Located in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and surrounded by glaciers and lakes, the city is not only the Perito Moreno Glacier. If you are looking for things to do in El Calafate in 4 days, we have designed this itinerary to leave nothing out.
Located in the southwest of the province of Santa Cruz, El Calafate is a city located on the shores of Lake Argentino where part of the great ice mass called Southern Patagonian Ice Field is located.
Although its main protagonist is the Perito Moreno glacier, there are many others to see such as the Upsala or Spegazzini. Los Glaciares National Park is home to all these natural wonders, some of which can be observed from viewpoints on the shores of the lake, and others navigating through huge blocks of ice floating on the water, such as the Upsala.
In any case, the images you will take with you from El Calafate will be unforgettable, especially if you hike on the Perito Moreno glacier.
To organize the visit, we have made a day-by-day itinerary based on our experience visiting El Calafate in 4 days. Let’s find out!
Summary – El Calafate Itinerary in 4 days:
- Day 1: Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier.
- Day 2: Excursion to the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers.
- Day 3: Hike on the Perito Moreno Glacier.
- Day 4: Visit to Estancia Cristina
Many tourists take advantage of their trip to El Calafate to visit El Chaltén, the national capital of trekking. If you want to know what’s in this beautiful town, check out our article on things to do in El Chaltén.
Day 1: Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier
The main activity to do in El Calafate in 4 days is the visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier. This huge block of ice is more than 60 meters high, something imposing. Although due to climate change most of the glaciers are retreating, at least so far the Perito Moreno remains in its full extent.
To observe the Perito Moreno glacier you must pay the entrance fee to Los Glaciares National Park. There are two ways to view the glacier up close, both of which are a must for us:
- Along the wooden walkways on the shores of Lake Argentino: from the viewpoints you have a perfect panoramic view of the glacier wall.
- Sailing on Lake Argentino: next to the footbridges there is a dock where the boats leave and approach the ice wall. The visual changes a lot, since you have the glacier closer and the roar of the ice detachments can be heard very loudly.
📷 Book here the excursion to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier. These excursions include the transfer and a guide, but not the entrance fee to the national park. In addition, navigation on the Rico Arm can be booked as an option.
You can also book the round trip bus to visit Perito Moreno at your own pace.
🔝 Take a look at our article to see if this is your visit the Perito Moreno glacier if this is your only intention. There you will find more detailed information with prices and the best time to visit.
Day 2: Excursion to the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers
As we mentioned before, in Los Glaciares National Park there are more ice masses to see. Sailing along one of the arms of Lake Argentino, dodging large masses of ice detached by the glaciers, you will reach the Upsala and Spegazzini glaciers.
The excursion is worthwhile from the moment the boat departs from Puerto Bandera and begins to go inland. The turquoise blue color of the lake and the reflection of the ice masses on the water is a spectacle.
One of the main protagonists of the day is the Spegazzini glacier, the highest in the area, whose ice mass seems to get lost in the horizon. The boat will stop to take pictures and even take a short walk surrounded by nature in its purest state.
To visit the Upsala Glacier, you must take a boat in Puerto Bandera. You can go there on your own or hire one of the excursions to visit these glaciers.
🔝 Take a look at our article to see the Upsala Glacier and other glaciers.
Day 3: Perito Moreno glacier hike, a must in El Calafate in 4 days
The best adventure to do in El Calafate in 4 days is the walk on the ice mass of the Perito Moreno glacier. Although it requires some physical effort, you can choose to do a small stretch of an hour and a half, or live the great adventure in the so-called Big Ice, a trekking on the ice for three and a half hours.
In order to plan the Perito Moreno Glacier hike, the following should be taken into account:
- The minitrekking takes place from August to the end of May and is suitable for people from 10 to 65 years old.
- The Big Ice or grand tour runs from September 15 to the end of May and is suitable for people from 18 to 50 years old.
In both cases, trekking cannot be done by people with cardiovascular problems, pregnant women, people who are overweight, people with respiratory problems such as asthma and people with physical disabilities.
Needless to say, the adrenaline rush when walking on the huge mass of ice is total. Along the way you will observe deep crevasses and the constant roar of the ice. There are not many places in the world to live this adventure!
📷 Book here the trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier, an adventure among blue lagoons, crevasses and sinkholes. The excursion is guided by a specialized guide and the company provides crampons, harnesses and helmets.
After the hike, the best thing to do is to return to the city and live another experience. The Ice Bar awaits you to immerse yourself in the world of the Yeti, with temperatures reaching 20 degrees below zero. Wearing gloves and a coat, there will be time to take pictures and have a drink. Of course, you have to hurry before the drink freezes!
📷 Book here your ticket to the Ice Bar, a different experience to live in El Calafate.
If you can’t do the Perito Moreno glacier trekking because you visit the city out of the allowed trekking season, the best thing to do is to visit El Chaltén in one day with an excursion..
If you want to know more about this beautiful Patagonian town for trekking, we tell you our experience and tips for the best trekking in El Chaltén.
Day 4: Visit to Estancia Cristina
The large rural estancias have been very important in the history of Argentine Patagonia, and today they continue to play an important role in the region.
These large houses located in lonely and inhospitable places, but surrounded by a landscape of forests, lakes and high snow-capped mountains, have served as a base for raising animals, mainly sheep.
Estancia Cristina was built at the beginning of the 20th century, on the edge of Lake Argentino. Its owners lived for many years under extreme climatic conditions, raising their livestock. Currently, the enclosure is only used for tourist purposes and you can visit the old rooms of the ranch, such as the chapel.
During the excursion, you can choose to eat the classic Patagonian lamb, a true delicacy.
📷 Book here the excursion to Estancia Cristina which includes navigation on Lake Argentino and a walk through Patagonian forests. For the more adventurous, you can opt for a 4×4 tour in the vicinity of the ranch.
Practical information for travel to El Calafate
How to get to El Calafate
The main option is to fly from Buenos Aires and other points in Argentina. Also, you can cross by bus from Chile if you want to combine Torres del Paine with El Calafate.
We have an article about how to get to El Calafate and how to get from El Calafate to El Chaltén.
Where to stay in El Calafate
The options are very varied and for all budgets. There are charming places such as cabins overlooking the lake, very clean hostels and standard and superior hotels.
Our recommendations according to your purchasing power are in our article on where to stay in El Calafate.
is it convenient to rent a car in El Calafate?
The answer depends, the reality is that you can go on excursions to all the sites and there are even places where you can ‘t go by car, such as the glacier navigation.
If you are looking for comfort, it is an advantage to rent a car in El Calafate to go to the gates of the Perito Moreno glacier or to El Chaltén. Even make stops along the way to take pictures.
We did everything by excursion and did not need to rent a car in El Calafate.
Is it safe to travel to El Calafate?
El Calafate is 100% safe, you can walk all day and at night through the town, we clarify that it is small, in total safety. Fortunately, it is not subject to the insecurity that can occur in Buenos Aires or large cities in the interior of the country.
How many days are needed to visit Calafate?
If you want to see the essentials such as the Perito Moreno glacier, the navigation through Los Glaciares park and visit El Chaltén in one day, you will have to dedicate at least 3 days. For us, this 4-day itinerary is the best because it allows us to visit a real Patagonian estancia or to do an additional trekking in the surroundings.
El Calafate is not only glaciers!
What is the best time to travel to El Calafate?
Undoubtedly during the southern hemisphere summer, from November to March. Although temperatures are low, especially at night, you can do many activities that are almost impossible during the winter, such as walking on the Perito Moreno glacier, trekking on lakes and hills.
is it possible to travel to El Calafate with small children or babies?
For us perfectly, even the navigation through the national park Los Glaciares is done without any problem. In addition, children under 3 years old travel free on the catamaran and children from 3 to 11 years old pay a discount.
What is not advisable with very young children is trekking in El Calafate or El Chaltén. You can do low-difficulty treks such as waterfalls, always carrying a backpack.
Where to eat in El Calafate
- Isabel: food made with a plow disk, very tasty. You choose the type of meat you want to be cooked on the disc: chicken, beef or fish. In addition, the dishes come with vegetables.
- La Tablita: one of the most popular places for tourists thanks to its famous Patagonian lamb, cooked on the spit. Be sure to try it!
- La Chacrita: very nice atmosphere and colorful, its great attraction is that it is located on the shore of the Nimez lagoon, so you eat with fabulous views. It has a varied menu, we recommend the lamb sorrentinos that we tried and it is a delicacy.
- Ice Bar: you can’t miss this experience in Calafate, to have a drink in a kind of cave 10 degrees below zero. Even the bar is made of ice! Book your ticket to the Ice Bar here.
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