El Calafate is a windswept town in Argentinian Patagonia and a 'must do' on a 2 week Patagonia itinerary. El Calafate's main claim to fame is the stunning Perito Moreno Glacier, a sheet of craggy luminous blue ice almost 100 square miles in area. El Calafate's glacier was one of the most picturesque places that we visited in South America. Check out my images of Perito Moreno Glacier and inspire yourself to visit El Calafate.
How to Get to El Calafate Glacier
El Calafate is accessible via non-stop flights from Bariloche, Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia in Argentina. Perito Moreno Glacier is situated about 1.5 hours outside of El Calafate town. We hired a private taxi through a travel agency associated with our hotel for $1500 ARS (about $125 USD at the time of writing) to take us to the glacier. Our driver, Alan, didn't speak any English so we got to practice our limited Spanish along the way. We had fun trying to learn about Alan's family and making general small talk.
Panoramic Views of Perito Moreno Glacier
I promised 25 photos of Perito Moreno Glacier and the surrounding area. Off we go! The thing that impressed me the most about El Calafate's Glacier was the sheer scale. The awesome size of the glacier (it's 19 miles in length) could only be appreciated via panoramas.
Birds of Patagonia at Perito Moreno Glacier
We especially enjoyed watching majestic Patagonian birds of prey soar over the blue ice.
We also spotted plenty of forest birds like the Patagonian sierra finch.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: If you have a sweet tooth, consider bringing alfajores, a traditional Argentinian snack, with you when you visit El Calafate glacier: Alfajores are Argentinian cookies filled with dulce de leche. Alfajores come in a wide assortment of flavors and are often covered in chocolate.
Behold the Blue Ice of Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier was made up of blue glacial ice. The ice looks blue because as snow falls and is compressed into the glacier, the added pressure enlarges the ice crystals which then scatter blue wavelengths. The blue color is most apparent at El Calafate Glacier after a large hunk of ice calves into the surrounding water.
Forest Walk at Perito Moreno Glacier
A series of well-maintained boardwalks wind through the area adjacent to El Calafate's glacier. There are a number of different loop walks that you can do. One of the walks leads through the forest where you'll be surrounded by mossy trees. As the trail rises above the treeline, you'll catch glimpses of the glowing ice beyond.
Are you looking for a more adventurous hike? Check out this post about ice trekking on Perito Moreno Glacier.
Craggy Peaks of Ice at Perito Moreno Glacier
I think there is a natural tendency to think of glaciers as flat, slippery sheets of ice. In reality, the tremendous forces acting upon the glacier create intricate craggy peaks.
Watch Out for Calving Ice at the Corners of El Calafate's Glacier
Mountain Backdrops at Perito Moreno Glacier
Perito Moreno Glacier also features a stunning mountain backdrop. We enjoyed photographing the glacier in the context of the surrounding landscape.
The Boardwalk at Perito Moreno GlacierAs mentioned previously, there is a trail of boardwalks snaking their way from the Perito Moreno Glacier visitors center to the ice shelf itself.
These photos illustrate just how close you can get to the ice while still maintaining a safe viewing distance.
Icy Close-up Images of Perito Moreno Glacier
There are so many different faces to El Calafate's glacier. I enjoyed getting up close and personal to photograph the fissures and instabilities in the ice itself.
River of Ice at Perito Moreno Glacier
Unless you arrive at El Calafate glacier early (before 10 am), you won't be able to drive up to the visitors center. Instead, you'll have to stop in a larger parking area and take a free shuttle bus to the top (a less than 10 minute ride). Near the parking area, you'll find a trail leading down to the water. You'll see El Calafate Glacier in the distance but what impressed me the most were the large icebergs; formerly part of the glacier, floating downstream against the mountain backdrop.
How can you not want to visit this gorgeous scene in Patagonia?!
Put the Glaciers of El Calafate Argentina in Context with a Visit to the Glaciarium
A picture may be worth a thousand words but a museum is priceless for giving context to the world around you. Situated on a windswept hill between El Calafate town and Perito Moreno Glacier, the Glaciarium gives visitors a crash course in the science behind the glacier and the history of the ice sheets in this part of Patagonia. If you visit Perito Moreno Glacier by private taxi, arrange to be dropped off at the Glaciarium on your way back to El Calafate and then catch the free shuttle bus back to town.