November 7-22, 2015
● Hike in the Andes with views of the nearby glacier-capped Mount Aconcagua, at 22,841 feet, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas.
● Explore, hike & kayak in the Patagonian Lake District, with its lush forests, emerald lakes, blue skies, extinct volcanoes, & majestic snow-capped mountains.
● Tour Argentina’s scenic wine country to visit vineyards, boutique wineries, & enjoy wine tastings & gourmet lunches.
● Explore Buenos Aires, a passionate Latin city with grand boulevards, historic plazas, spacious parks, the world’s best steak houses, sidewalk cafes, & a tango culture.
● Visit Colonia, a historic Portuguese port town with cobble-stone streets & magnificent architecture, in nearby Uruguay.
● Experience the vibrant & inviting gay culture of Argentina.
This exciting adventure takes us to Argentina to explore pristine national parks along the crest of the Andes, the Mendoza wine region, the Patagonia Lake District, Buenos Aires, the cosmopolitan and gay friendly capitol of the country, and Colonia, a historic port town in nearby Uruguay. The tour begins and ends in Buenos Aires. After our overnight in Buenos Aires, we fly 650 miles west to Mendoza; a Spanish colonial city built in 1561 and located on the pampas grassland at an elevation of 2,500 feet just east of the massive peaks of the Andes, the highest mountains in the world outside of the Himalayas. To the west and visible from Mendoza, the awesome glacier-capped 22,841 foot tall Aconcagua forms the border with Chile. Mountaineers from all over the world challenge Aconcagua every year and skiers enjoy the world-class ski resorts in the nearby mountains. This picturesque semi-arid Mendoza region has a pleasant climate with 9 inches of rainfall annually and over 300 days of sunshine per year. Mendoza has tree-lined canals, large parks, interesting plazas and abundant outdoor cafes, a population of about one million and a relaxed welcoming atmosphere. The Mendoza area, one of the great wine regions of the world, has over 1,500 wineries. Argentina is the seventh leading wine producer in the world and 80% of Argentina’s wine is produced in the Mendoza region. Water from glaciers in the Andes is used to irrigate thousands of acres of vineyards initially planted by the Italian, Spanish and French immigrants in the 1500’s on the fertile pampas grasslands east of the Andes. Today, the Mendoza region is a top destination for wine tourism and is renowned for the high quality of its Malbec wines. We spend two enjoyable and relaxing days touring vineyards and boutique wineries to sample some of the best wines in Argentina and enjoy gourmet lunches at the wineries with a selection of their best wines.
While in the Mendoza area we also venture out for day-hikes on the sunny slopes of the nearby Andes. We hike on the lower slopes of Mount Aconcagua and have incredible views of this massive peak which rises 14,000 feet above our path. When we hike to Mount Vallecitos, we will be surrounded by mountains with huge glaciers and peaks towering to over 19,000 feet.
Next we fly to Bariloche, a year-round tourist destination in the Lake District about a thousand miles southwest of Buenos Aires. The Lake District has a stunning pristine landscape with picture-perfect glacial lakes surrounded by luxuriant forests, the jagged peaks of the Andes and extinct volcanoes. Bariloche is located on the south shore of Lago Nahuel Hupai, a huge glacial lake in the middle of Parque Nacional Nahuel Hupai, Argentina’s oldest national park and the most visited. Bariloche, which is located at an elevation of about 2,600 feet, has a four season climate with dry summers, cold winters and a rainfall of about 30 inches. The nearby Andes are a hiker’s and trekker’s paradise, and in winter numerous world-class ski resorts attract tourists from all over the world. Bariloche was founded in 1902 by Swiss, Germans and Italians, and today has a population of about 100,000. These immigrants gave the town an alpine atmosphere with Swiss-style chalets, fondue restaurants and chocolates. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, America’s most notorious bank robbers, lived near Bariloche from 1901-1905 and legend has it that they were killed by the Bolivian army when they ventured north to rob local banks. However, many people in the area claim to be descendants of these outlaws whom they say melted into society.
While in Bariloche we sail across Lago Nahuel Hupai to visit Victoria Island in Parque Nacional Los Arrayanes. The Parque was established to protect the rare arrayan trees which can live over 600 years and grow to 100 feet in height. While on the Island we explore the ancient arrayan forest, hike its many trails, observe the varied flora and fauna, and visit isolated beaches. If we are lucky we may spot the Pudu pudu, the smallest deer in the world. On another day we will hike to Tristeza Peak, a granite outcrop, for impressive views of the blue lakes below. After lunch, we will kayak on the serenely beautiful and tranquil Moreno Lake. On our final day in Bariloche, we hike to the foot of Mount Tronador, an extinct volcano at 11,722 feet in height, to see its rivers, waterfalls and glaciers.
The last four days of our tour is spent in Buenos Aires, an elegant cosmopolitan city with broad tree-lined avenues, grand boulevards, spacious plazas, beautiful parks, European-style architecture, and referred to as the Paris of South America. This city, which was founded by immigrants from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, is cultured, seductive, sophisticated, yet earthy. The people of Argentina are as passionate about good food and drink as they are about life, music and the tango. Buenos Aires’ cuisine rivals that of European cities and its beef restaurants are the best in the world. Buenos Aires, the gay capitol of South America, has an active gay culture with an abundance of clubs, bars and restaurants, and is Latin America’s preeminent gay travel destination.
We venture out with our gay cultural guide to explore the city and its interesting barrios. We visit the Plaza de Mayo, the political and historic center of the city; Recoleta, the city’s most exclusive neighborhood; La Boca, a lively Italian neighborhood with cobblestone streets and famous for the brightly colored wooden corrugated iron houses; San Telmo, a Bohemian artist neighborhood; Retiro, with its magnificent San Martin Plaza; and Colonia del Sacramento, a historic port town in Uruguay with colorful Portuguese architecture and a UNESCO world heritage site. With our gay cultural guide we will venture out to explore the gay culture and its many venues.
Day 1. Saturday November 7. Depart USA
Day 2. Sunday November 8. Arrive Buenos Aires
Day 3. Monday November 9. Buenos Aires to Mendoza – City Tour
After lunch with our local guide, we visit the picturesque plazas and parks in this beautiful city with its tree-lined streets and canals. At the four main plazas we learn about the history of the city. The highlight is Parque San Martin, considered the most beautiful public park in all Latin America. It was designed by Carlos Thays in 1896. The 960 acres of this park contain valuable sculptures and monuments, an artificial lake, several pedestrian paths, over 5,000 roses, a university campus and several health clubs. We walk through the park to enjoy the perfectly manicured trees and bushes that are the pride of the city. (B,L,D)
Day 4. Tuesday November 10. Wine Tasting & Gourmet Lunch Tour
Bodega Caterna Zapata is the family winery of Nicolas Catena, widely recognized for showing the international wine community the potential of the Mendoza terroir. At the Finca Decero Winery, we’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch with regional wines. Once a bare patch of dirt in the Andean foothills, this winery now boasts one-of-a-kind growing and harvesting methods, where vines are nurtured by hand and sustainable winemaking standards are uncompromising. A combination of French and Argentine viticultural traditions characterizes the distinctive wines of the second-generation, family-owned, Benegas Winery. Annual production is only 30,000 cases. In the afternoon after the tour we return to our comfortable hotel and have the evening to explore the town. (B,L)
Day 5. Wednesday November 11. Mount Vallecitos Hike
Our hike begins in a gorge surrounded by massive mountains. On our left, we will see the 16,400 foot tall Mount Franke and on our right the 14,400 foot tall San Bernardo Mountain. The trail follows a stream to a fertile tract of land with fresh-water springs. We continue the hike and when the majestic 18,044 foot tall Mount Vallecitos comes into view, we stop and have a grand vista for lunch. After lunch, we hike for an hour to a glacial valley with earthen and rock moraines. On this hike we may see herds of guanacos and condors. After the hike we return to Mendoza and the comforts of our hotel. The 6 hour (round-trip) hike starts at an elevation of 9,100 feet and extends uphill to 11,500 feet, an elevation gain of 2,400 feet. (B,L,D)
Day 6. Thursday, November 12. Boutique Wineries Tour
Achaval-Ferrer, founded in 1998 by two Argentine friends, is dedicated to limited production, single vineyard Malbecs. In its short history, it has become known for some of the most highly-rated Malbecs in Argentina, including its Finca Altamira and Quimera from the Uco Valley. After ten years of growing grapes for others, the Caelum Winery began as a family project in 2009 with a small production of 40,000 cases that has now expanded to 90,000. The picturesque winery is surrounded by pistachio trees.
We’ll enjoy a gourmet lunch accompanied by regional wines at the Tuscan-style Piattelli Vineyards. With guidance from one of Mendoza’s most recognized winemakers, this eight-year old winery in the Agrelo sub-appellation produces high quality, organic wines at affordable prices.
Carlos Pulenta Winery is surrounded by 130 acres of 40-year-old vineyards. A young winery established by fifth-generation vintners, it combines modern technology with years of experimentation in high altitude vineyards and is known for its top rate Malbec blends. At the end of the day’s Argentina wine tours, we return to our hotel for a free evening. (B,L)
Day 7. Friday November 13. Mount Aconcagua Hike
Day 8. Saturday November 14. Mendoza to Bariloche
Day 9. Sunday November 15. Sail to Victoria Island & Hike in Ancient Arrayanes Forest
We resume the navigation and get close to the Millaqueo Mount, the entrance of Brazo Blest and Tristeza, areas of stunning beauty. We circumnavigate the San Pedro Peninsula to the Mirador de Bustillo (Bustillo Lookout Point). From this point we’ll have a panoramic view of the city of Bariloche and if we are lucky enough to have a clear day, we’ll have views to the 11,722 foot tall Mount Tronador, a landmark in the area. (B,L)
Day 10. Monday November 16. Hike & Kayak
Day 11. Tuesday November 17. Mount Tronador Hike
We leave Bariloche, head south and drive along the entire length of the Gutiérrez and Mascardi Lakes. Further on, the road reaches the West Arm of Mascardi Lake and we follow a winding road to Hosteria Pampa Linda and then drive towards the Saltillo de las Nalcas, a small waterfall. Upon arrival we hike across a hanging bridge to a small lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) and canes (Chusquea culeou) forest to a lookout point at the waterfall. The waterfall is surrounded by the impressive “nalca” plant (Chilean rhubarb) that has leaves that grow to over three feet in width. We return to Pampa Linda for lunch and in the afternoon we visit one of Mount Tronador´s glaciers, the Manso Glacier commonly known as Ventisquero Negro, black glacier. From our lookout point at the foot of Mount Tronador, we have amazing views of three imposing peaks including the 11,660 foot tall Mount Argentino, the 11,660 foot tall Mount Internacional and the 11,188 foot tall Mount Chileno that define the natural border between Argentina and Chile.
On the way back, we detour to visit the Cascada Los Alerces and the Los Alerces Waterfall of the Manso River, which originates on the summit of Mount Tronador and flows to the Atlantic Ocean. We return to Bariloche late in the day. (B,L,D)
Day 12. Wednesday November 18. Bariloche to Bueno Aires
Day 13. Thursday November 19. Buenos Aires – City Tour
Day 14. Friday November 20. Tour to Colonia, Uruguay
Day 15. Saturday November 21. Buenos Aires- AM Tour & Afternoon Free
Day 16. Sunday November 22. Arrive USA in Early Morning
LAND COST: Per person based on double room occupancy.
LAND COST INCLUDES: All lodging, land transportation, airport-hotel transfers, American tour director, local Argentine professional English-speaking tour guides, those meals noted in the itinerary, boat tours, kayak rentals, and entrance fees to national parks, museums and archaeological sites.
AIR FARE COSTS (within Argentina): Buenos Aires/Mendoza; Mendoza/Buenos Aires/Bariloche and Bariloche/Buenos Aires – $1,130 (subject to change)
TRIP COSTS DO NOT INCLUDE: International air fare, lunches and dinners not noted in the itinerary, travel insurance, airport taxes, Argentina reciprocity fee ($160), and personal expenses including drinks and alcoholic beverages, laundry, and tips for guides.
LAND & AIR FARE (within Argentina) COST: Per person based on double room occupancy.
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Mount Aconcagua South Wall
Bariloche – Lake Nahuel Huapi
Mendoza Wine Country
Plaza Independencia Mendoza
Lake Nahuel Huapi
Lake Moreno Bariloche
Bariloche Lake Nahuel Huapi
Lake Nahuel Huapi
Bariloche Lake Nahuel Huapi
Los Arrayanes National Park
Kayak on Moreno Lake
La Casa Rosada
Obelisco, Buenos Aires
Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires
Building of Congress, Buenos Aires
Marcelo Alejandro, our cultural guide in Buenos Aires