How many times in your life have you ever felt totally free? Free from worrying about your mortgage, your job, your relationship, the next bill to come in, all those thoughts that consume your sub conscious every waking hour.
As I stood on the Perito Moreno Glacier in Southern Argentina, staring out at the snow capped Patagonian mountains, canvassed with fir trees, rising up from aqua marine lakes fed by rivers of ice it suddenly dawned upon me – I wasn’t thinking about anything else but this moment, I was truly present and at peace with myself – that’s the power this place has over you – an instant meditational affect and the kind of destination that makes you remember why you love to travel.
Things to do El Calafate
You can book your Perito Moreno Glacier tour from a multitude of agencies situated along the main street in El Calafate. There is also a booking agent in the airport (the only one there in the arrivals hall) and we used this one.
We booked the tour for the next day and it cost around $200 in total for the both of us. Make sure you book a tour that includes the walkways opposite the glacier and the boat trip across the lake for the glacier walk.
A mini van picked us up in the morning (not too early which gave us time for breakfast) and the drive to the Parque National Los Glaciares took around an hour and a half through breathtaking scenery.
The tour starts by exploring the wooden walkways opposite the face of the Glacier. This allows you to see the full scale of one of natures true natural wonders.
The Glacier is constantly moving (it is one of the only Glaciers worldwide still growing rather than receding) and we were lucky enough to see two huge ice breaks into the lake below (see photo!).
Next you board a boat, which takes you out onto the lake in front of the Glacier for photos and then across to disembark for your your Glacier walk. We were kitted out with crampons and then our guides took us onto the Glacier. The walk lasted for two hours and we loved every second of it – the only disappointment was it had to end!
The sound of the ice moving and cracking is like cannon going off and you really are in awe of the unstoppable power of this ice river, carving its way through mountains and relentlessly slithering into the lake below.
Our tour ended with a table laid out on the glacier and whiskey served with fresh glacier ice – a real treat to end a special day.
Best hotels El Calafate
We used El Calafate as our base and stayed in the 4 star Esplendor hotel which was comfortable and well located, within a 5 minute brisk stroll of the main street in town.
The hotel has a decent, heated, indoor pool which is a welcome respite from a long day in the freezing winds of the Patagonian plains.
El Calafate is a funny town in many ways. The main high street has plenty of good bars and restaurants serving some top quality Patagonian cuisine, accompanied by some good Argentinian reds but beyond this strip the town is pretty desolate and has a real frontier feel about it.
Best restaurants El Calafate
There are a host of excellent restaurants in El Calafate and meat eating gastronaughts are spoiled for choice. The butterflied Patagonian lamb, roasting over an open charcoal fire in the window of Casimiro Bigua lured us in from the cold easily and I nearly tripped over my salivating tongue on the way in.
We opted for the Patagonian classic, lamb ‘cordero patagonico al asador’ – this is basically different cuts of succulent, mouth watering lamb served with sausages and sides of roasted peppers, courgettes and potatoes.
I selected a medium bodied Malbec to accompany the lamb and it didn’t disappoint. It had the refinement of a good Pomerol, silky smooth and the kind of wine you savour in the mouth, swilling over your taste buds to enjoy every precious sip.
What to wear
Pack very warm winter clothes! Men and women should pack some good, warm, waterproof trousers , jeans (Superdry for men Ted Baker for the ladies) and a few wooly fleeces (again Superdry have some nice stylish ones).
We both purchased some insulated Jack Wolfskin jackets with removable fleece and these served us well. You equally couldn’t go wrong with similar from North Face.
You will also need a good ski hat to keep your head warm from those biting winds.
Durable, waterproof footwear is recommended. I bought some Merrell trail runners, whilst Gem went with some North Face hiking trainers.
How to get there
We flew economy with Aerolinas Argentinas from Buenos Aires to El Calafate direct.
We booked all our internal flights in South America through trailfinders in London and they did a fantastic job. Their markup on flights is very reasonable and customer service excellent.