The little town in Patagonia’s south located ashore of Lago Argentino is the entrance gate to the iconic Los Glaciares National Park. The proximity to the park’s accessible glaciers like Perito Moreno is responsible for the town’s boom in recent decades. Also, near El Calafate, other hidden gems of Patagonian nature await.
Read about five best things you can do in and around El Calafate.
1. Hike to Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the Earth’s natural wonders. Standing on the viewing platform and hearing the ice crack is an unforgettable experience.
Take it to the next level and embark on a “journey to the centre of the glacier” with Hielo & Aventura’s Big Ice Tour. The demanding 7 hours hike brings you to the very heart of the glacier.
You’ll be able to enjoy the view over the massive ice formation from a whole different perspective.
Good to know: The tour requires good fitness. Crampons are provided, but good hiking boots are a must. Also, bring sunscreen with at least SPF 50.
2. Bike ashore Lago Argentino
Rent a bicycle and head for Lago Argentino. There is a path around the lake. The views are tremendous, and with a bit of luck, you’ll spot flamingos on its surface.
Bird enthusiasts should stop at Reserva Laguna Nimez. The natural reserve is an excellent spot for bird watching.
When to visit: Visit in spring (late November), when the chicks hatch, and you’ll see mama goose take her babies out for the first swim.
Our accommodation, the enchanting hosteria Hostería Lodge Cauquenes de Nimez provided the bikes for free.
3. Walk among dinosaurs
Patagonia is mostly known for its breath-taking glacial landscape. However, further to the east, a different, Mars-like scenery awaits.
100 million years ago, Patagonia was home to the world’s biggest dinosaurs. You can relive our Earth’s history in the petrified forest Bosque Petrificado La Leona, where you can walk among dinosaur bones.
Not many travellers have this hidden gem on their itinerary, as you can only enter the site with certified guides.
Good to know: Usually, you can book the trips directly with your accommodation.
4. Enjoy the atmosphere of El Calafate
El Calafate is a charming town and a gate to the glaciers. It’s full of travellers, mountaineers and extreme climbers.
Get to know them in one of El Calafate’s cosy pubs and listen to the stories about their Argentinian adventures. Maybe they’ll have some useful tips for your next destination.
Be sure to try the Patagonian lamb in one of many excellent restaurants. It is a speciality here, and it’s really delicious.
5. Drive on Ruta Nacional 40
Observe the vastness of grasslands while driving on the famed Argentinian route 40. Catch a glimpse of the glacial peaks and lakes to the west and the plains’ moonlike landscape to the east.
About 110 km from El Calafate on Ruta Nacional Nº 40 you’ll find the historical “La Leona” Roadhouse & Country Lodge.
The visit will take you back in the early 20th century in Santa Cruz province. Many famous mountain explorers lodged there including Fitz Roy. Also, in 1905 the well-known bandits Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid used La Leona for a quick stop on their escape after robbing a bank in Rio Gallegos.
Enjoy your time in charming El Calafate and stunning Patagonian nature.