10 Best Things To Do In El Calafate, Argentina: Back To The Ice Age

Diah
Diah 
Updated

As the pilot directs the plane before landing, you will be granted with magnificent scenery of Lago Argentino (in English: Lake Argentino), the largest lake in Argentina. Welcome to El Calafate, where the ice lives forever.

El Calafate is a town in Patagonia, on the southern border of Lake Argentino. It sits between the town of El Chalten, Argentina, parts of Patagonia, and Torres del Paine, Chile. El Calafate is the important tourist hub for those who love to explore Patagonia. There are flights to El Calafate from Bariloche, Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia. Please check carefully about the date and time of the flight if you want to see these sights.

El Calafate is located 80 km (50 mi) from Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (in English: Los Glaciares National Park), so its main tourist attraction is related to ice and cold temperature. Be ready with your gear and thermal jacket — we’re going to the ice age!

1. Ice of the Perito Moreno Glacier, anyone?

Perito Moreno Glacier Patagonia Argentina Luca Galuzzi 2005
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Lucag used under CC BY-SA 2.5

The signature tourist attraction of El Calafate is the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier. The Perito Moreno Glacier is the 3rd largest fresh water reserve in the world and it’s one of three glaciers in the world that grows — an average of two meters (6.5 ft) per day — instead of retreats.

Due to its wild and magnificent glacier field, Los Glaciares National Park built The Perito Moreno Glacier Footbridge, so tourists can admire the breathtaking view of the glacier from many angles.

It’s open for all ages, so make sure you pack all your photo gear and find a perfect spot to take photo or video of the glacier.

March is the perfect time to watch the ice-breaking season at The Perito Moreno Glacier and although pictures tell a thousand words, no words can explain the majestic process of The Perito Moreno Glacier ice breaking.

Mini Trekking Perito Moreno

Website: Mini Trekking Perito Moreno

2. Walk on ice at the famous Perito Moreno Glacier

things to do in el calafate | walk on ice at the famous perito moreno glacier
Source: minombrerany on Instagram

You came all the way to the southern part of the world just to admire the glacier, right?

Take a more advanced way to admire the glacier by taking a trekking tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the safest hanging glaciers in the world. Please bear in mind the age restriction; the trekking is suitable for people between 10 to 65 years old.

There are many types of tour packages with a variety of different durations. You will be taken by boat across Lake Argentino to the nearest post of the glacier, where they will ask you to wear crampons, special shoes to trek the glacier and give you a brief instruction about trekking.

The guide then will take you on an ice trekking journey through the valleys and small rivers at the Perito Moreno Glacier. Please keep yourself on safety tracks and follow the guide’s instructions.

This is an exhausting but amazing trekking adventure. You will be granted with a breathtaking view of the glacier. And the best part is, at the end of the tour, they will give you a glass of whiskey with ice from the glacier to celebrate the trekking. Cheers!

Big Ice Trekking Perito Moreno

Website: Big Ice Trekking Perito Moreno

3. Embrace Patagonian life at Estancia Cristina

things to do in el calafate | embrace patagonian life at estancia cristina
Source: minombrerany on Instagram

Estancia Cristina is one of the old ranches in Patagonia, where the inhabitants used to make wool and catch fish to survive in the difficult Patagonian climate.

Nowadays, Estancia Cristina provides accommodation for tourists and tour packages. You can learn about the old wool processes at Estancia Cristina, or just walk the surrounding area to discover the old church and the river. Try to fish while you are there, you might get lucky to catch some salmon!

Estancia Cristina

Website: Estancia Cristina

4. Birdwatching at Nimez Natural Reserve Lagoon

things to do in el calafate | birdwatching at nimez natural reserve lagoon

Take a break from the ice by going birdwatching at Nimez Natural Reserve Lagoon. It’s situated at the edge of the Lake Argentino and it’s a prime stop for bird-lovers. There are up to 80 species of birds that can be found at the reserve. During your walk, there are many signs that show you some spots along the trail to help you better understand the natural environment of that area.

At one end, you will find a lot of thorny calafate bushes, which might be loaded with ripe blue calafate berries (these bushes and berries are the ones that gave the town its name). These berries are an important food source for the birds and small animals that live in the reserve.

On the other end you will see the lagoon, with variety of birds, including the near threatened Chilean Flamingo.

Laguna Nimez Reserva Natural Municipal

Address: El Calafate, Santa Cruz Province, Argentina

Website: Laguna Nimez Reserva Natural Municipal

5. A journey back in time at El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center


Take a journey back in time at the El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center, where you learn about the glacier processes and the ecological transformations of the Pleistocene era.

You will learn about the evolution of three fascinating groups of animals: dinosaurs, mega mammals, and human beings, with the aid of printed panels, posters with drawings and photographs, enlarged images, objects, tools and replicas, as well as by sound accounts that enhance the experience.

The El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center’s aim is to share updated scientific knowledge about Southern Patagonia, as well as the protection of the heritage and memory.

El Calafate Centro de Interpretacion Historica

Address: Av. A.Brown and G.Bonarelli, El Calafate - Santa Cruz, Argentina

Website: El Calafate Centro de Interpretacion Historica

6. Explore La Leona Petrified Forest

things to do in el calafate | explore la leona petrified forest
Source: lscatorze on Instagram

After a break from the ice and indulgence in the history of El Calafate and its surroundings, get ready again to explore La Leona Petrified Forest on a day trip.

La Leona Petrified Forest is a unique geological forest with a lunar landscape strewn with petrified logs and dinosaurs fossils. During an easy-going 12 km (7.5 mi) hike, you will be granted with an amazing view of Lake Argentino, La Leona River, the view of Andes Patagonia, and Mount Fitz Roy from afar.

Stop by for a coffee at the historical La Leona Hotel, where the bandits like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once stayed.

La Leona Petrified Forest Tour

Website: La Leona Petrified Forest Tour

7. Enjoy the most delicious journey through Patagonian gourmet dishes


The most delicious way to enjoy your journey to the ice age is by taking a tasty journey of Patagonian gourmet dishes.

The Restaurant at EOLO Hotel will spoil your senses with typical Patagonian gourmet dishes and pair them with the famous Argentinian finest wine, Malbec.

The Restaurant at EOLO Patagonia Spirit

Website: The Restaurant at EOLO Patagonia Spirit

8. Get your adrenaline pumping at El Chalten

get your adrenaline pumping at el chalten
Source: minombrerany on Instagram

El Chalten, the Argentinian trekking capital, is the base town to explore the Patagonian Andes and the famous Mount Fitz Roy, the most challenging mountain peak in the world.

It’s a 2.5 hours drive from El Calafate and has a complete options for trekking trails. So go for a day trip to El Chalten and take a short trek to Capri Lagoon for breathtaking views of Mount Fitz Roy.

Self Guided Trek Laguna Capri

Website: Self Guided Trek Laguna Capri

9. Ice trekking at Viedma Glacier

Trek on the Viedma Glacier
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Liam Quinn used under CC BY-SA 2.0

When you plan to stay more days at El Calafate, you can move to El Chalten and go on an ice trekking tour to Viedma Glacier, the largest glacier in Argentina.

Viedma Glacier is a valley glacier and it flows into the Lake Viedma. Viedma Glacier is located in an interesting area; the undefined border between Chile and Argentina.

You will embark on a watercraft at Lake Viedma and will start your icy journey with crampons on your shoes. It’s not an easy path, so make sure that you are fit enough to do this hike.

Viedma Ice Trek

Website: Viedma Ice Trek

10. Up close and personal with Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers (from USD 183.0)

up close and personal with upsala and spegazzini glaciers
Source: minombrerany on Instagram

You’ve seen the icebergs on television, and now it is time for you to trek them at Perito Moreno. It’s time for you to get up close and personal with them.

Sail away at Lake Argentino, and get up close and personal with the icebergs of the Upsala Glacier. You will depart at dawn and experience a breathtaking sunrise by the lake.

Slowly but surely, you will approach the icebergs of the Upsala Glacier. It looks so small until you find out that it’s even bigger and taller than any buildings in the world.

You continue your journey by trekking to the nearest part of the Upsala Glacier, where you can see the Andes Mountain from afar. You will trek on a former glacier area, so pay attention; you might get lucky to find some fossils there!

Then the boat will take you to the Spegazzini Channel and sail between the ice walls. The Spegazzini Channel may not be a big glacier, but seeing the ice walls, which range from 80 to 135 meters (262 ft to 443 ft) in height, is a breathtaking experience.

Upsala and Spegazzini Channel Boat Tour

Duration: 8 hours

3 reviews

Ice, ice and more ice

You’ll never get enough of the unique landscape and breathtaking glacier scenery of the Patagonian Andes. It’s also a very windy area and the sunlight is extremely strong. Be ready with the most comfortable gear because there is more to explore around the southern tip of the world. Go further on your journey to the end of the world.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

I’m an Indonesian girl who loves to travel the world. I’ve been to 4 continents, 17 countries, and still counting for more. I’m a Communication Specialist, Marketing Consultant, and Freelance...Read more

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Explore El Calafate
Good things are meant to be shared!