ExperienceChile.Org - El Calafate Argentina
El Calafate Patagonia Argentina
Experiencechile.org can offer accommodation in a number of hotels to suit your budget, and preferred style, regular or ice-hiking trips to the Perito Moreno Glacier, bus tickets, private transfers, accommodation in El Chalten, guided treks in El Chalten, and transfers to both Torres del Paine in Chile and Puerto Natales in Chile.
Approx 3hrs 10min from Buenos Aires and up to 8hrs by road from Torres del Paine.
El Calafate is located in the far south of Argentina beside lake Argentino in the Patagonian region, and from the Chilean side it is just over the mountains on the other side of Torres del Paine National Park. El Calafate is not a picturesque town. It has developed as a tourist destination only because it is the base from which visitors can enter the spectacular ice field Los Glaciares National Park (a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site), which is 50km away. The park is the second-largest in Argentina covering 600,000ha of which 40% is covered by ice fields, including the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Over 13 glaciers descend into two large lakes: Lake Argentino and lake Viedma linked by the river La Leona that flows from Lake Viedma to lake Argentino. About 80km west of El Calafate is Ventisquero Perito Moreno (Perito Moreno Glacier) - the "big one" that everyone comes to see. It has a 5km long, vertical wall of glacial ice face rising to heights of around 60m flowing some 30km from its source in the Andes Mountains.
The main spectacle occurs when, every few years, there is a mighty breaking off of the glacial ice face into the lake. What happens is that the Perito Moreno glacier advances (one of the few in the world not to be receding) towards lake Argentino until part of it makes contact with the peninsula of land opposite (from where there is a direct viewing area). When the glacier makes contact with the peninsula it then cuts the lake Argentino into two parts creating “two lakes”. As you look directly at the glacier, the “new” lake on the left is now closed in and cannot flow into the larger lake Argentino as it previously did. However, the newly-created lake continues to be fed with the water from rivers and ice melt causing the water level of the lake to rise. Eventually the higher-level new lake manages to erode a hole through the Perito Moreno glacial ice dam until it flows once again into the lake Argentino. As this hole becomes larger, and the water flow gets quicker and more powerful it eventually causes the glacial dam to collapse. It is this massive collapse of towering glacial ice that causes such a stunning spectacle that people flock in from all over Argentina and the World to witness it. The spectacle only happens every few years. However, even without this incredible sight, just being close to the massive glacial wall is an incredible experience in itself.
El Chalten for Mount Fitzroy
To get to El Chalten you will need to get to El Calafate first. Buses operate between El Calafate and El Chalten. Journey time is about 3hrs.
El Chalten is a very small tourist village located beyond the northern end of Lake Viedma and within the Los Glaciares National Park 200km north from El Calafate. The name El Chalten is the indigenous name for the Fitz Roy mount, named after Captain Robert Fitzroy of Charles Darwin’s ship “The Beagle”.
Mount Fitzroy resembles the “Torres” in Torres del Paine National Park, reaching a height of 3,400m with vertical sides that create an impressive and dramatic mountain vision. El Chalten is primarily a base for serious hikers who wish to hike the trails in the area or climb the challenging peaks.
The village provides camping and national park information for visitors, as well as commercial camping (with showers) and a limited number of beds, catering mostly for backpackers. The tourist trade has spawned a few restaurants and basic shops in town, and some of the accommodations provide internet and phone access and show regular movies. There are a few hikers’ hostels and one top-end hotel in town. Other than that, the village is fairly far removed from the normal flow of news and communication, even during high season (November-February). The village is nearly deserted during off-season (the Southern Hemisphere winter).