Private Journeys

Family Patagonia: Glacial lakes and mountains

16 days from £7,430pp

Argentina / Chile / Patagonia

Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel in the chic Recoleta district.

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the chic Recoleta residential district by one of our local representatives

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses.  It’s a city with something for everyone, whatever their age or interest.

It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills. The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest.

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Day 2

At leisure in Buenos Aires. Optional football matches in season.

At leisure in Buenos Aires.  Stroll around pedestrianised Puerto Madero, the refurbished port district where former dock installations and features have been preserved alongside a string of excellent restaurants and loft conversions. Take a trip out to La Boca, the artists’ quarter filled with gaily painted houses. Beyond the city limits, consider a trip by catamaran across the River Plate to Colonia in Uruguay.  Travel along a forest-fringed estuary, dotted with upmarket residences, to this peaceful little port, where you can wander among cobbled streets lined by colonial houses, climb the lighthouse tower or have a meal in the yacht club.

Alternatively, venture into the watery delta to the small town of Tigre, set on the banks of the Luján river. Have lunch at one of the restaurants on the shores of the Río Paraná, while watching fisherman at work and river-craft gliding by.

If you fancy taking in a football game, maybe at the famous grounds of Boca Juniors or River Plate, this can be arranged for you – the season runs from August to June, on Saturdays.

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Day 3

Guided excursion to a gaucho display at a nearby ranch.

Live a little of the Argentine cowboy’s (gaucho) joie de vivre at this re-creation of a country fiesta held in a ranch on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. You will be able to savour the food and wine of the pampas, including a mouth-watering barbecue, and walk or horse-ride around the property. In the afternoon, there is a show of regional dance and song, followed by a demonstration of the gauchos’ legendary equestrian skills, including horse races. You may also enjoy the scenery in leisurely fashion in a traditional 'sulky' carriage.

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Day 4

Transfer to airport and fly to El Calafate.

Transfer to airport and fly to El Calafate in Southern Patagonia, a small tourist resort situated on the banks of the milky turquoise Lake Argentino. Your first sight of Patagonia is spell-binding: it’s a remote land of endless grassy plains, granite mountain peaks tipped with eternal snows, turquoise lakes dotted with icebergs and immense blue-tinged glaciers. Beyond all imagining for youngsters.

Transfer to your hotel close to the town.  Tourism in the last 20yrs has transformed it into a bustling entrepôt with access to the nearby landscapes of glaciers, lakes and impossibly steep peaks.  It still has a bit of a frontier feel, though it is very busy in summer.

Day 5

Guided adventure on the Patagonian steppes by 4WD vehicle.

Only a 23km drive from El Calafate, Cerro Frias Eco-Adventure Park sits at the foot of the Andes mountains, amongst indigenous beech trees and calafate berry bushes. To observe the plants and animals, and have spectacular sweeping views over the landscape, climb into a 4WD jeep and drive up the eastern slope of the mountain - the first natural viewpoint is at 450m - with stunning panoramas over Lake Argentino.

Continue on to catch glimpses of the Devil's Mouth, climbing to 1,030m. From the highest point, you'll see the dizzy heights of ice-clad Fitz Roy Mountain and the spiky Torres del Paine (Chile) in the distance before descending to the park. On this adventure you will enjoy a typical Patagonian lunch.

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Day 6

Guided visit to Perito Moreno glacier with mini-trekking or boat trip.

Today’s adventure begins with a 1.5hr drive across the Patagonian steppes, leaving El Calafate along the shore of Lake Argentino, and heading for Los Glaciares National Park.   There are not many sights on Earth that are truly awe-inspiring, but the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of them.  A thundering soundtrack, created by shards of falling ice, accompanies a truly breathtaking spectacle: a 5km-wide wall of ice which towers 60m above the surface of an iceberg-dotted lake. Most visitors stick to the walkways and viewing platform which face the glacier, but trekking on the glacier itself can be an unforgettable experience.

Arriving at the national park, there is a short boat trip to the opposite shores of the lake.  After a briefing from the guides, you’ll be fitted with your crampons, ready to spend 90mins exploring the glacier’s surface. The guides accompany you, helping you to pick a safe route, negotiating pools and ice fields, perhaps even getting inside an icy crevasse. Once the trek is over you’ll have time to enjoy your packed lunch. Next, you’ll board the boat again and head back to shore to explore the walkways which face the glacier, Return to El Calafate during the late afternoon.

(Those of your party who are under 10 or over 65 years old, pregnant, or have mobility issues can take the regular excursion with a boat trip instead of the ice trekking).

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Day 7

Scenic drive to Torres del Paine National Park.

It’s a wonderful scenic drive on a lonely road across the border to Chile and Torres del Paine National Park. The trip to the border crossing takes about 4hrs, crossing over sweeping Patagonian grasslands, remote and sparsely populated. Wildlife to look out for includes guanaco and the ostrich-like rhea. Continue into Chile and Torres del Paine National Park, a further 2hrs along an unpaved road.

The park is dominated by a granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas). 

You’ll be staying in fixed dome tents with proper beds and bathroom facilities. An experience right inside the jaws of nature, but protected from the elements in a cosy family environment.

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Days 8-9

Guided outdoor activities in Torres del Paine National Park.

Choose from a menu of guided excursions and adventure activities from the camp.  There is a programme of activities divided into 'easy' or 'active' tours, which have fixed schedules and are shared with other guests. The excursions included during your stay will vary depending on your arrival day, but the emphasis is on exploring these wonderful surroundings on foot.

Typically, there is a choice of easy trails to the western lakes, Laguna Azul and the Mirador del Toro viewpoint. The more active among you may enjoy the day-long trek to the base of Torres del Paine or a hike in the French Valley. Excursions to Glacier Grey are offered twice a week subject to local conditions and minimum numbers being reached. It might be possible to organise a private excursion locally at additional cost. Horse riding may also be arranged locally.

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Day 10

Transfer to Punta Arenas airport, fly to Santiago.

Transfer to Punta Arenas airport, another bleakly beautiful route where ostriches and guanacos race across the steppes, and fly to Santiago.

The capital of Chile is set in a broad valley between the Andes, with a row of snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, a mix of the old and the contemporary, with quarters of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle.

Day 11

Guided city tour of the capital.

Your guided tour showcases the city's multi-faceted character, contrasting the bustling historic centre, leafy residential neighbourhoods and swish, ultra-modern El Golf, the high-rise business district.

Setting off from the University district, you will see the elegant 19th century mansions of the old aristocracy en route to the Plaza de Armas (main square). Santiago's cathedral, the main post office, the National Museum and the city hall are all historic buildings grouped around the square. Drive along the highway which skirts the Parque Forestal towards the bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista with its cobbled streets, cafés and jewellery and gift shops. 

From here, visit hilly San Cristóbal park, which has a cable car, swimming pool and other family friendly amenities, for a spectacular panorama of the city.

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Day 12

Fly to Calama and transfer to San Pedro de Atacama.

Transfer to Santiago airport and fly to Calama in the Atacama Desert (2hrs). Continue by road for an hour to the agreeable little tourist resort San Pedro de Atacama.

The Atacama’s inhospitable desert landscape is harsh and rugged, but it isn’t an empty wasteland. Volcanoes and geysers steam and hiss into life. Pink flamingos haunt the featureless white salt flats, cacti stride towards the horizon and oases splash the tawny landscape with vigorous vegetation, especially after rare flash rainfall.  The culture and settlements echo with the legacy of the desert’s pre- and post- Columbian inhabitants, with ruined temples and dusty colonial villages.

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Days 13-14

Guided excursions in the Atacama Desert.

Choose from an array of complementary guided activities to enjoy this spectacular corner of Chile, such as visits to the salt flats, geysers and crumbling desert ruins. Travel to the sand dunes and gorges of Moon Valley, the hot springs of Puritama or take a dawn van trip to the fizzing, hissing, spouting Tatio geysers – among the highest hot springs on the planet. There’s a good choice of experiences for all members of the family.

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Day 15

Fly from Calama to Santiago.

Overnight at the Holiday Inn Santiago Airport, immediately opposite the terminal building.

Day 16

Transfer to airport for your international flight home.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

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    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

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    It’s hard to believe that Evie has had time to cram so much in to her life so far. Having lived as a child in the Americas and Europe she found herself immediately attracted to Latin America.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

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