El Calafate is the next city on the Packed Perfectly Patagonia adventure that began flying into Buenos Aires, a quick plane to Ushuaia, road tripping to Torres Del Paine, then up to El Calafate.
El Calafate will stir the adventurous spirit. It comes off as a small town in the far south of Argentina with a small population, but it packs in vast amounts of tourists who dare to venture to the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Argentina’s Glacier National Park.) One of the reasons why I love to travel is the surprises. My preconceived notion of El Calafate was it was a small town with nothing to do but catch up on rest then ice trek on the Perito Moreno glacier. Little did I know this town came alive with late-night eateries, breweries, and dance clubs.
We booked the Design Suites. A beautifully designed hotel outside the main drag overlooking the lake. The lake is an absolute stunner, and the Design Suites is a great place to have a glass of wine.
The main attraction of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares is the glacier named Perito Moreno. Drive into the National park. There are hiking trails along the way. Finding the Perito Moreno Glacier will not be hard as everything in the park has signposts.
The glacier was named after Francisco Moreno, an Argentine explorer, and scientist.
The real kicker is the 500-year-old glacier is active. You see and hear immense ice chunks constantly crack off the face, known as ‘calving’, sending huge waves across the lake.
Meet the tour group Hielo y Adventures at the base. Due to eco-friendly tourism, they are the only ones who will take you ice trekking. Your adventure starts on their boat where you cross the lake getting closer to surrealism. You disembark and hike up the shores to put your crampons on. Your guides take you hiking up the glacier for 90minutes or longer if you choose. This was one of the most incredible hikes I have ever been on in my life. At the end of the hike, you will be given ice cold whiskey -chilled appropriately.
Take a day trip from El Calafate to El Chaltén, a nearby village located within the Glacier National Park, home to Mount Fitz Roy, a mountain with popular trekking and hiking routes. If hiking Torres del Paine is the number one thing you have to do on your list, hiking Mount Fitz Roy is number 2. The views from the mountain are stunning, especially on clear days when hikers can see for miles. It is very cold and wintery throughout the year.
Perito Moreno is not the only glacier in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Other glaciers include Upsala and Spegazzini, which are both smaller than Perito but nonetheless impressive. The best way to see the other glaciers is on a full day boat tour, which takes visitors all around Lago Argentino, the largest lake in Argentina and the lake in which all the melted glacier ice ends up. The color of the water in the lake is a grey-green, due to the sediment picked up by the glacier ice as it moves from the summit of the surrounding mountains.
A short 15-minute walk from the center of El Calafate is an ecological reserve, Lake Nimez. The area is protected and is a haven for a great variety of birds, of which the largest and most fascinating is the Chilean flamingo.
In town, there is a history museum, which details the natural history of the surrounding area. It covers the history of Patagonia since the ice age, includes information on glaciers, as well as dinosaurs, extinct animals, indigenous peoples, and the formation of other geographical landscapes.
The main drag of El Calafate is called Av del Libertador. Take some time to walk around here looking at all the shops and art. This is where all your restaurants and bars are, so enjoy getting to know the town – there is more to offer than what meets the eye.