EL CALAFATE: Land of the Glaciers
In the far southwest corner of Patagonia lies a land of mountains cut by enormous glacier ending in stark, blue lakes. It is a land of natural extremes. Starting from the port town of Rio Gallegos on the Argentine coast, we drive west to the "Lakes of the White Frost", a pair of lakes where the rare Hooded Grebe was discovered in 1974. From there we continue on to the pleasant town of El Calafate, just up the hill from the glacier fed Lago Argentino.
From our comfortable base, we'll travel by boat to the immense Upsala Glacier, where we watch huge chunks of ice calve into the frigid waters. The boat trip through such spectacular scenery is exhilarating. From the glacier, we continue on to a dock on the forest edge. A short trail leads us to the surreal Onelli Lake. The calm waters of the lake host a myriad of large, naturally sculptured icebergs, and you'll enjoy a sack lunch from the forest edge in this magical setting of beech trees, ice capped mountains and icebergs.
In Argentina's spectacular Los Glaciares National Park, you can don crampons and hike on a glacier, or sit a close but safe distance from the Perito Moreno Glacier, the only known growing glacier. You'll realize the force of a calving glacier as one massive chunk after another plunges into the water, sending powerful waves across the channel.
The raw and rugged scenery is remarkably similar to scenes from Alaska, all the way down to the spectacular bird life. We'll look for the impressive Andean Condor, Chilean Flamingo, Austral Parakeet, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Austral Pygmy Owl, the powerful Magellenic Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, and rare birds such as the Patagonian Tinamou, Great Shrike-Tyrant and Bronze-winged (Spectacled) Duck.
While the amount of wildlife is less in this region than in others, the scenery alone often makes this a highlight of any Argentine tour. We recommend 5 days from Rio Gallegos. The other ways to get there is from Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, which you can learn more about in our Chile tour descriptions.