Private Journeys

Signature Argentina: Patagonia, lake district and Iguazú Falls

13 days from £2,710pp

Argentina / Iguazu Falls / Patagonia

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to your hotel.

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the chic residential district of Recoleta 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 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 French belle époque and Italian influence.

Joaquin Dedomenici ©

Day 2

City tour including visit to Teatro Colón. Dine at a live tango show.

Guided tour of the city including the Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded with the Obelisk - an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of the best in the world. There’s a guided tour of its lavish interior.

On to the Plaza de Mayo, with the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace. Continue to the colourful bohemian barrio of La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Drive north to Palermo, an elegant neighbourhood of wide avenues lined with colonial mansions. Finally, visit the artistic district of Recoleta, stopping at the cemetery where generations of the Argentinian elite have been buried, including Evita.

In the evening you’ll dine at one of the capital’s many tango shows where you can appreciate the athletic skills of the dancers.

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Day 3

At leisure in Buenos Aires.

A full day at leisure to explore the many facets of Argentina's capital city. Your city tour will have given you an overview of its distinctly different neighbourhoods but you may welcome the opportunity to retrace your steps or discover new ones. Soak up the atmosphere of bohemian San Telmo, perhaps have lunch in leafy Palermo or browse the upmarket shops of Recoleta.

If you'd like to explore further afield we can organise a full-day trip across the River Plate to Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay. Colonia was founded in 1680 and UNESCO has recently declared its beautifully preserve historic core a World Heritage Site. The modern part of town is lively and neat, its wide avenues lined with trees. The historic centre has narrow, winding cobbled streets with colonial buildings. One feature of many provincial Uruguayan towns is the number of 60 and 70-year-old cars that are still in use.

Other options include a trip to the River Plate delta. With elegant suburbs such as Tigre and San Isidro and its network of rivers and channels, the delta region is an attractive and popular retreat for residents of Buenos Aires, a world away from the big city. A day trip to an estancia (ranch) on the cattle pasture of the pampas is also possible.

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Day 4

Fly to El Calafate in southern Patagonia.

Fly to El Calafate in southern Patagonia. Youi'll be escorted to your hotel in this resort town on the southern shore of turquoise Lago Argentino. Tourism in the last twenty five years has transformed it into a bustling entrepôt for access to the nearby scenery of glaciers, lakes and impossibly steep peaks. It still has a bit of a frontier feel, though it is very busy in summer.

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Day 5

Drive into Los Glaciares National Park; visit the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Today you will discover one of Argentina's most loved natural places - Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s an early morning departure on a guided tour from El Calafate to Los Glaciares National Park, followed by a drive to the walkways and the viewing platform overlooking the glacier. The thundering shards of falling ice are a breathtaking spectacle as you pass at a safe distance along the walkway in front of the Canal de los Tempanos, which separates Brazo Rico from the main part of the lake.

The Glacier is five kilometres wide and stands 60m above the surface of the lake. Its ice masses are fed by the southern continental ice field from the west, and from other smaller surrounding glaciers.

Later, board the Safari Nautico or Moreno Fiesta for an hour-long cruise on the lake beneath the glacier, with a commentary. Alternatively, you can just walk and contemplate, away from the other visitors.

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Day 6

Boat across Lago Argentino to see icebergs and nearby glacier; lunch at an historic estancia.

Guided excursion to Estancia Cristina. This full-day trip departs from the jetty at Punta Bandera, a 45min drive from El Calafate and explores the iceberg-strewn fingers of Lago Argentino. There are about 15 bumpy minutes as the comfortable motor cruiser crosses the southern arm of the lake. Soon, the first icebergs come into view as the boat continues towards the Spegazzini Channel and the Spegazzini Glacier. How close you get to the glacier depends on the floating ice in its vanguard but the surrounding scenery is wonderful.

Continue into the Cristina Channel, and dock at Estancia Cristina. Explore one of Patagonia's most remote historic estancias, established in 1914 by English pioneer Joseph Masters and named after his daughter. Some of the infrastructure was damaged by fire in 2009, but a guided tour will take you to its surviving buildings and museum. Have a typical, hearty Patagonian lunch at the estancia, with time in the afternoon to contemplate your remote, peaceful surroundings (there are also options to go on scenic 4x4 trip or a full day hike).

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Day 7

Fly to Bariloche, northern Patagonia, in the lake district.

Fly to Bariloche, the principal town in Argentina's lake district, on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi.  Beyond the town, the lake district has a more remote feel than you'd expect from somewhere so accessible, the craggy Andean mountain peaks, splashed with snow and cut through by glaciers, brood silently over a tightly wooded landscape pitted with lakes of gemstone clarity. Steep slopes shelter ski runs while the landscape is criss-crossed seductive hiking trails.  The town is a centre for skiing in winter (July and August), and walking in summer.

Mary Anne Nelson ©

Day 8

Sail to Victoria Island and explore Arrayanes forest.

Today you have a full day guided exploration of Victoria Island and Arrayanes forest. You'll be driven to Lake Nahuel Huapi and sail to the port at Anchorena on Victoria Island, where there is time to explore the network of trails on foot. The island is almost all dense evergreen forest - cypress, spruce, pine, monkey puzzle tree and coihue are all present. There are also lots of wild flowers and blackberry and rose bushes.

The island is a habitat for large woodpecker, hummingbirds and Patagonian geese, as well as mammals such as deer and wild boar. Get back on board the boat to continue to Quetrihué for a visit to the Bosque de Arrayanes, where the protected myrtle trees' trunks are distinguished by cinnamon-coloured, flaky bark  with white flowers and purple fruit. The trees can reach 15m in height and live for 300 years - some in fact are twice this age.

Boardwalk path at Arrayanes National Park – Villa La Angostura, Patagonia, Argentina

Day 9

Full day excursion in Nahuel Huapi National Park; visit Tronador Glacier.

Set out on a guided adventure to Tronador mountain and the Nahuel Huapi National Park. Follow the road along the lakeshores of Lago Gutierrez and Lago Mascardi, the so-called 'Lake of the Seven Colours'. Beyond, the road emerges from a dark forest to reach Ventisquero Negro composed of black rock and ice. The cacophony of sound that accompanies ice and rockslides is where the 'Thunderer' (Cerro Tronador) gets its name.

Continue to the base of the mountain, the highest peak in the Nahuel Huapi National Park at 3,554m. Head past scenic lakes, waterfalls and rushing rivers, culminating in an uphill walk to reach the viewpoint of the Cascada La Alerces.

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Day 10

Fly to Iguazú Falls

Fly to Puerto Iguazú on the border with Brazil. Transfer to your hotel just outside the town with views over the river. The immense cataracts known as Iguazú Falls form unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world. A total of 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km-wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward.

Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot colourful toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

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Day 11

Visit the Brazilian side of Iguazú Falls.

Your guided tour will take you to the walkways on the Brazilian side of the falls which offers an overall panoramic vista. Most impressive perhaps is the 1.5km paved walkway leading along the granite cliff to a viewpoint close to the rim of the Floriano Falls.

Closer to the road there is an elevator which takes you back up from the spray-splashed walkway at the bottom of the falls to a point level with the top  where there is a small shop, restaurant and terrace.

Return to your hotel in Argentina, where you have free time to relax by the pool or stroll in the grounds. There are also opportunities to explore the area by bike, or take a boat trip, bookable through the hotel.  

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Day 12

Visit the Argentine side of Iguazú Falls.

Now's your chance to explore the Argentine side of the falls on a full day guided excursion. Start at the National Park Visitor Centre, where there is a display illustrating the biodiversity of the tropical rainforest. From there, a little natural-gas-powered train transfers you to Cataratas station where the Upper Walk begins.

This sequence of causeways and passerelles links dozens of tiny, basalt islands at the top of the rock face. These walkways cross the myriad streams of the river Iguazú as they cascade over the lip of the precipice. A succession of lookout points allows your gaze to follow the water, as it plunges onto the rocks below.

You can then continue to the Lower Walk, which gives you a totally different perspective of the falls. Climb back up to the train and continue to Devil's Throat Station. From here, a kilometre-long walkway leads you across the river to view the thunderous Garganta del Diablo from the Argentine side, a spectacular vantage point from which to peer into the thundering vortex below where the water swirls and roars in an agitated maelstrom. 

 

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Day 13

Transfer to airport.

You might consider staying on to visit Brazil: you can fly from Iguazú to Rio de Janeiro in just two hours.

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