Patagonian Explorer

Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina
plus Iguazu Falls optional extension

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our current tour & cruise packages in South America.

Explore amazingly diverse and fascinating Patagonia, a magnificent "off-the-beaten-path" region spanning portions of Chile and Argentina, where you'll find soaring mountains and windy plains that stretch endlessly toward the distant horizon, lush forests filled with ancient flora and fauna, and pristine glaciers.

Our enchanted voyage begins in Santiago, Chile's charming capital city, where Spanish colonial buildings and old churches are set against the backdrop of the spectacular, snowy peaks of the Andes Mountains.

The tour ends in Buenos Aires, the beautiful and culturally diverse capital city of Argentina, where outstanding museums, world-class cuisine and spirited nightlife make it one of the most exciting destinations of the new millennium. It is a voyage filled with contrast and beauty, excitement and adventure, and one that you will never forget.

Round out your vacation with an optional extension to one of nature's grand spectacles, Iguazu Falls—275 separate cataracts that send their white cascades roaring 250 feet below.

Explore by Land or by Sea

Patagonia is a vast, intensely beautiful and awesome region of South America, and in one visit, it's impossible to see everything. In addition, there are various ways to explore, including land-based touring and sea-cruising.

Our Patagonian Explorer tour is very special, because it gives you the chance to choose how you'll explore. And, whether you tour by land or by sea, we can promise you that the experience will be as thrilling and satisfying a travel adventure as you can possibly imagine, and it's yours at an unbeatable price that represents pure value for money!!

Tour Patagonia by Land

You'll enjoy the gorgeous vistas and wonderful views framed by the glaciers and the Andes Mountains as you travel by motor coach. You'll visit a colony of penguins at Seno Otway (October-March), stay overnight at a beautiful lodge inside the Torres del Paine National Park, get close to the Serrano Glacier as you navigate a fjord by zodiac boat, and see the local wildlife, including a soaring condor if you're lucky, that roams this unspoiled place. You'll also have a chance to get very close to one of a very few glaciers in the world that is advancing, the Perito Moreno. Then, you'll spend a night at a beautiful hotel in El Calafate, where you'll find plenty to do and see in the little town that supplies the many hikers and trekkers who start their journeys to the glaciers from here.

Tour Patagonia by Sea

The Via Australis - Photo by Mc Manus
The Via Australis   Photo by Mc Manus
At Punta Arenas, you'll board the Via Australis, a wonderful cruising ship, and sail through the Strait of Magellan, around the inlets and waterways of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire). The ship provides all the modern comforts you'll need or want, plus important extras that you'll be glad to have for your journey. (Even high-top rubber boots in every imaginable size are there for you to borrow if you don't happen to own a pair yourself). Delicious and bountiful meals are served three times daily in the ship's dining room that is encircled by huge picture windows so you don't miss a single view. Hot beverages, snacks and even wine and other alcoholic beverages are served, free of charge, each day.

A zodiac boat  Photo by N. Piwonka
A zodiac boat   Photo by N. Piwonka
The ship's fleet of zodiac boats will whisk you to shore at various points along the way, and en route, you'll enjoy fascinating presentations by the ship's naturalist-guides, all of whom are involved in the study of Patagonia and its natural treasures as well as its preservation. If you enjoy cruising, you won't want to miss this very special opportunity. Space on the Via Australis is extremely limited, so we strongly recommend early booking.

Important Note: While the cruise tour option is less rigorous physically than the land tour, which involves some hiking and walking, the Via Australis does not have an elevator aboard. If you select the cruise option, you must be able to walk up and down several flights of stairs.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating journey to South America begins as you depart from Miami this evening on your overnight flight to Santiago, Chile.

Casa de la Moneda Day 2: Arrive Santiago, Chile. Arrival in Santiago, bustling capital of Chile, located between the Pacific Ocean and the majestic Andes Mountains. After customs formalities, you'll be escorted to your hotel where you have time to relax and freshen up. This afternoon, enjoy an orientation tour that showcases both the colonial and modern highlights of the city. Begin at Santiago's famed Jockey Club and then proceed to Centro Civico and Plaza Constitución. See the Casa de la Moneda, one of Spanish America's most stunning examples of colonial architecture and the current seat of the Chilean government.

Continue to the the bustling Plaza de Armas, veritable heart of Santiago and home to the baroque Cathedral Metropolitana, the magnificent Post Office building, the Natural History Museum, and the best place to view the dozens of lively street artists and mimes and busy "Santiaguinos" on their way to and from work. End your tour with a spectacular panoramic view of Santa Lucia Hill, site where Santiago was founded in 1541. Hotel Plaza San Francisco

View of Santiago Day 3: Santiago. Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore Santiago at your own pace. Stroll through the café and gallery-lined streets of the bohemian district of Bellavista, admire the cultural legacy of the Americas at the impressive Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, or shop for antique treasures in the charming neighborhood of Lastarria. Or, take an optional half-day tour of the Concha y Toro Winery. Wine aficionados and novices alike will delight in visiting the winery where some of Chile's best known wines are developed and produced. The visit begins with a stroll through the park and the Pirque Casona, the colonial mansion and former residence of the Concha y Toro family.

Concha y Toro winery At the vineyards, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the different varieties of grapes and methods of vineyard management. The main attraction of this century-old winery is the legendary Casillero del Diablo, the cellar where founder Don Melchor Concha y Toro stored his best wines. Of course, no tour would be complete without a wine tasting. Throughout the tour, you have the opportunity to sample wines such as the Don Melchor, an exceptional and complex Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Casillero del Diablo Carmenere, a variety that is grown commercially only in Chile. Breakfast provided..

Begin Patagonia Land Tour or Patagonia Cruise Tour

Day 4: Santiago, Punta Arenas & Puerto Natales. After breakfast this morning, bid farewell to Santiago as you transfer to the airport for your short flight to Punta Arenas, gateway to the Chilean Patagonia, located at the shores of the Magellan Strait, a natural channel between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Here your group will split into two, with those who selected the Patagonia Land Tour continuing to Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales and those who selected the Patagonia Cruise Tour proceeding to board the Via Australis for a cruise ending in Ushuaia.

Patagonia Land Tour Itinerary

(see below for Patagonia Cruise Tour Itinerary)

Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, you'll head north to the Seno Otway Penguin Colony for an up close encounter with hundreds of adorable Magellan's Penguins. (Dec-March 2 departures only).

Later, cross the expansive Pampa Magellan as you drive to Puerto Natales. After check-in at your hotel, located on the edge of the Última Esperanza fjord, join your fellow travelers for dinner. Spend a few moments after dinner in the expansive lobbies of your hotel and enjoy meeting travelers from all over the world who, like you, have gathered in this lovely spot to begin their exploration of Patagonia. Hotel Costaustralis Breakfast & dinner provided..

Torres del Paine National Park Day 5: Puerto Natales, Navegacion Balmaceda & Serrano, Torres del Paine. This morning, transfer to the pier just in front of your hotel to board your ship, the Seno Ultima Esperanza, for a full day of touring inside the Torres del Paine National Park. This park teems with a spectacular variety of wildlife and scenery, so be prepared with plenty of film or extra-capacity memory sticks for your cameras to catch the endless gorgeous, unforgettable images that you'll encounter as you sail. The "torres" (towers) are actually three massive granite towers of the Paine Mountain range that reach elevations of 10,000ft.

The Guanaco As you navigate the fjords, you'll see colonies of cormorants and seadogs, soaring condors, and roaming herds of sheep and the ever-present guanacos. At the end of the fjord, travel by zodiac boat to get close to the Serrano Glacier. This evening you'll stay at the lovely Hosteria Lago Grey, a beautiful hotel located on the shores of the pristine Grey Lake, inside the Torres del Paine National Park. Hosteria Lago Grey. (B, D).

Horse riding at Torres del Paine Day 6: Torres del Paine, Cerro Castillo & El Calafate. Today, head east, crossing the border into Argentina by way of the Cerro Castillo/Cancha Carrera Pass. Stop to rest and enjoy a boxed lunch and then continue to El Calafate, a picturesque Patagonian village on the southern border of the Lago Argentino, in Argentina. Esplendor Hotel (B, L).

Perito Moreno Gracier Day 7: El Calafate & Perito Moreno. This morning, travel to the Glaciers National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the Argentina's most spectacular areas, including the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the planet's few advancing glaciers. You'll have the opportunity to experience this magnificent natural wonder from a variety of vantage points. Begin with views from the footbridges and then sail along the Lago Argentino for a close-up look at the glacier. The Perito Moreno glacier is formed by large blocks of ice that are in constant motion.

Trekking at Perito Moreno Along the way, you'll hear the ice as it cracks, splits off from the glacier, and dramatically falls splashing into the water below. After lunch inside the park, spend some time at leisure to explore the glacier on your own before returning to El Calafate. Take a stroll in the village before dinner and explore some of the amazingly well-equipped trekking and climbing shops, galleries and wonderful restaurants, where you'll enjoy endless varieties of grilled meats (parrilla) and great local wines. (B, L).

Day 8: El Calafate & Buenos Aires. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, vibrant capital city of Argentina.

Patagonia Cruise Tour Itinerary

(see above for Patagonia Land Tour Itinerary)

Upon arrival in Punta Arenas, you'll board your expedition cruise ship, the Via Australis, the National Geographic Channel's preferred vessel for sailing through Patagonia. The captain and crew will welcome you with a cocktail reception on board. Set sail through the mythical Strait of Magellan, as you travel to Southern Patagonia, including Tierra del Fuego, the "Land of Fire at the End of the Earth." (B, L, D).

Walking in the Magallanes Forest Day 5: Ainsworth Bay & Tucker Islet. Watch the sunrise this morning as you sail through the Almirantazgo Inlet until you arrive at the Marinelli Glacier in Ainsworth Bay. Disembark here and enjoy a walk to a beaver dam in the midst of the marvelous Magallanes Forest. A Mare Australis naturalist will accompany you, pointing out the flora and fauna that you encounter along the way.

Elephant seals The next stop is the beach, where you'll visit a colony of elephant seals, some weighing as much as 8,000 pounds! Be on the look out for dolphins as you continue sailing to Tucker Islet where the ship will anchor. Board a zodiac boat to get a close look at the colonies of cormorants, Magallanes Penguins, and sea lions that inhabit the surrounding cliffs. (B, L, D)

The Pia Glacier Day 6: Pia Glacier & Glacier Alley. On today's adventure, you'll navigate the main part of the Beagle Channel to enter Pia Fjord, disembarking near the glacier of the same name. Stop at a look-out point for panoramic views of the mountain range where the Pia Glacier originates and flows all the way to the sea. Later, cruise along the northwest arm of the Beagle Channel, rounding Spain, Romanche, Germany, Italy, France, and Holland—all rivers of ice in the majestic "Glacier Alley." (B, L, D).

Cape Horn Day 7: Cape Horn and Puerto Williams. Today's voyage brings you to the legendary Cape Horn. Sail through the Beagle and Murray Channels to disembark in Cape Horn National Park. Cape Horn, a sheer, 1400ft promontory where the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean merge, was discovered in 1616 by the Dutch commercial expedition organized by Isaac Le Maire. The Cape owes its name to the Port of Hoorn, the expedition's departure point. By afternoon, reach Port Williams, the southernmost town in the world, where you can take optional excursions, such as the visit to Martin Gusinde Archeological Museum. (B, L, D)

Ushuaia harbor Day 8: Ushuaia & Buenos Aires. Arrival to Ushuaia. After disembarkation early this morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina's vibrant capital city. (Please note that this reflects an itinerary change necessitated by a change in the Ushuaia-Buenos Aires flight schedule.) Breakfast & lunch provided.

Everyone returns from Patagonia to Buenos Aires

Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires  © Secretary of Tourism
Avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires   © Secretary of Tourism
On arrival, meet your guide and drive to your centrally located hotel where you'll meet up with your fellow passengers to share stories and experiences of your Patagonian explorations. The custom is to dine late in Buenos Aires, so take advantage of the early evening hours to stroll the colorful streets and shops around your hotel to scout the amazing bargains that will make shopping for souvenirs (and that gorgeous leather bag) a pleasure. Dazzler Tower Hotel. Breakfast provided..

The obelisk in Buenos Aires Day 9: Buenos Aires. Your exploration of Buenos Aires begins this morning with a visit to the Plaza del Mayo, historic and political center of the city, where the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, is located. Continue to the Obelisk landmark on the Avenue 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world.

The Boca district Then to the crowded Florida Street, a true shopper's paradise. Pass through the colorful neighborhood of La Boca and the charming San Telmo area. Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive flavor, but everywhere you go, the people are warm, welcoming and happy to see visitors.

A couple performs the tango  Photo by Toshi Hirasawa
A couple performs the tango   Photo by Toshi Hirasawa
Admire the French architecture in the exquisite Recoleta neighborhood where you'll find the beautiful Cemetery of La Recoleta, where Evita Perón is buried. It is one of many ironies of this complex and lovely city that the Evita, heroine of the poor, is buried in the city's most elegant (and expensive) section. After exploring the city today, you'll realize why Buenos Aires is so often referred to as "the Paris of the South." Tonight, join your fellow travelers for dinner and an exciting performance of the tango, Argentina's passionate national dance. (B, D).

A group of gauchos Day 10: Buenos Aires and Estancia Visit. After breakfast this morning, travel outside the city for a full day excursion to the Argentine Pampas. Visit a traditional estancia (ranch), where you'll discover the life of the Argentine cowboys known as "gauchos." After a sumptuous barbecue lunch including delicious local wine, you'll enjoy a folkloric show with typical Argentine dance, song, and dress. (B, L).

Day 11: Depart Argentina. Enjoy breakfast and the rest of the morning and early afternoon at leisure for last minute photos and souvenir shopping. Later this afternoon, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA. Or, take advantage of an optional extension to Iguazu Falls, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Breakfast provided..

Day 12: Arrive USA. Your exciting adventure in the Southern Continent ends as you arrive in the USA this morning.

Iguazu Falls Extension

Why not take advantage of your already-included international airfare to visit Iguazu Falls, one of the world's most spectacular natural wonders.

Iguazu Falls Day 11: Buenos Aires/Puerto Iguazú. After breakfast board your flight to the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls. Check in at your deluxe hotel, the only one located within the Iguazu National Park. You'll soon discover why this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world! Set at the border of Argentina and Brazil, the falls consist of 275 inlets and cataracts that send their cascades roaring 250 feet below and cast multiple rainbows over the water. Travel through the rain forest to the Devil's Throat for a spectacular, close-up view of the Argentinean side of the falls. You will find trails around the Falls that afford multiple views of the roaring water as it cascades over the rocks in a dazzling and awesome display of power. Later in the afternoon, return to your hotel and enjoy time to relax and cool off at the beautiful hotel pool. Sheraton Iguazú Hotel. Breakfast provided..

An Iguazu Falls trail Day 12: Iguazu Falls. Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore the Falls on your own. There are plenty of trails through the rain forest that lead up to and around the Falls. They are well-marked and make for excellent exploration and picture-taking (be sure to protect your camera if it's not waterproof). Or,take advantage of an optional nautical adventure along the Lower Iguazu River, sailing under the Falls. Later this afternoon, be sure to take time to stroll through the laid-back town of Puerto Iguazú. Breakfast provided.

Day 13: Depart Argentina. Enjoy a morning at leisure to take advantage of the lovely resort activities at your hotel. This afternoon, transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires to check in for your overnight return flight to the USA. Breakfast provided.

Day 14: Arrive USA. Your exciting adventure in the Southern Continent ends as you arrive in the USA this morning.

Destination FAQs

For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about travel to Chile, click here.

For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about travel to Argentina, click here.

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