July 18, 2012

Tours and Things to do at El Calafate


The Glacier surroundings may be the setting for lots of activities. Apart from the walkways, we did trekking on open ice; combined SUV with walks to see old stones and dinosaur remains, we sailed up to a faraway estancia and went on a bike ride along the border of Brazo Rico.


By a SUV and through desertic untrodden ways one gets to the land of ancient and strange geological formations. 

El Calafate Balcony: 4x4 Expedition 

El Calafate surroundings have a special charm and may be visited in half a day. It is an ideal option for travellers going for a short time and allows them to visit another aspect of the area, different from the typical postcard view offered by the glacier.

Our guide and driver awaits us at the hotel door with a Land Rover van ready to start a 35 km drive across the Huyliche and Anita Estancias Land southwest of the town.

The program called “Balcon de Calafate”, allows us to obtain good panoramic views of the area from an altitude of more than one thousand meters and visit interesting geolocial formations.

The first lap goes across desertic scenery, on land belonging to Estancia Huyliche. There are great black stones to be seen here and there strewn in the countryside that have no relation with the are rocks. The geologists call them erratic stones and were dragged from afar thousands of years ago by the glacier. 

High up we stop to enjoy an incredible view of the city. From this point it is possible to see the east side of lago Argentino; and on clear days the silhouettes of mounts Torre and El Chalten from far away. 

Some kilometres further the road takes us up to Los Sombreros Mexicanos, enormous iron oxide spheres which were generated, as the guide explained when the site was a marine bed. After the Andean Range elevation and a very long erosion process, this is what they look like nowadays.

Afterwards, we go down the norht face of the Huyliche Range without losing sight of the imposing Lago Argentino. 


Whoever arrives at El Calafate has a fixation: to see the glacier right away.

Perito Moreno Glacier - Catwalks overlooking the Glacier 
Located on the Brazo Rico of Lago Argentino, Perito Moreno Glacier is five kilometres long and its ice walls reach an altitude of 60 metres over the water level. Despite all this it is not the biggest glacier in Patagonia. It owes its reputation to a curious phenomenon that takes place in its front as a consequence of the continuos forward movement of this ice mass known as The Fall.

 From El Calafate there are some 80 km along MW 11 up to Los Glaciares National Park. The first lap of the road goes across the desert but 40 km later the vegetation begins to change: notros, lengas, guindos and nires mark both the start of the woods and also the Park entrance.

The best places to see the glacier are the walkways, sort of watching pints which allos us to have different panoramic views.
Mini Trekking - Perito Moreno Glacier 

Surrounded by lakes, woods and glaciers, this pioneering estancia is a unique refuge in the last frontier of Patagonia.

It takes three hours of sailing icebergs and rugged rocks. In the end, on a faraway corner of lago Argentino, next to the Upsala glacier, lies Estancia Cristina. It has an attractive program that combines sailign and adventure activities – trekking, horse-back riding and SUV trips – to the possibility of staying at the new lodge, very near the old house.


We wighed anchor from Puerto Bandera and sailed northwards of the Argentino lake. On either sides of the lake there are rock ranges where lengas, nires and cherry trees manage to grow among the stones. 

Arriving at Estancia Cristina
The western front of the Upsala, one of the ice colossus of Patagonia, can be seen at a distance. The glacier basin takes 900 sq.km; a surface that triplicates Perito Moreno’s and is four times bigger than the city of Buenos Aires. The bad news is that it is withdrawing.

At the end of the Cristina Channel we can see the homonymous estancia, where the vans are awaiting for us to make their first journey by land. 


The next morning we went trekking in the canyon located between the cerro Coplorado and the Feruglio range. There is a black sedimentary stone slab, red inside.

Further we continue flanked by a 120 metre high wall. We are careful in the landslide area and then we stop, at our guide’s suggesiton, to see the fossils and marks left behind by the amonities – the ancient round sea snail – and the belemnites – a type of mollusk similar to the present squid that lived in the Mesozoic – both extinguished millions of years ago. After feeling like geologists for a couple of hours, we get back to the estancia to board the boat back to El Calafate.


Land of giant dinosaurs, the surroundings of lago Viedma keep 70 millions year’s fossil remains.

The idea of travelling to the Cretaceous appealed to us. We didn’t need to get on a time machine or get to the middle of the Earth. We just had to drive quite a few kilometers from Calafate up to the Viedma lake surroundings. Over there, we were told that we could see fossil remains of dinosaurs and fossilized trees of about millions years: it sounded fascinating.

Early in the morning we went along MW11 and then we detoured along the mythical road 40. A bit further on we crossed the Santa Cruz river, whose turquoise waters connect lago argentino with the Atlantic Ocean and brought the first explorers who dared visit the area.

The road goes across the desert. We leave lago Argentino behind and continue along a glacier originated valley which borders La Leona river. A few kilometres before lago Viedma we are ready for our first stop at Luz Divina, and old inn. From there we head towards the west to the estancia Santa Teresita owned by the Vidal Family. It is a 60 thousand hectare sheep farm; where there is a huge fossils field.

Only authorized guides are allowed because it is private property and thus does not have a free access to the public.

We leave the vehicle on a hill and started on our way along the path over guanaco’s path.

The landscape – sedimentary formations in hues of grey – displays a desolate and strange beauty. From above they look like huge mushrooms or like a pile of plates: it is open to imagination.

If you are travelling to Santa Cruz and you will visit El Calafate, contact us and we will provide useful  information. We also specialize in customized tours in Santa Cruz and all over Patagonia. Let us know your opinion and we will be delighted to optimize your visit with useful tips and great tours.