Here are the top 5 things to do in El Calafate and its surroundings. It is one of the most visited cities in Argentine Patagonia thanks to the impressive Perito Moreno glacier.
🔎 Check here our guide to travel to El Calafate.
Table of Contents
1) Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno glacier is undoubtedly the main attraction to see in El Calafate. Located inside Los Glaciares National Park and about 80 km from the city of El Calafate, it is the best known and most visited glacier in Argentina. Its imposing mass of ice can surpass the 60 meters of height over the Lake Rico with about 5 km of extension in the front.
Inside the national park and a few meters from the Perito Moreno glacier there are wooden footbridges (pasarelas) so that the visitor can have a complete view of the front of the glacier. You can also navigate in Lake Rico to see the glacier from close up.
If you are lucky, you can see the natural break of the bridge of the Perito Moreno glacier, an impressive spectacle that nature offers us. This event occurs on average every four years, but lately the frequency of the event has accelerated.
2) Walk on the Perito Moreno Glacier
One of the main things to do in El Calafate is to walk on the Perito Moreno glacier, over huge masses of ice, spotting cracks, blue lagoons and caves. An unbeatable experience!
There are two options for walking on the Perito Moreno Glacier:
- Doing a mini-trekking: although the total excursion lasts about 10 hours (with the transfer from El Calafate and the boat to cross Lake Rico), the walk on the glacier takes about an hour and a half. This tour can be done from August to May inclusive.
- Doing the Big Ice: A more complete tour that, unlike the minitrekking, the walk on the glacier lasts three and a half hours with half an hour for lunch on top of the glacier. This tour can be done from September 15 to April 30.
Either tour includes a guide in Spanish, English or Portuguese, bus transfer from El Calafate to the port, navigation to cross Lake Rico and crampons to walk on the ice.
3) Upsala and Spegazzini Glacier Excursion
Glaciers are the must-see in El Calafate. In addition to the Perito Moreno glacier, there are other glaciers around the city that can be reached on a catamaran excursion.
Unfortunately there is no other way to visit them than on an excursion, which depart from Puerto Bandera or Puerto de La Soledad.
Among the glaciers seen during the excursion are the Upsala glacier, for which the northern arm of Lake Argentino is sailed between icebergs, and the Spegazzini glacier, with its more than 100 meters above lake level.
4) Visit El Chalten
Known as the national capital of trekking, it is another must-see in El Calafate. El Chaltén is located about 200 km north of El Calafate and is reached by a fully paved route. It is worth staying in the town for at least three days, as it is surrounded by the high mountains of the Andes and beautiful lakes and lagoons.
There are many hiking trails around El Chalten to take long walks and contemplate the mountainous landscape, the best known are:
- Salto del Chorrillo: a small waterfall easily accessible from El Chalten.
- Trekking to Laguna de los Tres: it is more demanding but has as prize to see the Cerro Fitz Roy from near.
- Path to Laguna Capri: of little difficulty.
- Trekking to Laguna Torre: one of the most beautiful lagoons in El Chaltén.
5) Torres del Paine in Chile
Although you have to go through the border crossing Cancha Carrera that divides Argentina and Chile, visiting Torres del Paine is another thing to do in El Calafate (and also from Puerto Natales).
About 200 km from El Calafate, you can access the imposing Torres del Paine National Park, where the mountain range landscape surprises you all the time.
There are several trekkings that can be done inside the national park, the most famous are the W and O circuits, with more or less physical effort. During the hike, there are many emerald lakes and clear water lagoons, in addition to the high snowy mountain peaks that surround it.