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Dates: January 2-11, 2010 with 3 night pre-extension to Buenos Aires available December 30-January 2nd
Duration: 10 days
Group Size: 60
Accommodation: 3 nights modern hotel, 2 nights in cabins (Refugio) and 4 nights of camping.
Price per person: USD 2425 (excl. airfare), Buenos Aires extension is USD 495
Price includes: All accommodation (double occupancy), all indicated activities, all camping equipment (incl. sleeping bags and mats), all transportation including airport pick-up and drop-off, all guiding, all breakfasts, most lunches & 6 dinners.
Price does not include: Airfare from the U.S. to and from el Califate, all meals not listed above and optional activities.
* Please Note: The operator reserves the right to add a surcharge in the event that exchange rate fluctuations result in cost increases.
Day 1 (January 2) Fly south from Buenos Aires domestic airport arriving into Argentine Patagonia and the small airport of el Calafate for the short drive to your comfortable hotel where you will be based for the next 3 nights. After everybody has had a chance to settle into their accommodation, the guide will meet the group in the hotel bar for a briefing on the itinerary and what to expect during the days ahead. You can either choose to eat in the hotel or go out to one of the many local restaurants to dine on some of Argentina’s famous, succulent steak.
Day 2 (January 3) After breakfast, the group will be enjoying a guided excursion to the fabulous Perito Moreno Glacier. There will be plenty of time to walk the trails and boardwalks out to the beautiful lake and glacier. Magnificent views of this 60-metre high wall of ice and its calving ice that spectacularly falls into the turquoise waters below (pictured left). We will also be donning our crampons and walking out onto the glacier itself for an exciting hike on top of the ice. Fantastic views of the ice caverns and gullies that make up this monumental natural spectacle. Lunch at Glacier. Afternoon return to hotel in el Calafate. Again, you can choose to eat in the hotel or dine out at one of the town’s many fine restaurants.
Day 3: Explore El Calafate
Day 3 (January 4) Free day to relax and enjoy this beautifully situated and interesting mountain town situated beside Lake Argentino. Browse the town’s mainstreet with its many artisanal craft shops or take a walk out along the lakeshore. Optional activities include horse riding, mountain biking, and shopping. An evening option is a sunset visit to a local estancia to enjoy an outside asado, (gaucho barbeque), 4x4 off road driving and horse riding. Night in hotel in el Calafate.
Day 4: Winery & Serrano River
Day 4 (January 5) Today we will drive over the border to Chile and the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. After breakfast, we will join our private transfer vehicle for the drive west across the wide open pampas that make this area famous. For a local highlight and a break in the journey we will be stopping at a beautiful, authentic estancia for lunch and a glass of vino rojo . After lunch we continue on to the Chilean border to complete the border formalities before driving on to the National Park and our destination campsite beside the emerald green waters of the Serrano River. The latter part of the drive is spectacular as we skirt pristine blue lakes, guanaco filled plains and the incredible backdrop of this southern range of the Andes mountains. On arrival at the campsite, guests can enjoy some canapés and a glass of Chilean wine. Camp will be prepared so you can immediately make yourselves comfortable in your tent and relax while dinner is prepared.
Day 5: Kayak Lago Grey Glacier Day 5 (January 6) After breakfast, we will transfer across the pampas for the short walk to the amazing Lago Grey Beach. We will walk along the shores of these grey waters and admire the miracles of nature as seemingly turquoise icebergs are seen floating in the lake. The huge mass of white behind the icebergs is Grey Glacier, the largest in the park. In addition to hiking the trails in the area, we will also be taking out sea kayaks (weather permitting) for a 2-3 hour paddle among the icebergs that have calved off the nearby glacier. After our return to the dock/beach, those with some energy left can opt for a trek up to a stunning viewpoint of the entire western side of the park. Alternatively, take a transfer back to our campsite at the Serrano River. Campside snacks and a glass of wine while dinner is prepared.
Day 6: Catamaran and Climb at Pehoe
Day 6 (January 7) After an early breakfast, we will head to Pehoe Lake to catch a catamaran across the lake to Pehoe mountain refuge (refugio). This is a spectacular hike that takes us through ancient southern beech forests and along rocky trails high above the field of ice below. Eventually we will arrive at the small refuge where we stop for lunch at a glacier lookout. Afternoon climb up and out of the valley for views of the glacier, the Patagonian icecap and innumerable mountains before arriving at the Pehoe Refuge situated by Lake Pehoe. This will be our base for the next 2 nights. Accommodations are in bunk-style rooms with 4-6 people per room. Tents set in a lovely campsite are an option for those wishing to camp under the stars.
Day 7: Hike Peaks of Lake Nordenskjold Day 7 After breakfast we will once again don our hiking boots and pack our day packs for our walk into the heart of the Park towards the stunning French Valley and along the shores of Lake Nordenskjold. Depending on the groups’ fitness and stamina we will aim to hike up into the spectacular natural amphitheatre of granite peaks that make up the French Valley (pictured right). The views from here are incredible and take in Lakes Pehoe, Scottsburg, Toro and Nordenskjold. Afternoon return to our base at the refugio.
Day 8: Wildlife at Laguna Azul Day 8 (January 9) After breakfast, we will catamaran across Pehoe Lake and join our transfer vehicle. Today’s hiking will be fairly moderate, enabling us to enjoy the Park and some of its scenic highlights at a more leisurely pace. Plenty of opportunity for photographing the scenery and observing some of the Park’s wildlife. In the afternoon we will be driving up to the north east section of the Park where large herds of guanaco spend the summer breeding months. After some time enjoying the antics of these agile creatures, we will continue north to our campsite situated beside the azure waters of the aptly named Laguna Azul. We will camp lakeside with fireside wine and canapes served while dinner is prepared.
Day 9: Hiking Torres del Paine Day 9 (January 10) Today’s hiking is our most arduous but worthwhile as we climb to the base of the Towers (pictured left). This classic roundtrip hike begins at the trail leading through the Ascending Valley, passing beautiful old growth beech forests, crossing a myriad of fast flowing glacial streams to a rock moraine beneath the towering granite monoliths known as The Towers. A steep climb over the moraine will lead us to a spectacular view from this amazing vantage point. Cascading water, calving ice and immense mountain views at every turn-this will be our lunch stop before returning to the trailhead. Celebratory drinks in a nearby hotel bar before returning to camp for a farewell fireside asado (gaucho BBQ).
Day 10: Return to El Calafate Day 10 (January 11) After breakfast in our stunning campsite, we will be joining our transfer vehicle for the drive back into Argentina and el Calafate airport for our onward flight to Buenos Aires. Trip end.
Optional 3-night Buenos Aires Extension Day 1 (December 30) Arrive into Buenos Aires International Airport. Transfer into the City center and your comfortable and centrally located 4* hotel where you will be spending the next 3 nights. Day 2 (December 31) Half-day City tour taking in some of the City’s most famous highlights including the cemetary at Recoleta (where Evita lays to rest), the colorful, artsy an soccer-mad district of La Boca, and the mansions and exclusive neighborhoods of this fabulous city center, dubbed the Paris of the South. New Year’s Eve tango and dance shows can be booked in advance.
Optional 3-night Buenos Aires Extension (continued) Day 3 (January 1) Day at leisure to explore the city on your own. Optional activities can be pre-reserved. Day 4 (January 2) After breakfast, transfer to the domestic airport for your flight south to southern Patagonia and the quaint, interesting town of el Calafate.