Located on the shores of Lake Argentino, the Patagonian town of El Calafate is the gateway to the giant Los Glaciares National Park. The charming, up-scale town of El Calafate is surrounded by stunning landscapes and is strategically located about 3.5hours drive from El Chaltén and Mount Fitzroy and just 6 hours from the equally as spectacular Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.
El Calafate gets its name from a local Patagonian bush which produces a sweet ‘calafate’ berry which like its impressive landscapes will have you coming back for more.
Continue reading to find out more about the luxury of El Calafate, a gem in one of South America’s most beautiful settings.
When to go to El Calafate?
Soaking up the icy wilderness of El Calafate can be enjoyed all year round though it is worth noting and preparing yourself for temperature drops between June and September. Don’t let the cool temperatures put you off from visiting the glacial landscape of El Calafate as the area becomes a winter wonderland providing a spectacular snow-covered paradise to explore.
The romance of the area and keeping yourself warm from the cold outdoors sat at local restaurants with a hot chocolate only adds to your Patagonia experience.
If however, the idea of spending your summer vacation surrounded by snow is not your idea of fun, the long summer days between December and February are just as beautiful. March through to May can be rainy and cool yet it is also less windy and therefore quite pleasant to explore the glaciers and National Park. Whether winter, spring, summer or fall, El Calafate will be waiting to leave you speechless as you explore one of Argentina’s most stunning destinations.
Mini-Trekking in El Calafate
Perhaps one of the most unique travel experiences in El Calafate is walking on the mighty glacier on a mini-trekking adventure through the Los Glaciares National Park. The mini-trekking adventure in El Calafate will offer views from both above and below the towering glacier. Sailing along Lake Rico you’ll get an up close and personal view of the mighty glacier, allowing you to see every crack and crevice scarring one of the world’s most impressive glaciers. Keep your finger on your camera’s shutter as huge blocks of ice drop off causing not only a great splash but also a unique photo and video opportunity.
With your ice-crampons now attached to your boots, your hat and wooly gloves on, you’re finally ready to explore the famous Perito Moreno Glacier which rises some 180 feet above the water level and is about 3 miles wide!
The views from on top of the glacier are simply breath-taking as you are provided with an uninterrupted view of the glacial environment. From the different shades of blue of the crevasses and ice tunnels to tranquil glacial lakes and waterfalls; exploring the Perito Moreno glacier is a once in a lifetime experience. Hearing the icy terrain creak beneath you and the eerie sounds of the glacial movements, you’ll be able to calm your nerves with a nice glass of whiskey with a piece of ice chipped off the glacier itself!
Visit Estancia Cristina
The Upsala Glacier is one of the largest in the Los Glaciares National Park and while sailing along Lake Argentino passing by icebergs, you’ll be able to admire this incredible body of ice.
Having floated by the Upsala Glacier and the stunning mountain views, what could be better than relaxing in a traditional and beautiful Patagonian estancia?
Founded in 1914 by an Englishman, Joseph Percival Masters and his wife, Estancia Cristina is one of the finest estancias in Argentina. Named after their youngest daughter, Cristina, the sense of family and a home from home is a welcome retreat from the icy outdoor conditions. Set in a typically rugged Patagonian landscape, the estancia offers you a chance to explore the lifestyle of living in the icy wilderness in the Los Glaciares National Park.
Where to stay in El Calafate?
If you’re looking to explore the luxury of El Calafate further, there is only one place you should stay; the Hotel Los Sauces Casas Patagonicas. Opened in September 2007 it became the first luxury hotel in El Calafate providing a wide range of services in its prime location at the gateway to the Los Glaciares National Park. Recreating the ever-present warmth and spirit found throughout Patagonia this refined hotel combines both rustic features with European influences which can be found in the garden with its willows and rose hips.
With open fireplaces and views of Mount Calafate, the rooms are spacious and well-equipped providing a comfortable setting surrounded by the dramatic Patagonian environment.
Enjoy views across the Patagonian landscape as the windows throughout the hotel and its fine-dining restaurant perfectly frame the wilderness outside. Just over 325 yards to the main street of El Calafate, you can explore this quaint and charming town during the evening at its many restaurants offering delicious Patagonian lamb and other local delicacies.