Day 1 Buenos Aires
Arrive in Buenos Aires and transfer to the hotel. There are no planned activities, so check-in and enjoy the city. In the evening we will meet our fellow group members to go over the details of our trip. Check the notice board (or ask reception) to see the exact time and location of our group meeting. The capital city of Argentina, Buenos Aires is the ultimate cosmopolitan city. Travelers find that it has more in common with the cities of Europe than the rest of South America. Nearly 40 per cent of Argentina's 33 million citizens live in greater Buenos Aires, and the Porteños are justifiably proud of their home. The city is comprised of a number of distinct neighborhoods, some of which have become top tourist draws. For many, the highlight of their time in the capital is a visit to San Telmo for the weekend antiques market and street artist displays. La Boca was originally settled by the successive waves of immigrants that contribute to the capital's unique character. Its brightly colored walls and buildings draw Porteños and tourists alike, and it is here that the world-class football team, Boca Juniors, plies its trade. A Sunday afternoon match at the fabled Bombonera is not to be missed. Posh Recoleta, with its cafes, museums and cemetery, is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. During colonial days Buenos Aires was the seat of the Viceroy of La Plata. Almost completely rebuilt since the turn of the century, the heart of the city is the Plaza de Mayo, with the historic Cabildo, Town Hall, where the independence movement was first planned, the Casa Rosada, Government Palace and the Cathedral where San Martín, the father of Argentine independence, is buried. Be sure to enjoy a drink in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants to understand the contemplative Argentine way of life.
Day 2-3 El Calafate (2B)
Catch a flight to El Calafate where we take a guided tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Option to take a boat up to the front of the glacier. Drive towards the lofty peaks to the dynamic Moreno Glacier, within Glacier National Park. We may spot condors, rheas, eagles or flamingos en route, but the real star of the day is the glacier itself, located at the southern terminus of Glacier National Park. Sliding down from atop the southern continental ice field, Moreno's 60m (197 ft) wall of ice sporadically chokes off the narrow Canal de los Tempanos (Channel of Ice Bergs) creating a natural ice dam, which eventually explodes in a dynamic display of force. The Southern Patagonian ice field, the third largest on the planet (after Antarctica and Greenland) is the source of all the area's glaciers, including Moreno, Onelli, Viedma and Upsala. Moreno Glacier, this massive river of frozen water and huge chunks of ice moves down constantly crashing into the lake waters below. Very dynamic, Moreno is one of the very few glaciers left in the world that is in equilibrium. It is simply enormous: 1 km (half a mile) wide and 60m (196 ft) high.
Day 4-5 Torres del Paine National Park (2B,1L,1D)
The granite Towers of Paine make a sudden and dramatic appearance on the horizon in the midst of a flat, dry, wind-swept plain. Despite the almost constant summer winds, this is some of the finest trekking country in Chile. Endowed with severe mountains, sparkling lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, as well as herds of guanacos, majestic condors, flocks of pink flamingos and large Patagonian hares, the park's international attraction is immediately evident. Words cannot describe the majesty and beauty of this National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Few people have the opportunity to see this area and those who do will find it difficult to forget its vivid colours and tranquility. One of the many thriving legends concerns the origin of the park's name. Locals insist that ìpaineî is derived from the Tehuelche Indian word for the colour blue, while others say it is the name of an original Welsh settler to the area. Once a large sheep estancia, the park was established in 1959 as the Parque Nacional Lago Grey. Prior to this, baqueanos (cowboys) grazed their flocks here and fires occasionally burnt out of control. The devastation wrought near Lago Grey remains visible to this day, with large areas of burnt forest and charred logs. More land was added to the park in 1962 and the name was changed to its present one. The Torre (Tower) Sur rises 2900m (9512 ft) above sea level, the Torre Central is 2850m (9348 ft) high and the Torre Norte measures 2600m (8528 ft). The Cuernos (Horns) del Paine, massive blocks of various rock layers and visible from great distances, are as spectacular as the towers themselves. Encompassing a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the high peaks of the Andes, approximately 180 km (112 miles) wide, but with a coastline stretching over 4300 km (14104 ft), Chile’s “geografia loca” (as termed by Benjamin Subercasseaux) includes the driest desert, the Atacama in the north, the agriculturally-rich Central Valley, snow-covered volcanoes, forests and tranquil lakes of the near south, and the wild and windswept glaciers and fjords of the far south. Discover magnificent trekking country within this last region, where guanacos, ñandues (rheas), condors, pink flamingos and magellanic penguins abound. The region also boasts some of the world's finest salmon and trout fishing, and the cuisine at times rivals the natural setting. A gold mine of undiscovered destinations and surprises, this country and its friendly and hospitable people will no doubt make a mark on your memories and leave you with a smile. Day 5, enjoy a full day hiking excursion in the National Park with an expert mountain guide. Trekking and hiking today is of a moderate level - should you choose not to hike you can relax and explore on your own at the lodge.
Day 6 Punta Arenas / Patagonia Expedition Cruise (1B,1D)
Arrive in the late afternoon to Punta Arenas to board the expedition cruise ship to begin our 4-night Patagonia cruise. Board the Via Australis Expedition Cruise ship at around 6:00 p.m. After a welcome cocktail reception offered by the Captain and his crew the ship will depart for “the uttermost part of the earth”. Our trip takes us through the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel to explore one of the most breathtaking wilderness regions in the world: Southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego.
Day 7-9 Patagonia Expedition Cruise (3B,3L,3D)
Day 7 - At dawn, we will navigate our way through Almirantazgo Sound, arriving at Ainsworth Bay, which is sited within Alberto De Agostini National Park. It’s the perfect spot from which to see the Marinelli Glacier descending from Darwin Mountain Range in the distance; and to appreciate how the land returns to life after glacial retreat. We will also take a walk to a beaver dam in the stunning sub-polar Magellan Forest. Whether on the beach or the island, there’s a good chance of sighting Southern Elephant Seals. But do bear in mind the fact that sightings cannot be guaranteed due to the colony’s unpredictable movements. Later, we will be sailing to Tuckers Islets, and after lunch, we will board well-equipped Zodiac boats to get close to a colony of Magellan Penguins (indigenous to the Southern Hemisphere) and cormorants. In September and April, this excursion is replaced by a short walk to a nearby glacier at Brookes Bay. Day 8 - We will navigate along the northwest arm of the Beagle Channel before disembarking at Pia Fjord. From there, we’ll take a short hike to a panoramic viewpoint from where we can enjoy spectacular views of the awe-inspiring Pia Glacier whose main tongue extends from the mountaintops down to the sea. After this memorable experience, we will continue our voyage along the Beagle Channel through the majestic Glacier Alley. Day 9 - We will be sailing through Murray Channel and Nassau Bay to reach Cape Horn National Park, where, weather permitting, we shall go ashore. The legendary Cape Horn was discovered in 1616 and is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. For many years it was an important navigation route between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and is referred to as the ‘End of the Earth’. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. In the afternoon, we will go ashore at historical Wulaia Bay, originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. Charles Darwin landed there in 1833 during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. We will take an enchanted walk through the Magellan Forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic vegetation, to reach a panoramic viewpoint. In Via Australis, for 2014 - 2015 season, the excursion to Wulaia Bay will be in the morning and to Cape Horn in the afternoon. Note: All landings and inclusions are based on the weather and conditions at the time. If the Captain deems it unsafe to make a landing or to deviate a routing, it is always in consideration of passengers safety.
Day 10 Ushuaia (1B)
Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, on the shores of the Beagle Channel. Ushuaia actually means “the bay facing westward” in the language of the original Yamaná inhabitants. Once a penal colony for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals (the presidio was disbanded in the 1940s), Ushuaia is now a major tourist attraction, particularly for people cruising to Antarctica. The town of 70 000 is also a major ski resort area for both alpine and cross-country skiers and offers magnificent hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina.
Day 11 Buenos Aires (1B)
Fly back to Buenos Aires for our farewell evening. Option to enjoy a wine tasting, tango lessons and professional tango dinner show. Later in the day we'll have the option to discover the true Buenos Aires and the passion of Tango. This optional excursion includes a visit to one of the oldest Tangueras in Buenos Aires where we'll begin by tasting some prize winning Argentine wines with an expert sommelier. This is the perfect courage builder for the Tango Lesson which will follow. Expert dancers from the show will take us through the basic steps of Tango. Once we have built up an appetite it is time to try the famed Argentine "Bife de Chorizo" whilst watching how this passionate and complicated dance is brought to life on the stage. Argentine Tango is traditionally danced with a close embrace, but with time it has opened up to allow space for embellishments. The dance essentially is walking with a partner in time with the music, but a good tango dancer will make us see the music. A major part of Tango is improvisation, and although many steps are considered common, true Tango dancers will tell you that there is no basic step. It is different to traditional couple dances as it does not have a strict pattern and relies upon instinct and understanding between the couple The exact origins are lost in history, but the generally accepted theory is that during the mid-1800s African slaves were brought to Argentina and began to influence local culture. Whatever the origin, it became renowned with the place where African slaves and free African Americans came to dance. It is most likely that Tango rose from African-Argentine dance venues frequented by compadritos, young native men, with little money and dressed in sluch hats, neckerchiefs, heeled boots and the customary knife tucked into the belt. These compadritos took the dance back into the poorer districts of Buenos Aires and it became commonplace in bars, dance halls and brothels. It was in these places that the African rhythms met the Argentine milongo music (a fast-paced polka) and very quickly the first steps of Tango took form.
Day 12 Buenos Aires (1B)
Depart at any time.