Guided trek up Aconcagua, climbing up to the summit via the 360 route.

This expedition to the top of Aconcagua involves hiking up the beautiful Vacas Valley and descending the shorter normal route.

Fully supported, this challenging hike gives you a beautiful 360 degree journey around Aconcagua.

This is South America’s highest mountain, which stands at 6,962m/22,841ft, and the second highest of the Seven Summits.

Aconcagua is also known as the world’s highest hiking peak as it can be climbed without mountaineering experience.

More on climbing Aconcagua, 360 route

We’ve built in lots of acclimatisation to give you the best chance to reach the top, walking up the scenic and quieter Vacas Valley.

Once you’ve summited we walk down the shorter Normal Route, giving you a full view of Aconcagua while descending.

The itinerary is strenuous and a great challenge, albeit not technically demanding. It’s suitable for most adventurous people with a good level of physical fitness.

Any experience of winter trekking and camping in remote mountain areas is a plus, but our excellent English-speaking guides can instruct you.

Find out more by reading Tom’s blog about the climb to the rooftop of the Americas.



Trip Highlights

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  • Climb to the top of South America's highest peak, a fantastic achievement and great challenge.

  • A complete 360 view of Aconcagua, walk up the Vacas Valley and descend via the Normal Route.

  • Fully qualified, professional, local and bilingual mountain guides who have summited many times, with a ratio of one guide to every 3 to 4 clients.

  • Plenty of acclimatisation built in to give you the best chance to summit.

  • Two buffer days in case of poor weather on summit day.

  • Great food, equipment and briefings - ideal preparation - plus hire extra porters to help lighten your loads.

I did a very enjoyable mountain holiday in Aconcagua. I am one of the five people who reached the summit in our group (we were 16 people in total).

In my opinion, the 360 route is an excellent route for non-technical climbers, the landscape is far more than the normal route. So, the whole ascent can be treated as the highlight, especially from the end of approaching day 2 (when you first see the Mt. Aconcagua) to Camp 3.

The summit day was tough, and the temperature was extremely low (below -30 to -40 celsius is very common including wind chill). You have to insist on, otherwise, you may easily give up.

In Mendoza, the facility of hotel is very good, and reception staff can speak very good English.

We had 4 guides, all of them were very good.

South America is a magic land, it is my fourth time to visit there, but definitely I will go back again and again.

Zhengwei Lu, Aconcagua 360

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Mendoza, transfer to hotel

Join the tour in Mendoza, where you will be met at the airport.

From your arrival in Mendoza on day one until departing Mendoza on day 20, an English-speaking guide will be on hand to provide information and iron out any problems.

We drive you to your hotel in a private vehicle and after you rest, you can meet the guide that will check your equipment. You can rent any extra kit required in Mendoza if needs be. Either this evening or tomorrow morning, we’ll sort out our Aconcagua climbing permits.

You have the chance to taste the delicious argentine “asado” (barbecued meat) and wonderful wines from Mendoza. There are numerous alternatives for those who do not drink wine or eat red meats. Dinner in Argentina is usually around 9:00 P.M.

Afterwards, there is a group meal (not included, scheduled for about 21.00) where you can talk about the challenge ahead and get to know your trekking mates. (1 night hotel, no meals included)

Day 2: Travel to Penitentes (2,700m) (B,D)

Today it’s most likely that we’ll get the permits sorted.

Then, our van drives us and our kit to a small town on the way to the start of our expeditions, called Penitentes (2,700m/8,858ft).

Here we organise mule loads, and spend the night.

Day 3: Trek Penitentes to Pampa de Leñas (2,950m) (B,L,D)

After a night in Penitentes, we are transported to the entrance of Aconcagua Park, Punta de Vacas.

Here the horsemen load the equipment on the mules and we set off for our walk to Base Camp, which takes three days.

The trek today is mainly flat as we enter the broad and colourful Vacas Valley. You’ll need a sunhat on, as the sun can be strong here.

Today we trek from four to five hours up to the camp Pampa de Leñas (2,950m/9,678ft).

At Pampa de Leñas,we present our permits to the park rangers, we meet up with our equipment and we assemble the tents for our first night camping under the stars.

Day 4: Trek Pampa de Leñas to Casa de Piedras (3,240m) (B,L,D)

After breakfast and breaking camp, we cross a bridge 500m upstream from the camp, heading up the east side of the Vacas Valley.

This is a good and easily followed path to Casa de Piedra (3,240m/10,630ft), our next camp.

It is here that the Relinchos valley joins the main Vacas Valley.

We also pass through the Quebrada de Vacas, catching our first sight of Aconcagua’s western face – stunning.

Six to seven hours’ walk today approx. then make camp.

Day 5: Trek Casa de Piedras to base camp, Plaza Argentina (4,200m) (B,L,D)

From Casa de Piedra, we cross the Rio de las Vacas, which is sure to cool the feet and wake you up this morning!

We continue walking up the Relinchos valley on a good but steep path, with occasional glimpses of Aconcagua.

We cross the Relinchos river twice and following a wide valley to Plaza Argentina, six to seven hours’ walk approx. You’ll notice that we start to say goodbye to vegetation as we climb towards Aconcagua’s glaciers.

Plaza Argentina is our base camp, set amongst amongst the moraines of the Relinchos Glacier (4,200m/13,780ft).

Note: This is the highest point to which the mules go. From here we carry our own equipment with the help of porters (who carry the tents) as we proceed up the mountain.

Day 6: Rest day base camp, Plaza Argentina (4,200m) (B,L,D)

At Plaza de Argentina we rest and use the day for acclimatisation.

This is a good opportunity to get to know the camp, take a shower and explore the area. We get together with the guide, do a medical check, reorganise and review our equipment, prepare the loads, the fuel and food for transportation for the next day.

Note: There are two buffer days available during this trek to allow for acclimatisation and poor weather.

Day 7: Carry food and kit to camp 1 (5,000m), return to Plaza Argentina (B,L,D)

This is an acclimatisation day, following the adage of walk high and sleep low so that we can get used to these higher altitudes.

It’s also a practical day, as we carry some of our food and fuel for later in the climb to camp 1.

We ferry our supplies up the mountain in a gradual way, so as to keep backpack weights as light as possible at all times. Having said that, you will carry a heavy pack today as take up food and fuel.

We return to Plaza Argentina for a good feed and to relax after a six hour walking day.

Day 8: Rest day base camp, Plaza Argentina (4,200m) (B,L,D)

Rest day at base camp, relaxing and recharging energy. Eat a lot, drink a lot, relax.

Day 9: Trek to camp 1 (5,000m) (B,L,D)

We start the ascent to the summit today, leaving basecamp and heading to camp 1.

It will feel more like the start of the expedition to the summit today as we leave kit behind and take only what we need.

We know the route as we are repeating the first section of the Polish Route, to get to camp 1.

It’s five to six hour walking on easy terrain to camp 1, where this time we set up camp and stay to sleep (5,000m/16,404ft).

Here, we amalgamate today’s loads with those we carried up before, assemble the camp and divide the loads to carry tomorrow.

Day 10: Carry food and kit to camp 2 (5,500m), return to camp 1 (B,L,D)

We continue with our gradual acclimatisation to the altitude.

During this carry of supplies to high camp 2, we reach a level of 5,500m.

This is a hard day for most trekkers, with about six hours of walking.

The terrain is easy, but you will probably feel the altitude at these heights. We return to camp 1 to recover from this first exposure to walking up high.

Note:  The whole ascent is non-technical. The main difficulties are caused by altitude and, potentially, acute meteorological conditions. We will be very prudent in this regard. Certain signs (e.g. the presence of lenticular clouds, denoting strong winds and changing conditions) could mean abandoning ascent or turning back. There may be a variety of points of view within a group, but the guides’ decisions are always final.

Day 11: Rest day at camp 1 (5,000m) (B,L,D)

Today we relax, conserving energy, eating and hydrating.

This is an extremely important rest day.

Day 12: Trek to camp 2 (5,500m) (B,L,D)

We ascend from camp 1 to camp 2 following the Ameghino Traverse Route.

Once again, we amalgamate today’s loads with those we carried the day before, assemble the camp and divide the loads to carry tomorrow.

We rest and have dinner, tonight we are sleeping at 5,500m / 18,045ft.

Day 13: Ascent to camp 3, Colera (6,000m) (B,L,D)

Today sees us climb for four hours to the next camp at around 6,000m/19,685ft.

Early morning, after breakfast and breaking camp, we start ascending. The climb is diagonal and towards the right hand side to start.

Camp 3 is at the same height as the Berlin refuge (on the Normal Route), strategically situated because it is so close to the Normal Route, and for its altitude and shelter from from the wind.

From there, we have superb views of the highest peaks around.

We place our last high altitude camp here, the guide individually reviews each member of the group and gives his final recommendations. We also plan the final strategy for the last day of ascent to assure success in reaching the summit.

Day 14: Summit day (6,962m), return to camp 3 (6,000m) (B,L,D)

Summit day. We begin our climb very early, aiming to reach the summit by noon approximately.

The summit (6,962m/22,841ft) is reached after some 8-10 hours ascent from camp, and this is the toughest day of the trek.

The south face (3,000m) is directly below us as we climb the North Ridge to Independencia Refuge.

Then we ascend through the “Portezuelo del Viento”, climb “La Canaleta”, and then the “Filo del Guanaco” that finally leads us to the summit. The prize is waiting for us, a 360° view.

The last 200 metres of the climb are extremely strenuous because of loose scree and strong winds. We carry crampons with us in case there is hard snow on this section.

Once we reach the summit, there is time to get the camera out and get the all important picture before we head back down to the Cólera camp with success in our back pocket.

Note 1: The whole ascent is non-technical. The main difficulties are caused by altitude and, potentially, acute meteorological conditions. We will be very prudent in this regard. Certain signs (e.g. the presence of lenticular clouds, denoting strong winds and changing conditions) could mean abandoning ascent or turning back. There may be a variety of points of view within a group, but the guides’ decisions are always final.

Note 2:  Above 6,400 metres hard snow is sometimes encountered (varies from year to year). It is when you encounter these conditions that the crampons (both step-in or strap-on are OK, depending on boot type & personal preference) and ice axe (walking axe – 60-75 cm long) come into their own. Snow-covered areas tend to be short and intermittent (maybe 150 metres of crampon-wearing at a time) and gradients are typically around 30 degrees. Fixed ropes are not used, and you will rarely be roped up. If at any stage you are very tired or unsure of your footing, a guide may short-rope you (ropes are provided by us). The final 200m of ascent to the summit is on loose scree and is very tiring but not in itself dangerous. Crampons and ice axe may only be used for one day on Aconcagua.

Days 15-16: Buffer days (B,L,D)

Buffer days. These extra days are built in to provide the best possible conditions for summiting.

Note: Tour may end on Day 17 or 18 if no buffer days are used. Extra nights’ hotel and meals in Mendoza not included.

Day 17: Trek camp 3 to Plaza de Mulas basecamp (4,250m) (B,L,D)

Descend to Plaza de Mulas base camp, the largest camp on Aconcagua!

With the summit in the bag, and your ‘extra’ that was left at first base camp transported to Plazas de Mulas, it’s time to celebrate.

Look back for new views to the summit of Aconcagua – especially the West Face – and look forward to a celebratory dinner for all back in the comforts of the basecamp.

Day 18: Trek out to Penitentes, transfer to Mendoza, hotel (B,L)

We have breakfast and then start the descent from Plaza de Mulas to Penitentes.

Our private transport is waiting to take us back to the hotel in Mendoza.

Day 19: Tour ends (B)

The end of our tour – continue your travels or transfer out to the airport.


Prices From $4,968 / £4,213 per person

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What's Included?

Professional mountain guides and assistants, assistance buying climbing permit, radio communication, GPS, tents, cooking equipment and utensils, mountain equipment (ropes, harnesses, carabiners, maps, compass etc), crampons and technical equipment, arrival transfer airport-Mendoza, accommodation and meals as indicated (shared room/tent basis), trek drinking water (hot and cold), mules to carry personal kit in-out to and from Penitentes and Base Camp, dining dome and toilets at base camp, free Internet and device charging at base camp, free hot shower at base camp, porters to carry communal equipment (not personal kit).

What's Not Included?

Any flights, personal equipment, tips, extra nights required, permit fee (USD 900 high season/USD 700 med/low season, approx.), services not mentioned in this program, alcoholic/soft drinks, insurance, transfer out to airport at end of trek, any extra nights’ hotel in Mendoza or Penitentes


Accommodation

In Mendoza, you spend two nights in a three star hotel in the city centre.

In Penitentes, you spend on night at the Ayelen Hotel, which is more like a hostal type establishment.

On the mountain, you use a top quality, high altitude mountain tent. The tent could be mixed gender basis, each trekker carrying 3kg (half) of the shared tent.

Price above based on shared room and tent (could be mixed gender) basis, each trekker carrying 3kg (half) of the shared tent.

If you choose a single room and single tent (extra cost), you carry all parts of your own tent, which could be up to 4-6kg. We have a limited supply of 4kg tents.

If you choose this single basis and want help carrying your tent, you need to hire a porter (will carry up to 20kg).

Tour Staff

We use professional, experienced and highly qualified bilingual, local guides.

They have all required with qualifications/training:

 

  • Provincial School for Mountain and Trekking Guides (EPGAMT),the only school that specialises in Aconcagua
  • Accredited by the Argentine Association for Mountain Guides (AAGM)
  • Members of the Professional Mountain and Trekking Guides Association  (AGPMT).

 

Some of the guides also have their licences from the IFMGA.


Meals

Almost all meals are included in our Aconcagua tours. We can cater for almost all dietary requirements – please ask in advance.

 

Base camp

At base camp, your meals are prepared and served to you in a fully-equipped dining tent.

Meals are prepared daily by cooks at basecamps and lower levels, where burning fuel and getting ingredients is much easier.

Breakfast will be a mix of hot drinks, cereals, fruits and toast with jams. Lunches will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese with crackers, with fruits etc. available on trips from basecamps.

Basecamp meals are large and feature bread, vegetables, meats and hot drinks. Offerings include fresh fruit, meat, chicken, vegetables, fresh eggs, bread and crackers.

 

Higher camps

Further up the mountain in camps 1-3, your guide and assistant bring you breakfast to your tent, usually a hot drink (this may not be possible at higher camps), crackers and cakes.

After breakfast, packs are prepared and your guide explains the day’s walk, and you typically walk 3-4 hours in the morning before lunch, with a short or break or two en route.

Lunch, while out walking, will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese with crackers.

At the higher camps, guides will cook rice and pasta dishes for evening meals. Extreme conditions mean meal choices, while plentiful and giving energy needed for the treks, are more limited.

Activity Level

Psychologically and climatically, Aconcagua can be likened to a small 8,000m/26,247ft peak, and merits utmost respect.

To maximise the chance of summit success, we plan acclimatisation rigorously. Our guides are experienced mountaineers and we typically employ one mountain guide to every three clients. Extreme altitude and climate (upper slopes are often buffeted by 65mph/100kph + winds and temperatures can reach -30°C) make it physically very tough.

Good preparation and suitable high mountain clothing are essential. Any previous wild camping and winter experience are a plus, but experience in crampon and ice axe use is not essential; a grounding is provided in the use of equipment.

Mules are used to transport food and climbing equipment to (and rubbish out from) the base camps on all the routes.

Group members and guides carry just a day sack to Base Camps, with mules carrying everything else. However, above these Base Camps, you carry all of your own equipment in a large backpack (15-25kg) up and down the mountain. Porters above base camp are available at extra cost.

To get the most out of this expedition you should be in very good physical condition. Aconcagua is a long and tiring climb. Grading the fitness level required for this expedition is a subjective matter, but we can safely classify it as very strenuous. We suggest you talk to your doctor if you are in any doubt as to your physical capability.

We will walk approximately five to eight hours per day (occasionally more), at times carrying personal luggage, plus some camping equipment, at high altitudes. The two climbs involve several ascents and descents (often long and steep). They also involve short periods on snow and ice.

You typically walk 3-4 hours in the morning before lunch, with a short or break or two en route.

After an hour or so for lunch – depending on weather conditions – you will continue your walk, usually 3-4 hours more, although some days are shorter or longer than others, and then relax before dinner at Basecamp. If you approaching a new campsite higher than basecamp, you will put your tents up while your guide readies your meal.

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Practical Information

Introduction to Argentina

Argentina is a land of contrast.

Nothing states this better than the fact it features the highest point in the South America, Aconcagua, and the lowest, Salinas Chicas, 40m below sea level.

Its vastness – it is the eighth largest country in the world – and diversity are just part of the appeal. A fantastic culture of fine wine and dining sits alongside its adventurous and beautiful landscapes.

The local’s cheery disposition and fantastic word plays add to the enjoyment of being in this fascinating country.

The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.

There are distinct regions of Argentina, from the Andean culture of the North West to the rancho lifestyle of the plains of Patagonia to the eternally seductive Buenos Aires.

Geography of Argentina

Argentina’s neighbours are Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.

The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa.

There is jungle in the extreme northeast while the southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia.

The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Close to Aconcagua lies Mendoza, an area famed for its fine wine production.

The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert.

Most Antarctic cruises embark and disembark in Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, allowing access to the South Pole, South Georgia and also the Falkland Islands.

Aconcagua climate

Climate:

This itinerary takes place within a narrow band of latitudes (32° to 34° south), but covers a very wide range of altitudes.

It also traverses many geographic and climatic zones, from the sun-baked streets of Santiago and Mendoza (both just a few hundred metres above sea level) to Cerro Aconcagua (6,959 metres), on whose upper slopes extreme cold and winds are the norm.

(N.B. All departures coincide with the southern hemisphere summer. Text below refers to this season).

Temperatures

Temperatures are very different during the day or the night. This is a guideline:

 

Approach:                      Night 0ºC;                     Day 20 to 30ºC

Base camp:                    Night -10ºC;                   Day 10 to 20ºC

High camps:                   Night -20ºC;                  Day -10 to 10ºC

Extreme temperatures: Minimum -30ºC                Maximum 42ºC

Be aware that Aconcagua is a windy mountain and chill factor should be considered.

The Andes: Much of this itinerary takes place above 4,000 metres, and extended periods are spent above 5,000m.

Climatic conditions in the Central High Andes of Chile and Argentina usually originate in the Pacific Ocean anticyclone. The humid westerly air currents that it sends inland collide with the Andes and, from time to time, bring severe conditions. Cerro Aconcagua, due to its great altitude and bulk, is especially susceptible, and periodically its upper slopes (above 5,200m) get buffeted by 150kph winds. Such conditions will often create a vast lenticular cloud above the summit. Even when the conditions at Plaza de Mulas camp (4,200m) appear fine and windless, the presence of this cloud formation signifies strong winds, extreme cold and snowstorms high on the mountain. It is also a sign that the upper mountain should be abandoned.

Summer temperatures of minus 30°C high on Aconcagua are not unusual. Just before dawn at our high camps in-tent temperatures commonly reach minus 15 or minus 20°C, and near the summit, wind chill can lower temperatures to minus 40°C. Very high up on Aconcagua, temperatures never get very high. Even at base camp (4,200m), rare southerly winds sometimes bring temperatures of minus 18°C. Severe electrical storms are another (occasional) summer phenomenon, and should not be underestimated.

Nevertheless, summer days and nights on Aconcagua can also be relatively tame. On still days at noon, it might be possible to hang around base camp in a bathing suit! On particularly benign, windless days, it is sometimes feasible to stand on Aconcagua’s summit at noon wearing only a few layers. The fickle – and often localised – nature of Aconcagua’s climate, means nothing should be taken for granted. Frostbite and hypothermia are risks for the under-equipped mountaineer; it is important to pack for the worst conditions.

On the lower slopes of Aconcagua conditions are less extreme and unpredictable, but nevertheless prone to fickleness. Below 4,200m, afternoons are generally warm with a lot of sunshine. On Aconcagua, the sun is extremely strong and burns very quickly. At lower camps on Aconcagua (around 3,300m) days are warm to hot and nights, cool to cold. At base camp, Aconcagua (around 4,200m) expect warm days and freezing nights. Note that at altitude, temperatures vary sharply between sun and shade and between sheltered and exposed ground. Also with height gain and loss.

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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When planning for the extreme climatic conditions encountered on Aconcagua layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers. Layers should have the following qualities:

 

  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat);
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).

 

First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.
Note that it’s our extremities that stand to suffer the most, and on Aconcagua the poorly-equipped mountaineer is at risk of becoming frostbitten. Hence, much thought should be given to deciding how best to protect hands, feet and head.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Feet

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax)
  • 5 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support. Given the extreme conditions on Aconcagua, plastic mountaineering boots (e.g. Koflach) are also required. These are indispensable above Nido de Condores camp (see ‘TECHNICAL KIT’ below)
  • Gaiters (1 pair).
  • Trainers/Sandals For city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.

 

Legs

  • Base layer leggings (1 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (1 pair).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.

 

Body

  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/T-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun.
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic). For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.

 

Head and neck

  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Balaclava/full-face ski mask (1)
  • Sunglasses with UV filter and nose and side-pieces.
  • Ski goggles.
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna  – to protect neck from strong sun.

 

Hands

For the extreme cold of Aconcagua, we recommend a 3-layer scheme:

  • Light inner gloves (2 pairs) Polypropelene.
  • Warm gloves (2 pairs) E.g. fleece.
  • Outer waterproof gloves or mittens (1 pair)
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).

 

Technical kit

  • Large backpack (80-90 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover. For carrying loads high on Aconcagua, as well as for transportation of belongings by mule between lower camps.
  • You will need another bag to store belongings left at Mendoza hotel during expedition.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Plastic mountaineering boots (you can rent these in Mendoza at extra cost)
  • Crampons, strap-on or step-in (can be rented in Mendoza)
  • Walking ice axe (can be rented in Mendoza)
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles. (can be rented in Mendoza).

 

Other expedition kit

  • Sleeping bag – a good warm bag (‘4-season’, minimum) and liner will be necessary for high-altitude camping.
  • Sleeping mat, a foam mat is provided
  • Water bottle (2 litres approx).
  • Pee bottle.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 40+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (Plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Thermos flask (1 litre) Stainless steel.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

All other non-personal trekking and camping equipment is provided, but please bring plastic plate, cup and cutlery.

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.


Chile Lake District

The Chilean Lake district is an area of snow capped volcanoes that overlooks pristine lakes surrounded by forests and rolling countryside.

The Northern gateway is Temuco Airport. A short drive is Villarrica Lake overlooked by the volcano of the same name. The monkey puzzle tree is autochthonous to the region and can be found all over particularly in Conguillio National park.

The town of Pucon is a great base from which to explore the nearby National parks, hot springs, Mapuche indigenous settlements and for the more adventurous rafting, canopy, trekking and climbing.

In the middle of the region you will find the private Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, a protected area of Patagonian cold rain forest.

The Southern sector, whose gateway is Puerto Montt, is dominated by Lake Llanquihue and the conical Osorno Volcano.

A popular base is the town of Puerto Varas on the lake shore from where one can visit the local beauty spots or set off on adventures that include biking, kayak, trekking, rafting and much more.

This area combines very well with the Argentine Lake district and the towns of Bariloche and San Martin de Los Andes.

Chile, Atacama desert

The Atacama desert covers the northern quarter of Chile.

Said to be the driest in the world it is a melting pot of earthy tones ( red, yellow, purples, browns etc ), amazing rock formations, stunning mountains and volcanoes, flamingo speckled salt flats and some of the clearest skies on the planet.

San Pedro de Atacama is the ideal base to explore the nearby geysers, hot springs, salt flats, lakes, and at night be amazed by the star studded skies.

Those after adventure can pass the time trekking, biking, horse riding and exploring.

For a bit of culture the pre Columbian museum, colonial churches and pre Columbian archaeological sites will keep one fascinated and for the nature enthusiast the scenery, wildlife and environment won’t disappoint.

Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Patagonia is a pristine wilderness of fjords, glaciers, plains, mountains and forests.

Southern Patagonia’s main attraction is the Torres del Paine National park. The granite spires attract many visitors to what some have called the 8th Wonder of the World. The park is a trekkers paradise with two classic treks, the Paine W and the Paine Circuit.

Northern Patagonia, the Aysen region,  is one of the least populated parts of the country and is blessed with spectacular countryside.

The main airport is Balmaceda near the city of Coyhaique and must see places include Lake General Carrera and the Marble Caves, The San Rafael Glacier,  the Quelat Hanging Glacier as well as driving the Austral Road.

The Futaleufu River is a must for white water enthusiasts.

The region also offers great horseback opportunities as well as kayaking ones. Nature enthusiasts can admire the impressive scenery, imposing glaciers and fascinating wildlife and flora.

Aysen, Chile

The Aysen region is one of the great undiscovered destinations of Chilean Patagonia.

Here you will find the world renowned white-water of the Futaleufu river, the marble caves on Lake General Carrera, the San Rafael Glacier, the Quelat Hanging Glacier and stunning scenery.

This part of the country is the least densely populated, so if you want to get away from the crowds this is the place to come.

Access has always been difficult to the region – the principal airport Balmaceda and it was only opened up less than 30 years ago, with the construction of the Austral Road from north to south.

Central Coast of Chile

The central coast is a rugged coastline very reminiscent of California – here you will find a string of small fishing coves, holiday towns and cities.

The ramshackle city of Valparaiso, with its colourful houses perched on the hills overlooking the bay, is a cultural icon, with its Museum home of Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Nobel prize-winning poet.

The coastal town of Zapallar is a great place to get away from it all and recharge the batteries.

The Humboldt current means cold water temperatures and currents that are not conducive to sea swimming, but does provide some of the best seafood in the world.

There are plenty of seabirds, including pelicans, and seals as well as sea lions.

 

Puerto Natales, Chile

Puerto Natales has the feel of a small frontier town.

Located on the banks of the Last Hope Sound this town had its origins in the shipping out of lamb from the local estancias.

Now it is the gateway to the Torres del Paine National Park and boasts an impressive selection of accommodation and restaurants.

Nearby attractions include the Milodon Cave and a full day sailing tour to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers.

If you have time it’s worth trekking to the top of the nearby Dorotea hill for a spectacular view of the surrounding country side.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile’s vibrant capital sits in the middle of this thin long country flanked by some of the highest peaks of the Andes.

The city reflects the prosperity of the Chilean economy with a modern architecture particularly in the east of the city.

However there is still plenty for traditionalist to explore in the centre of the city including the Moneda Palace, Cathedral, Central Market with its array of fish restaurants and the pre-Columbian Museum.

There are lots of day trips nearby, from vineyard visits to Valparaiso, making Santiago a great base from which to explore.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

The granite spires of Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park are one of the great draws to Patagonia.

The Horns of Paine and the Towers of Paine look down on a network of valleys and lakes punctured by the odd glacier, which are a trekker’s paradise.

There are two classic treks, the Paine W and the more challenging Paine Circuit.

As well as the spectacular scenery the flora and fauna are great attractions and you will find many herds of guanacos as well as rheas, the odd Pudu – a rare miniature deer.

And if you are lucky, even a puma.

Vineyards of Chile

Chile is home to world famous wines and vineyards.

Its wine country surrounds the Metropolitan region of the capital, Santiago, making visits easy.

Many wineries can be visited as day trips from Santiago or there is the option to stay in a winery or hotel in the wine country.

The Colchagua Valley, a 3-hour drive from the city, has become a popular destination with a good offer of hotels in and around the town of Santa Cruz.

There are opportunities for visits to the wineries with tours of the production facilities and tastings. Mountain bike and horse back rides are also an option.

This part of Chile’s is also the heartland of Chiles rural traditions and the Chilean Huaso – cowboy and its traditional dances and music.

Bariloche, Argentina

Bariloche is the jewel in Argentina’s Lake District Crown.

Beautiful mountains, forests and lakes make this area perfect for anyone who likes the outdoors.

You can kayak, bike and hike around the stunning scenery of Nahuel Huapi National park.

Or perhaps hike to amazing viewpoints with panoramas over a geographically stunning area of great beauty.

Bariloche also offers the Cruce Andino Lake Crossing into Chile. The best time to visit the area is October-April.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is Argentina’s elegant capital city.

It is a city of culture, art and music and gateway to the rest of the country, well worth a few days of exploring.

Must sees are the Casa Rosada Government Palace, the Cathedral, La Boca district with its colourful houses and tradition of tango and football.

Also not to be missed are the flea market and streets of the bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo and the Recoleta cemetery where Evita’s tomb is to be found.

After a guided tour by bike or on foot, take the time to sit at one of the many excellent coffee shops and watch the sophisticated Porteños go about their business.

The city has a plethora of good restaurants and is a haven for meat eaters, with plenty of veggie options too.

The night life is buzzing and the district of Palermo will have a meal and bar to suit all pockets and tastes.

El Calafate, Argentina

El Calafate is situated on the southern shore of Lago Argentino, and is your starting point for discovering Argentine Patagonia.

Most trekkers will come through El Calafate en route to Chalten and Fitzroy National Park.

Nearby attractions to El Calafate itself include the Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the few glaciers which is still advancing. There are a series of walkways mean that you can get up close to the 75 m high and 5Km wide glacial wall.

Other glaciers which can be visited are the Upsala glacier and the town has its own Glaciarium – ice museum.

The town offers a wide range of accommodation options and restaurants as well as outdoor shops.

El Chalten, Argentina

El Chalten is the trailhead for the trekking trails into the Glaciares National Park – Fitzroy!

Day treks include the Torre Trail (to Lake Torre), trek to Laguna Los Tres at the base of Mount Fitzroy, and the Loma de Pliegue Tumbado Trek.

The town is also the departure point for expeditions to the Southern Ice Field.

Other options in the area include horseback riding, kayak, mountain bike and glacier treks.

This small settlement has a variety of accommodation options.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

The mighty roar of the water poring over the cliff edges is the soundtrack to this incredible spectacle of nature.

Iguazu Falls is made up of some 275 individual cascades which line the rim of a crescent-shaped cliff about 2.5 miles long.

From here, the waters plummet up to 82m/269ft into the gorge below, in one of the most dramatic settings in Argentina, with the thunderous roaring of Iguazu heard from miles away.

Walk the paths among the different falls and for those with a head for heights take the walkway that leads you into the heart of the Devil’s throat, the biggest, deepest, most impressive fall.

There is the opportunity to take a boat ride at the foot of the falls or to just walk and admire the lush tropical vegetation and wildlife, as well as the scenery.

It is well worth visiting both the Argentine and Brasilian sides of the Falls to really experience and appreciate the true power of these waterfalls.

North West Argentina

North west Argentina is one of those places that is still off the beaten track but when you get there you wonder why.

The main gateway is the city of Salta – famous for its pasties, known locally as empanadas.

Places to visit are Cafayate – famous for its wines and the “Quebrada de Las Cochas” with its incredible rock formations.

North of Salta don’t miss Humahuaca with its multicoloured hills,  Tilcara with its Pukara (pre-Columbian fortress) and the Salinas Grandes salt flat.

Peninsula Valdes, Argentina

The Valdez Peninsula on the northern coast of Argentine Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers.

The Southern Right whale can be spotted from June to December, killer whales from September to April and Magellanic Penguins from September to March.

Sea lions, dolphins, seals as well as guanacos, rheas and armadillos can be found all year round.

There are lots of shells, fossils and natural history on full display in the rocky cliffs.

The gateway airport is at Trelew and the ideal base for exploration is Puerto Madryn.

Ushuaia, Argentina

Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego, is Argentina’s southernmost city and is perched on the Beagle Channel.

What was once a remote penal colony is now a bustling port and the gateway to Antarctica.

Ushuaia is historically interesting, Charles Darwin wrote much about it, and it is home to some interesting museums of naval history.

Visitors can take a sailing tour on the wildlife rich Beagle channel, visit a Penguin colony during the season, trek into the mountains behind the city and kayak in the Tierra del Fuego national park.

Cruises set off from here for Antarctica or Punta Arenas in Chile – via Cape Horn.

 

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