Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales, El Calafate, El Chalten
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
The natural splendor of Patagonia will enchant you on this active exploration of the glaciers, mountaintops, rivers, and lakes at the southern edge of the South American continent. Strap the crampons onto your feet and hike along the surface of an enormous glacier, exploring the nooks and crannies carved into the ice over time. Trek across the undulating landscape of high altitude plains looming beneath the shadow of snowcapped Mount Fitz Roy. Kayak alongside enchanting blue icebergs in Grey Lake....
Punta Arenas – Building Excitement
The sunlight shimmers across the waters of the Strait of Magellan. Corrugated homes are painted vivacious colors and overlook the shoreline. Punta Arenas is situated at the southern end of Chile. The city has a relaxed ambiance filled with people eager to show their hospitality, shaped by the stunningly rugged landscape encompassing the city’s edges. Fishing boats wade through the cobalt hues of the strait. The central square of Plaza Munoz Gamero highlights the city’s opulent past.
Together with her husband and brother, Sara Braun amassed nearly 2.5 million acres of land around Magallanes. The Sara Braun house was erected in the 19th century. The house continues to showcase the radiant décor of the family’s lavish lifestyle. The European detail of the dining room has a chandelier dangling from the ceiling over an elegant table that seats 20 people. The large window adorning the wall opens to the city. The pleasures of historic high society are only the beginning of Patagonia’s wonders.
Puerto Natales – The Adventure Begins on Madgalena Island
In the morning, the water from the Strait of Magellan laps at the shores of the city. An exact replica of the Nao Victoria, the ship on which Ferdinand Magellan and his crew journeyed around the world, creates an interactive and dynamic museum intent on immersing visitors into a 16th-century sailing expedition. After breakfast, your guide meets you in the lobby of your hotel and escorts you to the harbor, where you board your cruise on the water for the first of many Chile tours.
You may not be embarking on a 16th-century adventure to the old world, but your cruise follows in the paths of Sir Francis Drake and Charles Darwin, making your time on the water even more memorable. In the summer, Commerson’s dolphins swim in the boat’s wake. The dual-colored dolphin is also known as the skunk dolphin due to its black and white coloration. It can grow up to five feet long and maintains a playful personality alongside your boat. The ship docks at the jetty on Magdalena Island, home to the largest penguin colony in Southern Chile.
The windswept grasses rise and fall with the small mounds creating the island. You follow the pathway leading over the hill to find the active colony waddling along the sea break. The penguin can grow up to 30 inches tall. You can hear their squawk over the breaking water. The penguins congregate near the lighthouse. The red and white stripes of the building resemble the black and white stripes of the penguins. The penguins have a friendly charm and quaint demeanor when enjoying their natural habitat.
Torres del Paine – The First Length of Torres del Paine
Puerto Natales is known as the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park. The city sits between the waters of the Senoret Channel and the gentle foothills of the Riesco Mountain Range. The water shines an emerald hue in the morning light. Your guide greets you at the hotel and escorts you to the celebrated grounds of Torres del Paine National Park, where the first leg of your active journey begins. The “W” circuit is known for its challenging trails and breathtaking scenery. The aroma of the Magellanic forest around the trail adds a slight sweetness to the air from the beech trees.
The lush trees create a verdant skyline beneath the towering granite peaks of the Paine Massif. You follow your guide along the Rio Ascensio Valley. You cross a wooden bridge over the river. The water rushes along the banks of the gulley beneath the gemlike hues of the forest. The river shines an immaculate indigo against the bordering boulders. You can’t help but notice the towering granite peaks of Paine Grande, rising more than 9,400 feet above sea level.
Torres del Paine – Continuing Natural Splendor
In the morning, Torres del Paine remains serene. A soft breeze rustles the leaves of the forest. You can hear a gentle trickle of a nearby stream. The trees maintain an emerald glow beneath the drifting sunlight. In the distance, you can see the fading colors of the forest as the landscape shifts to the rugged granite hills and peaks of high altitude. After breakfast, your guide leads you out into the wilderness for another day exploring the stunning scenery of Torres del Pain National Park. The trail takes you alongside the turquoise waters of Lake Nordenskjold.
The glacial lake lies at the heart of the national park with a radiant allure, possessing a surface area of nearly 11 square miles. You can hear the nearby thunderous sound of Salto Grande, an exquisite waterfall feeding the pure mountain water into the lakebed. On the southern edge of the lake, wild guanaco graze on the verdant grass. Their long necks create a graceful impression. In the background, the peaks of Los Cuernos make the dramatic skyline. The darker elements of the sedimentary summit contrast the bright granite.
Torres del Paine – Thrills of the Valley
Sporadic fluffy clouds drift past the peaks of Los Cuernos. The alpine ambiance of your accommodation provides a view to the marvelous summits, which rise above the nearby mountaintops. After breakfast, your guide leads you out onto the trail once more, this time taking you up to the French Valley. The scenery turns into an amphitheater of granite walls and spires. The wind, rain, and melting glaciers have shaped the forests and mountains over thousands of years.
You come closer to the jagged tops of Los Cuernos, taking in their magnitude. Cerro Espada climbs higher than 8,200 feet above sea level. Your guide points out the magnificent edge of Cerro Paine Grande, the principal peak with an altitude of more than 10,000 feet. The icy edges of the summit are actually a single hanging glacier. The sunlight glints off of the ice. The rugged peak has incredible charisma. Your heart beats with the thrill of the natural landscape all around you. The beauty of the Patagonia is endless.
Torres del Paine – Seeing Grey
At breakfast, you have a fabulous view of Paine Grande. The windswept grass around your accommodation leads to the rocky outcrops of the snowcapped mountains. The trees have become sporadic, but their emerald leaves and sweet aroma remain. The scent of freshly brewed coffee mixes with the herbaceous aroma of yerba mate tea, the preferred drink of Patagonian gauchos. Your guide greets you in the morning light and leads you onto the trail to Grey Glacier. The windswept trees bend at interesting angles. The Andes Mountains in the distance overtake the horizon. You continue along the pathway to find the shores of Grey Lake.
Blue icebergs float across the lake, adding dazzling color to the gray water. Grey Glacier shines a similar iridescent blue, a stunning river of ice more than 15 miles long. Your guide leads you to the shores where you can kayak, and you eagerly head out onto the water. The simple change from land to water changes your entire perspective of Grey Glacier. The icebergs are massive, only outdone by the large ice wall of the glacier itself, rising more than 130 feet out of the lake. The water is cold to the touch but pristine. You are surrounded by magnificent ice formations the likes of which you have never seen, as you follow your guide through the niches of the lake.
Torres del Paine – A Unique Point of View
The icebergs continue to captivate you in the morning. Their shimmering hues dance in the morning light in contrast to the rugged shores of the lake. The beech forests drape across the opposite banks of the lake leading to the edges of Grey Glacier. You follow your guide on a trek to the edges of the glacier. Your guide helps you strap on your crampons. You hold tight to your personal ice ax. Once on the glacier, you can hear the ice crunch beneath your feet. The feeling of traversing the surface of a glacier is exhilarating. Grey Glacier has a surface area of more than 104 square miles.
The expanse of the ice makes you feel small in comparison to the kaleidoscope of blue colors surrounding you. The ice transforms into tunnels, crevices, and tremendous formations shaped by melting ice and the elements. A view of the ice field shows you a network of tunnels disappearing beneath the surface. Countless cracks look narrow from the distance, but up close they are wide enough to step between. Your experience on Grey Glacier is unlike any other. The spectacular scenery is enough to fascinate you, but the wonder of walking along the ice is truly unforgettable.
El Calafate – Into Argentina
Outside of Puerto Natales, the Milodon Caves carve into the foothills of the mountains. A German explorer discovered the caves in the late 19th century. The largest cavern in the network is nearly 660 feet long. Remnants of human habitation, along with extinct animals, have made the area a popular site among visitors and locals. After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you over the border into Argentina. The rugged mountain terrain lining the horizon turns to quiet hills and glistening lakes. Windswept plains create a charming environment along the scenic drive.
You arrive in the alpine town of El Calafate, located on the shores of Lago Argentino. The lake is the largest freshwater lake in the country with an area of 546 square miles. The dramatic landscape returns in the image of Patagonian steppe. Outside of town, the grasslands lead to the foothills of stunning mountains. El Calafate is often referred to as the “Gateway to Los Glaciares National Park.” The aroma of enticing dark chocolate drifts out of the chocolate shops on the main street of Avenida Libertador. Cafes place freshly baked empanadas on display. Buildings emanate alpine comforts with stone facades and pine-knotted doorframes.
El Calafate – Noticing the Ice Wall
In the morning, the aroma of yerba mate tea fills the cafes of the town along with the semi-sweet aroma of medialunas, a delicious breakfast pastry similar to croissants. After your meal, your guide takes you on the grounds of Los Glaciares National Park for a gorgeous view of Perito Moreno Glacier, one of three Patagonian glaciers that are expanding instead of retracting. A network of viewing walkways overlooks Iceberg Channel. The ice wall of the glacier edges into Lago Argentino to create the narrow water passage.
From the walkway, the panorama of Perito Moreno Glacier is stunning. The impact of the towering edge of the ice is marvelous, reaching an average height of 240 feet above the water’s surface. The glacier encompasses more than 96 square miles. You can see puffs of ice break away from the glacier’s edge before you hear the tremendous crack echo throughout the air. An iceberg calves away from the cliff and splashes into the channel for a remarkable display of raw power and natural beauty.
El Chalten – Adventure at the Village Doorstep
The sunlight washes across the Patagonian steppe and highlights the pink plumage of the flamingos lingering in the shallow waters of Lago Argentino. The colorful birds rest with one leg tucked into their underbelly and dig their beak into their wings for warmth. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you to El Chalten, a village at the northern rim of Los Glaciares National Park. The tops of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre summits point into the sky above the surrounding mountains. After you settle in the village, your guide leads you on one of the relatively easier tours of Patagonia to Laguna Torre.
You pass the charming shops of the handcraft market and climb the stairs passing a residential area. Beech forest lines the pathway for much of the ascent to the lake. Magellanic woodpeckers drill their beaks into the trees. Bright red plumage colors their heads. They are the largest South American woodpecker with a bill nearly two and a half inches long and a body length of up to 18 inches. When you reach the edges of the Mirador Laguna Torre, you arrive at an exquisite view of Cerro Torre, reaching 10,262 feet above sea level. The snow and ice capping the summit resemble a mushroom, rounding out at the top.
El Chalten – Waterways of the National Park
The village atmosphere of El Chalten is comforting in the morning light. The quiet streets come to life with local bakeries and cafés opening their doors to the locals. Yerba mate and coffee help refresh visitors and locals alike. The thrilling scenery around the valley entices you with fascinating rock formations and expansive grasslands to explore. Your guide meets you after breakfast and leads you once more out onto the trails of Los Glaciares National Park beneath the towering peak of Fitz Roy. The mountaintop rises to a height of more than 11,000 feet. The trail begins at the edge of town.
In the Rio Blanco Valley, you venture through the thick Lenga forest. The trees have a sweet and minty aroma. The river rushes along the glen, adding a serene soundtrack to your hike. When the tree line breaks, you have a view of the mountains on the far side of the valley. The snowcapped peaks descend into the glaciers. Sporadic lenga trees continue to speckle the trail. The steep ascent brings you to the summit overlooking Laguna de los Tres. The opulent water reflects the peak of Fitz Roy on the surface. Craggy, lunar landscape encircles the marvelous turquoise lake. The edge of De los Tres Glacier recedes from the lakeshore.
El Chalten – The Breeze on the Bicycle
Outside of El Chalten, the surface of Lake Viedma shines the same color blue as the sky. The pastry shop fills the village with the aroma of freshly baked medialunas and alfajores, a dulce de leche sandwiched between two butter cookies. After breakfast, your guide leads you along the road to Lago del Desierto in the River de las Vueltas basin. Lenga trees and Antarctic beech trees encircle the isolated lake with emerald hues. The water is a radiant indigo. At the far end of the lake, you can see the receding edges of the Huemul Glacier. The image is picturesque, with snowcapped mountaintops bordering the icy expanse of the glacier.
From the north shores of the lake, you can see the Andes Mountains before you and the dramatic peak of Fitz Roy behind you from the direction whence you came. You mount your bicycle and follow your guide, ready for the gorgeous ride back to El Chalten. The waterfall of El Salto del Anillo rumbles nearby. You follow the banks of the Rio de las Vueltas and listen to the torrent. Water sporadically splashes against the rocky banks. The air is cool and refreshing as the breeze blows against your cheeks.
El Chalten – Discovering a New Trail
In the morning, you wake up to a view of the mountaintops cresting over the valley. The herbaceous scent of yerba mate tea is a refreshing aroma to begin the day. Your guide greets you after breakfast and leads you to the Loma del Pliegue trail. The path leads upwards of 4,200 feet above sea level, traversing the rounded hillside along the valley. Along the trail, lady slippers, a slipper-shaped flower known for trapping insects, decorate the forest floor. The flower is an orchid with delicate petals of yellow and red. Beech trees tower over the underbrush.
You cross over the small creek and eventually pass Laguna Toro, continuing onward from the shores from which you enjoyed the previous day. The trees open to the elements. Andean condors circle the sky. They are the largest land bird capable of flight, with a maximum wingspan of more than 10.5 feet. They gracefully glide through the air in circles searching for prey. During the final ascent, the path clears into the rugged high-altitude expanse. Boulders and pebbles pave the rolling hills. The view to the peaks of Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy is unparalleled and unobstructed.
El Calafate – A Time for Rest and Relaxation
The waters of Lake Nimez are quiet in the morning. Wild ducks drift along the water’s surface near geese and flamingos. The avifauna in the ecological reserve move with grace around the water. Local sip their yerba mate in the morning, ready to take on another day in Patagonia. Gauchos ride on horseback celebrating the open spaces of the estancias outside of town. At breakfast, you sip a soothing cup of rich coffee before your private transfer arrives at the hotel to meet you. You will make your way to Comandante Armando Tola International Airport for your flight home. The splendor of your time in Patagonia, kayaking across glacial lakes, traversing icy surfaces, and hiking along the famous “W” trail will forever remain at the forefront of your lasting memories of Patagonia.
- Trek along the incredible surface of Grey Glacier to explore the ice caves, gullies, and vibrant hues of natural wonder
- Visit the fascinating Magellanic penguin colony on Magdalena Island for an up close view of majestic wildlife
- Traverse the stunning and challenging pathways across the “W” trek in Torres del Paine National Park leading from Chile to Argentina
- Kayak around sensational blue icebergs on Grey Lake
- Hike along the base of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre for unparalleled views of the dramatic peaks
- Witness the splendor of Perito Moreno Glacier and its magnificent ice wall rising out of the channel
- Venture to numerous reflective lakes and exquisite waterfalls in Los Glaciares National Park
- Enjoy a scenic bike ride beginning at the edges of Huemul Glacier and taking you back to the town of El Calafate
Patagonia is an endless display of nature’s majesty and power. Your 14-day glacier ice walk tour of the countryside is filled with indelible adventure. Glaciers wrap around the rolling mountaintops. Glacial lakes shimmer with opulent colors. Condors glide in the air over marvelous waterfalls and river torrents. The grandeur of the landscape is unparalleled, certain to captivate you from the moment you arrive in Punta Arenas. Your guide meets you at Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo International Airport and escorts you to your comfortable accommodation in the heart of town. Your second day in Patagonia takes you sailing on the Strait of Magellan en route to Magdalena Island. Tour along the scenic shores to visit one of the largest penguin colonies in South America.
The following day, you begin your multi-day hike on the “W” trail. Your guide meets you at the hotel and leads you into Torres del Pain National Park. The mammoth granite peaks of Torres del Paine are ever-present along the trail. Venture deeper into the national park along the shores of Lake Nordenskjold and at the base of Los Cuernos peak. You continue along the “W” pathway, ascending the French Valley for a view of the stunning scenery underneath the Paine Massif, including the hanging French Glacier. Observe Grey Lake and kayak amongst the staggering icebergs that have calved from Grey Glacier.
Discover the crevasses, pools of glacial melt-water, and hidden tunnels underneath the surface of Grey Glacier. The next day, you cross over into Argentina and settle into the town of El Calafate. Then, trek into Los Glaciares National Park for a panoramic view of Perito Moreno Glacier. You travel to the village of El Chalten on the northern border of Los Glaciares National Park. An easy hike to Mirador Laguna Torre offers your first view of the peaks of Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. Wake up and follow your guide on an incredible hike to Laguna de los Tres, which provides a panorama of the glacial lake in the foreground, and the massive peak of Mount Fitz Roy in the background.
The next morning takes you along the River de las Vueltas basin to Laguna del Desierto. The stunning water sits at the edge of Huemul Glacier. You return to El Chalten on a scenic bike ride. You follow the Loma del Pliegue Trail. Enjoy the beech forest and views of Torre Glacier. You return to El Calafate for the evening. On your final day in Patagonia, your private transfer meets you at your hotel in El Calafate. You make your way to the airport for your flight home.
$3,495 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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