El Calafate is the perfect jumping-off point for your Patagonian adventure. Located in the south of Patagonia in the province of Santa Cruz, El Calafate is a three-hour plane ride away from the capital of Buenos Aires, and is the main hub in the area from which people can visit all of the attractions that Patagonia is famous for. The pretty Alpine town is a great place to get your bearings in this vast wilderness, and there are plenty of places to stay, whether you are on a budget or looking to splash out.
The most popular tourist attraction in El Calafate is of course the famous Perito Moreno glacier, just one of the huge masses of ice located in Glaciers National Park. The park and the glaciers are about an hour away from the town, and you can take a tour, rent a car and drive to the park yourself, or hitchhike early in the morning from the highway on the edge of town and grab a ride with one of the workers who staff the park. Get up close and personal with the glacier by taking a Big Ice Trek across the top, or sail past the wall of ice on an unforgettable boat trip, where you will see and hear the incredible spectacle of the rupture of the glacier.
A three-hour bus ride away from El Calafate is the quaint mountain enclave of El Chalten. A trekker’s paradise, El Chalten is home to the inimitable Mount Fitz Roy, and it is the perfect place to spend three days immersing yourself in nature. There is no end to the activities available in El Chalten, and whether you are a seasoned hiker or a complete beginner, there is something for everyone. For those looking to complete some easy day-hikes, check out the Salto El Chorillo, a pretty waterfall only a short walk from the town, or hike up to the Las Aguilas and Los Condores viewpoints, which afford panoramic vistas back over the town and towards Cerros Torre and Fitz Roy.
For those looking to undertake longer treks, the popular Laguna de los Tres hike takes about eight hours and brings you through lush forests, past lakes and lagoons and to the base of Mount Fitz Roy. Alternatively, the Cerro Torre trek takes a similar amount of time, but will bring you to the glacial lagoon at the foot of this majestic peak. More experienced travelers can get off the beaten path and go for the five-day Huemul Circuit, which involves some rappelling, wading through rivers, and skimming past glaciers to get to the turquoise Huemul lagoon. There is more than enough to keep anyone entertained for three days in El Chalten, and after you have spent the day getting back to nature, treat yourself to a famous Patagonian craft beer and some delicious local lamb, a traditional local dish.
The last leg of your Patagonian adventure will bring you to the End of the World, the Earth’s southernmost city, Ushuaia. Surrounded by incomparable natural beauty, this town was the final frontier for such historically important explorers as Ferdinand Magellan and Charles Darwin. Cruise the Beagle Channel on a sailing tour where you will see the Lighthouse at the End of the World and get an impressive view back across Ushuaia. If you fancy trekking, there are plenty of hikes to do, both short and long, in the Tierra del Fuego National Park, and there are colonies of both penguins and sea lions to check out if you need your wildlife fix. Don’t forget to get your passport stamped and to send a postcard home from the last inhabited place before the hostile terrain of Antarctica.