The Best of Patagonia: Valdes Peninusula, Tierra del Fuego, Los Glaciares National Park
14 days /
From $3,722 per person, double occupancy for 2013
Trip cost does not include domestic airfare - from $630, per person, subject to change. Day 1: Buenos Aires
Welcome to Argentina, the second largest country in South America. Upon arrival at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, you will be met and assisted by our local representative and transferred to your hotel.
Accommodations at the four-star Elevage Hotel (or similar) in an executive room, breakfast included.
Day 2: Tigre & Delta of the Parana River
Today you will explore one of the most beautiful areas of Buenos Aires’ surroundings – the northern riverside districts of Tigre and San Isidro.
The history of San Isidro begins in 1580, when Juan de Garay carried out the first distribution of the lands situated north of the City of La Santísima Trinidad (Buenos Aires). It has an important colonial heritage reflected in its houses and buildings. You will visit the Pueyrredon Farm, the San Isidro Cathedral, several colonial mansions and the Victoria Ocampo's Mansion (once, the cultural center of South America).
Continue to Tigre, a city overlooking the Delta of the Parana River. Here, you will explore the Fruit Market, a different, almost magical world.
The port has three inner docks. The central docks concentrate the grocer’s boats, which supply the inhabitants of the islands with the most varied products. At the next dock, the timbering boats full of poplar and willow logs from the forested islands of the Delta are unloaded. The Market takes place at the last dock, with streets full of colorful rustic fabric, furniture and accessories made of cane and willow, delicious jams and honey, brilliant flowers, and of course, all the variety of native fruit.
After free time for lunch (not included) you will enjoy a riverside walk and a boat trip through the countless islands of the delta of the Parana River, with beautiful views of the riverside villas, Victorian docks, English gardens, and traditional rowing clubs.
If weather conditions allow, you may sail the River Plate to Buenos Aires (at additional cost).
As an optional activity, we offer the opportunity to enjoy a kayak expedition (not included in trip cost):
You will go out in double kayaks specially prepared for long trips and built by the coordinator of the program, Ricardo Kruszewski, the first Argentinean to reach Cape Horn rowing and veteran of Antarctic expeditions. The kayaks are very safe and no previous experience is necessary. The trip lasts approximately 1-2 hours and travels 7-12 miles depending on the paddler’s experience.
Late in the afternoon, return to your hotel. Overnight at the Hotel Elevage (or similar), breakfast included. (B)
Day 3: Patagonia Atlantic Coast
Hotel pickup and transfer to the National Airport. Fly to Comodoro Rivadavia. Airport reception and transfer to Bahia Bustamante (180 km from Comodoro Rivadavia).
Bahía Bustamante is a seaside village located on the northern arch of San Jorge Gulf, an area characterized by its important biodiversity. There are few places in the world that house such a number and diversity of seabirds and marine mammals. Here you will find deep blue sea contrasting with red rocks, a petrified forest, sea and steppe birds, sea lions, killer whales, dolphins, guanacos, Patagonian hares, lighthouses, starry skies, aboriginal working areas and cemeteries, white sand beaches.
Four comfortable houses by the sea have been remodeled as guest’s accommodation. Each house has two twin bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom, heating and hot water. At the grocery store, regional meals are offered based on local products such as lamb, fish and sea food.
Depending on tide and weather conditions, you will have time for activities such as: sailing along Malaspina Cove; visiting sea lion and penguin colonies, bird watching, a visit to a typical Patagonian ranch, visiting archaeological sites, trekking, fishing, mountain biking, tour to the Petrified Forest.
Overnight at Bahia Bustamante. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Bahia Bustamante
Today is dedicated to the activities that Bahia Bustamante offers for an unforgettable stay. Discover the remaining fossils of forests that existed in Patagonia 60 million years ago. You can view huge petrified tree trunks that have become rock with its characteristic glow of opal, which has replaced the tree’s original organic matter. You can also observe tree rings, traces of bark and many other features.
The coast of Bahia Bustamante and Malaspina Cove has the greatest diversity of seabirds in all Patagonia. You may navigate around Malaspina Cove and visit sea bird, sea lion and Magellanic Penguin colonies on the islands and beaches. You will sail over the seaweed walls and see the ships dedicated to the seaweed harvest. You will cross the mussel cultivation zone. Further from the coast you will reach an archipelago and approach the Malaspina Rock, where a sea lion and cormorants colony lives. Continue through the Vernacci Islands archipelago. During the navigation you will have the opportunity to watch sea lions (3,500 in reproduction season), penguins (60,000) and colorful sea bird colony. It is common to spot a group of dolphins or see an orca dorsal fin. Close to the islands you will watch a large number of Pato Vapor (Tachyeres pteners), another important attraction of Bahia Bustamante. It is a well stylized duck with a colorful plumage. They cannot fly so they are not migratory birds. This duck is one of the hundreds of bird species that live in the area.
Overnight at Bahia Bustamante. (B,L,D)
Day 5: Bahia Bustamante - Gaiman
As soon as you enter the Cabo Dos Bahías Provincial Reserve you can observe and get very close to the penguin colony (November to April). From rocky slopes you can see the first Fur Seal colony on the continent. This species has been ferociously decimated for the value of its pelt and is currently protected by the reserve. These animals shelter from human presence on Isla Moreno. The site offers an incredible view of the steppe and you can also see some guanacos accustomed to visits.
Free time for lunch at Camarones, a small port with typical Patagonian houses.
Arrival at Gaiman, a small traditional village of the lower Chubut River valley. Gaiman is the symbol of Welsh colonization in Patagonia. The first settlers arrived in 1865, aboard the Mimosa sailboat. They were looking for virgin territory to be called the "New Wales" where they could follow their own rules and customs. Patagonia was that promised land. They encountered many difficulties and problems, including bad harvests and confrontations with the native Indians. Presently, you can still discover the attitude that characterized these first inhabitants of the town by walking around the streets of Gaiman, which still keeps its village essence, sprinkled with farms, typical chapels and Welsh-style houses. Main attractions are the Welsh Tea Houses, where the descendants of the settlers prepare and serve classic Welsh tea and delicious pastries.
You will continue through farming and cultivation zones to your overnight accommodations at Los Mimbres Inn, located 6 kilometers from Gaiman and 30 minutes from Trelew. The original settlement dates from 1879. Los Mimbres is a beautifully landscaped farm on the Rio Chubut. Here you will find modern accommodation: bedrooms with private bathroom, a comfortable dining room with fireplace, and a reading room. The house is well protected from the Patagonian winds providing cool and quiet surroundings. Dinner and breakfast is included at the inn. The friendly family-run restaurant offers traditional home-cooked Patagonian food – blending local flavors with the delicious national and European cuisine. Many activities and services are available here: trekking, geological and ecological tours, river navigation, etc. (B,D)
Day 6: Peninsula Valdes
Begin with a drive along National Route 3 to the entrance to Valdes Peninsula. After crossing the Ameghino Isthmus, between the Golfo San José and Golfo Nuevo, you enter the peninsula. The road leads to Puerto Piramides. On the way you will see the wildlife of the area: guanacos, lesser rheas, Patagonian foxes, hairy armadillos, maras and the most important rookeries protecting large colonies of South American sea lions, dolphin gulls, kelp gulls, among others.
From Puerto Piramides you will embark on a boat ride to navigate the sea and appreciate the wildlife of the area. From June to December you may spot the southern right whale. The mating and birth of these huge mammals is seen every year during this time. Killer whales are more frequently seen between February and May, while dolphins are seen all year round.
After lunch, you will continue to Puerto Madryn city stopping at El Doradillo beach along the way. It is located on the Golfo Nuevo coast, about 12 miles away from Puerto Madryn, and extends along 20 miles from Punta Arco to Cerro Prismático. El Doradillo is a quiet, isolated place practically unaltered by human intervention. From the shoreline, between August and September, you may see whales and their calves.
You will visit the Ecocentro in Puerto Madryn on the shores of the Golfo Nuevo. The building is strategically located on a cliff and offers a good vantage point to the sea.
From Puerto Madryn, you will continue to Punta Ninfas, walking along cliffs and paths of the Patagonian steppe to the Punta Ninfas lighthouse. From here, you will have an extraordinary view of the Peninsula and the Golfo Nuevo. At the foot of the cliff, on the immense shore, you will find an elephant seal colony. It is possible to go down the cliff to reach the sea elephant colony, opposite the shores of the Valdés Peninsula. The drop is 70 meters on a steep slope, so the uphill return can be difficult. Sea birds not usually seen inside the gulfs may be observed at Punta Ninfas. During the whale season, you may see mothers with their newly born offspring. The spectacular and desolate scenery, the purity of the air, and the sound of the elephant seals make this a unique place to visit.
Return to Gaiman late in the afternoon. Overnight at Los Mimbres Inn, dinner and breakfast included. (B,D)
Day 7: Gaiman - Trelew - Ushuaia
Morning at your leisure.
We suggest a visit to Bryn Gwyn Park. Only 8 km away from the town of Gaiman, the Bryn Gwyn Geological Park is a fossil reservoir of over 600 acres, located on the southern slopes running along the valley of the Chubut River. Forty percent of these fields are devoted to paleontological research. Visitors are welcomed at the Lower Field Station. The tour starts with an introduction by local guides. As you climb the easy slopes, you will observe the different geological layers, and learn about the different fossils found partially uncovered in the ground. In another part of the park, you will find a new arboretum, with paths that will take you through the different species that live in central Patagonia. The easy, relaxed walk lasts about one hour and takes you back to the Lower Field Station.
This afternoon, visit the Egidio Feruglio Museum, located in Trelew. The Museum of Paleontology "Egidio Feruglio" (MEF) is a new and different concept for cultural tourism in Patagonia. It combines scientific exploration and education with audiovisual entertainment. Located near one of the world's largest and richest fossil deposits, MEF offers fascinating opportunities to know and appreciate the natural history of our planet.
Afterward, transfer to Trelew Airport for your flight to Ushuaia.
Ushuaia Airport reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at Los Fuegos Hotel (or Los Yamanas Hotel), breakfast included – 2 nights. (B)
Day 8: Ushuaia/Tierra del Fuego
Today you will find yourself at the “End of the World”, and the best way to understand this is visiting the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The excursion around the park includes a canoeing excursion. Transfer from your hotel to Tierra del Fuego National Park. Upon arrival, start a 7 km trek (3.5 hours) to a wonderful scenic point overlooking Lake Roca, Lagunas Verde and Negra, Rivers Ovando and Lapataia and Bahía Lapataia. Hiking through this beech forest you will be able to look for the Magellanic woodpecker, largest in South America, Austral parakeets, black-chested buzzard eagles and Andean Condors. Lunch at the Lake Roca camping area.
Afternoon paddling in the National Park. After an instructive view in Lago Roca, paddle Ovando River, which flows, into the Green Lake, one of the most beautiful views of the Park. Landing in Lapataia bay you will be able to spot all sorts of local birds. For those who don’t want to paddle, they can choose the zodiac navigation option to Isla Redonda. The choice must be made at the time of booking.
Return to your hotel in the afternoon. (B,L)
Day 9: Harberton Ranch - Yamaning Gable
You'll be met at your hotel and begin your scenic drive east along the Beagle Channel to Puerto Almanza (75 km) a small fisherman´s village. The estancia at Harberton belongs to the descendants of the first British Missionaries to reach the area - Reverend Thomas Bridges - and was managed for many years by Ms. Natalie Goodall, a foremost naturalist in the area. You'll visit the estancia and then board zodiac boats to navigate to Gable Island, the largest in the Beagle Channel, where a short but steep climb brings you to a refuge where you will have lunch. After lunch, guests may wish to remain at the refuge and relax or go for a strenuous 3-hour hike around Gable Island. When the hikers return, the group continues in the zodiac to the Penguin rookery at Martillo Island, the domain of the Magellanic and Gentoo Penguins. The unique location of this island, close to the convergence of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans allows for an incredible variety of rich subaquatic life, making it an amazing spot for birdwatching. The penguins arrive in November when they make their nests and breed; they inhabit the colony until around February. Look for petrels, skuas, cormorants, sea gulls and albatrosses. Return to Harberton for tea by the Larsiphasak River and then back to your Ushuaia hotel (B,L)
Day 10: Ushuaia - El Calafate
Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport. Fly to El Calafate. Airport reception and transfer to your overnight accommodations at Kau Yatun Hotel, dinner and breakfast included.
One of the most beautiful landscapes in the Western Hemisphere is found in the Patagonian Andes. In El Calafate you will find yourself at the gateway to the majestic world of glaciers. The mountainsides are covered by primeval forests of sub-Antarctic beech trees, many of which change color spectacularly in autumn. (B,D)
Day 11: Perito Moreno minitrekking
From El Calafate, the journey continues across the last portion of the plateau, a landscape of glaciers and enormous snowfields stretched out across the mountains. Los Glaciares National Park, in the sub-Antarctic Continental Ice-cap, is known as the "Third Pole" and extends over 60,000 sq.km (23,000 sq. miles), giving birth to several major glaciers along the Patagonian Andes. Pay the Los Glaciares National Park entrance fee. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, and statistics are mind-boggling. The main wall is over 200 feet tall and almost 3 miles wide. Every now and then enormous pieces of ice break down and fall with thunderous noise into the lake. This area was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The wildlife of the area includes Andean condors, buff-necked ibis, black-chested buzzard eagles, ashy-headed geese, etc.
You'll land on an uninhabited beach and hike onto the glacier. (No additional equipment or previous experience needed.) The wildlife of the area includes Andean condors, buff-necked ibis and black-chested buzzard-eagles. Return to your overnight accommodations in the afternoon. Box lunch included. Note: maximum age limit - 65 years.
Overnight at Kau Yatun Hotel, dinner and breakfast included. (B,L,D)
Day 12: El Calafate
Day at leisure. Optional excursions to Upsala Glacier and Estancia Cristina, horseback riding to Cerro Frias, off-roading to 'Calafate's Balcony' can be arranged (not included in trip cost).
Overnight at Kau Yatun Hotel, dinner and breakfast included. (B,L,D)
Day 13: El Calafate - Buenos Aires
Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires.
Airport reception and transfer to your hotel. Overnight at the Hotel Elevage (or Bel Air Hotel), breakfast included.
This evening, you will be picked up and transferred to one of the most prestigious and historical houses in Buenos Aires for a Dinner & Tango Show. (B,D)
Day 14: Int'l departure
Day at leisure. At the appropriate time, you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to Ezeiza International Airport for your departing flight. (B)