Legend has it that anyone who eats the berry of the Calafate shrub will almost certainly return to Patagonia. While I didn’t eat the Calafate berry when I was there in 2012, I couldn’t help return to this ramshackle place with its most impressive of attractions: the Perito Moreno Glacier, located some 80Km out of El Calafate in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.
As we rode along Ruta 40 towards El Calafate, we marvelled at the changing landscapes. Parched brown fields and rugged mountain ranges surrounded the town which was flanked on one side by the magnificent Lago Argentino. The biggest freshwater lake in Argentina with a surface area of close to 1500 square km, Lago Argentino provides a stunning backdrop to this rapidly growing tourist centre. El Calafate was a fairly sleepy village when I was last here, but with an international airport and a myriad of outdoor adventure activities on offer, the place (or at least the main street) is thriving. Cafes, outdoor shops, restaurants, souvenir shops and tour operators line the main street, however away from that there's not much going on.
We opted to stay in a camp ground in town, which was quite nice, although bordered by roads on all sides. Despite this it was relatively quiet and everyone was super friendly and helpful. We met many fellow travellers, including one Irish cyclist who had been riding his bicycle through South America for 12 months and had covered 15,000km. The bike looked as tired and worn out as he did.
One of the joys of travelling and camping is meeting fabulous (mostly young) energetic and adventurous people with a passion for the outdoors and the natural environment. We have shared many stories and laughter with travellers from Chile, Argentina, the UK, Germany, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Australia and various parts of Asia. Travel and adventure knows no language barriers.
A visit to El Calafate would not be complete without a visit to the Los Glaciares National Park and the Perito Moreno Glacier. We caught our first glimpse of the glacier on the winding road leading through the park and it literally took our breath away. It’s no wonder this place is known as the 8th Wonder of the World and was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1981.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (17,000km long!) which is the third largest ice concentration in the world after the North and South Poles.
The largest glacier is the 50km-long and nearly 8km-wide Upsala Glacier, but the Perito Moreno glacier, named after a 19th century explorer, is the most famous. And for good reason. It is simply stunning!
The photos tell the story!