Upsala Glacier tour is another of the star excursions to do in El Calafate. We tell you all the details to see this and other glaciers in this article.
The Upsala Glacier is another of the ice giants to be seen from the city of El Calafate, in addition to the well-known Perito Moreno. It is worth it because it is one of the largest glaciers in South America.
That is why we wanted to show you all the details of this excursion to see both the Upsala Glacier and other glaciers in the national park. There is also a special visit you can make to Estancia Cristina, located inside the park in a very remote spot.
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Upsala Glacier map
This glacier can only be seen on a sailing excursion along the northern arm of Lake Argentino and usually takes almost a full day. The following map shows the glaciers that are usually seen and other points of interest.
What is the best month to visit the Upsala Glacier?
The best time to visit the Upsala Glacier is in the summer months (December, January and February), because the weather is more pleasant. But as it always happens in the high seasons, prices are also higher and there are many more people.
In the spring (September to November) and autumn (March to June) seasons, prices are more moderate and there are fewer tourists, although you should bring a little warmer clothing than usual. As you can see in the article about things to do in El Calafate there are activities to do in the area all year round.
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Navigation to the Upsala, Spegazzini and Onelli glaciers.
These glaciers are also located within Los Glaciares National Park but, unlike Perito Moreno, most of them are in permanent retreat. They are visited as part of an excursion known as Ríos de Hielo (Rivers of Ice), in which different branches of Lake Argentino are navigated to reach them.
One of the most impressive things to do while sailing is to cross the lake surrounded by large icebergs, which may seem small in the photos, but seen in perspective, they do show their magnitude.
1) Upsala Glacier tour
The jewel of this excursion is the Upsala Glacier. Its importance lies in the fact that with a tongue of almost 54 km whose wall overlooks Lake Argentino, it is one of the longest glaciers in South America. Getting very close to the Upsala Glacier, with its landslides and floating icebergs is dangerous, but in person from the smallness of our boat you can see that this glacier is gigantic.
2) Spegazzini Glacier
As for the Spegazzini glacier, it is possible to see it from the boat itself and get quite close. Along the way, it is striking to see the retreat of other glaciers hanging on the mountain. The rock is clearly visible without vegetation.
3) Onelli Glacier
I do not know if the Onelli Glacier is still visited at this time, since it was a glacier that had a quite notorious retreat. On the Ríos de Hielo excursion we included a short trek through a forest to reach Bahía Onelli. There we found a small lake with floating ice, different walls of the Onelli glacier on the mountain and other glaciers in retreat.
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.
4) Visit Estancia Cristina
Estancia Cristina is one of the most remote places in Los Glaciares National Park, founded in 1914 by an English family with the last name of Masters who settled in this paradise without equal. The estancia is named after his daughter Cristina, who died of pneumonia at the age of 20. Access is by boat only and therefore an excursion must be booked, which also includes a panoramic view of the Upsala Glacier.
You can choose to stay at the estancia on an all-inclusive basis (since there is nothing else) or spend the day and go on one of the 4 excursions offered: classic, horseback riding, discovery and trekking. All include navigation along the Upsala Glacier front, but vary once on the estancia.
We show you the different excursions so you can decide the one you like the most. They are not cheap options, but certainly worth it for the different and inhospitable place:
- the classic excursion: trekking to a waterfall and stops at different viewpoints. Suitable for all ages, low difficulty.
- the 4×4 excursion: 4×4 ride and then a 20-minute trek to the Upsala Glacier viewpoint. Suitable for all ages.
- the trekking excursion: it includes a hike through the Cañadón de los Fósiles and a valley. Minimum age 12 years old and medium-high difficulty.
I believe that with these excellent options, the fourth excursion involving horseback riding is not necessary (as well as animal unfriendly). I recommend the discovery or trekking, depending on your physical condition, for the views along the way and the more original experiences.
Practical information for visiting the Upsala Glacier, Spegazzini and others
– Upsala Glacier entrance fee – updated OCTOBER 2023
To visit the Upsala and the rest of the glaciers you have to pay the entrance fee to Los Glaciares National Park.
- General rate: AR$ 12.000
- Residents in Argentina: AR$ 2.500
- Children from 6 to 12 years old residing in Argentina: AR$ 1.500
- Residents of Santa Cruz province: AR$ 1.000
There are other bonuses for students. Local residents, retirees and pensioners free of charge as long as they are Argentine residents.
If you are going to visit also the Perito Moreno Glacier, you will have to buy again the entrance ticket to access the Glaciers National Park. A promotional 2-day pass can be purchased for this purpose and the second day costs almost half the price.
If you buy it at one of the ticket offices on site, the second ticket is to be used the next day. But if you buy it online, it can be used up to 72 hours after the first deposit.
[You can buy it here]. Note: the excursions do not include the entrance fee to the park.
Do you want to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier? Check out this article with a super guide.
– How to get to the Upsala Glacier from other cities in Argentina
El Calafate has the Comandante Armando Tola International Airport that receives flights from many Argentine cities. From El Calafate it is 50 km along RP 11 and RP8, which are paved, to Puerto Bandera.
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