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  • Writer's pictureDanae Bianco

El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier - the best of Argentinan Patagonia

Updated: Sep 30, 2023


Glaciar Pertio Moreno, Argentina. Mulher com casaco vermelho olhando o glaciar.


In early April, I embarked on a photographic expedition through the Argentinean and Chilean Patagonia with a group of 10 super-talented landscape photographers.


We spent 9 days between El Calafate, Argentina, and Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.


I don't even need to say that it was a transformative experience - I learned a lot, made new friends, had a great time; in short, it was worth every minute.


In this post, I'm going to share a bit about El Calafate, which is located in the southern region of Argentinean Patagonia and serves as the perfect base for exploring the area.


Glaciar Perito Moreno, Argentina


HOW TO GET THERE


El Calafate is well-served by regional flights in Argentina, especially from Buenos Aires, which, being Argentina's capital and its major city, is connected with dozens of cities and airports around the world, especially throughout South America, the USA, and Europe.


Since I live in Brazil, to get from Brazil to El Calafate, you'll need to make a connection in Buenos Aires (please note that a change of airports in the Argentine capital may be necessary).


There are also flights to El Calafate from other Argentine cities like Córdoba, Bariloche, Ushuaia, and Trelew (at the time of my research, but there may be more), which makes logistics easier if you want to tour Argentine Patagonia without spending too much time on land travel.


From El Calafate, it's easy to access, by road, Torres del Paine (in Chile) and El Chaltén (in Argentina), both true paradises for nature and mountain enthusiasts.



WHERE TO STAY IN EL CALAFATE

We stayed at the Hotel Patagonia Queen, a super cozy hotel very close to the city center.

I recommend choosing a hotel near Av. del Libertador, the main street in the area, where restaurants, bars, and shops are concentrated, such as Calafate Park Hotel or Hotel Picos del Sur - I stayed in this one on my first trip to El Calafate, back in 2008! Hotel Michelangelo is also on a central location and looks like amanzing cost-benefit.

WHERE TO EAT IN EL CALAFATE

We spent a few days in El Calafate, and what I can recommend is:

  • NINA Pasión y Sabores restaurant: By far, the best steak I had in the city. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.


  • La Zorra Brewery: A superb selection of craft beers, great music, and a lively atmosphere.


  • La Oveja Negra: Also offers excellent beers.


Glaciar Perito Moreno, Argentina


WHAT TO DO IN EL CALAFATE AND PERITO MORENO GLACIER

El Calafate is one of the most popular destinations in Patagonia. Situated on the shores of Lake Argentino and surrounded by mountains and glaciers, it's a paradise for nature lovers.

In the town itself, apart from dining, drinking, and enjoying the opportunity to buy regional products (the calafate jam is a must and makes a perfect souvenir for friends and family), there isn't much more to do.

The highlight is the Intendancy of Los Glaciares National Park, where there's a small visitor center surrounded by a beautiful park with some facilities, antiques, and informative panels about the region, its colonization, and its wildlife.

Here is the link to the official website of Los Glaciares National Park, where you can find some information to help you plan your trip.

Glaciar Perito Moreno, Argentina


PERITO MORENO GLACIER


The Perito Moreno Glacier is the highlight of any trip to El Calafate, and many (if not the majority) of visitors limit themselves to this tour - which, by the way, was what happened to me the first time I was there in 2008.


You will be amazed when you see the glacier. It's enormous, much larger than you might imagine - at least, that was the impression I had. A spectacle of nature. Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers in the world that is not shrinking in size (our guide said it's only this one and one in Greenland).


The park is about 75 km from the city, and unless you have your own vehicle, the easiest way to visit it is with transportation provided by local agencies - there are several on the main street of the town, or you can research online.


Upon arriving at the park, there is a complex of walkways that are over 4 km in length, forming various circuits: yellow, green, red, and blue. You can walk along the walkways without the need for a guide.




The main route is the yellow circuit. If you have limited time and can only walk this one, it will have been enough, but I strongly recommend exploring the other circuits (I visited all of them except for the green one because I really run out of time!).


In fact, if you only have one day (or a few hours) in El Calafate, this is the tour to do.


Walking along the blue circuit to the end, you will arrive at the pier where boat tours depart, and there is also an excellent restaurant - Restó del Glaciar Perito Moreno. We had lunch there on the day we visited the glacier. Additionally, there is a free park bus that will take you back to the entry point of the walkways.


Another classic way to see the glaciers is by boat. While from the walkways, you see the glacier from above, on the boat, you will see it from below and up close. It's well worth it.


The boat ride may already be included in the tour you book, or it can be arranged on the spot (though it may be crowded). As I mentioned, there is a free park shuttle that takes you from the walkway area to the pier, or you can simply follow the blue walkway circuit to the end.


Although Perito Moreno is absolutely stunning, the region has much more to offer.


GLACIER TREKKING


Another must do activity is trekking on the glaciers!


These tours are done with a mandatory guide and in small groups. There are two types: the "mini-trekking," where the glacier walking part lasts about 1 hour, and the full trekking, where the walk lasts 3 hours plus a picnic break, typically called "Big Ice."


Unfortunately, I left it to book it at the last minute, and there was no availability for either option, but you can try to book yours, here's a link. I'll have to return to El Calafateto do it ;-)


Mayo Spirit Trek - Glaciar Cerro Negro

MAYO SPIRIT TREK


Since I couldn't do the mini-trekking on the glacier, I did this tour, which I ended up loving.


It's a combination of a boat trip and an easy trek through a region of Los Glaciares National Park that can only be accessed by boat.


The first stop is at Bahia Toro, with a short walk through a stretch of Andean Patagonian forest, ending at a waterfall of over 180 meters.


Returning to the boat, we sailed a bit further until we reached the start of another trail, and hiked about 1 km through a stunning valley, leading to the Cerro Negro Glacier, a suspended glacier (at the top of the mountain).


Returning to navigation on Lake Argentino, the boat continues to Perito Moreno Glacier, getting very close to the glacier. This part is quite interesting because you get to see the ice wall from below, a very different view from what you get from the walkways. On this day, there were still several sizable icebergs around, and the boat sailed through them, a truly impressive sight.


Next, the boat stops at the pier for about 2 hours, giving you time to visit the walkways again. I took the free park bus to the main parking area, where the entrance to the walkway circuit is located, and took the opportunity to explore some sections I didn't have time for on the first day.


Glaciar Perito Moreno, Argentina
It looks like a drone photo, but it isn't. It was taken from the walkways, the blue circuit


NAVIGATION TO UPSALA GLACIER


There are still many other glaciers in the region. There is a tour that, following another arm of Lake Argentino, takes you to Upsala Glacier and Spegazzini Glacier, which has ice walls up to 135 meters high. I had to save this for my next visit to El Calafate, but they say it's wonderful - and there's an opportunity to see many icebergs too!



ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR


This trip was part of a photography tour of Patagonia, the first of its kind for me. I must confess that in the beginning, I was quite apprehensive since I am by no means an expert in photography, and I had little idea of what to expect.


But the leader of our expedition - Marcello Cavalcanti, a photographer who leaves you in awe of so many stunning images, was not only perfect in planning the locations and timing but also impeccable in conducting the activities and had infinite patience to assist and guide everyone according to their needs and expectations (this is not a sponsored post; all expenses for this trip were paid by me).


The result was an unforgettable journey in which, aside from having fun and meting incredible people, I learned a lot and came back with spectacular photos.


Our focus was landscape photography, which meant that we had to make the most of sunrise and sunset - every day, we left the hotel while it was still dark, spent the entire day moving from one location to another, each more spectacular than the last, and returned to the hotel exhausted, usually well after nightfall.



On the first day in El Calafate, the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park was only possible at 8 o'clock, so the location for sunrise was a point (apparently random but carefully chosen by our lead photographer) on one of those dirt roads leading to the Andes Mountains. The sunrise that day was fantastic, with shades of yellow, orange, pink, and red blending and alternating over the minutes.


Next, as we drove along the region's scenic roads, we had some encounters with Patagonian wildlife: a Chilean eagle, a huge group of cauquén (the Patagonian goose, a symbol of the region), a fox, and a caracara (similar to a vulture). At that moment, I still wasn't very familiar with my telephoto lens, so I couldn't make the most of the opportunity, but it's all part of the learning process.


In Los Glaciares National Park, opportunities for photos on the walkways were abundant. The orange hues of sunrise gave way to the omnipresent blue of the glacier, offering photos from every possible angle and framing. We couldn't stay for the sunset due to park time restrictions, so we returned to the city and prepared for the early morning trip to Torres del Paine in Chile the next day.



From El Calafate to the hotel we stayed at in Chile, very close to the Argentinean border, it was about a 4-hour drive, crossing the Don Guillermo International Pass. Torres del Paine National Park is about 45 minutes further.


The expedition then continued for another 5 days in Chilean territory, where we carried out photography, capturing some of the most spectacular landscapes on this planet. In this post, I'll share all the details of the photographic journey in Torres del Paine, go check it out!


This is NOT a sponsored post. All expenses for the trip were covered by me.


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Argentina - El Calafate and Perito Moreno Glacier - www.danae-explore.com


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