Having wrapped up an amazing 9 days of trekking in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, you would be forgiven for thinking that was it for our Patagonia adventures. However, the truth is, we still had some more plans up our sleeves. In order to move onto the next phase of our trip, we had to keep our passports close at hand, since we were now on a bus heading from the Chilean Patagonia are to the Argentinean Patagonia. For those who may not have realized it, Patagonia isn’t just in one country. The region covers both Chile and Argentina. If you look at a map, you’ll note that Chile is a very long skinny country. It’s western coast faces the south Pacific, and features rugged fjords. However, its neighbour Argentina has the eastern coast, and faces the south Atlantic. Our destination in Argentina is a region centred around the city of El Chalten, but before getting there, we would spend 2 nights in El Calafate. Read on to find out why we chose to stop here and what we saw!
Pictures from El Calafate and Surrounding Wonders
I’ve basically got three words to explain exactly why we stopped in El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier. At one point, we thought we may just do a quick overnight, then hop a morning bus to El Chalten right away, but after doing a little research, I knew we had to make a visit to Perito Moreno. As a result, our bus from Paine Grande dropped us off at our hostel for in the evening of November 10th. We had just enough time to pop into a travel agency to book next-day round trip bus tickets to the glacier, pick up some food, and turn in for the evening. We weren’t super impressed with our location, but it worked ok. We were actually shacked up in a converted steel container, which sounds cooler than it actually was. I had to do some quick handyman work in order to get the gas stove working so that we could cook. The random stray dogs and ‘interesting’ characters around this hostel / hotel / campground made for a memorable stay 🙂
The next morning, we were excited for the upcoming journey. This was ‘officially’ a rest day for us, as our destination of El Chalten was all about the hiking. With that in mind, I had packed a couple ‘road pops’ for the bus ride to enjoy. We would be hiking a little bit, but just around the tourist paths near the glacier. So, about that glacier. Perito Moreno is probably the single most impressive glacier I have ever been lucky enough to see in person. From the moment it came into view from the bus, I was absolutely smitten, and awestruck. The beer was quickly forgotten, and left to warm in my day pack as we stared at the growing spectacle before us. Atlas Obscura sums it up well:
This hulking ice and snow feature is situated in the most amazing locale. We’re talking about a glacier that is over 30km long, and rises 240 feet high at its terminus (yes, I’m mixing measurement units, so sue me 🙂 ). But the glacier is just the beginning of the story. After all, the glacier is just the ‘tongue’ of a mind-bendingly large ice field. This is known as the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, which features 47 OTHER glaciers in addition to Perito Moreno. To give more perspective, this ice field is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water, and also became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1981. The ice field does not recognize borders and covers large swaths of land in both Argentina and Chile.
After arriving on site and starting to hike around, it didn’t take us long to decide that we wanted to see this beast up closer, and from a unique perspective. We decided to grab a few tickets onto a tourist boat that would take us even closer to the terminus, and hopefully let us see some action up close. On any given day, depending on temperature fluctuations, you’ll see ice blocks the size of houses break off from the terminus quite regularly.
For the next few hours, we just wandered around the various tourist trails on the site. No matter where you found yourself, the views were gorgeous. It helped that we were blessed with quite stable weather on this day. There were a few clouds, but for the most part, it was just bright sun, decent temperatures and not too much wind. I can only imagine just how intense the weather can get on bad days around here! My goal for the day was to try and get to as many of the viewpoints as I possibly could in the short time we had. Deanna just shook her head when I suggested we jog all the trails in order to see as much as we could. If we hadn’t, we likely wouldn’t have seen cool things like these ‘ice hands’ as I called them. We did also witness a few calving events, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any good videos of them. I’m sure if you look it up on YouTube, there plenty of good examples.
Eventually, we had to leave, but not without one spectacular viewing platform high over the glacier where we could see the expanse of it before us, along with the mountains and the looming Ice Field. It was a good final farewell to what will surely be a memory that will stay with me long after the front 30k have melted away into Lago Argentino.
Once back in El Calafate, we managed to find a micro-brewery to enjoy a few beer, some food, and reflect back on the day. I thought about continuing this post with our first day in El Chalten, but ultimately, I think just keeping this one short and focused on Perito Moreno is the right thing to do :-). So there you have it, short and sweet until tomorrow when we head back into the mountains!!! See you then! Till then, take care of one another, and keep dreaming.