Patagonia Photo Tour

11 Days
South America
Land Tour


  • Visit the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park
  • Photograph the giant peaks of the Fitzroy massif looming on the horizon
  • View Perito Moreno Glacier spilling chunks of ice into Lago Argentina
  • Visit South America’s only King Penguin colony


Tour Overview

Patagonia, home to some of the world’s most picturesque landscapes. The southern reaches of Chile and Argentina offer a diverse and spectacular array of photo opportunities, from the windswept pampas to towering granite peaks. With these as backdrops we’ll be guaranteed to observe and photograph wildlife such as guanacos, rheas, and condors in their natural settings. The wild ambience of Patagonia ensures that close encounters are possible around ever corner. We may see three or four species of penguins on this tour—more than your average trip to Antarctica! Stunning Torres del Paine national park plays host to the most accessible wild puma viewing anywhere in the world.

We’ll cross from Argentina to Chile and back to visit several attractions that lure visitors to the southern tip of South America: Torres del Paine National Park, the Fitzroy massif, and the Perito Moreno Glacier. Aside from these we’ll traverse less traveled but equally stunning areas, each adding variety to our portfolio of trip images. Our expert bilingual guide will be on hand every step of the way, offering tips and guidance for beginners, and getting advanced photographers in the optimum location. Our itinerary will cater to all ability levels and types of equipment. Even without a camera, this is a high quality wildlife tour. In mid-April the fall colours will be firing.

During this exciting journey we’ll enjoy the charming culture of Chile and the local fare that puts Argentina on the map (Malbec, anyone?). Although we’ll brave the elements that make this part of the world so stark and beautiful, we’ll also relax with the comforts and modern amenities that both of these countries offer.


Day 1: Arrival in Ushuaia, Argentina

Our Patagonia photo tour begins in Ushuaia where we will meet in the evening for a hearty dinner and discuss the upcoming trip. Most people know Ushuaia as the “World’s most southerly city,” however we know it as a penguin hotspot. After dinner we can take a short walk down to the waterfront and warm up our cameras on Dolphin Gulls and Flying Steamer Ducks. Night in Ushuaia.

Today we will be visiting an island penguin rookery that features hundreds of Magellanic Penguins and a small number of Gentoos—the only South American colony of this species. With luck, the long-standing (no pun intended) pair of King Penguins will also be waiting for us on the beach. But first, we ply the waters of the Beagle Channel aboard a stable, covered cruiser, stopping by a Sea Lion colony where Snowy Sheathbills and Imperial Coromorants also hang out. We may also spot rare birds such as Blackish Cincloides and Striated Caracara. Black-browed Albatross should be flying around, while in the background towering peaks in both Chile and Argentina may have their first dustings of snow. It’s tough to begin a tour in better fashion. We can stop by a top-notch cetacean museum with an impressive collection of local whales and dolphins. Night in Ushuaia.

Ushuaia lies at the southern end of the island of Tierra del Fuego. Today we’ll commute south to north across this stark landmass with its sprawling pampas and thousands of sheep. En route, we’ll have opportunities to stop and photograph which may include Chilean Flamingo, Southern Giant Petrel, Red Knot, South American Gray Fox, and perhaps some gauchos rounding up their flocks. We may have a chance to see Southern Rockhopper Penguins should they arrive along the Atlantic coast from the Falklands, as they have in recent years. If we don’t already have point-blank photos of King Penguin we will stop by a colony about an hour from our hotel. Night in Cerro Sombrero.

Via ferry, this morning we’ll cross the windy Magellan Straight staying on the lookout for Commerson’s and Dusky Dolphins, and Magellanic Penguins in their marine environment. We’ll stop on the other side to look for the endemic Ruddy-headed Goose and perhaps a Humboldt’s Hog-nosed Skunk. The main focus of today is to venture into the remote Pali Aike National Park where terrestrial wildlife abounds. This is the guanaco’s domain, where herds roam freely and frequently on the slow-going roads within the park. We’ll literally rub shoulders with dozens of them. Where there are guanacos, there are pumas, and we’ll be on the lookout for these elusive cats. Several caves in the park present interesting archaeological history and we can enter one of them. On the roads in Pali Aike we can see some photogenic birds such as Tawny-throated Dotterel, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and Crested Caracara. After a good drive we spend the night in Puerto Natales on the shores of the Pacific, our second ocean of the day. Anywhere along the way we can get out for some scenic landscapes. Night in Puerto Natales.

A restful morning may include a sleep-in and/or photographing Black-necked Swans in front of the hotel. After this we pack up and head north toward the jaw-dropping Torres del Paine, on the lookout for another large black-and-white bird, the Andean Condor. We shouldn’t have any problem seeing these majestic birds soaring along the roadside cliffs. The drive will present other “pull over!” moments because the scenery is outstanding all around us. It only takes a bit of patience to frame some of it with a soaring condor in the foreground.

Arguably the single most scenic location in all of South America, Torres del Paine is a photographer’s dream. We’ll spend three days here to get our fill of incredible landscapes and wildlife, combining the two when possible. It is here we’ll have our best chance at photographing a puma, however many other subjects will beckon, including a sudden proliferation of condors, guanacos and rheas on the protected pampas. We’ll have a sunrise hike, waterfall session and a trip to Lago Grey with its icebergs and lenga forest. Short hikes lead to lakes, glaciers, and stunning sunrises on these days in the park. Magellanic Woodpeckers are a possibility. Horseback riding is an option. Nights in Torres del Paine.

We’ll have one last drive along the slow backroads of Torres del Paine, which could finish with a prime puma sighting. Then we’ll leave the park and cross back into Argentina at another small border crossing. After this, we’ll have several hours of scenic driving to El Calafate, where we’ll settle in and have some time to shop, rest and edit. If the weather cooperates it’s possible to see the Southern Patagonian Icecap from town. A steak dinner awaits. Night in El Calafate.

Perito Moreno glacier, one of Argentina’s top attractions is located in Los Glaciares National Park just outside of town. We get amazing views of this behemoth spilling chunks of ice into Lago Argentina, while fall colours reveal themselves at treeline above. We have plenty of time here to capture the majesty of this gigantic glacier as it advances toward the elaborate viewing platforms. Austral Parakeets, Fiery-eyed Diucons and Thorn-tailed Rayaditos might dictate keeping the long lenses in hand. After we’ve had our fill we return to Calafate and continue onward to the towering spires of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. Night in El Chalten.

Sunrise on the Fitzroy massif is our pre-breakfast target this morning. With luck, we’ll frame pampas, colourful lenga trees and towering spires not far from roadside and with coffees in hand. On site we’ll discuss the use of filters and lens techniques to capture images as crisp as the autumn air. This scene of Cerro Fitzroy (or “Chalten) epitomizes the stark landscape of Patagonia. After breakfast we’ll roam this northern section of Los Glaciares for more images, including a stunning waterfall that provides more scenic opportunities if there’s any more room on our memory cards. For the long lens the area hosts Chilean Flickers, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle and both Spectacled and Torrent Ducks. Puma or their prey the huemul (an endangered deer) are always possibilities. The backdrop of Fitzroy is not to be missed, and we’ll hope for clear vistas that so often materialize at this time of year. Night in El Chalten.

Flights from El Calafate aren’t until the afternoon so we’ll have some time fine-tune our Fitzroy imagery before heading to the airport. We’ll drive past the turquoise Lagos Viedma, Argentina, which may be our final images of the trip. Those on the orca extension will catch an afternoon flight to Trelew.

A tour of this region may not be complete without hunkering down in Punta Norte’s attack channel—a permit-only photo blind that allows exclusive viewing of the world-famous orcas that beach themselves to gorge on sea lion pups. The action happens less than thirty metres away! This is a special opportunity that provides no guarantees, but may offer an immeasurable reward to those with patience, persistence, and luck.

Day 1 we will arrive to Trelew and transfer to Peninsula Valdes, a UNESCO site and one of the world’s most important marine sanctuaries. Thousands of southern sea lions choose to reproduce on these shores during the southern autumn season, a draw not only for tourists but also for another species of sophisticated and social mammal. Here, on a small stretch of beach the behaviour known as “intentional stranding” is practised by a select group of orcas. Local research has shown that only seven individuals in the entire world exhibit this learned behaviour, and they will be the focus of our efforts over the next four days. Night in Piramides.

We will have three days of permit-accessed orca photography. Good activity and viewing at the attack channel is contingent on wind, tides and sun position. Because these conditions don’t align every day, we’ll discuss with the local ranger when we should be in position with him. Arriving at the attack channel takes one hour by vehicle through the pampas of the peninsula. On the day(s) that conditions do not align we’ll explore the beautiful pampas and shorelines that make Peninsula Valdes such an attraction. Avian subjects could include Alpomado Falcon, Burrowing Owl, Burrowing Parakeet, Blackish Oystercatcher, Magellenic Penguin, Darwin’s Rhea, Southern Giant-Petrel and the endemic Chubut Steamer Duck. For mammals, guanacos, armadillos, foxes, sea lions and others could round out the portfolio. Nights in Puerto Piramides (except final night in Puerto Madryn).

Transfer to our flights out of Trelew (one hour from hotel in Puerto Madryn)

If time permits we can visit a local pond to photograph Chiliean Flamingo and Many-colored Rush-Tyrant before our flight.


What's Included

Tour Includes

  • All accommodations
  • All meals
  • Guides: 1 guide with 4 - 8 participants, 2 guides with 9 - 12
  • Ground transportation
  • Park entry/ tour fees
  • Orca extension includes permits for up to 3 days of photography at the attack channel
  • Gratuities to local guides and drivers

Tour Does Not Include

  • Flights to and from start/end
  • Orca extension flight from El Calafate to Trelew
  • Travel Insurance
  • Items of a personal nature

What to Expect

• Some longer drives
• Shorter days mean better light and more time in the evenings to review images and go over editing techniques
• Some early mornings
• Accommodation ranges from good to very good
• Food ranges from simple Chilean to the best steak you’ve ever eaten across the border
• We could encounter inclement weather including snow or rain; wind is a certainty but fair weather is also likely at this time of year (autumn)
• Equipment list and recommendations will be discussed before the trip

Tour Reviews