breakfast, L: lunch or D:dinner) as mentioned
  • English speaking mountain guide from day 1 to 6 and day 8 to 11
  • On treks, a boxed lunch is provided. There are separate personal, dining and toilet tents. Isomats, local coordination, boat ride across Lake Pehoe.
  • Hot drinks during camp meals, visits,entrances, park fees and public bus transfers when mentioned

Does not include:

  • Personal clothing
  • Sleeping bags
  • Drinks during meals (excluding water) /alcoholic drinks during the trek
  • Porters for personal equipment
  • Tips & laundry