Mountains and Glaciers of Patagonia


Patagonia is a rugged and spectacular area of extreme contrasts: from windswept plains and lonely estancias; vast glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice-Sheet; to the magnificent sheer sided mountains rising precipitously along the Chilean border. The Patagonian coastline offers some spectacular wildlife viewing with large colonies of Magellanic Penguins, sealions and elephant seals. In the far south Patagonia fractures into a myriad of forest clad mountainous islands, the largest of which, Tierra del Fuego, the 'The Land of Fire', supports the planet's southernmost city, Ushuaia.

In an area of extensive natural assets, Aqua-Firma can arrange anything from marine mammal voyages around Tierra del Fuego, self-drive journeys, one day and multi day hikes in some of the most dramatic parts of the Andes, and glacier walks arranged by an in house Patagonia expert. With Ushuaia as the starting point for most of our voyages to Antarctica, Patagonia is a perfect Latin American extension to an epic polar adventure.

The three parts of Patagonia we most recommend for exploration are:

- Parque Nacional los Glaciares
- Torres del Paine
- Tierra del Fuego

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

Argentina's Southern border with Chile is dominated by the magnificent Parque Nacional Los Glaciares covering 7240 km² of spectacular wild lands. Not surprisingly given its name, 40% of the park is covered by permanent ice, part of the Great Southern Patagonian Ice Sheet - the largest area of permanent icecaps in South America. 13 vast glaciers flow into the Lakes of Lago Viedma and Lago Argentino and walks to and on many of these glaciers can be arranged by Aqua-Firma. Particularly beautiful is the famous Perito Moreno glacier, 5 km across and 60m high. Constantly moving and creaking, huge chunks of ice-regularly crash in the blue waters of Lago Argentino. The southern section of the National Park and the glaciers is most easily reached from the small, pleasant town of El Calafate.

Further north trekking and climbing are the main attractions under the incredible rock towers of the Fitzroy Massive. The great peak of Mount Fitzroy (3,405m) and the needle like pinnacle of Cerro Torre are for expert climbers only, but walking to the beautiful lakes and the bases of these mountains must surely rate amongst the world's finest hikes.

For suggested itinerary in the Los Glaciares region please contact one of our Patagonia experts.

Torres del Paine National Park

South of the Los Glaciers region and across the border into Chilean Patagonia is Torres del Paine National Park - a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This protected area is easily accessible from Argentina and must be one of the continent's top protected areas. Not only does the park's 1800km² contain truly jaw dropping scenery at every turn including spectacular razor edged peaks, huge glaciers and thundering waterfalls, but it also offers some of Patagonia's finest wildlife watching. Condors soar and battle tempestuous winds blasting across the steppe, whilst the park's most visible residents, the guanacos (a wild relative of the Llama) are constantly on the lookout for danger in the form of their main adversary, the puma, which resides in the park in good numbers (though you would still be lucky to spot one!). Torres del Paine can either be appreciated through guided day hikes, wildlife walks, bike rides or through multi-day treks, the full circuit of the park taking around a week to complete. Whatever option you ask us to arrange, this is an unforgettable destination.

To see our suggested 6 and 9 day itineraries including Torres del Paine please click the itinerary tab at the top of the page.

Our 6 & 9 day Patagonia Itineraries involve day hikes and wildlife watching; and can also incorporate mountain biking and horseback trekking if you wish. For travellers wishing to add more challenging hiking in one of the World's most spectacular regions we offer set departures or privately guided treks of the 'W' or Full Circuit Routes within Torres del Paine National Park.

Torres del Paine Treks

These treks are run on a small group join in basis during the summer trekking season Jan - March (full season) and Jan - April (W route). We can also operate these privately during all seasons.

'The 'W' (7 days in Torres del Paine)

The W route takes in a spectacular section of the Torres del Paine National Park on the southern side of the Torres del Paine Massif. A full 5 days of trekking takes in a region famed for its inspiring scenery and visible Patagonian wildlife. An advantage of the 'W' route is that you stay in comfortable eco-domes and snug refuges during the night so that camping isn't required. Some highlights of the 'W' route include the trek up to base of vertical 'Torres del Paine' themselves - and the beautiful glacial lake at their base. There are spectacular views of the Cuernos del Paine & 'The Horns of Paine', the main mountain massive of the park, from the Valle Frances and the expansive views of Lago Grey and the Grey Glacier from the Pahoe Valley. The Grey Glacier is an extension of the great southern ice sheet, the largest expanse of ice in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Antarctica.

The Torres del Paine Circuit (9 days in Torres del Paine)

The full Torres del Paine Circuit is one of South America's most renowned treks. This circuit involves 7 full days of challenging hiking taking in the 'W' route, plus the much less visited northern aspects of Torres del Paine National Park, accessed via the challenging John Gardner Pass - the highest point on the route. The expansive views of the Grey Glacier from the pass are spectacular. Lago Dickson and the  Dickson Valley are highlights, isolated and with great mountains vistas and views of the Dickson Glacier. On the Torres del Paine Circuit we can combine rugged camping with more comfortable accommodation at eco-domes on the southern side of the National Park. All our journeys are expertly guided with experienced English speaking local guides.

Tierra del Fuego

Further South still is the island of Tierra del Fuego: a wild island of dramatic mountains, fiords and unique Fuegan Forests. It's capital is Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city and the main starting point for exploration in the area. Backed by mountains, Ushuaia overlooks the Beagle Channel, named after Darwin's expedition ship. This is a key starting point for Antarctic Expeditions but Aqua-Firma also offers to hikes in the forests of the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego or cruises to view the region's sealion colonies and dramatic coastal scenery along the very base of South America. Elephant seal colonies are visible on the 3 coastal voyage to the Chilean port of Punta Arenas. Much feared by mariners, the rocky islands of Cabo de Hornos 'Cape Horn' lie only about 100km to the South of Ushuaia. Next stop Antarctica! whose Peninsula is in fact an extension of the South American Andes.

Itinerary

6 Days Mountains and Glaciers of Patagonia

On this journey you will explore two of Patagonia's most awe-inspiring national parks, Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park, home of the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the planets few glaciers not in retreat and Chile's Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and perhaps Patagonia's finest region for trekking and wildlife viewing. Whilst in Argentina you will stay at a boutique hotel overlooking the small town of El Calafate and Lago Argentino. In Chile you will stay in beautifully located, comfortable 'Eco-domes' deep within the Torres del Paine National Park itself.

This sample 6 day itinerary can easily be extended or adjusted. There is a huge amount to see on this region both within the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and within Torres del Paine in Chile which offers days of trekking, horse riding and wildlife watching opportunities - see our 9 day Torres del Paine Adventure for further possibilities or contact us to discuss this in greater detail.

Day 1: Arrive El Calafate

Fly into El Calafate Airport where you will be met and transferred to your hotel (B&B basis).

Day 2: Perito Moreno Glacier

Today you have a full day excursion to the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the Planet's few glaciers not in retreat. Watching huge blocks of ice as the break away from the glacier's forward edge, around 60m high and 5 km wide, is a quite spectacular experience. Optional trekking and boat journeys are also possible to arrange. In the evening you will return to Calafate

Day 3: Travel to Torres del Paine

After you check out of your El Calafate hotel, you will be driven 4 ½ hours through wild Patagonian landscapes across the border into Chile and on to the spectacular mountains of Torres del Paine National Park. The park boasts wonderful vertical granite peaks, glaciers and lakes and some of Patagonia's finest wildlife. Guanacos, wild relatives of the Llama are a common site, as are Andean Condors soaring on 3m wings around the peaks. Pumas are much harder to spot but are nevertheless relatively numerous here.

You will check into a comfortable 'Eco Domes' wilderness camp within the National Park, where you have the afternoon to relax and explore. The views from the camp are spectacular.

 

Day 4: Explore Torres del Paine

Today you will have a choice of taking activities to suit your interests and activity level. These include short or long walks, boat trip to the Grey Glacier and hikes to the spectacular vertical granite Torres del Paine themselves rising to 2800m above a glacial lake. Please Contact Us to discuss what might be best for you. In the evening we return to the Eco Domes to relax after an action packed day in one of South Americas finest National Parks.

Day 5: Depart Torres del paine

Unless you are staying on for further days in the mountains, today you will leave Torres del Paine and Chile, returning to El Calafate on the shores of Lago Argentino. Checking into your hotel you have one final afternoon to relax in Southern Patagonia.

Day 6: Depart El Calafate

Today you will picked up from your hotel and transferred to El Calafate Airport for your onward flight.

9 Day Torres del Paine Adventure - explore the Patagonian wilderness on foot, bike and boat!

Using our comfortable and sustainably operated eco-domes as a base we explore Torres del Paine's diverse scenic and wildlife wonders by boat, on foot and by bike. The exploration gives a superb insight into Torres del Paine without the need for multi-day hiking and camping. Using El Calafate as a base we also explore Argentina's stunning Perito Moreno Glacier for a full day, one of the planet's only glaciers that is not retreating.

Day 1: Arrive El Calafate

Fly into El Calafate Airport where you will be met and transferred to a boutique hotel on a small hill overlooking El Calafate and Lago Argentino.

Day 2: Perito Moreno Glacier

Today you have a full day excursion to the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the planet's few glaciers not in retreat. Watching the huge blocks of ice as they break away from the glacier's forward edge, around 60m high and 5 km wide, is a spectacular experience. Optional trekking and boat journeys are also possible to arrange. In the evening you will return to Calafate.

Day 3: Transfer to Torres del Paine

Check out of our El Calafate hotel 4 ½ hour transfer through wild Patagonian Landscapes across the border into Chile and on to the spectacular mountains of Torres del Paine National Park. The park boasts wonderful vertical granite peaks, glaciers and lakes and some of Patagonia's finest wildlife. Guanacos, wild relatives of the Llama are a common site, as are Andean Condors soaring on 3m wings around the peaks. Pumas are much harder to spot but are nevertheless relatively numerous here.

You will check into your lovely eco-domes within the protected area, where you have the afternoon to relax and explore. The views from the lodge are spectacular.

 

Day 4 - 7: Explore Torres del Paine

Over the following days we can arrange a wide range of guided activities to suite your activity level and interests from a day hike to the base of the magnificent Torres del Paine - huge rock towers rising to 2800m above a glacial lake, to wildlife walks, navigations out to the huge Grey Glacier and French Valley. On some days mountain biking might also be available - contact us for further details. Each evening you will return to comfortable eco-domes set in a truly spectacular location.

Day 8: depart Torres del Paine

Today you will leave Torres del Paine and Chile, returning to Calafate on the shores of Lago Argentino. Checking into your boutique hotel you have one final afternoon to relax in Southern Patagonia. Breakfast is included at your Calafate Hotel.

Day 9: Depart El Calafate

Today you will picked up from your hotel and transferred to El Calafate Airport for your onward flight.

Dates

Prices (per person based on two people twin sharing)

El Calafate, Perito Moreno & Day Walks in Torres del Paine

6 days from £ 1145 per person

9 days from £ 1675 per person

Incorporating Small Group Longer Treks in Torres del Paine

Fixed departures

10 days incl. the 'W' route from £1,870pp

12 days incl. Full Circuit of Torres del Paine from £1,895pp

These treks can also be  arranged privately. Please Contact Us for details.

Single supplements from £650

Our prices include
All accommodation (on a B&B basis in Argentina)
Meals in Torres del Paine National Park
All transfers to and from El Calafate in Argentina
International land transfers to and from Torres del Paine national park
Activities as per itinerary
Entrance fees to Torres del Paine National Park

Our prices exclude
Tips
Insurance
Drinks
National Park entrance fees for Los Glaciares National Park (*US$ 28 to be paid locally).

*Correct at time of writing

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