Published January 2020
By plane, before landing at Calafate International Airport, you can have an idea of what to expect from this trip: blue and emerald-green lakes appear among deserted areas in southern Argentina. And when you arrive in El Calafate, the enchantment remains, as the next days in this Patagonian city will offer relaxation in the midst of nature, good food, activities in hotels and inns with a great infrastructure, and some of our continent’s most surprising landscapes. Here, check out the region’s can’t-miss attractions:
Some 50 miles [80 km] from El Calafate, Los Glaciares National Park is a preserved area with over 700,000 hectares. There you’ll find the largest glaciers on the continent, including Perito Moreno and Upsala, but they are not the reserve’s only attractions. Other icons in the park are Mount Fitz Roy, Chorrillo del Salto, Laguna de Los Três, and Laguna Capri.
To explore the area, visitors need to pay a visitation fee:
The Perito Moreno Glacier is truly impressive and looks like the Game of Thrones ice wall! It extends for 155 miles [250 km] and you can admire it from nearby walkways (bring a coat!). But, if you like adventure, walk on the glacier on a mini-hike that can take up to 3 hours and a half. At the end of the tour, the guides offer those who are of legal age whisky with ice taken from Perito Moreno.
Another way to enjoy some fresh air and the bucolic lifestyle in rural Argentina is on horseback. Locals love to go horseback riding and there are several tours of this kind in the region, with guides that take visitors on trails that lead to tourist attractions. Some even make lunch, which includes good national wine.
For lunch or dinner, head to the city’s main thoroughfare, Avenida Libertador San Martín. There you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants and bars and the region’s main dish, Patagonian lamb roasted over a wood fire. But there are other quintessentially Argentine options, like meat, pizza, empanada, pasta, and dulce de leche ice cream. On the same avenue, take advantage to buy some local souvenirs.
The small El Chaltén is the youngest city in Argentina. Founded in 1985, it serves as the base for adventurers and mountaineers who want to climb Mount Fitz Roy. In the charming village, with just 500 inhabitants during the winter, you’ll find restaurants and good accommodation options for anyone who wants to explore the other side of Los Glaciares National Park.
Imposing, at an altitude of 11,155 feet [3,400 m], Mount Fitz Roy, on the border between Chile and Argentina, is also known as Cerro Chaltén. Due to its vertical, smooth walls, climbing it is a job for more experienced alpinists – therefore, don’t try to do it without adequate preparation. But you can also just admire it and enjoy its charming surroundings, including Laguna de Los Três.
LATAM has flights to El Calafate. Calafate International Airport is 14 miles [23 km] from the city center. There, you can use your hotel’s shuttle service, arrange a private transfer, or rent a car to explore more distant places.