Patagonia is for nature lovers, particularly in November -- the one month of the year when you can see whales and penguins on the Atlantic Coast and still see the peaks and glaciers of southern Patagonia without freezing. Start your trip on the coast at Puerto Madryn, and spend a full day exploring the Península Valdés. This time should include a whale-watching trip and a visit to sea lion colonies. You will need a second day to see the penguin colony at the northern tip of the peninsula, making it worthwhile to stay on the Península Valdés itself. Then you'll need a full day to travel south to El Calafate. If you are a keen bird-watcher and can afford deluxe lodgings, stay at the spectacular new estancia Eolo. I saw eight condors at once there in November! From there, you can explore the remote areas of Los Glaciares National Park.

Day 1: Puerto Madryn & Eco Centro

After flying in from Buenos Aires, you have no real choice but to spend the first night on the beachside town of Puerto Madryn. The nicest spot is the Hotel Territorio. A bit more economical, the Hotel Bahía Nueva is centrally located. After transferring from the airport at Trelew and checking in, you'll arrive with time to explore the coastal waters and make a visit to the outstanding Ecocentro museum, which will orient you to the wonders of the local oceans. Be sure to book tomorrow's full-day tour of Península Valdés, asking the agency to drop you off at your inn the following night. For dinner, indulge in something from the sea at Mar y Meseta, and stroll back along the beach.


Day 2: Península Valdés

Tours always get an early start; most would have you leaving your hotel in Madryn at around 8am. Your first stop will likely be the easygoing beach town of Puerto Pirámides, from where all the whale-watching tours head out to catch the annual congregation of Southern Right Whales. These are remarkably social mammals, and they'll no doubt get incredibly close to your boat. Later, your guide will head on to the far eastern coast of the peninsula to visit the sea lion and elephant seal colonies. They usually stop at a cafeteria-style restaurant. Keep your eye out for other wildlife, such as ostrich-resembling choiques and the strange mara, which looks like a mix of a rabbit with a dog. Afterward, they'll drop you off at the outstanding Faro Punta Delgada lighthouse inn, where you can hike along the beach. After a nice dinner in the hotel, climb to the top of the lighthouse for a starry view.

Day 3: Penguins & El Calafate


Eat breakfast at the inn, then ask to be taken to the remote Estancia San Lorenzo for a private viewing of their 200,000-strong Magellan penguin colony. From there, head all the way back to Trelew for your flight to El Calafate, and grab lunch en route. You'll arrive in El Calafate in time to be transferred to your estancia for dinner. The excellent new rural hotel, Eolo Patagonia's Spirit, will take care of it all.

Day 4: Condor-Viewing

Eat breakfast and then head out with your bird-watching guide in search of the majestic condor, with its 3m (10-ft.) wing span. You'll look for shorebirds on the coast of Lago Argentino and the mighty predators amid the high peaks of Cerro Frías. In the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely tea in the ranch's living room, with binoculars nearby. Dinner will also be served in the estancia.


Day 5: Perito Moreno Glacier

You can't come to El Calafate without seeing the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After breakfast, you'll be driven west to the glacier's lookout point. Plan ahead and sign up for a "Minitrekking" tour, where you strap on crampons and go for a short hike on the glacier itself. It also includes a short boat trip beneath the southern wall of the glacier. Return to the estancia with time to relax, read, and get back to those binoculars. For dinner, don't miss the local specialty, barbecued Patagonian lamb.

Day 6: Torres del Paine in 1 Day


It looks close, and as the crow flies, Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is right there on the horizon. Of course, this is Patagonia, and roads are long and dirty. It takes a few hours, in fact, to reach Torres del Paine, but it's well worth the drive, especially if you're looking to see guanacos, the Patagonian cousin of the llama. You'll also see the black rock peaks -- known as torres and cuernos (towers and horns) -- of this very popular park, and get to do some short hikes. Return for a late dinner at the estancia.

Day 7: El Calafate & Home

After breakfast, pack your bags and snap a few more photographs of the incredible emptiness on every horizon. Then stop in the town of El Calafate to stroll the shops along the main tourist drag, Avenida Del Libertador, before heading to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires.


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.