“Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” – Gustave Flaubert
This is exactly how I felt after spending some days in Patagonia on my last trip.
With beautiful steppes and intriguing deserts, imposing glacial fjords, fascinating mountains, and turquoise lakes, it is easy to fall in love with Patagonia.
Patagonia offers many places to discover but, in my opinion, El Calafate and Chaltén are two destinations that you must visit if this is your first trip to this region.
This cool town, that abounds with great restaurants and pubs, lies in the heart of Patagonia and is home to South America’s most famous glacier, Perito Moreno Glacier.
The town was named after the Calafate shrub that has yellow flowers and navy blue berries. The berries are used in local cuisine (mostly jams), and according to a legend, whoever eats them will return to Patagonia.
Where to Stay
When visiting El Calafate, I recommend spending a couple of nights at Eolo Lodge. The luxury lodge lies sheltered in a 10,000-acre estate rewarded with unforgettable views from every turn. It is located halfway between the city of El Calafate and Los Glaciares National Park. Leaving El Calafate and driving into the wilderness to Eolo is an experience in itself.
Eolo is a Relais & Chateaux hotel, and the fresh and beautifully presented food that mixes international cuisine with the Patagonian touch is among some of the top experiences in the world.
When at Eolo, I highly recommend taking the wine tasting course that is included with Eolo’s knowledgeable sommelier. Delight yourself with exquisite Argentine Malbec wines!
Top things to do
Located in the fascinating Los Glaciares National Park, the Perito Moreno Glacier is a must-see attraction in El Calafate. Stand in front of the grandness of the Perito Moreno Glacier, and listen to the creaking of the ice as it moves and the crashing sound when parts of it fall into the lake. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
For the most adventurous travelers, one of the best ways to experience the Perito Moreno is with a Glacier Trek, a memorable walk in the middle of the Perito Moreno accompanied by local guides.
But there is more than the Perito Moreno Glacier at Los Glaciares National. Seeing the Spegazzini and Upsala Glaciers is another must-do in El Calafate. These glaciers can only be reached by boat, an interesting day cruise along Lago Argentino.
Visiting an authentic Patagonia Estancia is another cool program to add to this journey. Nibepo Aike is a working Patagonia Estancia where you can go horseback riding, do some trekking, enjoy sheep shearing demonstrations and other farm activities, and taste the most delicious Patagonian lamb.
El Chaltén is a hotspot for trekkers and adventure seekers. Surrounded by gorgeous mountains, it practically sits in the shadow of Mount Fitz Roy and a truly spectacular section of the Andes mountain range.
It’s known as the Trekking Capital of Argentina, but even beginners can hike here
and have an amazing experience!
From the get-go, the journey from El Calafate to El Chálten is quite an adventure. The town is a 3-hour drive from El Calafate along the legendary Route 40.
Where to stay
When in El Chálten, be sure to stay at Aguas Arriba Lodge. This remote lodge is an absolutely beautiful intimate treasure which the owners, Pato and Ivor, share with their guests making you feel totally at home.
The location of the lodge is sublime, on the shores of Lago del Desierto. It is only accessible by a small boat, after a long drive on gravel roads from El Chálten. The lodge has breathtaking views of the lake, multiple glaciers, and the Fitz Roy.
If you like small, intimate unique lodges, this is for you!
What to do
Hiking is without a doubt the main attraction and one of the best things to do in El Chálten.
Even if you’re not a self-proclaimed trekker, there are many trails for beginners. Some of these hikes are quite easy and can be attempted even by families with small children. Others are longer and more difficult and are great for more seasoned hikers.
There are quite a few things to do in El Chaltén, most of them related to outdoor activities. You can choose from hiking, rafting, and horseback riding to glacier visiting and lake cruising.
Whether you’re a nature lover, a wildlife aficionado or a culture enthusiast, Patagonia is a destination that promises to amaze your eyes and fill your heart with its beauty.