Enquire About This Tour Code BCU Penguino
Duration: 12 Days Route: El Calafate to Ushuaia Style: Overland Tours Price: US$2,549.00
Our expedition into southern Patagonia will captivate you with stunning glaciers, emerald green lakes, vast snow-capped peaks and a cruise on the Beagle Channel from Ushuaia the most southerly town in the world.
The tour that we operate in the reverse direction is Penguino (BUC).
Tour Dossier Introduction
- Dossier Last Updated: 27-06-2014
- Tour Code: BCU
- Duration: 11 nights / 12 days
- Joining City: El Calafate
- Departure City: Ushuaia
- Nearest Joining International Airport: El Calafate Armando Tola Intl Airport (FTE)
- Nearest Departing International Airport: Ushuaia-Malvinas Argentinas Intl Airport (USH)
Please check this document just before departing in case of last minute changes to your tour.
Entry to Torres del Paine National Park
Entry to Seno Otway Penguin Colony
Beagle Channel cruise
Tierra del Fuego National Park
8 nights in hotels, hostels & guesthouses, 3 nights assisted camping
11 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 3 dinners
Travel by Tucan Travel Expedition Vehicle, boat, taxi, on foot
Tucan Travel Tour Leader, Tucan Travel Driver, Tucan Travel cook (Torres del Paine NP), English-speaking local guide(s) on included excursions
What's not Included
International flights and departure taxes
Domestic flight taxes if applicable
Tips on included excursions, visas, travel insurance, personal items and single rooms.
Airport transfers and pre and post tour accommodation
Spending money – budget for meals, snacks, drinks, limited souvenirs, laundry, tips and any extras
Optional excursions - Please see our optional excursions guide on the dossier page for a comprehensive list of optional activities and excursions available on this tour.
Day 1 to 2 - Arrive El Calafate
The first day of your tour is simply an arrival day with no pre-organised activities. In order to allow time to relax and see some of the sights you may wish to add pre tour accommodation. On arrival please ask at the reception for information on when the pre departure meeting will be held.
We resume our journey to head for the town of El Calafate, located on the southern shore of Lake Argentino. El Calafate is our base to visit the spectacular Perito Moreno glacier. With a height of around 60 metres and a front of five kilometres (three miles), covering some 250 square kilometres the glacier is an incredible sight and is one of the few glaciers in the world to be growing slightly, not decreasing in size as most glaciers do. Named after Argentine explorer Francisco Merino, the glacier is coloured in a variety of hues from blue to grey to white and continually creaks and cracks. Advancing at a speed of around two metres per day, it can put on a spectacular show when giant chunks of ice at the outermost edges crack under tremendous pressure, rupture and crash into the water – a process known as calving. You will have the chance to walk around some paths and terraces where you can get some great views of the glacier.
Included Excursions: Moreno Glacier
Approximate Travel Time: Four Hours
Day 3 to 3 - Puerto Natales
The misty port town of Puerto Natales in Chile is an important base for agriculture and tourism. After our overnight stop-over here we continue on to the majestic Torres del Paine National Park.
Please Note: No food is allowed to be taken into Chile so please ensure you have eaten or disposed of any snacks you may have with you before we cross the border to Puerto Natales.
Approximate Travel Time: Five Hours
Day 4 to 6 - Torres del Paine National Park
You will also have the opportunity to upgrade from our campsite to a hotel for the three nights spent in the park. The hotel provides all meals and you will have access to alternative optional excursions available directly through the hotel. To see prices click here, contact a member of our Reservations Team.
Known as one of the world’s most beautiful national parks, Torres del Paine is named after three massive granite towers that rise out of the earth. Covering more than 180,000 hectares, the park boasts stunning scenery with snow covered mountain peaks, glaciers, beautiful lakes and valleys with a diverse variety of unusual flora and fauna. Some of the varied and amazing creatures you might spot include skunks, Andean condors, black-chested buzzard eagles, chilla foxes, culpeo foxes, guanacos (a relative of the llama), Chilean flamingos and rhea, a type of emu. Vividly coloured flowers, various evergreen plants and orchids may be seen. The best way to discover the national park is on foot and trekking here will take your breath away.
We have plenty of opportunity to trek the many trails in the park. Some of the walks are quite demanding, but there is a good range of options for all grades of walkers. Options include a full day trek with incredible views of the famous ‘towers’ (this walk can be demanding with the final section walking in scree, however it is well worth it), a full day trek and catamaran trip across Lago Pehoe for a full view of the Grey Glacier and a more sedate three hour scenic boat trip (dependant on boat availability). We stay in pre-erected tents in the park with all meals included (you need to bring your own sleeping bag, mattresses are provided). Camping in Torres del Paine is a great chance to explore pristine wilderness and enjoy the great outdoors.
Included Excursions: Entry to Torres del Paine National Park
Approximate Travel Time: Two Hours
Day 7 to 8 - Punta Arenas
Punta Arenas is Patagonia’s most important commercial centre and this duty free port was an early frontier town. Before the opening of the Panama Canal, the only way around South America was via the extreme southern tip of Chile and therefore Punta Arenas was a necessary stopping point in the Pacific-Atlantic shipping route. There is time to visit Zona Franca, the duty free district en route to Punta Arenas.
We also visit the nearby Magellanic penguin colony at Seno Otway (Otway Inlet), where around five thousand pairs of these strange, docile birds return annually between November and February to burrow, breed and raise their young, in their birthplace. You can watch the comic antics of these special penguins from special viewing platforms as they march back and forth between their burrows and the sea where they search for food. Each pair raises two chicks per season and takes turns looking after the young. Mating occurs in October and brooding over the eggs follows in November. From mid November to mid December the eggs hatch, then throughout January and February the newborns change their features and start to swim. From mid March to April the penguins head back to the southern coast of Brazil and the Atlantic Islands.
Included Excursions: Seno Otway Penguin Colony
Approximate Travel Time: Five Hours
Day 9 to 11 - Ushuaia
Next we cross the Straits of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) and re-enter Argentina, on the scenic drive to Ushuaia.
Ushuaia is the most southern city in the world with a setting that's hard to beat, dramatically located between towering mountains and icy sea. Here we can enjoy an included cruise on the blue waters of the Beagle Channel, named after Charles Darwin’s boat HMS Beagle. As we explore the straight which separates the islands of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, keep your eyes peeled for whole colonies of sea lions, penguins, cormorants and albatross. We may even be lucky enough to see a whale.
We then visit the nearby Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) National Park, where the Pan American Highway ends 17,848 kilometres from its starting point in Alaska. The national park, which has often been compared with Alaska’s panhandle, covers 63,000 hectares of mountains, lakes, deep valleys, glaciers and rivers. You can trek along various trails through the beautiful beech forests, spotting wildlife along the way, including guanacos, foxes, beavers, condors and oyster catchers.
There are also some interesting museums in Ushuaia which reveal its interesting natural and colonial history, such as the Maritime Museum and Museum at the End of the World. At the Ushuaia tourist office you can have your passport stamped with an official End of the World stamp. Those interested in steam trains might like to go for a train ride on the Tren del Fin del Mundo or End of the World Train.
Included Excursions: Beagle Channel cruise • Tierra del Fuego National Park
Approximate Travel Time: Full travel day
Day 12 to 12 - Depart Ushuaia
Your adventure of a lifetime comes to an end today. If you have a late flight or have lengthened your stay by adding post tour accommodation you will have more time to explore the sights.
Day by Day Itinerary
|Day 1||El Calafate||Argentina|
|Day 2||El Calafate||Patagonia||B|
|Day 3||Puerto Natales||Chile||BL|
|Day 4||Torres del Paine National Park||BD|
|Day 5||Torres del Paine National Park||BLD|
|Day 6||Torres del Paine National Park||BLD|
|Day 7||Punta Arenas||BL|
|Day 8||Punta Arenas||B|
(B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner included)
For tours that include the option of a single supplement, a ✔ will indicate in which destinations single rooms are available.
The detailed and day by day itineraries above are provided in good faith and it is our intention to adhere to the published route. Changes may be made before or during your tour for operational or safety reasons or to incorporate improvements. Impromptu changes may also occur whilst you are travelling as a result of one-off circumstances such as an excursion being closed on a particular day, weather conditions or transport. Delays are rare but occur occasionally and for this reason and the reasons above this itinerary should be considered as a guide only. Published transport times are approximations and may vary depending on local conditions.
This is an Overland Tour, travelling by custom built vehicle and camping along the route. There is a maximum of 34 travellers with an average group size of 15-24. Please read the Overland Tour travel style dossier to ensure you understand the style of travel you are undertaking: http://www.tucantravel.com/travel-styles/dossier/overland-tours
Joining your tour
Your joining location is:
Hostal Del Glaciar Libertador
Tel: (+54) 29 0249 1792
The hotel should have safe deposit boxes for your use (you will get an itemised receipt). Please leave all of your important documents, money and travellers cheques here when you go out but remember to carry some form of ID and a photocopy of your passport with you. It is advisable not to wear chains or expensive looking watches or jewellery while in major South American cities. You should also keep your camera concealed when not in use and carry daypacks on your front for extra safety.
Arriving in El Calafate
If you are flying to El Calafaté via Buenos Aires we recommend you change money at Buenos Aires airport. Change enough into the local currency (pesos) for at least the first four or five days of your trip, especially if you are arriving on a Saturday night. If you do not have time at Buenos Aires airport you should be able to change money at El Calafate airport and in the town although services will be more limited.
Airport transfers are not included in the tour price and must be booked separately in advance through Tucan Travel. If you have booked an airport/hotel transfer with us, please look out for someone with a sign which has your name, Tucan Travel, or both after exiting the customs hall.
If you have booked an arrival transfer with us and you are going to be delayed by more than two hours, you must advise us of the delay at least six hours before arrival. If we are advised in time, we will make every effort to reschedule your transfer and your driver will be asked to wait for two hours after your new expected arrival time. However, if we are not made aware of any change, the driver will only wait for two hours after the original scheduled arrival time and after this point it will be up to you to arrange transport to your hotel at your own expense. Please contact us on the emergency contact details below if you are likely to be delayed.
Making your own way
If you would prefer to make your own way to and from your hotel, El Calafate airport is 23 kilometres east of town and a taxi to our hotel should cost approx US$8. Alternatively ‘Aerobus’ provide a door to door shuttle service for US$3.
When you arrive on day one of your trip, you should find some local information at the hotel lobby. Your tour leader will be staying in the hotel and should have put up a welcome note to let you know what room they are in. A pre-departure meeting is usually held in the afternoon or early evening of day one. You will need to bring the following important items to the meeting with your tour leader:
- Your passport, including any necessary visas and at least one photocopy to give to your tour leader
- Vaccination certificates if relevant to any destinations on your tour
- Travel insurance policy and a photocopy to give to your tour leader
- Your travel voucher
- Your local payment in US$ cash (Budget Expeditions only)
Missing the tour departure
If you miss the start of your tour, please ask at the reception of the hotel for a message from your tour leader which will give you instructions on how to catch up with the group. Any associated costs will be at your own expense (although, depending on the reason, you may be able to claim these from your travel insurance so ensure you keep all receipts).
If you know in advance that you are unlikely to arrive on time, please contact Tucan Travel immediately so we can inform the tour leader. Tucan Travel cannot be held responsible should your airline/boat/coach be delayed and we are unable to refund any unused portion of your tour.
Punctuality is very important and throughout the tour your tour leader will give you the time to meet in reception. Tour leaders will often post notes at reception with meeting times, so remember to always look out for these.
Although rare, delays can occur and we therefore advise you not to arrange your onward travel too close to the end of the tour. We take no responsibility for any missed flights or additional expenses If the group arrives late into the departure city at the end of the tour.
Emergency Contact Details
In the case of an emergency before you meet your tour leader, please contact Rolf Stanley, Latin American Destination Manager:
Tel: (+51) 984 76 21 64 (phone only)
In the unlikely event that you unable to reach the number above, please contact Keiko on (+51) 984 65 3726
Please note that these numbers are a service for emergency calls only. We respectfully request that you consider the urgency of your enquiry. Non-urgent enquiries should be made during office hours. Please be considerate of time zones.
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5.30pm; Saturday 9am-1pm (based in Peru)
Keeping in Touch
Your tour leader will point out internet cafes in all major cities and towns and Wi-Fi may be available in some hotels. Mobile phones may not work locally depending on your network. If you have an unlocked phone you may be able to purchase a local SIM card. Hotel details, apart from the joining hotel, are not given in advance and are subject to change, so if someone needs to contact you urgently during your tour the best method is to contact our office who can pass a message on to the tour leader.
For personal spending money you should bring US dollars to use alongside the local currency (where applicable). Some countries do not accept US dollars printed before 2006 and it can be very difficult to obtain US dollars in Brazil. While bank cards provide a very good way to access funds overall, it is not recommended to rely on them as your sole source of funds as cash machines do not always work and may not be available in remote locations. Carry a mix of cards and cash with you, including notes in small denominations.
Your spending money should cover some meals, optional excursions, souvenirs, drinks, laundry, border and airport taxes and any visas obtained locally. We provide guideline prices for optional excursions in the itinerary to help you budget, but ultimately the amount you will need to budget for your trip very much depends on your individual requirements. We recommend bringing extra money to cover emergencies or unexpected situations.
Tipping is a part of the life in South America, but you should not feel obliged or pressured to tip if you have not received good service. A gratuity of 10% of the total bill is recommended in restaurants. Gratuities are usually expected for local guides on included and optional excursions. Tips are also appreciated by Tucan Travel tour leaders at the end of your tour and we recommend an average of $2-$4 per person per day for the duration of your tour. This is only if you feel that their service was up to standard and is completely at your own discretion.
The best advice when packing is to travel light and leave space for souvenirs in your bag.
The majority of the time, your luggage will either stay in the overland truck or a few metres away in your tent. However, it is important to remember that in some major cities and towns, you will be staying in hotels and hostels and the overland truck may struggle to get down narrow or busy roads and you may need to walk from the parked truck to your accommodation, potentially down cobbled streets or dirt roads. Space is also an issue on the overland truck and with up to 34 other passengers, it is important to take a versatile and sturdy rucksack that can take wear and tear.
We recommend a frameless backpack or a sports type shoulder bag which fits comfortably on your shoulders, as they are less bulky and easier to handle than rigid suitcases or framed backpacks. Suitcases are not suitable for our tours and are not recommended. Tucan Travel takes no responsibility for damage to your luggage while on tour.
In addition to your main bag, you will need a small daypack for your everyday excursions. Try to keep this bag as light as possible and make sure that all main sections of your bags can be padlocked. This daypack should have enough room to carry food and snacks for long hikes and treks and space to carry belongings for overnight excursions.
Sleeping Bags and Mats
Sleeping bags and sleeping mats are essential. For all tours through Patagonia and areas of high altitude (such as the Inca Trail) we recommend a four season bag with side zip which can be opened out when you reach warmer weather. If you do not have a four season sleeping bag, you may be able to purchase extra blankets locally. If you are doing an ‘Amazonia’ Overland Tour, you do not need a thick sleeping bag as the climate will be warmer. However, please be aware that weather can change from region to region and quite suddenly.
Therm-a-rest self inflating mattresses are comfortable and provide protection against the cold ground, while foam roll mats are compact, inexpensive and have similar features. Avoid air mattresses as these can be bulky and puncture easily.
Clothing and Footwear
We recommend packing lightweight and durable clothes. Nights can be cold at higher altitude (Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador) and in southern Patagonia, so it is a good idea to bring at least one pair of warm trousers plus several thinner sweaters / fleeces which you can layer. Please avoid military or camouflage-patterned clothing as it can cause problems and in some countries may be illegal.
Good, comfortable walking shoes are essential. These do not need to be expensive boots, but they should have good ankle support and grip, be worn in and ideally waterproof.
- A lightweight water/windproof jacket with hood
- East to pack wide-brimmed hat of cap
- Towel - you will need a towel for most overnight excursions
- Sandals or thongs/jandals/flip flops
There are usually laundromats or laundry services in or near most of our hotels. Hotel services can be pretty costly however your tour leader will be able to recommend cheaper options. If you wash clothes yourself take care not to be too obvious where you hang them as most hotels do not like guests washing and drying their clothes in the hotel rooms.
The power supply and plug types in South America vary from country to country. The power supply in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay is 220-240 volts and uses either a typical European rounded two prong plug or North American flat pronged plug (Argentina also sometimes uses a 3-pronged plug such as that used in Australia). In Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela it is 120 volts with North America flat pronged plug. Brazil has both voltages depending on the region and uses a number of different outlets. We recommend bringing a universal plug adaptor with you. You can also charge your iPods, MP3 players, laptops, cameras, etc using power boards aboard the overland truck, while travelling.
Health, Fitness & Safety
It is important to consult your doctor or travel clinic in good time before your tour departs to determine what vaccinations you require. You may need several vaccinations and/or malaria tablets and you should be aware that some inoculations require more than one visit and can take several weeks to administer. Always carry your International Certificate of Vaccination with your passport.
For areas with malaria, make sure you pack sufficient prophylactics for the duration of your tour and the incubation period after. Some countries prevent entry for travellers without a valid Yellow Fever certificate. This must be acquired before departure and takes ten days for your body to build up a resistance. This certificate must be taken with you on your tour with a photocopy stored somewhere safe.
Pack a Medical Kit
A medical kit is handy for minor wounds and ailments. In areas with limited or dubious medical facilities, an emergency medical kit containing sterile syringes is also advisable. By law our staff are not allowed to administer first aid or give drugs to travellers, so please be prepared with your own supplies.
If you are taking medication, please ensure you bring an adequate supply and a letter from your doctor to avoid potential issues at border crossings.
Fitness & Suitability
This is a participatory tour involving camping and with basic facilities at times. Disruptions are likely, and while your tour leader will make every effort to ensure your trip runs smoothly, patience, a sense of humour and willingness to get involved are essential ingredients for a successful and happy overland group.
If you have any pre-existing medical conditions please let us know at the time you book or as early before departure as possible. Depending on the severity of the condition, you may be asked to produce a medical certificate from your doctor approving your participation in this tour. While this would only happen in very exceptional circumstances, if we consider you incapable completing this tour or you have concealed an existing medical condition which is affecting your ability to participate in the tour of Tucan Travel reserve the right to turn you away without reimbursement.
Safety & Security
South America is generally very safe, even more so in a group. Reasonable precaution is advised; do not bring valuable jewellery or watches (even fakes can catch the eye of a thief), do not walk by yourself at night, heed your tour leader’s advice and always keep an eye and a hand on your camera and bags in public places.
In some countries it is customary to leave a gratuity of 20-50 cents when using public conveniences. An attendant may collect this or a dish/box will be left out. Our vehicles do not have toilets on board for hygiene and logistical reasons. This may mean roadside toilet stops on travel days and our crew always try and stop in isolated areas with as much privacy as possible if this is necessary. There will be some occasions where free camping is necessary. On these occasions there will not be any facilities available and you will have to use the facilities mother nature provided. On these occasions we recommend wet wipes while your Tour Leader will tell you about environmentally sound 'bush toilet' practises.
If you would like to discover more about your destination, including history, geography, climate and language, please have a read of our country travel guides available here: http://www.tucantravel.com/destination-travel-guides/south-america-travel-guides.
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after you have finished your tour with sufficient blank pages for visas and immigration stamps. Photocopy your passport, leaving one copy at home and taking one with you on tour. If you lose your passport while on tour, you will be responsible for any expenses incurred such as extra accommodation and transport while replacing your passport and will not be entitled to a refund of any unused portion of your tour.
Before you depart you will be issued with a voucher for your tour and separate vouchers for any extra services such as airport transfers and pre/post tour accommodation. Please print these out and bring them with you. This dossier is updated regularly, so we recommend checking our website for the latest version just prior to the start of your tour.
The balance for your tour is due no later than 60 days prior to the start of your tour and no tour vouchers will be issued until this is received. In addition please send the following details at least 60 days before you depart:
- Passport number, date of issue, date of expiry, nationality and place of issue
- Your full name and date of birth
- Flight arrival details in your starting city
- Special requirements, e.g. special dietary requirements or allergies
Please let us know if you are travelling with another person on the tour but have made separate bookings and we will endeavour to make suitable rooming arrangements.
All countries have visa requirements that are subject to change at short notice. A general guideline for visa requirements is available here: http://www.tucantravel.com/before-you-go/visa-guide, but you must check with your local embassy or consulate for the very latest visa requirement information based on your nationality. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have all necessary visas for your tour. If you would like help applying for visas, we have recommended visa agencies on our visa page that we work with regularly.
Important things to check when applying for visas:
- Does the validity of the visa cover the duration of your time spent in the country?
- Do you require a single or multiple entry visa(s) for your tour?
- Are you required to show additional documentation when you arrive in a country? (Examples include proof of onward travel and travel itinerary)
Some visas are only valid for entry within three months of the date of issue which means on some of our longer tours the visa would expire before you are scheduled to enter the country. In these cases you must obtain the relevant visa during your tour. If it is necessary for you to obtain any visas en-route, please contact Tucan Travel or your travel consultant and inform your tour leader at the start of the tour. If you do not have the appropriate visas, Tucan Travel will not reimburse any expenses incurred in acquiring visas or any unused portion of the tour.
It is best to apply for visas in your home country if possible. If applying for visas by post, please allow plenty of time before departure and send your application by registered mail. Postal applications tend to be given a lower priority than in person applications and can take longer to process.
Special Note: If you have dual nationality it is advised not to obtain different visas in different passports. Although this may sometimes be cheaper, you may encounter problems at border crossings if your exit stamps from one country are not the same as your visa for the next.
Travel Insurance Policy
Travel insurance is compulsory for all tours. You must be adequately insured for medical, hospital, baggage and personal expenses, any necessary extra travel (rejoining tour or repatriation) as well as curtailment and cancellation.
We strongly recommend that all clients carry a copy of their full policy document with them at all times, together with any certificate showing the policy number and emergency contact details. Your tour leader will also ask for a photocopy of your insurance document, so please take this to the pre-departure meeting at the start of your tour. You will not be able to commence your tour unless you can provide proof of insurance to your tour leader.
- Tour Voucher & Vouchers for extra services
- Passport (with photocopies of information pages and visas)
- Tour Dossier
- Cash & credit/debit cards (best to take a mixture and more than one card in case one does not work)
- Travel Insurance Certificate and photocopy for tour leader
- Travel consultant's phone number and email address
- Proof of onward travel, ie airline ticket
Optional excursions are not operated by Tucan Travel and while every effort is made prices may not be up-to-date and are intended as a general guide to help you budget for your trip. Prices for vehicle-based excursions such as game drives are approximate based on the optimum number of participants and the actual price may vary depending on group size.
Sufficient safety equipment such as helmets and life jackets are sometimes not available and Tucan Travel is unable to provide this equipment. If you intend to participate in an optional excursion you may like to consider bringing your own safety gear.
Excursions are run by a local operator or third party with both Tucan Travel and the Tour Leader acting as a booking agent only. Optional activities are not part of the tour and Tucan Travel’s booking conditions do not apply to them. It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct travel insurance for the excursions you intend to take part in and Tucan Travel is not liable for any injuries incurred.
We work hard to ensure our tours are sustainably and ethically run. You can read our responsible travel policy and advice on how you can travel responsibly here: http://www.tucantravel.com/about-us/responsible-travel.
Our free Meet Up app, available on Facebook, on iTunes and Google Play is an opportunity to chat with others passengers before you depart or keep in touch when you arrive back from tour. Information on the app is available here: http://www.tucantravel.com/before-you-go/meet-up
Add-ons & Extras
On many of our Group Tours, we spend one night in our arrival and departure cities. If you want to explore these cities more we can book pre and post tour accommodation, city tours and airport transfers for you. Price information can be found on the price page of each tour. We also have Add-ons - short packages that can be booked alongside a tour or on their own and have been carefully designed to ensure you don't miss out on popular highlights.
The possession or use of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our tours. When overseas you are subject to local laws and the penalties for breaking these laws can be harsh. In order to safeguard the interests of the group as a whole, our tour leaders have been instructed to insist that any person found with illegal drugs leave the tour immediately – without refund. The tour leader’s decision on this matter is final. If you need to carry certain drugs with you for purposes of medication, please inform your tour leader and ensure that you carry a copy of your prescription or letter from your doctor.