El Calafate, or just Calafate, is a city tucked away on the edges of Argentina’s largest lake, Lago Argentino. The city also happens to be the gateway to the very beginnings of the Southern Patagonia ice field in the province of Santa Cruz. Therefore, Calafate is mostly known as the last stepping stone to finally arrive in Los Glaciares National Park, the home of the tremendously massive Perito Moreno Glacier. Moreover, the town offers many opportunities to learn more about the geology of this special region, and its importance. You can even enjoy unique places like a glacier-built ice bar, fitting in perfectly with its surroundings!
1. The Perito Moreno Glacier
While there are many glaciers to be found around the world, the Perito Moreno may be the most spectacular. Towering at 60 meters (196 ft.) above the glacial waters of Los Glaciares National Park, this glacier has been forming over centuries. Even more staggering is how long the Perito Moreno is. Lengthwise, the glacier is currently about 5,000 meters long (16,404 ft.). It is constantly growing and in movement. This glacier, among others, is a huge freshwater source for the rest of the National Park.
Even so, large chunks are known to break off. It is quite a sight to see when a piece breaks off and crumbles down into the icy abyss below, the thunderous echoes can be heard throughout over the bodies of water and into the mountains. In the meantime, when the glacier is intact, you can still hear snaps, crackles, and pops as it is constantly moving.
Experiencing the large ice breaks is a phenomenal moment and can be done by boat. It is the only way to get an up-close show of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Alternatively, you can enjoy the wilderness of Argentina’s Patagonia on foot with amazing views of the Perito Moreno Glacier at the ready. Numerous trekking routes are available with options of day hikes and overnight camping.
2. Centro de Interpretación Histórica
You might not have a museum as a priority in your travel plans, but while you are in El Calafate, this one is worth the visit. The Centro de Interpretación Histórica en El Calafate, known as CIH, is an outstanding model of natural and human history, particularly of Austral Patagonia.
The museum has multiple sections and displays that cover the entire evolution of Patagonia. It brings to life the wonders and ideas of how the massive glaciers and breathtaking landscapes were originally formed. The demonstration of the information and interpretation are incredibly well-done. You can find everything from glaciers, dinosaurs, extinct animals, and indigenous peoples, with the history going as far back as the Ice Age.
3. Hiking Snow-capped Goliaths
The captivating Parque Nacional Los Glaciares and the El Chalten region are outright must-sees and are well known for their climbing and hiking territory. Here the untamed wild meets the toughest and highest points of the snow-covered peaks of the Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy.
Trails are customized to fulfill any degree of mastery, from beginners to more experienced hikers. Prepared climbers will be met with a challenge, especially those who are looking to tackle sheer towers or navigate the Patagonian Ice Fields. Novice hikers who are less-weathered in their feats will still find themselves wandering the paths from the town of El Chaltén to the bases of the mighty Mount Fitz Roy. Here, the views are unparalleled, especially on a clear day. The region is simply breathtaking and is a backpacker’s dream with ice-blue lakes, jade-tipped woods, and, frosty glaciers.
If this wasn’t enough to get your excitement flowing for a visit to El Calafate, you can always contact one of our travel specialists to find out more!
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Author: Deb Davad