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Things to do in El Calafate

Things to do in  El Calafate

Welcome to El Calafate

On the southern shore of the vast Lago Argentino, silhouetted against snow-capped peaks, El Calafate exemplifies Patagonia’s beauty. Thanks to its strategic location and regular flights to Buenos Aires (roughly three hours away), the town serves as a gateway to some of South America’s natural wonders and a starting point for many a Patagonian adventure. Encircled by mountains, glaciers, and water, El Calafate is considered the hiking capital of Argentina. The star of the show is El Perito Moreno Glacier, the third-largest freshwater reserve in the world and the centerpiece of Los Glaciares National Park, from which huge hunks of ice rupture off and crash into the water below with regularity. The UNESCO World Heritage–listed park is an icy wonderland where visitors can trek across Viedma Glacier, enjoy a boat ride or kayak around the glacial lagoons of Upsala Glacier, visit the frontier town of El Chaltén, or tackle the soaring peak of Mount Fitz Roy. Eager adventurers can see more of the park via an off-road 4x4 tour, by visiting a local ranch (estancia), or on a mountain bike ride down Mt. Huyliche. Just over the Chilean border, the Torres del Paine National Park is close enough to discover on a day trip, while Laguna Nimez Reserve, Walichu Caves, and La Leona petrified forest are right on El Calafate’s doorstep.

Top 10 attractions in El Calafate

#1
Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier

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The beauty of Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia has earned it the nickname of the "Eighth Wonder of the World” in Argentina. It’s the planet's third-largest reserve of fresh water and one of the continent's last advancing glaciers, slowly making its way in crackling celestial blue from the granite spires of the Chilean Torres del Paine into Argentina's Los Glaciares National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares).More
#2
Argentino Lake (Lago Argentino)

Argentino Lake (Lago Argentino)

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Encompassing a colossal 566 square miles (911 square-kilometers), Argentino Lake (Lago Argentino) is the largest lake in the country. El Calafate, the UNESCO-listed Perito Moreno Glacier, and the Upsala Glacier are all perched on its shores, so the lake serves as the gateway to some of Patagonia’s most impressive glacial landscapes.More
#3
Los Glaciares National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares)

Los Glaciares National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares)

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PaLos Glaciares National Park (Parque Nacional Los Glaciares) protects Argentina’s wild Patagonian expanses of icy glaciers and mountain lakes. With a massive 47 glaciers, the Andean ice cap is the largest outside Antarctica and Greenland. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to several natural wonders, including Perito Moreno Glacier and Mount Fitz Roy.More
#4
Upsala Glacier

Upsala Glacier

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South America’s largest glacier, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Los Glaciares National Park near El Calafate, measures 35 miles (56 kilometers) long and 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. Upsala Glacier is among seven glaciers feeding Lake Argentino, where boats dodge icebergs the size of small islands en route to the wall of ice.More
#5
Walichu Caves (Cuevas Galicho)

Walichu Caves (Cuevas Galicho)

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Despite its being toward the ends of the earth, Patagonia has been settled by humans for 15,000 years. Though scant remnants of this era remain, on a tour of the stunning Walichu Caves outside of El Calafate, it’s still possible to find primitive drawings emblazoned on walls of the caves. Believed to represent stories of creation and tales of life in these hills, the drawings sat here forgotten for centuries until Perito Moreno discovered the caves in 1877. Today, while some of the drawings have been defaced, and others are modern replicas, they still tell a tale of primitive peoples who wandered this rugged landscape, where hunting, foraging—and even art—were staples of daily life. Aside from the actual drawings themselves, the setting surrounding Walichu Caves is arguably just as impressive, where rock formations line the shores of crystalline Lake Argentino.More
#6
Mt. Fitz Roy

Mt. Fitz Roy

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Mt. Fitz Roy, the highest mountain in Los Glaciares National Park, rises 11,171 feet (3,405 meters) above the snow-blown landscape of Southern Patagonia to a granite peak that only serious climbers should consider. This recognizable landmark was named after Sir Robert FitzRoy, who once guided Charles Darwin aboard the HMS Beagle.More
#7
Laguna de los Tres

Laguna de los Tres

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A trip to Laguna de los Tres near Mount Fitzroy in Los Glaciares National Park is in a word, memorable. The lake is accessed only by hiking, which can be split into two days or rolled up in one somewhat more challenging day. Tent camping is available at nearby Campamento Poicenot.For the two-day trip, the campsite is a steep, five-hour roundtrip hike from El Chaltén. Many people make camp here to set out early to Laguna de Los Tres for a glimpse of the early morning sun on the turquoise lake set among the mountains. You’ll want to allot time to spend at the lake enjoying the view. To make the trip in one full day, set out early from El Chaltén for an eight-hour hike. This option skips the early morning views of Mount Fitzroy from the campsite.More
#8
Laguna Torre

Laguna Torre

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There’s no doubt the small town of El Chaltén has incredible scenery. Located about three hours from the city of El Calafate, it is known as the hiking capital of Argentina, with the trail to Laguna Torre as a hard-to-beat spot.The trailhead is easy to find and begins with a gentle uphill walk through native beech forests. The Fitz Roy River flows alongside, and just 15 minutes into the hike, you’ll come to the first viewpoint over the Cascada Margarita waterfall. The hike continues uphill for a couple of hours, until the final ascent up the steep moraine that arrives at the Cerro Torre Mirador lookout. From this point you can see Cerro Solo, the Adela range, the 10,000-foot, near-vertical Cerro Torre with its distinctive surrounding “mushroom” of snow and also Mount Fitzroy.To get closer, continue to the DeAgostini base camp. After about another 15 minutes in, you will come to Laguna Torre itself, which sometimes has icebergs floating in it.More
#9
El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center

El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center

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El Calafate Historical Interpretation Center, a small museum in El Calafate, covers a big chunk of history — 100 million years of history. Recently renovated, the museum provides an excellent introduction to the natural and human history of southern Patagonia from the time it was formed through to today.The collection, divided into five rooms, includes fossilized skeletons of dinosaurs and mega mammals found in the area, as well as recreations of prehistoric cave paintings and collections of objects, tools and relics from the native Aonikenk culture and colonizers who showed up later.More
#10
Nimez Lagoon Nature Reserve (Laguna Nimez Reserve)

Nimez Lagoon Nature Reserve (Laguna Nimez Reserve)

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Located on the southern shore of Argentino Lake, Nimez Lagoon Nature Reserve (Laguna Nimez Reserve) is framed by the snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains and serves as a haven for the region’s wildlife. The beaches and marshlands of the reserve harbor more than 80 species of Patagonian and migratory birds.More

Recent reviews from experiences in El Calafate

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I saw what I wanted to see in the...
Walter H, Nov 2017
6-Day Tour of Patagonia visiting El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier & El Chalten
I saw what I wanted to see in the short amount of time I had.
star-5
I was picked up on the dot at the...
Catriona D, Jan 2018
Full-Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier including Boat Safari
The bus journey from El Calafate to the glacier was pretty quick, and our guide was very informative, in both English and Spanish.
star-5
This tour is a must! Fantastic...
April Florence M, Jul 2016
Full-Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier including Boat Safari
Your guide was fabulous and spoke English perfectly, really interesting information and they sorted everything.
star-5
Absolutely great!
sarahkenneth19, Jan 2020
Full-Day Tour to the Torres del Paine National Park
The tour guides were fantastic, spoke English well and were very helpful in answering questions throughout the day.
star-5
wonderful experience although not advertized correctly
dkh0lmes, Jan 2020
El Chalten Full-Day from El Calafate with Lunch
Really beautiful and we were thrilled to see Fitzroy early and as we drove closer to the town.
star-5
Hiking Paradise
gdayse1, Jan 2020
El Chalten Full-Day from El Calafate with Lunch
Meeting point to go back to El Calafate was at the tour office building a bit far from the entrance of the park, giving you the opportunity to see the town with lots of restaurants, bars and souvenirs shops.
star-4
We only had two full days in El...
holybucket, Nov 2017
Full-Day Tour to the Torres del Paine National Park
We got to see lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and all of the most popular views in Paine.
star-5
I highly recommend this tour. It...
Jessica M, May 2016
La Leona Petrified Forest Hiking Tour from El Calafate
We got to see a completely different landscape.
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My wife and I purchased this 5-day...
Charles C, Sep 2016
5-Days Discovery Ushuaia and El Calafate
We did all the excursions included in the 5-day itinerary: Tierra del Fuego National Park, Austral Feuguino train, Beagle Channel boat ride, Pertio Moreno glacier, and the Punta Bandera boat trip to see Upsala glacier.
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Drastic landscape change of...
Chun V, Mar 2017
La Leona Petrified Forest Hiking Tour from El Calafate
Once again, to visit anything marvellous in El Calafate, you have to spend some time to travel get there.
star-5
Dear Sir/Madam: Here is an...
Nesrin Y, Apr 2017
13-Day Best of Patagonia Tour from El Calafate to Ushuaia: Los Glaciares, Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego National Parks
Planet Patagonia was sloppy and unorganized the evaluation form they gave us to evaluate the day's activities was already used by someone else.
star-4
So a previous reviewer said that...
Mell O, Apr 2017
6-Day Tour of Patagonia visiting El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier & El Chalten
Just the sort of weather I expect in the Fall time Went there end of March.
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Pros: Amazing experience hiking on...
David G, Jan 2016
Full-Day Trekking the Perito Moreno Glacier
Pros: Amazing experience hiking on the glacier with knowledgable guides who spoke good English.
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Fantastic way to see the Glaciers!
Mary D, Nov 2019
Full-Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier including Boat Safari
Bus ride to the glaciers was comfortable and gave the guide a chance to explain in English and Spanish about the terrain on the way to the glaciers, as well as the glaciers themselves.
star-5
An excellent, varied day. The...
C P H, Mar 2014
Sailing to Upsala Glacier and Patagonia Adventure to Estancia Cristina
We opted for the walk up the valley to the waterfall.
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Nice landscaping, too much time in transport
Arturo A, Jan 2019
El Chalten Full-Day from El Calafate with Lunch
The tour guide, even a kind person, she was not near a professional tour guide; her English was terrible and the explanations in Spanish were not much better.
star-5
This was one of our 5 all day...
Sanjay H, Oct 2018
El Chalten Full-Day from El Calafate with Lunch
Anna was our trip guide and she did a good job explaining things along the way - both in Spanish as well as in English.
star-5
The Park itself is inspiring - snow...
Michael T, Jan 2017
Full-Day Tour to the Torres del Paine National Park
A few waterfalls with an impressive flow of water and mist, though they are not huge.
star-5
This tour is an absolute MUST-DO for...
judith s, Jan 2017
Full-Day Tour to the Torres del Paine National Park
Plenty of photo stops were included as well as a nice lunch stop at the water falls.
star-5
This was an incredible experience! I...
Colleen C, Oct 2016
Full-Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier including Boat Safari
Also, although I speak Spanish, my boyfriend does not so we were pleased to find out the our tour guide spoke excellent English the tour was conducted in both Spanish and English.
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