After a great week up North we got on our plane from Salta to El Calafate. Indeed we did skip a huge part of the country but unfortunately you do have to make choices when travelling. We decided against Mendoza as we had been in the Cafayate wine region, against Iguazu as transportation was ridiculously expensive and against the northern part of Patagonia as the pictures reminded us too much of Switzerland and the French alps ^^
When choosing to dedicate quite some time of our trip to South America we were sure we’d have to head to Patagonia. We deliberately decided against Ushuaia in the end as we’d have had to invest a lot of time (and money) to go around by boat and just to go there for 3 days to see the town doesn’t make much sense – it isn’t exactly known to be very charming. Also we were planning to continue to Santiago de Chile and domestic flights being much cheaper than international, it made more sense to directly catch a flight from the Chilean side of Patagonia (Punta Arenas)instead of going further south.
There isn’t a lot to do in El Calafate, people come here basically for the famous glacier, the Perito Moreno. The town in itslef is a surprisingly big tourist hub filled with gift shops, travel agencies and overpriced restaurants. Due to the very Southern and remote location and hence the ridiculously high prices, El Calafate is not a typical backpackers destination. The South Patagonia Icefield is actually the 3rd largest after Antarctic and Greenland and is not melting as most icefields are.
There are different options to visit the Perito Moreno glacier: going there by bus or car, taking a boat tour to get closer to the glacier or actually book a half- or full day tour which includes some walking on the ice!
The ice trekking did indeed sound tempting and a good friend of mine highly recommended it. Unfortunately during the time of our visit Argentina was again hit by an inflation and the prices for the trek (among other things) were ridiculous and about 50% more expensive than even the 2017(!) ‘Routard’ guide stated! The small tour would have cost us about 170$ including the entrance fee (500 pesos – 32$). The full day tour would have been around 240$.
So we decided to only take the bus at 400 pesos and spend some time to walk around. On the spot we also opted for a boat tour at 350 pesos. Still quite expensive of course (around 80$ in total, the bus, boat and entrance) but we saved some money and had a great time!
We were lucky with the best weather even money can’t buy, blue sky and not too cold to get close to a glacier.
The first glance directly takes your breath away! It was by far the most stunning site we’ve seen so far during our travels. Standing next to this majestic and intimidating mass of ice, you feel so tiny and fully realize how small mankind actually is compared to nature! Again the most spectacular and humbling natural site we’ve come across.
You can easily spend a day here and not get tired of snapshooting it. The ferry ride close to the glacier was definitely worth it even though freeeezing 😉. The site in itself is well arranged with clearly marked and we’ll maintained paths. So all in all an spectacular and hasslefree day tour.
The next day we took the bus to go to El Chalten (900 pesos/58$ per person 2 ways – yep transportation in Argentina is expensive!) for some of Patagonias most spectacular hikes.
The village of El Chalten is quite cute and you can easily spend 3/4 days here if you like hiking. Unfortunately here we didn’t have great weather…we did the famous hike to Fitzroy mountain but once we reached the top we saw…nothing 😅 2h later though,once we were nearly down again, the view cleared up and we were able to see the iconic shape at last. The hike itself is about 9km long, quite easy for most of the part and a bit challenging and very steep for the last kilometre. It leads through forests, along rivers and you can enjoy great views along the way (if it’s clear ^^)
We planned to do a second hike to Laguna Torre the next day but it rained the whole day…luckily we had a really nice and cozy apartment to spend the day!
As we still wanted to head to the Chilean part of Patagonia – Torres del Paine – we said goodbye to our friend Nadege and took the bus back to El Calafate the next morning. From here buses run at 4pm to Puerto Natales, the gateway to Torres del Paine.
I’ll come back soon with our trip to the Chilean side 🙂