El Calafate & Perito Moreno
Located on the southern shore of Lake Argentino, El Calafate and its 8000 inhabitants live from the spectacular landscape of water and ice of the “Los Glaciares” National Park with the Perito Moreno Glacier as its landmark.
El Calafate is the tourist service centre of the region, little more than a conglomerate of hotels, pensions, restaurants, souvenir shops and tour operators. The small town is neither attractive nor cheap as a tourist destination. Nevertheless, it can hardly cope with the constantly growing number of visitors during the high season (January/February).
The local museum is interesting for visitors, whose archaeological, historical and natural history exhibits are presented in a strange mixture of arrowheads, stuffed birds and old photographs.
In the north of the city, the Nimez lagoon is a first-class birdwatching area. Among the represented species are condors, nandus, flamingos, black-necked swans, highland geese and karakaras.
The Perito Moreno Glacier with its 30km long glacier tongue on the eastern side of the Southern Patagonian Ice Sheet is one of the few, if not the only glacier outside Antarctica and Greenland that is still growing. Its four-kilometre-wide front, which ends in Lago Argentino, advances up to one metre per day in the direction of the opposite slope.
About every four to ten years, the ice front blocks Brazo Rico, a tributary of Lake Argentino. The ice lake formed in this way can grow up to 30m before the water finally breaks through the ice dam.
This unique natural spectacle, which attracts thousands of visitors, last took place on 10 March 2016.
On 9 July 2008, just in time for the Argentine national holiday, this demolition of large glacier parts took place during the local winter for the first time, to the concern of climate researchers.
From El Calafate you can visit the glacier on your own. Panoramic balconies and catwalks lead to the best views of the mighty ice front.
But if you want to experience it up close, you can take a so-called “mini trekking” tour, which includes a short, two-hour hike with snowshoes over the glacier ice.