A Journey to the Heart of Patagonia, El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate is the starting point for adventurers to explore the gorgeous, wild landscapes of the Argentine Patagonia region. The city is the gateway to the active Los Glaciares National Park and Reserve – home to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.

The national park was established in 1945, boasting a rich history protecting and preserving the diverse natural, historical, and cultural resources extending across 4,300 square miles. Due to its impressive conservation track record, UNESCO declared the national park a World Heritage Site in 1981.

With more than 450,000 tourist visits a year, El Calafate offers small-town charm, delightful cuisine and diverse culture enriched by several world-famous attractions. El Calafate’s main street, Libertador Avenue, boasts the destination’s quaint shops, homes and restaurants. A trip to El Calafate isn’t complete without visiting Plaza Los Pioneros, a park with sweeping views of the city, Lago Argentino and the Andes Mountains.

The city’s restaurants deliver local and seasonal delicacies, enticing visitors with the region’s meat of choice and trademark cuisine, lamb.

Leisure bike rides along the shores of Lago Argentino and visiting prime birdwatching spots are a great way to explore the city’s peaceful nature. The Municipal Ecological Reserve Laguna Nimez is an excellent birdwatching location to observe more than 80 bird species in their natural environment. Bird sightings include flamingos, cauquenes and black-necked swans.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Located 50 miles from El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the highlights of Argentine Patagonia. Located in the Los Glaciares National Park and Reserve, the glacier is easily accessible via sprawling walkways overlooking Lago Argentino, offering visitors various vantage points. Covering nearly 155 square miles, the glacier forms an impressive frozen, solid wall reaching 196 feet towering Lago Argentino.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most important freshwater resources in the world. Visitors tempted to trek the glacier are advised to climb with professional tour guides. The trekking journey uncovers hidden gems such as cracks, streams and secret caves. These landforms result from Lago Argentino’s substantial water pressure. As a result of the erosion, spectacular vaults, tunnels and ice passages sculpt the glacier wall where the lake water flows peacefully.

Visitors are treated to a once-in-a-lifetime experience when the impacts of irregular landslides break the serene silence and chunks of glaciers dive into Lago Argentino. The last known fracture occurred around midnight on March 11, 2018, while the National Park was empty.

Perito Moreno’s landslides are a natural occurrence resulting from the hydrological cycle. The cycle involves water filtering through the frozen wall slits and constant friction with other ice masses to result in fractures.

Perito Moreno is one of three glaciers – Upsala and the Spegazzini glaciers make up the striking ice sheet.

Upsala Glacier is a large valley glacier on the eastern side of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field surrounded by three lesser tributary glaciers. It has an 8-mile-wide front and 131-feet walls. Since 2011, visitors have access to tour the glacier by kayak, paddling between the icebergs that float on the lake providing an incredible sight.

Spegazzini Glacier is also considered one of the most famous glaciers in the region. It is the highest glacier the whole Los Glaciares National Park, standing at 426-feet tall. The surrounding vegetation offers an exciting view of colors and contrast with the iceberg. The glacier is accessible by one of the excursions departing from Puerto Bandera.

The Patagonian Steppe

The Patagonian Desert, also known as the Patagonian Steppe, is the largest desert in Argentina. The dessert is bounded by the Andes, on the west, and the Atlantic Ocean in the east. Due to these special circumstances, the unique dessert gives ways to special vegetation and floristic composition – semi-deserts, grass and shrub steppes to humid prairies make up the Magellanic forest.

El Chaltén

Located in the Los Glaciares National Park, El Chaltén is a small mountain village in the Santa Cruz Province – 130 miles from El Calafate. The town attracts international trekkers interested in the world-class trails; it is the starting point for all paths leading to wild forests, valleys, boulders and lakes. Thus, El Chaltén is considered Argentina’s Trekking Capital.

One of the most popular and exciting treks in El Chaltén is the Laguna de Los Tres. The medium to difficulty trail offers visitors the closest viewpoints of the Fitz Roy mountain and its peripheral needle peaks. The 15-mile round-trip hike ascends 2,526 feet. Along the way, visitors encounter natural balconies and lovely mountain views.

A less rigorous option is the Laguna Torre lake. It is a short 5.5-mile trail up a moderate slope, accompanied by a valley that surrounds the Fitz Roy river. The trail’s final and rewarding destination is Del Torre viewpoint boasting panoramic views over the Adela hill, Torre hill and surrounding peaks.

The various trail’s distinct geography is due to its proximity to the Fitz Roy mountain. Due to the mountain’s slippery surfaces and abrupt climate changes, it is ideal for practicing extreme sports such as rock climbing.

How to travel to El Calafate

Due to El Calafate’s southernmost location, visitors are advised to arrive by air. El Calafate’s international airport offers an array of flights, most departing from Buenos Aires.

As an alternate option is to fly from Buenos Aires to Río Gallegos city, the capital of Santa Cruz province, and taking a tour bus service to El Calafate.

Published at Fri, 27 Sep 2019 00:00:00 +0000