Tour begins: Santiago, Chile at 6:00 PM. We'll meet you at the airport. A transfer is included upon arrival from Santiago International Airport to The Singular Santiago, a five-star luxury hotel in the city's Lastarria district - an intimate, "green"-designed oasis in the heart of a sprawling metropolis set against stunning backdrops of the Andes Mountains. Join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner at the hotel.
Picturesque Puerto Natales
Fly this morning from Santiago to Punta Arenas, deep in the southern tip of the continent, near Tierra del Fuego. This "city of red roofs," established in the 19th century as a penal colony and coaling station for steamships, is usually a jumping-off point for Antarctic expeditions, but today it's a leg on your journey to the otherworldly landscapes of Torres del Paines National Park. From here you travel by land to Puerto Natales, a town on the shores of the Ultima Esperanza (Last Hope) Sound. Named by a 16th-century Spanish explorer who became lost in the maze of channels and fjords while searching for the Strait of Magellan, the area was later settled by European immigrants as a shipping port for the local wool and meat-packing industry in the early 20th century. Arrive in late afternoon and check in to your accommodations at the Singular Patagonia hotel, formerly a waterfront factory built in 1915, now a luxury resort with dramatic floor-to-ceiling views of the sound and mountain ranges. This region of rolling plains and turquoise lakes is frequented by an anomalous assortment of wildlife, in a panorama bordered by ice-capped Andean peaks.
Cruise to Serrano Glacier & more
A cruise on the Ultima Esperanza Sound introduces you to the labyrinth of fjords, inlets, and channels that winds through this mystical landscape for miles: scenes of mountains, cliffs and caves, colonies of sea lions, plunging waterfalls, and ice-floes. Disembark at O'Higgins National Park for a hike to Serrano Glacier. Then cruise past waterfalls and Balmadeda Glacier for spectacular views of the fjords and surrounding mountain vistas that change color with the light. After lunch at an estancia and a sheep-shearing demonstration, return to the hotel. Following a late-afternoon historical tour of the Singular Hotel - converted from a waterfront factory built over a century ago - enjoy a four-course wine-pairing dinner at the hotel this evening featuring some of Chile's famous varietals.
Torres del Paines National Park
Journey north from Puerto Natales to the heart of one of South America's most spectacular nature preserves, a photographer's paradise of glacier-carved fjords and valleys, steppes, and sub-polar forests, dominated by the grandeur of Torres del Paine, a range of twisted granite peaks sculpted in startling curves and serrated edges that includes a trio of rock formations known as Cleopatra's Needles. The vivid colors of the lakes, shades of emerald and turquoise, are caused by rock flour settling from the restless grinding of the mountains by glaciers, a palette offset by rolling plains covered with red wildflowers. The rugged landscape is populated by foxes, pumas, guanacos, rheas, and large birds of prey, which you'll have a chance to view on frequent photo stops, rest stops, and short hikes. After lunch at a local restaurant, continue touring the park throughout the afternoon. Head back to the hotel for dinner at your leisure this evening.
A singular day in Puerto Natales
Spend the day as you please at the resort - a variety of activities* are included, such as kayaking, biking, condor-watching, hiking, cave exploring, and horseback riding. The Singular hotel is officially a national monument for its significance to the heritage of the region, so in addition to its amenities it harbors a museum of fascinating exhibits on local history and restored machinery from its factory days. You can also visit the town, to learn about its unusual mix of European and indigenous cultures, where there's also a wide choice of cafes and drinking establishments that cater to international tastes; or embark on a half- or full-day excursion to explore more of Torres Del Paines National Park. This evening, dinner is served family style at the hotel's restaurant.
El Calafate & Lago Argentino
Your Patagonia travel adventure continues as you cross the border into Argentina this morning and arrive at El Calafate in time for lunch. A small, picturesque village on the shores of Lake Argentino, El Calafate is named for a wild bush with yellow flowers and blue berries that flourishes here; it is also known as the "Village of the Glaciers," the gateway to Glacier National Park. Lunch in the town, which retains some of its original character as a pioneer outpost for wool-traders. Then continue on to your accommodations at Xelena Hotel & Suites. Check in, then pay a visit to a local museum, the Glaciarium, dedicated to the science of glaciers and the geological history of the area, an entree to the astonishing world you'll meet in Glacier National Park.
Estancia Cristina & Upsala Glacier
Board a private boat at Punta Bandera for a cruise on Lake Argentino. The vast freshwater lake is fed by runoff from dozens of glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Icefield. You'll sail by one of the largest of them, Upsala Glacier, a towering wall of ice (100 feet higher than Niagara Falls) that meets the water and stretches for miles through an alien landscape of wildly sculpted granite peaks and icebergs, and a startling palette of colors; the green of the lake beside the vivid blue, white and gold hues of the mountains, forests and ice offer dramatic photo ops like nowhere else on earth. Disembark at Estancia Cristina, a cattle and sheep ranch founded by an English immigrant in the early 1900s (and named after his daughter). Board a 4x4 and climb to a high vantage point for a short hike that brings you to a stunning panoramic view of Upsala Glacier. Then get a close-up look at life on the ranch, including a visit to a museum dedicated to Argentina's ubiquitous cowboys, the gauchos. You'll also enjoy a lunch of local cuisine, and learn the art of making mate tea (the national drink), traditionally brewed and served in a calabash gourd with a metal straw. Marvel again on the scenic return trip to your hotel for an evening spent as you wish.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Drive into Glacier National Park to witness one of South America's most breathtaking natural wonders, Perito Moreno Glacier. Fronting Lake Argentino for three miles, rising 240 feet from the water in dense clusters of jagged white skyscrapers, Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the icefield that is advancing, its restless movement unseen but sometimes heard in its eerie groaning, cracking, and rumbling. From high walkways on the shore opposite the glacier, you can appreciate its overwhelming scale and even have the chance to see an iceberg calve away from the ice wall, collapsing like a tall building in an explosion of thunder and water. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the presence of this immense, mystical phenomenon; its majestic landscape mesmerizes with the changing light, as the ice morphs in color, from white to turquoise and sapphire, and even deep indigo blue. Return to the hotel this afternoon for time at leisure, or explore the shops and markets in the center of El Calafate; enjoy an included dinner tonight at your choice of three local restaurants in El Calafate.
Fly to Buenos Aires
From remote Patagonia travel on a flight from El Calafate today to the cosmopolitan excitement of Buenos Aires. You'll get an orientation tour of the "Paris of South America" en route to Alvear Palace Hotel. Opened in 1932 as a luxury hotel for European visitors, the hotel continues to exude Belle Époque splendor in the heart of Buenos Aires' fashionable Recoleta neighborhood, close to some of this legendary city's finest boulevards, parks, museums and boutiques. Dine at the hotel this evening.
Silversmiths, Gaucho culture & tango
An excursion takes you to the lush farmlands outside the city, and the artists' community at San Antonio del Areco. In this town of charming Spanish colonial-style houses and streets, you'll meet members of the Draghi family, world-famous silversmiths who have crafted treasures for all walks of life, from gauchos to heads of state and Hollywood stars; visit their shop and studio, where you'll view their exquisite silver and saddlery, which evoke the cowboy culture and heritage of the region. Next up, naturally, is a private lunch and "gaucho fiesta", where cowboys of the Argentine outback demonstrate their legendary equestrian skills: acrobatic riding, herding, ring-racing and horse dancing. Return to the hotel to freshen up, then join us for a farewell dinner and tango show in the city, where this once-scandalous dance form was born and elevated to an art.
Tour ends: Buenos Aires, Argentina. Checkout time is noon. Transfers are included from Alvear Palace Hotel to Buenos Aires International Airport. You should allow 3 hours for flight check-in.