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Route map for The Best of Patagonia (SABP)

Day 1 Arrive Buenos Aires

Arrive at any time. There are no planned activities, so check into to the hotel (check-in time is approx 3pm) and enjoy the city. In the late afternoon (approx 5pm) you will meet your fellow group members to go over the details of your trip and for the leader to collect your local payment. Check the notice board (or ask reception) to see the exact time and location of this group meeting. After the meeting we will be heading out for a meal in a nearby local restaurant (optional). If you arrive late, no worries, the leader will leave you a message at the front desk.

It has become cliché to say that Argentina is as much European as it is Latin; yet to arrive in Buenos Aires and discover this is actually true still surprises. Often called the ‘Paris of the Americas,’ Argentina’s capital city is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentina's 33 million citizens live in Greater Buenos Aires, and the Porteños are justifiably proud of their home.

During colonial days Buenos Aires was the seat of the Viceroy of La Plata. Almost completely rebuilt since the turn of the century, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Mayo, with the historic Cabildo (Town Hall), where the Independence movement was first planned, the Casa Rosada (Government Palace) and the Cathedral where San Martín, the father of Argentine independence, is buried.

The city is comprised of a number of distinct neighbourhoods; be sure to visit the districts of La Boca and Recoleta, or catch a tango show at one of the many famous tanguerías or tango houses. For many, the highlight of their time in the capital is a visit to San Telmo for the weekend antiques market and street artist’s displays. The city is home to countless museums, ornate theatres (be sure to visit Teatro Colon, BA’s incredible opera house) and historical areas. Wander the pedestrian walkways and watch dancing in the streets: the birthplace of tango and the world’s 5th largest wine producer has enough high culture to satisfy the most discerning palate, plus nightlife to match.

La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital's unique character. Its brightly coloured walls and buildings draw Porteños (BA residents) and tourists alike, and it is here that the world-class football team, Boca Juniors, plies its trade. A Sunday afternoon match at the fabled Bombonera is not to be missed. Posh Recoleta, with its cafes, museums and cemetery, is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. When you are done exploring, rest your weary feet and enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life.

Day 2-3 El Chalten / Glacier National Park (2B)

Fly south to the Province of Santa Cruz and the town of El Calafate and transfer to El Chaltén. Enjoy a full-day hike within Glacier National Park’s northern end, where granite pinnacles spiral upward into the sky. We will provide you with all the tools you need: ice axes, crampons and safety lines, making sure you are very safe as you walk. No previous experience is required, and you will receive a full briefing on using the equipment. Hike to Laguna de Los Tres to fully appreciate majestic Cerro Fitzroy/Chaltén (3441m) and to Laguna Torre for inspiring views of these magical peaks and glaciers.

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares has some of the most spectacular natural sights you’ll see in your lifetime; the town of El Chaltén, surrounded by mountains and Beech forests, is located in the north end of the park. The atmosphere is laid back, as hikers and climbers from around the globe congregate here, waiting for good weather to undertake the challenges presented by nature. The hikes to Laguna de Los Tres and Laguna Torre traverse spectacular glacial valleys, filled with awe-inspiring views of these peaks of ice and granite.

Argentina is the second giant of South America, with a landscape nearly as varied as its people. Modern and sophisticated, cosmopolitan Argentina has much more in common with Europe than with the rest of its neighbours. But if Buenos Aires is the heart of the country, Patagonia and the southern Pampas in Santa Cruz Province are its soul. This is the very region we explore. Hikes are moderate, with clearly marked and well-maintained trails, though there are some challenging sections.

Approximate Distance: 2082km
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours 30 minutes (By flight)

Day 4-5 El Calafate / Perito Moreno Glacier (2B)

Return to El Calafate on the shores of Lago Argentino, and drive west towards the lofty peaks of the dynamic Moreno Glacier, within Glacier National Park. We may spot condors, rheas, eagles or flamingos en route, but the real star of the day is the glacier itself, located at the southern terminus of Glacier National Park. Sliding down from atop the southern continental ice field, Moreno's 60-m (197 ft) wall of ice sporadically chokes off the narrow Canal de los Tempanos (Channel of Ice Bergs) creating a natural ice dam, which eventually explodes in a dynamic display of force.

The southern continental ice field, the second largest on the planet (after Greenland's) is the source of all the area's glaciers, including Moreno, Onelli, Viedma and Upsala. Moreno Glacier moves down from this massive river of frozen water, with huge chunks of ice constantly crashing into the lake waters below. Particularly dynamic, Moreno is one of the very few advancing glaciers left in the world, and is simply enormous: 1 km (half a mile) wide and 60m (196 ft) high.

Approximate Distance: 152km
Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours

Day 6-9 Puerto Natales / Torres del Paine National Park (3B, 2L, 2D)

Continue the journey south along unpaved roads to the Chilean border. Spend a relaxing evening in scenic Puerto Natales before the trip to spectacular Paine National Park. Spend the next two days hiking among the dramatic granite pillars that dominate the landscape. Take day hikes from our campsite into the striking scenery of this protected area, home to a variety of animal and plant life. On Day 9 we rest while enjoying the scenery on the way back to El Calafate.

Encompassing a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the high peaks of the Andes, approximately 180 km (112 miles) wide but with a coastline stretching over 4300 km (14104 ft), Chile’s geography is varied and extreme. It includes the driest desert (the Atacama in the north), the agriculturally-rich Central Valley, snow-covered volcanoes, forests and tranquil lakes of the near south, and the wild and windswept glaciers and fjords of the far south.

It is within this last region that you’ll discover magnificent trekking country, where guanacos, ñandues (rheas), condors, pink flamingos and magellanic penguins abound. The region also boasts some of the world's finest salmon and trout fishing, and the cuisine at times rivals the natural setting. Hikes are moderate to difficult, along clearly marked trails. Participants should be prepared for hikes ranging in duration from 5-8 hours per day with unpredictable weather. A gold mine of undiscovered destinations and surprises, Chile and its friendly and hospitable people will no doubt make a mark on your memories and leave you with a smile.

A town of brightly coloured corrugated tin houses, Puerto Natales lies on the Seno de Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope Sound, so named by a group of desperate early explorers) and is home to the once large and important Bories meat processing plant; these days most of its residents rely on tourism as a source of income. The surrounding countryside of foothills and mountains beckons the explorer and it is the logical jumping-off point for excursions into Paine National Park.

The granite Towers of Paine National Park make a sudden and dramatic appearance on the horizon in the midst of a flat, dry, wind-swept plain. Despite the almost constant summer winds, this is some of the finest trekking country in Chile. Endowed with severe mountains, sparkling lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, the park’s international attraction is immediately evident. Once a large sheep estancia, the park was established in 1959 as the Parque Nacional Lago Grey. Prior to this, baqueanos (cowboys) grazed their flocks here, and fires occasionally burnt out of control. The devastation wrought near Lago Grey with large areas of burnt forest and charred logs remains visible to this day. More land was added to the park in 1962, when the name was changed to its present one. It is said that the Towers and Park were named after an early Welsh settler named Payne, although “paine” is also the Tehuelche word for blue. The Torre (Tower) Sur rises 2900m (9512 ft) above sea level, the Torre Central is 2850m (9348 ft) high and the Torre Norte measures 2600m (8528 ft). As spectacular as the towers themselves, the Cuernos (Horns) del Paine, massive blocks of various rock layers, are visible from great distances.

Approximate Distance: 362km
Estimated Travel Time: 4 hours 30 minutes (Depending on Border)

Day 7
Approximate distance hiked: 16 km
Estimate hike time: 7 hours

Day 8
Approximate distance hiked: 24 km
Estimate hike time: 6-8 hours (depending on how far you go into the valley)

Day 9
Approximate distance hiked: 11 km
Estimate hike time: 4 hours

Day 10 Buenos Aires (1B)

Return flight to Buenos Aires for a final night on the town.

Approximate Distance: 156km (By road), 2082km (By flight)
Estimated Travel Time: 3 hours (By road, depending on border time), 4 hours 30 minutes (By flight)

Day 11 Depart Buenos Aires (1B)

You are free to depart at any time on Day 11.