" THE GLACIERS: WHAT A COOL TRIP!!! " El Calafate by Frisbeeace

El Calafate Travel Guide: 292 reviews and 750 photos

3 PERFECT DAYS IN EL CALAFATE

El Calafate is a small town of 8,500 inhabitansts located at only 185 m. on the foothills of the southern Andes over the Lago Argentino, the largest one in the country. It is the gateway to the unique Los Glaciares National Park with plenty of lodging, restaurants and services. The International Airport of El Calafate has direct flights from Buenos Aires, Trelew, Bariloche, Puerto Natales, and other cities.

El Calafate gets its name from a native bush with yellow flowers. There is a saying that if you eat calafate jam you’ll visit the place again.

El Calafate has a dry climate, with an average maximum temperature of 19ºC, and an average minimum in winter of -2º. In summer the sun rises at 5.30 hs. and sets late. In winter, days are short.

The surrounding area shows the typical Patagonic steppe with almost no trees, crouching bushes and clumps of grasses to withstand the strength of the local winds. Lago Argentino has 1600 km2, measuring 60 km. by an average width of 13 kms. With varying depths from 35 m. to 800 mts in one of its arms. Its emerald green waters, similar color to the Caribbean sea, have many icebergs drifting with the winds and currents.

Los Glaciares National Park contains 600.000 has. with 47 glaciers (Upsala, Spegazzini, Marconi, Viedma, Moyano, Agassiz, Bolado, Onelli, Peineta, Mayo, Ameghino, Moreno and Frías), all of them draining to the Atlantic.

Tours depart from El Calafate and are very well organized in different languages. The most famous glacier is the Perito Moreno, which is 80 kms. North, a bit more than 1 hour drive. Boat tours depart from a closer point to the city, aproximately a 30 minutes drive.

TIPS: HOW MANY DAYS? WHERE TO STAY?

El Calafate needs not more than 3 days. If you come and go back to Buenos Aires, you can get along with only 2 nights if you take the 8.30 pm flight back. If this is just part of a longer trip around the Patagonia, I would recommend to stay for a third night and leave fresh in the morning to your next destination.

I would strongly recommend to stay in El Calafate where you´ll find top notch hotels. Some prefer a couple of fancy and very expensive lodges close to the glaciers but I think that the significant price difference is not worth it. The town is charming and you´ll enjoy walking around in such touristic ambience with nice restaurants, shops and services.

SUGGESTED ITINERARY

DAY 1: GLACIAR PERITO MORENO
The first day you´ll probably arrive by noon so you can check in at your hotel, grab a sandwich and take off to the Glaciar Perito Moreno. It is a bit more than 1 hour drive and there you can have your first impression of the incredible views you´ll have during the next few days. The glacier is overwhelming, huge and beautiful. Visit the catwalks and take a short boat ride to get closer to the north side of it. By the end of the afternoon, you´ll know that you made a great decision coming all the way down to El Calafate.

DAY 2: BOAT TOUR TO THE GLACIERS
Ok, there are 2 different full day tours to consider: One visits more glaciers so you basically spend most of the day on board while the other one stops at Estancia Cristina (a Patagonian farm) for a visit that includes a barbecue. I would recommend the first one so you don´t miss the incredible Glacier Spegazzini and the beautiful Bahia Onelli where you stop for 2 hours for lunch.

DAY 3: TREKKING ON TOP OF THE PERITO MORENO
For the last day, this is a must. This tour will take 5 to 6 hours starting with a short boat ride to reach the side of the Perito Moreno Glacier, stop at a mountain lodge, trek over the Glacier and back to port. This tour is so fun and people of almost any age and physical condition can participate. A don´t miss by all means.

For detail information, look for my tips.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Unique, massive, spectacular
  • Cons:A long way from home for most, but this adds to the mistery
  • In a nutshell:First class in every sense
  • Last visit to El Calafate: Nov 2005
  • Intro Updated Nov 13, 2005
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Frisbeeace

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