Argentina – El Calafate

After two nights in San Telmo, Buenos Aires and two nights in Ushuaia , Jenny and I have arrived at our third stop, El Calafate. We will be staying here three nights and after being outside of the airport for ten minutes, we both agreed that we we are excited to be here a bit longer! After checking in to our adorable hotel, Sierra Nevada, we decided to go for a short run to stretch our legs. We did about two miles fairly slowly since we have both been resting recently. At the end of town there was a cute park with a massive flight of stairs, so we ended with a pretty sunset view over the surrounding mountains. After returning, we got a few groceries (mainly fruits!) and then explored the hotel before calling it a fairly early night.

Sunday morning we enjoyed a nice breakfast at the hotel. They had the typical ham, cheese, croissant, other pastries and yogurt. But they also had eggs and fresh fruit! We were picked up for our 7.5 hour tour around 9:30am and headed west out of town. The Glacier National Park sits 80k (49 miles) outside of El Calafate so we enjoyed a discussion on the sheep, llamas, condors, and flamingos we were passing. The first stop inside the park was at a viewpoint 12k from the large glacier we would be watching all day, Perito Moreno. It’s not the largest in Argentina or the world, but it is one of the most accessible. We could only see the south half for much of the morning but even “just” that was outstanding!

Once the photo op was finished, we drove to a boat launch on Brazo Rico (Rico Channel). The next hour was spent getting as close as 200m from the ice! We took a ton of pictures, watched for falling chunks, and stared in awe at the massive wall in front of us. It was chilly on the boat but not unbearable and the sun has not stopped shining since we arrived (unlike the often gray skies of Ushuaia). Once we returned, the bus drove the last section to the system of walkways cross-crossing the slopes opposite the glacier. We were given three hours to spend as we chose, so we first paused for baños and lunch. We split a spinach and a beef empanada with fruit and nutrition bar snacks on the side.

For the next few hours we walked between viewpoints, snapping pictures, sitting in the sun, and watching the wall. From here we could see both the south side on Brazo Rico, where we had been on the boat, and the north side which faces the Lago Argentina (Argentina Lake). The water on the north side comes exclusively from glaciers in the region so it’s water is a stunning teal color. Right at the intersection of the darker Brazo Rico and the brighter, greener Lago Argentina there was an array of ice chunks that had broken off, which made this part of the water particularly pretty. The walkways were a series of staircases that went down the closer to the glacier you got, which meant a lot of steps to hike back up to get back to the bus! We then returned to town around 5pm.

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We took this time to head to the tourist information center at the other end of town, maybe a mile away. We knew we would have free time later in our stay and wanted options. We also made a dinner reservation for the following night at a steakhouse by the center. Wandering back to the hotel we stopped in a few shops and then settled on dinner at Pura Vida. They had lots of stews and pot pies and vegetable dishes but I tried the lamb ravioli, which was actually quite good. For dessert we splurged and got the ice cream brownie with fresh Calafate berry sauce on top. Yum!

Monday morning was early as our transfer bus picked us up at 7:30am. This time we went west out of town and then turned north to meet the large catamaran that would be our main mode of transportation for the day. We set off around 9am for a five hour sailing in Lago Argentina. This is the largest lake in the country and is something like 1,500 sq km. It’s HUGE! We quickly passed through Boca del Diablo (Devil’s mouth) and into Brazo Norte (North Channel). Through two different spokes off of this channel, we viewed the Upsala and Spegazzini Glaciers. The Upsala is more volatile and produces the most icebergs in the region. Luckily, there weren’t too many to prohibit us from a close view. The Spegazzini was a high glacier, coming down in multiple places around mountain peaks. It currently has the highest wall of ice at the front and is 17 square kilometers in size.

After viewing the glaciers and the various icebergs associated with them, we enjoyed the hour cruise back through the stunningly beautiful Lago Argentina. Once returning the town and shedding a few layers, we hopped on the free shuttle to the relatively new (circa 2010) Glaciarium. The various exhibits and films discussed ice and glaciers scientifically, facts and details pertaining to glaciers specifically in the national park, and information about the effect of global warming on the glaciers and the world. I thought it was extremely well done and was one of the more visually pleasing museums I’ve been to in a while. They had a few interactive pieces and of course breath-taking photos of ice, and it was absolutely worth a visit if you’re in town!

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For dinner last night, we had reservations at La Tablita, one of many steakhouses in town. We got the recommended grilled lamb and grilled chorizo (sausage), as well as a side of grilled vegetables. We also opted to try Argentinian wine with our meal, but I couldn’t bring myself to get red even though it pairs better with red meat… My white was just fine, thank you 😉 The meat was extremely delicious and cooked to perfection. They definitely know what they are doing! On the way home we paused to sample Argentinian beer, which was… beer, at least to me. Jenny found one she liked so we relaxed a bit there. Then it was back to the hotel, exhausted but happy… at 10:47pm with daylight in the sky, lol.

Today we packed up, checked out, and stored our luggage before heading out to explore town a bit more before leaving. We wandered along the lake, past the flamingo reservation, and over to the historical interpretation center (where we learned about the native Aonikenk people. Along the way we found an artisan shop (Neo Artesania) with gorgeous jewelry and other handicrafts that preserve and relate the old world to the new one. The designer, Raúl was extremely friendly and explained that he collected the stones and crystals used in his jewelry on and around the glaciers. I bought a necklace and he custom made a longer chain for me, right then. If you’re going to El Calafate, be sure to check him out!

Lunch was a lamb and mushroom savory crepe followed by a banana and dulce de leche sweet crepe, both from Viva la Pepa. Both were incredibly good and the perfect sendoff from Patagonia. I cannot get over the landscape and people we found, especially in El Calafate. I recommend this place to anyone coming to Patagonia. We did so much but there is so much more to do! For now, we must say goodbye as Jenny and I fly back to Buenos Aires. Caio!

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Argentina – Buenos Aires Day Trips | Rays of Funshine
  2. Trackback: Argentina – Palermo, Buenos Aires | Rays of Funshine
  3. roamingpursuits
    Jul 31, 2015 @ 19:01:57

    Nice views of the glacier.

    Like

    Reply

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