Julie and I left Buenos Aires after three days to begin our adventures in Patagonia. First stop: El Calafate.
As far as activities are concerned, the town of El Calafate is kind of a one trick pony. Unlike the immensely popular Patagonian city of Bariloche, which is home to a multitude of sites and activities, most people come to El Calafate for one reason: to see Perito Moreno, one of the world’s most impressive glaciers.
The glacier is not only over 3 miles wide, nearly 250 feet tall, and a stunning vibrant blue, but it is also one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing rather than receding. All this has contributed to the glacier becoming one of the principle attractions of Argentinian Patagonia, and draws a huge number of tourists to an otherwise quaint, quiet town.
Our flight arrived around 2:30pm, and while Julie and I spent an enjoyable afternoon walking around the outskirts of El Calafate next to a beautiful lake, there really wasn’t much for us to do on our first day other than prepare to go to the glacier the next morning.
We were up at 6am to have a nice breakfast at our hostel, and soon got on our bus to the glacier (50 miles from El Calafate). Because visiting the glacier is one of the only things to do in the area, the fee to get it was hefty, especially because I was still adjusting from cheap Bolivian prices. That being said, it was absolutely worth the cost:
As we entered Los Glaciares National Park, the landscape began to change, becoming more like what I expected when I thought of Patagonia:
And then finally, in the distance, we could see the glacier. While at that distance it was hard to make out any details, it was clear just how large and imposing a body of ice we were approaching.
After the bus’ next turn, the glacier disappeared from view, and because of the way we approached, we were unable to see the glacier until we were on the walkways and were suddenly, without warning, right next to it. Needless to say, that first glimpse, is seared into my memory
There are four kilometers of walkways crisscrossing the area around the glacier, and as a result, you can get a number of views from a variety of locations and elevations. You can get really close to the lake, with the hopes of seeing pieces of ice fall off (which happens frequently), or take in the glacier from further back with the perspective of the lakes and mountains.
While all we did for two and a half hours was walk around the walkways and watch the glacier, it didn’t get boring. The weather was perfect and the constant creaking, groaning, and cracking of the ice, as well as the sheer majesty of the glacier itself, meant time passed unnoticed.
After a great morning, we left the national park at around 2, and then spent the afternoon and evening getting ice cream, cooking dinner while watching the sunset, and drinking wine with our German dorm-mates.
The next morning we were leaving for El Chalten, the hiking capital of Argentinian Patagonia.