Join us in Patagonia, Chile’s unspoiled wilderness at land’s end, where we explore by land and sea; where the signature Torres del Paine preside over the rugged plains and ice-blue glaciers speckle the sea. Add Santiago and the Lake District, and it’s all Chile, all the time, as our small group tours the length and breadth of this South American gem.
Exclusive Departure: this departure is considered exclusive and the participants are U-M travelers, who consist of alums, family and friends.
Depart for Punta Arenas, Chile
We depart the United States on our flight to Puerto Arenas, Chile.
Arrive Punta Arenas
We arrive today in Punta Arenas, capital of Chile’s southernmost Magallanes region. As guests’ arrival times may vary greatly, we have no group activities or meals planned.
Punta Arenas/Magdalena Island
On our day cruise through the storied Strait of Magellan today, we have the opportunity to see for ourselves an animal that most people have only seen in captivity: the Magellanic penguin, the two-foot-tall flightless bird that numbers among the millions along the southern tip of South America. We cruise to tiny Magdalena Island, home to a colony of more than 120,000 penguins that coexist peacefully with cormorants, sea lions, and other species. We return to Punta Arenas, where we enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before an afternoon at leisure. Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner. B,L,D
We get a close-up view of Patagonian Chile today on our excursion to a working estancia (ranch). We visit with the local cowboys who work here and watch a sheepdog exercise to see how these amazing animals perform their important job of herding. We also see a sheep-shearing demonstration and learn how the wool is processed. Then we enjoy a traditional Patagonian asado (barbecue) lunch at the ranch before our return to Punta Arenas, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. B,L
Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
Today we set out by motorcoach for the six-hour journey north to Torres del Paine National Park, stopping for lunch en route. Sitting on the shores of Ultima Esperanza Sound, Torres del Paine comprises a 700-square-mile national park and UNESCO reserve. Upon arrival at our hotel this afternoon, we set out on a gentle hike to take in some of the spectacular surroundings. We dine together tonight at our hotel. B,L,D
Torres del Paine National Park
Today marks our first full day in Torres del Paine, one of the most unspoiled and beautiful nature preserves on Earth. We spend the day exploring this unparalleled landscape of jagged peaks, virgin forests, ice-blue glaciers, turquoise lakes, rushing rivers, and thunderous waterfalls. We also visit magnificent Lago Grey, which is fed by the glacier of the same name in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. B,L,D
Torres del Paine National Park
Our second day of exploration in the park features Laguna Amarga, Laguna Azul, and Cascade Rio Paine, along with resident wildlife. B,L,D
Torres del Paine/El Calafate, Argentina
We travel to Argentine Patagonia today, crossing the border at Cancha Carrera then continuing on to the southern shores of Lago Argentino and the town of El Calafate, gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. Late afternoon we reach our hotel, where we dine tonight. B,D
Los Glaciares National Park/Perito Moreno
It’s a full day of jaw-dropping scenery, as we set out this morning on our boat trip to Perito Moreno Glacier, inside the national park. We first cruise to Lago Argentino, the country’s largest and most southerly lake. At Toro Bay, we disembark for a guided walk through the Andean Patagonian forest, where we see a variety of trees, including a 100-year-old cherry tree whose trunk is almost 10 feet in diameter. Back on board, we continue on to a spot where we can view two glaciers: Mayo Hill and Negro Hill “hanging” glacier that starts high on the valley wall and descends only part-way down. Then we disembark at Negro Hill for another guided walk. Returning to our boat, we enjoy a simple box lunch en route to the northern wall of Perito Moreno Glacier, the spectacular 97-square-mile mass of ice that counts as one of Argentina’s most popular attractions. Here we disembark at the floating pier, where we can get panoramic views of Perito Moreno from different heights and angles. B,L
This morning we put some of what we saw on Day 9 into perspective as we visit the Glaciarium Museum, a modern center devoted to the Patagonian Icefield and its glaciers through models, photographs, and interactive exhibits. A highlight: the Glaciobar Branca, where everything from the walls to the tables and chairs to the beverage glasses are made of ice. Then we return to our hotel for lunch on our own and an afternoon at leisure. B,D
El Calafate/Buenos Aires
We transfer to the El Calafate airport today for the flight to the lively Argentine capital of Buenos Aires. Dinner tonight is on our own in this city known especially for its asado – and for its late dining hours. B
Highlights of our full-day city tour include the elegant mansions and lovely parks and gardens of the leafy Palermo neighborhood; the colorful bohemian district of La Boca; picturesque San Telmo, the city’s oldest neighborhood; elegant Recoleta cemetery, with its elaborate mausoleums; and historic Government House. Tonight, we visit one of the city’s tango houses for dinner and a show. B,D
Buenos Aires/Depart for U.S.
This morning we tour Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires’ beloved opera house that ranks as one of the world’s most important, on par with Milan’s La Scala and the Vienna State Opera. Then we celebrate our Patagonian adventure over a farewell lunch. We return to our day rooms at our hotel; the remainder of the day is at leisure before this evening’s transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S. B,L
We arrive in the U.S. this morning and connect with our return flights home.
Meet Your Trip Host
Ben Van der Pluijm
VBen van der Pluijm is BR Clark Collegiate Professor in Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan. He completed degrees at the Universities of Leiden and Utrecht in the Netherlands, and at the University of New Brunswick in Canada. He joined the faculty at U-M in 1985.
His research areas are structural geology, dealing with deformation of Earth’s crust from microscope to mountain belt, and societal resilience, dealing with Earth-Human interactions. Educational and outreach activities include classroom technologies, and professional and public lectures on geology, hazards and global change. These research and professional activities have taken him around the world.
Professor van der Pluijm has served in many university roles, including the President’s Interdisciplinary Teaching Initiative and Senior Counselor to the Provost. At the National Science Foundation he guided a $200+M initiative on sustainability and human well-being. He has served on multiple (inter)national agency panels and editorial boards. Currently, he is Editor-in-Chief of the science journal Earth’s Future. He has (co-)authored >200 peer-reviewed publications, edited several book volumes, authored the textbook “Earth Structure”, and is working on an undergraduate text called “Earth Interactions”. His public outreach activities include lectures and writings on geology, global environmental change and resilience.
Professor van der Pluijm is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Fellow of the Geological Society of America, and recipient of several awards, including the University Award for Service and Leadership. He is married to Elisabeth (Lies) Quint, U-M Professor of OB/GYN, who shares his enthusiasm for travel and discovery. They have participated in multiple alumni trips.