Its name is derived from the bush common to this region called the calafate, which has yellow flowers and blue berries which may be made into jam. One belief is that eating this fruit will ensure a return to the area.
Hire a car in El Calafate, which is the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park. Drive to the park which covers an area of 4459 km². This park, which is the 2nd largest in the country, was created in 1937, and became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. A giant ice cap in the Andes, which is the largest outside of Greenland and Antarctica, feeds 47 large glaciers. 30% of the park is covered by ice and the 2 main sections of ice are the 2 principal lakes of Lake Viedma (in the north) and Lake Argentino (in the south).
Besides smaller glaciers, larger ones like the Perito Moreno Glacier, Spegazzini Glacier and Upsala Glacier all flow into Lake Argentino. The Perito Moreno is accessible by car, and the distance from El Calafate to this major tourist draw is 78 km. There is both a large visitor centre and a restaurant here. Since the restaurant charges a premium for its unique location, a better option would be to pack a picnic lunch beforehand as there are many seating areas. You can follow a walking circuit which allows you to see the surface of the glacier plus both faces. The walkways and lookout points allow for an ease in seeing spectacular views.
You may also drive to El Chalten in the northern part of the park which is 220 km from El Calafate. The mountains here like Mount Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are popular for fans of mountain trekking and climbing. Incidentally you may recognize the silhouette of Mount Fitz Roy as this was used as inspiration for the Patagonia clothing logo design. From El Chalten, you can proceed on to Cerro Castillo in Chile on a land route that will definitely be an eye opener. Please remember that if you wish to drive your rental car to Chile, you must also let your car rental agent know beforehand, as there is extra documentation needed for the border crossing.
Another lodging option if you rent a car in El Calafate is to stay at the many estancias (ranches or country properties) around here. These offer additional options like horse riding, fishing, wildlife watching, camping and “rural tasks”. These estancias may have had their beginnings in animal husbandry, but now benefit from the growing tourism trade. Even if you do not stay for the night at the estancias, some also offer dining options or activities on site. If you wish to go further south, go for car rental in El Calafate and drive to the coastal city of Rio Gallegos which is 315 km away. If you head northbound, you can visit Puerto San Julian and Puerto Madryn. If you dine at a typical restaurant here, make sure that you try the Patagonian lamb!
23 November 2019
10°C / 14°C
24 November 2019
13°C / 11°C
25 November 2019
9°C / 6°C
26 November 2019
3°C / 10°C