El Calafate is not far from Puerto Natales in Chile but the bus ride takes about 5 hours, of which you spend around two at the border crossings. Though not much more northerly, El Calafate is much warmer. The town is beautifully locates at the coast of Lago Argentina, with views of a lagoon with flamingos and other water birds and the snow-capped Andes mountains. It’s also the base for exploring the southern sector of Parque Nacional los Glaciares and the famous Perito Moreno Glacier.
Perito Moreno Glacier
Our tour to the glacier included a one-hour boat tour on the lake in front of the glacier. It wasn’t as good as expected, but you do see the glacier from an interesting perspective.
Just standing on the platforms in front of the glacier doesn’t sound very exciting but in fact it is amazing: You can hear the ice moving, cracking and bursting when huge chunks of ice (they may seem small but they’re actually the size of a car or even a house) fall down into the lake. A visit to the glacier is a must if you’re in Calafate!
The town of Calafate is developing very fast and the population has grown from about 3000 people 25 years ago to 20’000 now. There are about 120 hotels in Calafate. The center is pretty, with a lot of souvenir shops and restaurants. Many hotels however, aren’t located in the center but somewhere along the lake shore and in our case we had to walk half an hour to reach the center. Since the weather was so nice it was always a pleasant walk.
The town is named after the Calafate bush, a thorny, evergreen shrub native to Patagonia. It’s small blue berries are very tasty and are used to make ice cream, jam, or liquor. A popular proverb says that the one who eats Calafate berries, will return to Patagonia. Give it some time and we’ll see if that’s true.