Hikers from all over the world make the long journey to Patagonia for some of the best trekking on the planet. The terrain is simply world-class: stunning granite spires, expansive glaciers, thick forests, and wide-open plains. There is much to see here, enough to keep hard-core hikers and backpackers busy for a month.
This itinerary starts with a day spent visiting the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier and hiking on the ice itself. Then head north to El Chaltén, the "National Capital of Trekking." The hikes are demanding, but easily manageable for fit people with some trekking experience. Each day ends back in town for a good meal and a hot shower.
The best time of year for this trip is either November or March, when the winds are relatively calm, and the trails are less busy than in high season (Jan-Feb).
Day 1: El Calafate
After your trip from Buenos Aires, settle into a nice local inn; try Kau Yatún or the economical Kau Kaleshen. Head out for a stroll around town and sign yourself up for the "Big Ice" experience the following day, and also book your trip to Estancia Cristina for the next day. It's also a good idea to book your bus ticket to El Chaltén. Pop in for dinner at the excellent Casimiro Biguá, where you can enjoy king crab from Tierra del Fuego or the local specialty, Patagonian lamb. Get a good night's sleep; tomorrow is a big day.
Day 2: Perito Moreno Glacier
You'll be picked up right after breakfast and driven out to Lago Argentino for the "Big Ice" adventure outfitter with Hielo y Aventura. Once you spot your first jaw-dropping views of Perito Moreno Glacier, there's no turning back. After traveling by boat across the lake, hike up the southern side of the glacier. Your guides will set you up with crampons and lead you deep onto the seemingly endless mass of ice. You'll skirt crevasses and explore its frozen horizons. Book tomorrow's trip to Estancia Cristina upon return. After a good siesta back in town, head out for a well-deserved dinner of Argentine classics, such as chorizo and blood sausages, and a big piece of tenderloin with red wine at La Tablita.
Day 3: Estancia Cristina
Another early morning! After boarding the catamaran and heading out on the shores of Lago Argentino, you'll enjoy breakfast overlooking icebergs and glaciers. Back on ground at the awesome Estancia Cristina, hop into a 4WD truck and drive to a lookout over the massive Upsala Glacier. The hiking starts here and heads along the ancient ridges before dropping into a spectacular glacier-carved canyon. Keep your eye out for condors and fossils. Guides provide your lunch en route. The trek ends with enough time left for you to visit the estancia museum, before boarding the boat and heading back to El Calafate. For dinner tonight? How about spaghetti and a few cervezas at La Cocina?
Day 4: El Chaltén & Hiking
The first bus of the day heads to El Chaltén at 7:30am, delivering you there early enough that you'll have time to drop off your luggage at your hotel -- Senderos Hostería or El Puma -- pick up picnic supplies and hit the trail. Today's trek will take you along the FitzRoy River up to the Cerro Torre Lookout. It takes about 4 hours. Back in town, stop by Patagonicus for a coffee and a sweet treat. After your now-regular siesta, head to the cozy and historic Ruca Mahuida for dinner.
Day 5: Hiking
Up early again, you've got a spectacular day ahead of you on the trail. Your inn will give you a good breakfast and pack you a picnic lunch if you ask the previous day. The trail today is Laguna de los Tres, affording a close-up view of Mt. FitzRoy. You'll be on the trail for 10 hours, a good full day. But you'll be home in time for a hot shower, a rest, and then dinner at Fuegia, which serves abundant salads and creative curries.
Day 6: Hiking
Your last day hiking in El Chaltén will be unforgettable. After filling up on breakfast and loading your pack with lunch and good rain gear (no matter what the morning weather is like, pack a good rain jacket), your transfer takes you 17km (11 miles) south of El Chaltén to the Río Eléctrico and the Hostería El Pilar. From here, you'll hike up a gradual climb and over the pass, stopping at the lovely Laguna Capri for rest. Back at the lodge, head for pizza at Estepa for dinner.
Day 7: El Calafate & Home
If your flight leaves El Calafate in the afternoon, you'll need to be on the first bus out of El Chaltén. Back in El Calafate, you may have time for lunch before transferring to the airport and flying to Buenos Aires, exhausted but invigorated from a week of trekking amid fine peaks and grand glaciers.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.