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South America - Southern Explorer

A spectacular itinerary that takes you the length of Southern Patagonia with a small group, in a custom expedition vehicle and staying in comfortable hotels. Explore glaciers on foot and by boat, breaking Torres del Paine's W Trek into day hikes, visit a king penguin colony on Tierra del Fuego, cross the Strait of Magellan and finish in remote Ushuaia.

Are you hoping to travel before January 2023?

Patagonia's a big trip and we know how crucial it is to get it right. As you’re considering travelling in the next couple of months, we want to be upfront with you…

Finding available accommodation is proving almost impossible in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Parks. While not uncommon, the pandemic has exacerbated the situation this year.

Alongside this, Swoop are also currently focused on ensuring that all of the logistics are in place for our booked travellers who are due to head south shortly.

Swoop has therefore decided to no longer accept any new bookings departing before the beginning of January 2023.

As alternative options, here’s what we suggest:

Option A:

Push your trip back and choose to travel instead in early 2023. Feb - April in particular has more accommodation options still available. The Patagonian autumnal colours are stunning and trails less crowded.

Option B:

Defer your Patagonia adventure by 12 months, benefitting by getting exactly the trip you want without compromise, and lock in plans now while there’s still good availability.

If you are able to be flexible on your travel dates, the next step would then be for us to arrange a time to talk through the options.

  • I want to travel before January 2023

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  • I’m flexible and could travel later

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Trip type

Group Tour

Trip length

13 Days





South America - Southern Explorer - 13 - $6,471

Trip Summary and Itinerary Map

Note: This trip also runs in the reverse direction (Ushuaia to El Chaltén)

Day 1: El Chaltén 

Day 2: El Chaltén 

Day 3: El Chaltén to El Calafate 

Day 4: El Calafate

Day 5: El Calafate to Torres del Paine

Day 6: Torres del Paine

Day 7: Torres del Paine

Day 8: Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales

Day 9: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas

Day 10: Punta Arenas to Cerro Sombrero

Day 11: Cerro Sombrero to Ushuaia

Day 12: Ushuaia

Day 13: Depart Ushuaia

Start from El Calafate and end at Ushuaia

Landmarks visited on South America - Southern Explorer

Operator's Itinerary

Day 1: El Chaltén

After arriving into El Calafate airport you will be met at the airport and transferred to El Chaltén, located in the stunning Los Glaciares National Park.

Meals: Dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Lunajuim

Day 2: El Chaltén

Today we'll have a full day of trekking in the Los Glaciares National Park. We usually choose the Lago Torre hike for its stunning scenery and magical views of Cerro Torres or the wonderful Mount Fitz Roy. The trekking will vary depending on the conditions, however every path through this unspoilt wilderness offers breath-taking views of pristine lakes, mountains, glaciers and forest. Keep your eyes peeled to spot some of the birds native to this region including woodpeckers, caracaras and even condors.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Lunajuim

Day 3: El Chaltén to El Calafate

In the morning we'll hike up to Laguna Capri on the first section of the Laguna de Los Tres trail. Although it is ascending all the way, our guides will keep a pace that allows us to stop for photos and enjoy the scenery. We'll make our way round the loop of viewpoints for stunning views of the Mt Fitz Roy range.

We'll return to our hotel, take a break and in the mid-afternoon we'll continue our journey by road to El Calafate, stopping off at a historic homestead saloon which was visited by some famous outlaws.

Before arriving in El Calafate, we pass by Lake Argentina, the largest freshwater lake in the country.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel del Glaciar

Day 4: El Calafate

Today we'll set off early to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. On the drive to the glacier, we'll learn about gauchos and life on estancias and even stop off at one of them for coffee.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the earth's most dynamic and accessible ice fields and can be accessed from a series of walkways. If we're lucky, we'll be able to watch huge chunks of ice breaking free from the face of the glacier and crashing into the water. We'll have several hours at the glacier to explore the walkways and then take a 1hr boat ride to 300m from the glacier's face, before heading back to El Calafate.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch

Accommodation: Hotel del Glaciar

Day 5: El Calafate to Torres Del Paine

Today we'll return to Chile to Torres Del Paine National Park, declared Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO in 1978 and a trekker's paradise. Iconic towers and horns of granite and rock in this park have given it worldwide fame. The park preserves fragile ecosystems where around 25 species of mammals live, including pumas, foxes, nandues (South American ostrich), condors, flamencos and guanacos. 

The 3 most famous treks we undertake in the park are: Las Torres Hike; French Valley Hike; and Glacier Grey Hike; French Valley Hike; and Los Torres Hike.

Instead of walking these in one go like on the Big W trek (a 4-day hike), we break it into the three separate walks giving people the option of walking all three or only one or two if they would prefer.

There are also other activities available inside Torres del Paine including fabulous horse riding and boat trips for those wanting to walk a little less. Even spending a day around the hotel which is situated right on the edge of Lake Pehoe, where condors often circle overhead, is very enjoyable.

The group is assisted by an expert local trekking guide who will share information about the environment and guide you through this wonderful wilderness.

If you are not hiking, other activities are available in Torres del Paine – tours by vehicle or on horseback. Please note that these activities are subject to availability, weather conditions and minimum numbers and will incur an additional cost.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Río Serrano or similar

Day 6: Torres Del Paine

Las Torres Hike (Difficult)

Hiking to view the iconic Las Torres (the towers) is a must do for all keen trekkers. The Torres are three massive granite columns that encircle the smaller Torres Glacier. This walk takes about 8hrs return. The Towers walk is probably the most testing of all the walks. From Hosteria Las Torres you start off climbing up the side of one of the mountains – all dirt paths and quite a steep gradient in areas. It then flattens out as you scale the side of the valley with a river underneath you. Along the way you will arrive at Refugio Chileno where you can buy snacks and rest for a while.

Some people may find that they will just go to this point (a 4hr return hike) and on a clear day you can see Los Torres from here. Once you leave this refuge you will start climbing again and the last 45 minutes is quite challenging as you scramble up boulders to the base of the towers. It is a walk that anyone of reasonable fitness can do, but it is challenging.

For those unable to attempt the walk, we offer a shorter hike to a section of the park with indigenous hand-paintings and views of the Towers.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Río Serrano or similar

NOTE: Regarding hikes in Torres del Paine - You are not obliged to continue to the furthermost point on each trek unless you want to. There is always the option to take a shorter hike or non-trekking excursions can be arranged locally

Day 7: Torres Del Paine

French Valley Hike (Moderate/difficult)

The French Valley is the most picturesque valley in the Torres del Paine National Park. The hike is steep but offers incredible panoramic views of Los Cuernos del Paine, the French Glacier and Lakes Nordenskjold, Pehoe, Scottsburg and Toro.

This walk starts at the same place as the Glacier Grey walk and between the hikes we stay overnight at the Paine Grande Refuge so that you do not have to return across the lake to our hotel, effectively allowing you additional time to complete the hikes.

This is a very different walk to the Glacier Grey. More up and down hiking and at times the track can be rocky and steep. But an equally beautiful walk with stunning views. The short version of the hike ends 7.5km, at Italiano Camp at the valley entrance. From there on the trail becomes loose and steep, but with a 300m gain in elevation you'll have wonderful views of the valley and mountains. You can sit and watch and hear the ice crack and maybe even see a mini-avalanche. The full walk takes approximately 8-9hrs return, including time for lunch and depending on your ability.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Lodge Paine Grande

Day 8: Torres Del Paine to Puerto Natales

Glacier Grey Hike (Easy/moderate)

Grey Glacier is one of the main tourist attractions in Chile. You will be mesmerised with the lakes creamy blue colour, dotted with floating icebergs and with the vast Patagonian Icefield at one end.

On this excellent walk you will begin by walking through forest and then on trails bordering lakes with views of Glacier Grey. The first viewpoint of the glacier is about 2hrs into the walk on a pinnacle of rock. You could have lunch here, and some people finish their hike here and return to the lodge. Another 2hrs further on you get to the main Glacier Grey viewpoint which is a lot closer to the magnificent ice sheet. From here you have a great view of the glacier across the water and also the wonderful blue of the icebergs floating in the lake below. All viewpoints of the glacier are from a front-on angle.

The Glacier Grey Hike is the easiest of the three main walks in the park. A lot of it is reasonably flat with a few steep ups and downs in some areas. It is do-able by everyone at their own pace. The full walk takes approximately 7-8hrs return, including time for lunch and depending on your ability.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Costaustralis or similar

Day 9: Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas

Having spent several nights inside Torres Del Paine National Park we now drive south to Punta Arenas. Tonight you will enjoy a meal that includes tasters of regional wild game prepared in various ways by a talented chef.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Plaza or similar

Day 10: Punta Arenas to Cerro Sombrero

Enjoy your morning exploring Punta Arenas before crossing the Straits of Magellan onto the island of Tierra del Fuego.

Meals: Breakfast, dinner

Accommodation: Hosteria Tunkelen or similar

Day 11: Cerro Sombrero to Ushuaia

In the morning, we'll visit a King Penguin colony – observing them here is a unique opportunity as they are usually only found on more remote places like South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

We'll later pass Lake Fagnano and cross the Garibaldi Pass (500m) to get to Ushuaia – the largest city in Argentine Tierra del Fuego, and now a major tourist town, complete with casinos and good restaurants, and commonly used as a base for hiking, winter sports and cruises to Antarctica.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch

Accommodation: Hotel Tierra del Fuego or similar

Day 12: Ushuaia

In the morning we'll take a catamaran through the Beagle Channel, from Ushuaia Bay past Archipelago Bridges to Birds Island. Here you can see a vast array of sea birds: comorants, skuas, petrels, ducks, etc. We'll also see sea lions close to here before reaching Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse – the iconic symbol of Ushuaia.

Back in the town, we'll have lunch before visiting the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Here we'll find Ensenada Bay, Alakush Visitors Centre and an old beaver dam before finishing at Lapataia Bay. This is the 'end of the road' where the famous Panamerican Highway finishes, more than 17,000km from its starting point.

In the evening we'll enjoy a special farewell dinner at one of Ushuaia's great restaurants.

Meals: Breakfast, picnic lunch, dinner

Accommodation: Hotel Tierra del Fuego or similar

Day 13: Depart Ushuaia

Depart Ushuaia with wonderful memories of your Patagonian adventure.

Meals: Breakfast

Prices, Departures and Inclusions

This trip will not be running in the 2022-23 season. Please get in touch to explore some amazing alternatives.

Additional Notes

Group size – Small group tour; max 16 passengers

Trip extension: This trip links into our Infamous Route 40 trip – please enquire for more information.

Single supplement: A 25% supplement applies to solo travellers who do not wish to share with another person of the same sex.


  • Meals: 12 breakfasts, 8 picnic lunches, 8 dinners
  • Accommodation: 11 nights in standard hotels and guesthouses, 1 night in a hiking lodge
  • Transport in custom-built all-terrain expedition vehicles
  • Experienced Western tour leader and local guides
  • Experienced driver/mechanic
  • Camp assistant whilst camping
  • All National Park entrance fees
  • Guided hiking in El Chaltén
  • Perito Moreno glacier day trip, including nautical safari – El Calafate
  • Day hikes/excursions in Torres del Paine National Park
  • Useless Bay penguin colony Tierra del Fuego
  • Crossing the straits of Magellan
  • Beagle Channel boat trip – Ushuaia
  • Tour of Tierra del Fuego National Park – Ushuaia


  • Meals not indicated in itinerary
  • Drinks during lunch or dinner
  • Any extra/optional excursions
  • Personal equipment (see our recommended kit list)
  • Personal travel insurance
  • Gratuities/tips
  • International and domestic/in-country flights
  • Any visa, passport and vaccination expenses

Questions about this Trip?