El Calafate Things to Do Tips by vtveen Top 5 Page for this destination
El Calafate Things to Do: 112 reviews and 292 photos
El Calafate - on our way to the glacier
Our main object visiting El Calafate was the Perito Moreno Glacier. There are a couple of possibilities for a visit and ‘millions’ of travel agencies which offer guided trips.
You could rent a car (or even a 'remis') and drive to the glacier (80 km's one way). Advantage is you are completely free to stop where you want and to stay as long or short as you want. Most probably the most expensive way of visiting.
There is also a daily bus service from El Calafate to the glacier. This bus leaves the town from the bus station between 9.00 and 10.00 am and will return from the glacier between 3.30 and 4.00 pm. It is about 1 1/2 hours driving by bus.
See for schedules: http://www.turismo.elcalafate.gov.ar (Transportes > Terrestres)
There are a couple of possibilities to visit Perito Moreno. Most of the travel agencies and your hotel/hostel can arrange one of them.
Tour to the Moreno Glacier: a whole day tour with a (mini) bus with a visit to the viewpoints, a trek along the shore and a boat trip in front of the glacier.
(In the summer season there is also an afternoon trip, leaving El Calafate at 2.30 pm)
Minitrekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier: also a whole day tour. You can walk on the glacier and visit the viewpoints.
Some remarks to the tours:
- try to avoid the afternoon trip; we did this trip and missed almost the last boat and later on it was getting dark and rather difficult to make pictures;
- ask for a tour with a walk through the mountain scenery/trek along the shore;
- wear warm clothes (best is layers) and don’t forget your sun glasses (see packing lists tip);
- tours are exclusive the entrance fee of the park;
- just the boat trip costs about 50 pesos;
- it is a long day/afternoon; take some food and drink.
Perito Moreno: on the way to the boat
After almost two hours of driving we were just in time to catch the last boat at a part of Lago Argentino called Canal de los Témpanos. This boat trip - with a company called Fernandez Campbell - was not included in our half day (afternoon) trip to the glacier and we had to pay 38 pesos per person (2011: already 50 pesos).
The boat brought us rather close to one part of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Although we kept wishing getting much closer to the ice and icebergs floating in the water.
And in spite of the temperature we were standing outside to watch this scenic beauty. It was just overwhelming to see this 60 metres high and 1500 long wall of ice full of crevasses, clefts, peaks with sometimes deep turquoise colours.
We (only) heard a couple times some icebergs breaking from the glacier, falling into the water and causing waves. Every time we were just too late to make a picture.
The boat ride takes about one hour and it was just a great start of our visit to the Perito Moreno. A breathtaking experience !!
Be aware it can be very cold aboard of the catamaran (see also my ‘packing list’ tip).
Directions: Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, about 80 km's from El Calafate.
Perito Moreno: where ice meets land
It was already 7.00 pm when we finally reached the car park close to the walkways and balconies opposite the Perito Moreno Glacier. Obviously we were rather late and just got 45 minutes to walk around and to see the glacier once again.
The view from this point is quite different from the one we had during the boat trip. The balconies are more or less higher than the glacier and we had a wonderful view over the slowly streaming immense mass of ice.
Most interesting is the walkway to the left, where it reaches a point where the glacier 'meets' the mainland of the Peninsula Magellanes. At this point the ice is blocking Brazo Rico, which causes everywhere 2 or 3 years the very spectacular rupture of the glacier (the last one was in March 2006).
We finished our visit to the Perito Moreno with a last view and had to travel back to El Calafate, where we arrived at 9.30 pm after a wonderful, stunning and breathtaking adventure.
Directions: Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, 80 km's from El Calafate
Perito Moreno and Chilean Fire Bush
After the boat trip we made a stop along the road and were invited to make a walk through an Argentinean forest with lots of dense shrubs and unexpected beautiful flowers. Our guide, not in a hurry, told us a lot about the flora in this part of the country. Among the wild flowers we saw orchids and the astonishing Chilean Fire Bush (Notros) with its bright orange/red flowers.
We walked about 15 minutes and then reached a kind of a balcony just opposite the Perito Moreno Glacier with a wonderful view on the ‘sea of ice’. Really spectacular !!
Directions: Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, 80 km's from El Calafate
El Calafate - Av. Libertador
El Calafate has about 17.000 thousands inhabitants and is located in the far south of the province of Santa Cruz. Avenida Libertador is the main street in El Calafate and together with some side streets you will find shops, café's, restaurants, travel agencies, post office, banks, supermarket, phone- and internet café’s and so on. Between the main street and the central bus station, one block away, are some open shopping malls with a lot of very interesting souvenir shops and a kind of market with locals artisans.
El Calafate has its own charm and with a lot of wooden buildings it seems a little bit like a Austrian or Swiss mountain village. Specially the tree lined Av. Libertador is a busy street with people coming or going on a day trip to the glaciers or the steppe.
El Calafate got its name from a bush with blue berries (Berberis buxifolia - calafate), which can be found everywhere in Patagonia. You can buy 'calafate jam', liquor or choclate and we had once a very nice 'calafate ice cream'.
Off course you can find a lot of information on VT or in a travel book, but if you want to find out more about El Calafate, take look at one of the sites:
Lago Argentino from Laguna Nemez
Lago Argentino is not a real sight to visit in El Calafate. But you can not miss this huge lake. We already had a good impression when we arrived by plane and on our way from the airport to the town. Almost everywhere in and around El Calafate we saw the turquoise coloured water of this lake.
Just walk to the borders of Lago Argentino, sit down, look at the colour, the living skies above it, the Andes mountains in the background and enjoy the scenery.
Lago Argentino is the largest lake in Argentina with a surface of more than 1.500 km2. It is 60 km long and between 14 and 20 km wide. Its depth varies from 35 till 1.000 metres. The turquoise colour of the water is caused by a fine powder, produced by glacier abrasion called 'glacier milk'.
This bird reserve is situated just 1 km from Avenida Libertador. A nice and relaxing one hour walk around a lagoon, close to Lake Argentino. The walkway is about 2½ km’s long and during our walk we saw flamingos, geese, black neck swans, and a lot of ducks. It is said there should be more than 70 species of birds.
There is a entrance fee of a couple of pesos.
There are a couple of shelters and panoramic points. From one of them we had a marvellous view to turquoise coloured Lago Argentino and the Andes mountains on one side and El Calafate on the other.
Directions: 1 km from Avenida Libertador, take Calle Bustillo cross the bridge and follow the signposts.
El Calafate is situated between the Andes Mountains with its glaciers and the Patagonian steppe. And we wanted to visit both landscapes. We intended to book a guided tour, but there were not enough participants and we decided to rent a car and to explore that 'sight' by ourselves
After leaving El Calafate on the road to the airport, we turned left at the famous ‘Ruta 40’. A gravel road more or less along the Andes mountains through the Patagonian steppe. We crossed Santa Cruz River and travelled through the valley of the La Leona River. On our way we had some great views to Lago Argentino and later to the Andes Mountains.
Driving through the steppe was so impressive, you can’t compare the scenery with anything else: empty, living skies, fantastic rock formations and the open, hilly plains with sparse grass or scrub. Now and then a cloud of dust announced another car and I think we saw just five or six.
Hotel La Leona was the first sign of human presence after two hours of driving (106 km’s from El Calafate). We had a cup of coffee with apple pie in this very remote and basic café with newspapers as wallpaper on the walls. We did meet two Argentinians; although they didn’t speak much English and we only ten words Spanish, it was great to ‘talk’ with other human beings and having an Amaretto together in this far end of the world.
moon like landscape near La Leona
At Hotel La Leona along ‘Ruta 40’, we turned left into another, even narrower, gravel road till we reached after 10 km’s a bridge over the River Guanaco. The scenery was even wilder and more scenic. Although there were no tracks or signs we decided for a walk . We had to climb one of the hills through a dry stream. On a kind of balcony we had a fantastic view over the turquoise coloured Lago Viedma and the hilly scenery with ‘strange’ eroded rock formations.
It was almost unbelievable but we saw brightly coloured flowers in such a moon like surrealistic landscape. We also saw a guanaco, standing on one of the hills and staring at us and (perhaps) thinking "goodness, what are you doing here".
We were searching for the petrified forest of La Leona, never found it, but we had a great day in the Patagonian steppe !!
If you are interested in the guided tour, take a look at:
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