I bought the excursion at the hotel, it was 250 pesos and it included the trip and some stops on the way. The boat trip next to the glaciar was not included and costed 90 pesos, plus you had to pay 170 pesos to enter the park. What can I say? The glaciar is one of the few spots that just made me seat down and look at it. I stayed speechless for minutes, did not even feel to take pictures at the beginning, it's just impressive. It is huge in front of you.From time to time pieces of it fall in the water and it start seeming alive.
The excursion with the boat is nice and cheap but I enjoyed more watching the glaciar from the balconies. The company I used was mundo austral and the excursion started at 9 and finished at 5 pm.
The Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in Patagonia is huge at 600,000 hectares ( a lot of acres). It has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The most accessible glacier is Moreno which terminates in Canal de los Tempanos, an arm of Lago Argentino. What makes this great for the traveler is a series of trails on boardwalks and catwalks that cross the face of the glacier so that you have great up close views. It can be crowded on top at the facilities, but the walks spread people around so you are not aware of crowds. Photographers: you'll want the zoom with wide and telephoto capability.
Most think of soaring mountains when they consider Patagonia. There is another side: grasslands and beef and lakes. We were on a cruise, booked to fly to and land on the Antarctic peninsula when high crosswinds forced a change of plans. Welcome to El Calafate. It is a place of contrast: lakes and grasslands and access to close-up glacier viewing. The images in this tip are taken from a bus. Photographers, it can be done. Meter the sky and set in a manual setting for the camera. Use manual focus. Use a high shutter speed to eliminate blur from motion. Take lots of pictures.
The Perito Moreno glacier is what attracts almost all tourists who visit El Calafate. The glacier is located 80km west of the town, in Parque Nacional los Glacieres, and its beauty and popularity has turned what was once a small village into the tourist trap that is El Calafate today.
Buses leave El Calafate for the park in the mornings and afternoons, giving you plenty of time to explore. As you approach the park, keep your eyes peeled for your first view of Perito Moreno glacier - even if you've seen it before in pictures or posters, this 30km long, 5km wide, 60m high glacier is a breathtaking sight.
The glacier is just one of the many beautiful glaciers in the national park, all of which flow from the Southern Patagonian ice sheet. Unlike most of the world's glaciers, Perito Moreno is not retreating. In fact it advances about 2m per day, which means it sometimes causes a dam in Lago Argentina - a compelling sight, especially when the dam collapses.
Once you bus drops you off, clearly marked trails lead down to various look out points over the glacier. Even if you only stay for a couple of hours there is a good chance you will see the glacier calving - a noisy, beautiful and unforgettable sight.
Our main object visiting El Calafate was the Perito Moreno Glacier. There are a couple of possibilities for a visit and ‘millions’ of travel agencies which offer guided trips.
You could rent a car (or even a 'remis') and drive to the glacier (80 km's one way). Advantage is you are completely free to stop where you want and to stay as long or short as you want. Most probably the most expensive way of visiting.
There is also a daily bus service from El Calafate to the glacier. This bus leaves the town from the bus station between 9.00 and 10.00 am and will return from the glacier between 3.30 and 4.00 pm. It is about 1 1/2 hours driving by bus.
See for schedules: http://www.turismo.elcalafate.gov.ar (Transportes > Terrestres)
There are a couple of possibilities to visit Perito Moreno. Most of the travel agencies and your hotel/hostel can arrange one of them.
Tour to the Moreno Glacier: a whole day tour with a (mini) bus with a visit to the viewpoints, a trek along the shore and a boat trip in front of the glacier.
(In the summer season there is also an afternoon trip, leaving El Calafate at 2.30 pm)
Minitrekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier: also a whole day tour. You can walk on the glacier and visit the viewpoints.
Some remarks to the tours:
- try to avoid the afternoon trip; we did this trip and missed almost the last boat and later on it was getting dark and rather difficult to make pictures;
- ask for a tour with a walk through the mountain scenery/trek along the shore;
- wear warm clothes (best is layers) and don’t forget your sun glasses (see packing lists tip);
- tours are exclusive the entrance fee of the park;
- just the boat trip costs about 50 pesos;
- it is a long day/afternoon; take some food and drink.
When you are in El Calafate, you will find a lot of activities, most of all outside the town (and a lot of km far away!). Here you have some options:
-Trip to Los Glaciares National Park: Perito Moreno Glacier, Upsala Glacier, "All glaciers"
-Trip to "La Leona" Petrified Forest
-Trip to an "estancia" (ranch)
And many more!
Of course, unless you have a lot of time (and a lot of money) you will have to choose what you want to do!
Cuando ustedes están en El Calfate, encontrarán gran cantidad de actividades, en su mayoría fuera del pueblo (y a muchos Km de él!) Aquí tienen algunas opciones:
-Visita al Parque Nacional Los Glaciares National Park: Glaciar Perito Moreno, Glaciar Upsala Glacier, "Todos los glaciares"
-Visita al bosque petrificado "La Leona"
-Visita a una estancia
Y mucho más!
Por supuesto, a menos que tengan mucho tiempo (y mucho dinero) deberán elegir qué es lo que desean hacer!
You can take either a day or an evening trip to Cerro Frias' summit by either foot, horse-back or 4WD and followed by either a barbecue lunch or dinner afterwards. On the top of Cerro Frias, weather permitting, you'll receive views of Monte Fitz Roy to the North and Torres del Paine to the South. Ascending and descending the mountain, you can spot a variety of wildlife including guancoes, foxes, sheep and hares. When I did the excursion (January 2010), it was raining and cloudly and the views down below were obscure so, unfortunately, I didn't get the views I meant to have got.
In February 2011, I decided to repeat the trip to Cerro Frias but during the day. I decided to take the trekking option and it didn't fail to impress. We had beautiful weather with sunshine and clear skies and had amazing vistas of the Monte Fitz Range, Chile's Torres del Paine and Lago Argentina. This was followed by a lovely barbecue lunch or dinners afterwards and met some interesting travellers.
This bird reserve is located on the outskirts of the centre. The reserve has a variety of birds including the Chilean Flamingoes where you can see them in the two lagunas, Nimez and Secundaria. You can take a nature walk around the reserve and it takes around two hours to complete with bird watching observation points and a mirador look out to Lago Argentino, Argentina's largest lake.
The fee paid, 15 ARP, for the nature reserve goes towards conservation and environmental education.
After almost two hours of driving we were just in time to catch the last boat at a part of Lago Argentino called Canal de los Témpanos. This boat trip - with a company called Fernandez Campbell - was not included in our half day (afternoon) trip to the glacier and we had to pay 38 pesos per person (2011: already 50 pesos).
The boat brought us rather close to one part of the Perito Moreno Glacier. Although we kept wishing getting much closer to the ice and icebergs floating in the water.
And in spite of the temperature we were standing outside to watch this scenic beauty. It was just overwhelming to see this 60 metres high and 1500 long wall of ice full of crevasses, clefts, peaks with sometimes deep turquoise colours.
We (only) heard a couple times some icebergs breaking from the glacier, falling into the water and causing waves. Every time we were just too late to make a picture.
The boat ride takes about one hour and it was just a great start of our visit to the Perito Moreno. A breathtaking experience !!
Be aware it can be very cold aboard of the catamaran (see also my ‘packing list’ tip).
A must see sight! A number of agencies offer a guided day tour of Perito Moreno glacier. The package excludes the park entrance (estimated fee: 75 ARP-January 2010). Perito Moreno glacier is one of a the few remainng advancing glaciers in the world and grows an average of 7cm a day annually. Many people come and admire the ice crashing into the lake and the blue colours of the glacier.
To appreciate the glacier, you can walk on the boardwalks and/or take an hour boat journey (estimated fee: 65-70 ARP-January 2010) close up to the lake. For those who are more adventurous, you can do an ice-trekking trip.
Glaciar Upsala is the largest in Argentina and among the largest of the world. It is a floating glacier, meaning that the end is cantilevered on Lago Argentino, being supported by the ice's buoyancy in the water. This results in less frequent breaks, but large icebergs. It averages 60 m tall above water, but passes 110m in depth in a 700m deep section of the lake.
The icebergs show dark blues where the ice is dense, holding no air. As the ice melts, its center of gravity changes, causing the blocks to rotate. The resulting water marks show the evidence of them melting.
Accessed by boat, try to reserve a ride on a boat to Upsala Glacier that makes a stop at Estancia Christina. Not all boats will stop here, but all tourist boats will go to Upsala.
Upon arriving, you will get a brief history lesson of the Estancia before being taken inside the lodge for a fantastic Argentine BBQ lunch. Also, before disembarking, you will be given a choice typically to take an hour ride on their horses, or take an hour hike up the mountain slopes.
While you are walking the Estancia, you will notice that there are some small cabins. These are/can be used as base camps or starting points for people wishing to hike the upper mountains. Bookings can be made from any tour operator in town.
Laguna Nimez is a small avian reserve on the shores of Lago Argentina, about 8 blocks from the centre of El Calafate. It's home to a good number of species of birds, probably the most interesting of which are the pink flamingos.
There is a small hut at the entrance to the reserve where you pay the 2 pesos entry fee and pick up a map of the trail. The trail takes about an hour to walk and you pass by plenty of good viewing points along the way. It can get very cold here as the winds blow in over the lake so be sure to wrap up well.
Laguna Roca is just off the way to Perito Moreno, a great place to stay away from tourist plagued Calafate. In the morning you can see the vapors coming from the glacier. Worth a stop if you are looking for some traquility...
TRavelling around Santa Cruz Province might be one of the best trips of your life! Starting with Perito Moreno Glacier, El Chalten (Huemul Glacier, Laguna de los 3 and Cerro Torre) and continuing father north to visit 150 million of years Deseado´s petrified forest´. To change a little bit you must not miss Puerto Deseado Natural Reserve, Penguin Island to sight Rockhopper penguins (northest colony of this specie so cute!) and Darwin´s lookout cliffs. There´s so much to see and visit that you´ll need at least 12 days to do all this. I highly recommend Los Vikingos Nature trips in Puerto DEseado. Very professional, expertise guides, trustable and ready to help you in anything you need. Is very usefull to book in anticipation your tour.
So folks, Santa Cruz province is pure nature that´s is waiting to be discovered. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as I did.