El Calafate, Patagonia


El Calafate, named after the local “Calafate” plant that produces blue-coloured berries, 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 80km away to the west of the city.

The park is the second largest in Argentina covering 600,000ha of which 40% is covered by ice fields that descend down from the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap, and includes 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 into the Lake Argentino.

It is also a logistical stop over to get to El Chalten and Torres del Paine, and serves as the ideal connection city for all southern Patagonia, including coming up from Ushuaia.

It will take approximately 3hrs 10min to fly to El Calafate from Buenos Aires and up to 6hrs, or longer, by road from Torres del Paine. Google maps say the transfer is a less in time, however, they do not allow for the 1hr – 2hrs required each side of the border due to the often-slow immigration and customs procedures – information that a locally-based operator knows about and just one reason why it is best to use the services of a company such as ours.

The Experience Chile Service

We can include El Calafate and any of the excursions as part of your larger Patagonia itinerary.

Maybe you are trekking in El Chalten and / or Torres del Paine. Either way we can build in a couple of nights at El Calafate as a logistical connection between El Chalten and Torres del Paine, and this will enable you to also visit Perito Moreno Glacier, walk on its surface or ice climb its interior.

Perito Moreno Glacier

The “Ventisquero Perito Moreno” (Perito Moreno Glacier) – is 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 that flows some 30km from its source in Southern Ice Filed on top of the Andes Mountains.

The Breaking off of the Glacial Ice Face into the Lake

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 exhilarating experience in itself.

El Calafate Places of Interest

Perito Moreno Glacier

The principal place of interest is the large and impressive Perito Moreno Glacier - well worth a visit. There is the regular tour, an ice hike on top f the glacier and an ice climb in parts of the glacier. Our regular excursion includes a navigational aspect too.

El Calafate Discovery Tour

This an educational and exciting excursion that takes you up and into the mountains behind El Calafate in large 4 x 4 off road bus. Spectacular views on a clear day, including as far away as Mount Fitzroy in El Chalten.

Rivers of Ice or All Glaciers Navigation

A long full day navigation on board a catamaran that takes in some of the largest glaciers in the area as well as stunning raw, Patagonian scenery.

El Chalten

El Chalten is a sought-after trekking destination and home to the stunning Mount Fitzroy. It is accessible by a three-hour drive from El Calafate.

Clothes to Pack

This being Patagonia you need to pack for all "four seasons in one day".

Share this...