The southern tip of South America is called Patagonia. The southern portions of Chile and Argentina make up Patagonia. It is a desolate, isolated landscape famous for its wild natural beauty and wilder weather. The Andes Mountains run the length of it. When I read hiking books and trekking guides, they always mentioned Patagonia as one of the best places in the world. Inspired by the amazing photographs, we planned a two week trip.

There are two national parks that are the main destination: in Chile, the park is called Torres del Paine. The most famous mountains there are the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine), which are vertical slabs of granite that stand 2000 meters tall. The national park also includes Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine), the huge Grey glacier and numerous peaks and turquoise colored lakes. In Argentina, the highlight destination is Parque Nacional los Glaciares. This park includes the world famous Perito Moreno glacier, the Upsala glacier and the FitzRoy massif. Parque Nacional los Glaciares is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, though Torres del Paine is not (which is a puzzling omission, in my opinion.)

We visited both parks in February of 2015 and enjoyed fantastic weather. We hiked the famous "W" route in Torres del Paine, and did all the day hiking trails around FitzRoy. Despite the notorious weather of Patagonia, we were blessed with sunny weather and only a limited amount of wind. Other visitors describe much more severe weather, even during the South American summer. Not only was it warm for us, but there were so few clouds that we enjoyed views of all the famous peaks, which are often shrouded in clouds.

Our trip could not have gone better. This web page describes our adventure, and perhaps will inspire you to make a visit yourself. I included a page of Notes to help explain our trip planning and results. We went on our own, without a guide - it is easy to make your own plans and spend your time exactly as you choose. (The "Mel Art Tours" logo at the top of page is a joke - we are not professional tour operators, we are just two individuals who enjoy travel.)

I calculate that we hiked a total of 195.5 km during our hiking days. During this entire time, I would estimate we were rained on for about 6 km. The rest of the time we had dry conditions, and often there was only minimal wind. Everything went so well for us this trip that I told Melanie I was obviously an exceptionally lucky person and therefore I should "invest" our life savings in lottery tickets.

Saturday: Feb 7

Leave at 12:00 noon on United UA1246, arrive Houston at 6:16 PM

Leave at 9:00 PM on United UA819, arrive Buenos Aires EZE at 10:30 AM

Sunday: Feb 8

Shuttle transfer from EZE to AEP airport in Buenos Aires

Leave at 2:55 PM on LAN Airlines LA4434, arrive El Calafate at 6:20 PM

Stay in El Calafate at Posada Karut Josh B&B

Monday: Feb 9

Always Glaciers "River of Ice" boat tour to Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers

Stay in El Calafate at Posada Karut Josh B & B

Tuesday: Feb 10

5:30 AM depart for Torres del Paine. Bus to Chile border.

Transfer to shuttle in Chile.

Stops at Lago Sarmiento and Laguna Amarga

Arrive at TDP at Laguna Amarga Park Office at 1:30 PM.

Hike 7.5 km to Hostería La Torres

Hike 5.5 km to Refugio Chileno

Stay at Refugio Chileno

Wednesday: Feb 11

Morning hike 4 km to base of Los Torres for morning light (leave packs at Refugio)

Hike 4 km to Refugio Chileno (retrieve packs)

Hike 13 km to Refugio Cuernos

Stay in Refugio Cuernos

Thursday: Feb 12

Hike 5 km to Campsite Italiano (leave packs there)

Hike 10 km up French Valley and back to Campsite Italiano (retrieve packs)

Hike 7.5 km to Refugio Paine Grande.

Stay at Refugio Paine Grande

Friday: Feb 13

Hike 11 km to Refugio Grey

Hike 8 km up to Grey Glacier viewpoint and back

Glacier Grey viewpoint on peninsula beside refugio

Stay at Refugio Grey

Saturday: Feb 14

Hike 11 km Refugio Paine Grande.

Take 12:30 Catamaran to Pudeto.

Take 13:00 shuttle to Laguna Amarga.

Bus for El Calafate leaves at 16:30.

Stay in El Calafate at Posada Karut Josh B&B

Sunday: Feb 15

Mini-trek on Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier viewpoints

Stay in El Calafate at Posada Karut Josh B&B

Monday: Feb 16

Bus to El Chaltén.

Hike 18 km to viewpoints of FitzRoy along trail to Camp Poincenot

Stay in El Chaltén at Complejo Turistico Lo de Tomy

Tuesday: Feb 17

Use Lago San Martin shuttle company to reach El Pilar trail head.

Hike 11km from El Pilar to Laguna de los Tres

Hike 13km from Laguna de los Tres back to El Chaltén

Stay in El Chaltén at Complejo Turistico Lo de Tomy

Wednesday: Feb 18

Hike 20 km up to Tumbado Viewpoint and back again

Fossil hunting

Stay in El Chaltén at Complejo Turistico Lo de Tomy

Thursday: Feb 19

Hike 13 km to Mirado Maestri at Lago Torre

Hike 6 km back to trail junction

Hike 8 km along Lago Madre y Hija trail

Hike 8 km back to El Chaltén

Stay in El Chaltén at Complejo Turistico Lo de Tomy

Friday: Feb 20

Hike 4 km up to Águilas and Cóndores viewpoints

Hike 8 km to Chorrillo del Salto waterfall

Stay in El Chaltén at Complejo Turistico Lo de Tomy

Saturday: Feb 21

Bus back to El Calafate.

Laguna Nimez bird watching

Stay in El Calafate at Posada Karut Josh B&B

Sunday: Feb 22

Morning at Perito Moreno Glacier viewpoints

leave El Calafate at 4:55 PM, arrive in Buenos Aires EZE on Aerolineas Argentinas AR1881 at 8:11 PM

leave EZE at 10:05 PM on United UA818, arrive in Houston at 5:40 AM

Monday: Feb 23

leave Houston at 9:00 AM on United UA1192, arrive in Seattle at 12:00 noon.