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Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine

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This holiday showcases three contrasting regions of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile where independent self-drive opens up amazing landscapes for you to explore at your leisure and preferred speed. You have freedom as soon as you get behind the wheel but also the security of knowing your accommodation is booked for you at the end of a day on the road.

Discover Argentina’s glorious lake district, a feast of virgin forests and rugged mountains reflected in a necklace of glassy lakes. The highlight is the drive north along the poster-perfect Seven Lakes Route to tranquil San Martin de los Andes. Later, fly south to visit one of Patagonia’s finest national parks: Los Glaciares, featuring Mount Fitz Roy. Move on to Torres del Paine National park in Chile staying at 2 lodges in different areas. Each is situated in magnificent surroundings, offers a range of optional excursions and enables you to enter and leave the Park on different, scenic routes. Besides scenic drives all round, each offers uniquely different experiences once you’ve parked the car. As you drive through the magnificent natural theatre of Patagonia you’ll really appreciate the extra freedom to pause for photos or linger longer for yet another fabulous view.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to hotel close to colonial centre and commercial district of the capital.

Day 2

Walking tour along the Avenida de Mayo.

Day 3

Fly to Bariloche in the lake district. Collect your hire car.

Day 4

Explore the Bariloche area.

Day 5

Self-drive to San Martín de los Andes.

Day 6

Explore the San Martín lakes area.

Day 7

Self-drive to Villa la Angostura.

Day 8

Explore the area independently.

Day 9

Drop off car in Bariloche; fly to El Calafate, collect car, self-drive to estancia.

Day 10

Self-drive to El Chaltén in southern Patagonia.

Day 11

Explore the area around the Fitz Roy massif.

Day 12

Self-drive to estancia close to El Calafate.

Day 13

Opportunity to visit Perito Moreno glacier independently.

Day 14

Drop off car at El Calafate; transfer to Puerto Natales in Chile, overnight.

Day 15

Collect car, drive to Torres del Paine National Park. 2 nights at a lodge.

Day 16

Explore the area around Las Torres (the towers).

Day 17

Self-drive to Lago Grey, 2 nights’ accommodation on the lake shore.

Day 18

Explore the area around the Cuernos del Paine and Grey glacier.

Day 19

Drive to Punta Arenas: drop off car, fly to Santiago, overnight at airport hotel.

Day 20

Transfer to airport.

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Places visited on this holiday

Self-drive Patagonia: The open road to Torres del Paine

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Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Along with Rio, this is a city worth crossing the Atlantic for in its own right. Dynamic, stylish and nostalgic, it’s the continent’s most European city, but does not lack South American verve. Its contrasting neighbourhoods reveal colonial plazas, shady avenues, quirky antique fairs, street art, world famous theatres and football stadiums and spruced-up metropolitan port districts. Studded with extensive parks, cutting-edge boutique hotels, designer boutiques and a myriad of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it’s a restless place, challenging to find your way around but well worth the effort. It’s the beating heart of Argentina, the hub for visits throughout the country.
When's the best time to visit Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is at its hottest Jan-Mar (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40C during the day). It can be cold and cloudy Jul-Aug, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn. Dec-Feb and Jul are local holiday times: Porteños head for the beach.

What's the official language in Buenos Aires?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Buenos Aires?

Argentine Peso.

Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. Please note that in 2016 many of the ATMs were not functioning properly; we are recommending that for the moment you take a good supply of US dollars cash. There are many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling frequently poor. 

What's the time difference between Buenos Aires and the UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places combine well with Buenos Aires?

Beach time in Mar del Plata (392 km by road, 5hrs); Colonia or Montevideo in Uruguay across the River Plate: travel by ferry, bus or plane; a stay on a working estancia in the pampa south and west of the city; Iguazú Falls (2hrs approx by air).

How long is the flight to Buenos Aires from the UK?

Average flight time is 14hrs 20mins on a direct flight from London. There are also flights requiring a change of plane in Europe or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural and sports events in Buenos Aires?

Tango Festival: Aug. The world's – top tango festival, nine days  of concerts, shows, free classes, exhibitions, open-air milongas (Avenida Corrientes is closed for a massive display) and other tango-related festivities.

Opera season: Mar-Dec. Take in a concert or opera at the refurbished Teatro Colón which attracts internationally esteemed artists. 

Argentine Polo Open: Mid Nov-mid Dec. Polo is a passion for many Argentines. This is the year’s main attraction, taking place in Palermo’s 16,000 seater stadium.

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Argentine lake district
Nahuel Huapi Lake
It’s part of Patagonia, but with a touch of Switzerland or Scandinavia. Argentina shares a picture-book-perfect lake district with Chile on the other side of the Andes, linked by one of the continent’s most exquisite passes, the Lakes Crossing.  It’s a popular yet unspoilt region of sleeping snow-stifled volcanoes, dark sapphire lakes fringed by dense forests, small Alpine-style towns and scenic drives. Its multitude of national parks offer outdoor activities from hiking to fishing and cycling to horse riding. There’s a European-style cuisine of fondues, creamy cakes and cool blond Bavarian-inspired beers.
When's the best time to visit the lake district of Argentina?
The main towns of the lake district are full of visitors in the summer months Dec-Feb, when the weather is at its best. Mar-Apr and Sep-Nov can be lovely seasons with rich autumn colours and blossoms respectively, and the towns and hotels won’t be bursting at the seams. Winter (Jul-Aug) is the ski season.
What's the official language in the lake district of Argentina?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in the lake district of Argentina?

Argentine Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs along calle Mitre in Bariloche and calle San Martín in the town of San Martín, using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows.

What's the time difference between the lake district of Argentina and the UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What other places combine well with the lake district of Argentina?
Chile’s lake district, a full day trip by boat and road across the Andes; Mendoza in the wine producing region, twice weekly flights (1hr 45mins; El Calafate and Ushuaia in southern Patagonia, sporadic service in summer only (1hr 40mins) or via Buenos Aires.
How do I get to the lake district of Argentina?

There are many daily flights from Buenos Aires to Bariloche (2hrs 10mins) and 3 flights a week from the capital to San Martín (2hrs 20mins).

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El Chalten and the Fitz Roy Massif
Fitz Roy
The vast ice fields in Los Glaciares National Park, southern Patagonia, are a primeval wilderness from which flow 13 huge glaciers into the waters of lakes Viedma and Argentino. The dark beech forests, gem-clear lagoons and the lonely steppes skirting the ice-capped towers of the Fitz Roy massif in the northern area of the park add to the beauty of this ideal landscape for hikers. El Chaltén is a small purpose-built town with tourist facilities and the principal base for visits to the area.
When's the best time to visit El Chalten and the Fitz Roy Massif?
The best months for hiking are Mar-Apr, when autumn foliage is stunning. Many hikers also visit in summer – Dec-Jan - along with non-trekkers so it can be very busy at that time. Days are long and mild then but it can be windy, as in spring (Sep-Oct). In the winter months Jun-Aug it is very cold and access routes can be blocked by snow, and facilities closed. 
What's the official language of El Chalten and Fitz Roy Massif?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in El Chalten and Fitz Roy Massif?

Argentine Peso. Bring sufficient pesos for your needs from a previous larger destination.

What's the time difference between El Chalten and Fitz Roy Massif and UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places combine well with El Chalten and Fitz Roy Massif?

El Calafate in the southern sector of the park, to visit the Perito Moreno glacier, 215 km (3-4hs); Tierra del Fuego for visit to Lapataia National Park and Beagle Channel (flight from El Calafate 1.5hrs); via El Calafate to Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, 425 km, (7hrs scenic drive).

How do I get to El Chalten and Fitz Roy Massif?

Daily flights from Buenos Aires take 3.5hrs to El Calafate, thence it is 3hrs by road to El Chaltén; from Ushuaia the flight to El Calafate is 1.5hrs.

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El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park
Perito Moreno Glacier
The vast ice fields in Los Glaciares National Park, southern Patagonia, are a primeval wilderness from which flow 13 huge glaciers into the waters of lakes Viedma and Argentino. Visitors can only see a small part of it, from bases which are surprisingly accessible, but get a real sense of the remoteness of this unpopulated region.  The emerald beech forest and the wind-strafed steppes framing the ice add to the landscape’s beauty. El Calafate is a small lakeside town with tourist facilities which still has a frontier feel. It’s the base for visits to the Perito Moreno, Upsala and Onelli glaciers.
When's the best time to visit El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park?
Weather-wise it’s best to visit in the summer (Dec-Feb) when days are long and mild, but at this time – especially Jan – the area is very crowded with both Argentine and foreign visitors. Mar/Apr or Sep/Oct can be sunny and clear, but it can be windy. In the winter months Jun-Aug it is very cold and access routes can be blocked by snow. Many facilities are closed then, too.
What's the official language in El Calafate?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in El Calafate?

Argentine Peso. There are a couple of banks with ATMs accepting foreign cards. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. There are also some money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash but rates are not good; you may be better off changing money in Buenos Aires or another large city before heading to El Calafate.

What's the time difference between El Calafate and the UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places does El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park combine with?
El Chaltén in the northern sector of the park, to visit the Fitz Roy massif, 215 km (3hrs); Peninsula Valdés (1hr 20 mins’ flight); Tierra del Fuego for visit to Lapataia National Park and Beagle Channel (flight 1.5hrs); Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, 210 km, (4-5hrs scenic drive).
How do I get to El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park?

Daily flights from Buenos Aires take 3.5hrs; from Ushuaia, 1.5hrs. You can reach El Calafate by road from Puerto Natales in Chile (5-6hrs).

What are the cultural events in El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park?

Lago Argentino Day: El Calafate, 15 Feb, live music, barbecues and dancing.

Dia de la Tradición: El Calafate, 10 Nov, horse-riding presentations and barbecues. 

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Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine

 

Torres del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia is the pinnacle of Chile’s natural landscapes, fast becoming one of the world’s most popular places for walking holidays. Cuernos del Paine is a granite massif which has been sliced apart into needle-sharp spires by glaciers. Beyond are the vertical triple towers of the Torres del Paine. Wind-battered grasslands lead up to sheltered glacial valleys with flowery meadows; torrential rivers surging with ice are interlaced with glassy lagoons. Wildlife abounds everywhere, from geese to guanaco; condors and puma may be spotted, especially in the low winter season from April to October.

When's the best time to visit Torres del Paine NP?
The best months for hiking are Mar-Apr. Many hikers also visit in summer (Dec - Jan) along with non-trekkers so it can be very busy at that time. Days are long and mild then but it can be windy, as in spring (Sep - Oct). For non-hikers, a visit at any time is recommended outside the winter months Jun - Aug when it can be very cold and access routes can be blocked by snow. On the other hand, it is frequently less windy in winter and you have a better chance of spotting wildlife as there are few tourists around. Many facilities are closed then; however, each year, a few more stay open to cater for this off-season traffic.
What's the official language in Torres del Paine NP?

Spanish.

How canI get local currency in Torres del Paine NP?

Chilean Peso. Bring sufficient pesos for your needs from a previous larger destination.

What's the time difference between Torres del Paine NP and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer.
What other places combine with Torres del Paine NP?

Puerto Natales, picturesquely located town on Last Hope Sound which still has a frontier feel, famous for its black-necked swans, 3 hours by roadEl Calafate in the Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, Argentina (to visit the Perito Moreno glacier), 425km (7 hours scenic drive); the Aisén Region, a wilderness of little-visited forests and rivers north of the park, 4.5 hours drive to Punta Arenas then 1.5 hours by air the Chilean lake district (2 hours away by air from Punta Arenas).

How do I get to Torres del Paine NP?

Daily flights from Santiago take 3 hours 50mins to Punta Arenas, thence it is 3-5 hours by road to Torres del Paine.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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