El Calafate is a beautiful small town in the Argentinian side of Patagonia, on Lake Argentino. The town is quaint, filled with restaurants, cafes, ice bars and bakeries. The star attraction of this place is Perito Moreno Glacier, which unlike other glaciers, is not shrinking. It advances at a rate of 2 metres a day, and large chunks of ice calve off at all hours of the day/night.
This glacier is one of the many wonders of nature, get ready to settle in for the whole day to watch as large chunks of ice crash and fall into the water. To get to the glacier you can catch a tour or go by private transport. I would recommend private transport if you’re on a budget, plus it offers a lot more flexibility
Trust me, you will want to set aside a whole day to enjoy this glacier. Bring some food and hot drinks, and relax. The observation deck boasts amazing views of the glacier, and the ‘track’ is more of an easily accessible ramp that rambles from east to west.
By boat? Or by car?
As mentioned earlier, by private transport, you save and can see the glacier at your own pace. I visited the glacier one year by tour and felt a little rushed. I could have spent a lot longer.
A boat allows a more adventurous way to see and experience the glacier. However, the boat cannot get too close due to the risk of large falling pieces of ice. I personally enjoyed the observation deck a lot, due to the completeness of views.
If you do it yourself, all you will spend on the day is the entrance fee (about $17 AUD per person) & maybe food/beverage if you visit the cafe.
Or should I do it on foot?
Minitrekking is one of the top adventure activities available in El Calafate. It is truly amazing, as this glacier is beautifully clean & bright blue in the sun. You can see some of my photos in this other worldly landscape above. I did minitrekking in 2016, and it was an unforgettable experience.
When else can you walk on a glacier? The tours provide you with equipment, a guide, and treat you to a chocolate, and whiskey on ice from the glacier itself.
It comes at a cost though, setting you back about $300 AUD (not including the entrance fee to the park).
What to do in El Calafate
- Explore the town! Take in the beautiful houses, cafes and stores
- Visit the lake and walk around it, it is beautifully turquoise and we slept in our camper car for a week with this view
- See the handcraft markets
- Visit the local bakeries and eat facturitas, delicious Argentinian pastries sold for great prices
- Try the chocolate & ice cream that is made here
- Visit nearby El Chalten! One of our favourite places in all of South America (do not go for 1 day, stay for at least 3!). Get there by hitchhiking, private transport or a local bus ($80 return trip).
What not to do in El Calafate
El Calafate is a tourist town, so watch out to not get caught in overpriced tours and bars.