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Active Patagonia: Classic treks in Argentina and Chile

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Patagonia is a vast and scarcely-populated wilderness of outstanding natural beauty which straddles the Andean border of southern Chile and Argentina. On this holiday you will savour stretches of the 2 most famous hikes, the W Trek in Chile and the M Trek in Argentina. The hikes are quite challenging:  walk for several hours over tricky terrain, sometimes steep. Good weather can’t be guaranteed in a region of fast-changing climatic conditions, but in the southern summer – November to March – you have a good chance of catching some clear, sunny days.

In the Patagonia region of both countries there’s a well-developed and expanding infrastructure to cater for the domestic and international demand for outdoor adventures, especially trekking. It is a primeval land of towering granite peaks, frontier-bending expanses of windswept pampa pitted with sparkling glacial lakes, and a huge domed sky which can be egg-shell blue calm or torn apart by angry clouds.

 

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel in the Providencia district.

Day 2

Fly to Punta Arenas, transfer to Eco Camp in Torres del Paine National Park.

Day 3

Trek along the Valle del Francés – part of W Trek.

Day 4

Hike towards the Grey Glacier – part of W Trek.

Day 5

Hike to the foot of the towers, the “Torres” del Paine.

Day 6

By public coach to El Calafate, Argentina.

Day 7

Guided excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier and boat trip.

Day 8

Transfer to El Chaltén in Fitz Roy mountains.

Day 9

Start the M Trek; hiking in the Rio Blanco valley, camp overnight.

Day 10

Trek to the Laguna Torre, overnight in El Chaltén.

Day 11

Boat on Lago del Desierto with walking options near Vespigani Glacier. Return to El Calafate.

Day 12

Fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to city-centre hotel.

Day 13

At leisure in Buenos Aires.

Day 14

Transfer to the airport for international flight home.

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Places visited on this holiday

Active Patagonia: Classic treks in Argentina and Chile

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Santiago and the vineyards
Santiago and the vineyards
With a backdrop of snow-draped Andean peaks in a sunny fertile valley, Chile’s huge capital lies at the heart of the country. A multi-layered place of contrasting neighbourhoods it is worth getting to know.

There’s a tiny colonial heart which displays an often poignant history, offset by the glittering malls, skyscrapers and shady boulevards of a modern economy. Interspersed are European-style centres for shopping and eating out such as Italianate Bellavista and newly vibrant, villagey localities among which is trendy Lastarría. The surrounding Mediterranean landscape is the perfect setting for vineyards and wineries producing Chile’s well respected wines.
When's the best time to visit Santiago and the vineyards?
Santiago has a hot dry summer and cool winters with some rain and even snow. Spring and autumn (Sep-Oct and Apr-May) are pleasant times for a city visit. The vineyards are at their prettiest in spring (Sep-Oct) but a visit may be most interesting at harvest time (Mar-Apr).
What is the official language in Santiago and the vineyards?

Spanish.

How can I get local currency in Santiago and the vineyards?
Chilean 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. There are also many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling are harder to find and frequently poor.
What's the time difference between Santiago and the vineyards and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar. 

What places combine with Santiago and the vineyards?

Valparaiso, colourful Pacific port growing in popularity among visitors, 106km (2hours by road); a beach wind-down in Chile’s principal resort, Viña del Mar (100km, 2 hours); a few days on Polynesian Easter island (5 hours direct by air); winter skiing in the family resort of Valle Nevado (65km, 1 hour 40mins by road).

How do I get to Santiago and the vineyards?

There are no direct flights from the UK, average flight time is 16 hours; a change of plane is required in Europe, Brazil or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Santiago and the vineyards?

Feria Internacional de Artesania: Nov; Parque General Bustamente, Centro, Santiago, the city’s best craft festival.

Feria Internacional del Libro: Nov, Machopo station, Santiago. A Hay Festival is imminent for Santiago – watch this space!

Fiesta de la Vendimia: Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, An annual grape harvest festival in early Mar. 

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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.

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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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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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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.

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

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