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El Calafate is a small town in southern Patagonia, set on the shores of Lago Argentino, the largest lake in Argentina. The town mainly serves the visitors who come to explore the glaciers, namely the Perito Moreno Glacier, and other attractions in the area.
El Calafate Location
The attractive town of Calafate is located in southern Argentina. The town is beautifully situated on the shores of Lake Argentino, and mostly used as a gateway for visiting one of the natural wonders of the world: Perito Moreno glacier. Tourism in El Calafate has grown due to its strategic location close to possibly the most impressive of all the glaciers in Patagonia, and Torres del Paine National Park.
How to get to El Calafate
To get to El Calafate from Puerto Natales, it is a five-hour drive across the Patagonian plains, crossing the Chile-Argentina border. There is an airport in El Calafate with regular flights to Buenos Aires and other destinations in Argentina.
When to visit El Calafate
The best time to visit Patagonia is between October to April. Outside of this season, few tours and excursions run due to the harsh climate. Temperatures are around 12°C – 20°C, with night-time temperatures dropping to 2°C or 3°C.
El Calafate Attractions
The main attraction of El Calafate is the Perito Moreno Glacier, possibly the most impressive of all the glaciers in Patagonia. The town was only founded in 1927, as a base for wool traders, and although there is little to see in the town itself, it is a pleasant place to explore. You can visit the town’s Glaciarium, a modern glacier museum where you can learn about the history and geology of the Patagonian glaciers, or go birdwatching at nearby Nimes Lagoon. There are good restaurants and facilities in the town.
Perito Moreno Glacier Tour
The must-see Perito Moreno Glacier is located 80 kilometres from El Calafate, in the Los Glaciares National Park. The park covers 600,000 hectares of southwestern Argentina and is home to a rich variety of bird species including rheas, condors, finches and eagles. The Perito Moreno glacier itself is 30 kilometres long and 60 metres high, and one of the few Patagonian glaciers which is still advancing. The tour from El Calafate includes a 90-minute drive along the shores of Lake Argentino to the glacier, where you stroll along a series of walkways, peering into deep blue crevasses and listening to the ice creaking, with huge chunks of ice crashing into the water below. Taking a boat trip on the lake is the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with the glacier, taking in its sheer scale.
Estancia Cristina Excursion
Estancia Cristina is a remote old sheep ranch set in the heart of Los Glaciares National Park, surrounded by mountains and lakes. The ranch was originally settled by an English family in the early 1900s, and a tour around the estancia will teach you about its history. There is a farmhouse and small museum where you can learn about the tools used by the family. The journey to and from Estancia Cristina is a magnificent boat trip across Lago Argentino, with views of the epic Upsala Glacier. You can read our Product Manager’s first-hand account of the Estancia Cristina excursion here.
El Calafate is a great base for exploring the many natural wonders of Patagonia. Call us on 020 7263 3000 to speak to an expert.
- Population: 20,000
- Altitude: 200m
- Climate: In the summer, from October to March, daytime temperatures range from 13°C to 18°C and night-time temperatures are around 3°C to 7°C. The rest of the year is cooler, with night-time temperatures dropping below zero. Usually, there is little rain at this time of the year, although it can be windy.