Defined by its immense glaciers, ancient forests and granite spires, El Calafate is an adventurer’s paradise. This region of pristine wilderness is home to one of Argentina’s most awe-inspiring natural wonders, the Perito Moreno Glacier, as well as lesser-known secrets, from glassy lakes strewn with icebergs to rustic Patagonian cattle ranches. Below we share some of our favourite experiences in El Calafate and beyond.
Big Ice Trek
Don crampons, grab an ice axe and clamber over the surface of the 18,000 year-old Perito Moreno Glacier, which towers 70 metres above the surface of Lago Argentino. After a boat ride across the lake, you’ll discover the glacier’s luminous blue crevasses, magnificent ice caves and rivers of fresh meltwater which you can drink from. Your experienced guide will teach you about the Perito Moreno’s geography and vibrant flora as you walk.
Stop for a picnic with views over vibrant lagoons and round off your trek with a glass of whisky served over ancient glacial ice. From different viewpoints, you’ll have the chance to observe 100-tonne chunks of ice break from the glacier’s surface and tumble with an almighty crash into the freezing waters below.
Groups are usually limited to a maximum of 10 people plus an experienced guide, but if privacy is paramount you can always book out the entire group.
Duration: Full day (with 4 hours trekking on ice)
Difficulty level: Advanced, but no prior experience required.
Age Restriction: 18-50 years
If the Big Ice Trek sounds a little daunting, Mini Trekking is a great alternative. Spend an hour on the electric blue surface of the Perito Moreno Glacier, peering into its deep pools, plunging crevasses and a small ice cave.
With more inclusive age limits, this option is ideal for families and groups of friends looking to experience the glacier from a new perspective. A whiskey cooled by glacier ice is included too!
Group sizes are limited to 20 people but can also be booked out exclusively should you wish.
Duration: 1 hour
Difficulty level: Easy. No prior experience required.
Age Restriction: 8-65 years.
Follow in the path of Charles Darwin on a breathtakingly scenic kayak trip along Rio Santa Cruz. The legendary naturalist navigated this river in the mid 19th Century, noting the geological formations and abundant flora and fauna.
Beginning at the mouth of Lago Argentino, paddle 15 km downstream until you reach a traditional Patagonian ranch, Estancia El Rincón. Here, a typical asado barbecue lunch awaits on the banks of the river.
Duration: 5.5 hours
Difficulty level: Medium
Age Restrictions: 16-80
Take in panoramic views of the imposing glaciers and jagged mountains of Los Glaciares National Park while dining on gourmet cuisine aboard a modern catamaran. A full day of sailing across Lago Argentino takes you through the Spegazzini Canal Bay to an old settler’s station, where you’ll learn about local wildlife such as guanaco, puma and condors on a short trek. Once you reach the Spegazzini glacier, which rises 135m above the water, enjoy magnificent vistas while feasting on a specially prepared tasting menu. Afterwards, continue to the staggeringly beautiful Upsala and Perito Moreno Glaciers.
For a truly exclusive experience, you can opt to charter a boat. Whether you’d like capacity for 28 people or 180, we can arrange the perfect private departure for your family event, friends getaway or company incentive.
Duration: Full Day
Difficulty level: Easy
Age Restrictions: None
Tucked away inside Los Glaciares National Park, Estancia Cristina offers an authentic taste of the traditional gaucho lifestyle. The historic ranch is isolated amidst mountainous landscapes, perched on the northern shore of Lago Argentino which can only be reached by boat. Wake each day to impressive views of the Andes Mountains and the Upsala Glacier spilling off the Southern Patagonian icecap.
From this privileged location, you can explore some of the remotest corners of the national park in peace and quiet. As condors sail overhead, hike to secluded waterfalls and milky lakes formed by vast glaciers. Head out with the gauchos on horseback into ancient forests or try your hand at fly fishing for rainbow trout in the estancia’s private lake. A museum of artefacts in the original sheep shearing barn gives an insight into Estancia Cristina’s rich history.
Difficulty level: Excursions range from Easy – Advanced
Age Restrictions: None
Glacier Sur Experience: Trek to Hidden Glaciers
A spectacular series of hidden glaciers punctuate the border between Argentina and Chile. Reaching them is no mean feat. Begin by sailing to the southern reaches of Lago Argentino. From here, a scenic trek through wild, rocky terrain leads to Lago Frías, a lake scattered with enormous icebergs. Another short zodiac trip takes you to a wild shore where you’ll begin a longer hike deep into the Andes Mountains, following forested paths to an amphitheatre facing the Dickson, Cubo and Grande glaciers. Enjoy a well-earned picnic on the Patagonian frontier.
Groups comprise no more than 15 people, but we can also arrange a private hike.
Duration: 12 hours (7.5 hours hiking total)
Age Restriction: 12-65
Estancia Nibepo Aike
Take in wild, boundless terrains from the saddle on horse riding expeditions led by gauchos at Estancia Nibepo Aike. Sheep, cattle and horses live on the grounds of this authentic working ranch, located within Los Glaciares National Park.
Beginners can learn to ride on sure-footed horses in the peaceful valleys surrounding the farm. More experienced riders can embark on a number of epic adventures, including an unforgettable five-day journey to the hidden glaciers. By day, traverse temperate forests, rugged peaks and fast-flowing rivers, stopping for lake swims and feasts of tender lamb slow-cooked over an open fire. Nights are spent under canvas in rustic outposts.
Difficulty level: Beginners – Advanced
Age Restriction: None
Want to discover more about the best experiences in El Calafate and Patagonia? Get in touch to talk to one of our friendly Argentina Experts.