El Calafate & Perito Moreno

All tourists go to El Calafate for one reason only: to visit the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier, located in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, 2 hours North from the dreary town. It’s an unmissable tourist attraction, unfortunately there is not much else to do in the area without a car, and everything is very expensive. Which is why we only stayed 1 night in El Calafate.

We arrived via a short afternoon bus from El Chalten and checked into the cheapest hostel-slash-camp-slash-restaurant in town. Probably the worst dorm we’ve ever had in terms of space, which wasn’t helped by the fact that our dorm-mates had chosen to ignore the number 1 dorm-sharing rule: when you’re a couple, share a bunk, don’t take both bottom beds! We booked our next buses, shopped for food, had a beer in a trendy bar that cost more than our 2-day supply of food, and made ourselves dinner, and hot-dogs for tomorrow’s lunch, at the hostel kitchen, chatting with some enthusiastic Argentinian bakpackers.

The next day was cold, windy and drizzly, perfect weather for being outdoors on a tour that cost +50 euros (450 pesos transport + 500 pesos Park entrance)!

We made the most of it regardless, which wasn’t difficult considering the shear beauty and scale of this glacier, named after the legendary Argentinian explorer, Perito Moreno. We were mesmerized from start to finish, it felt like being in front of Antartica!

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The trails and platforms leading to the viewpoints were very well made, and took over 2 hours to complete, which kept us busy. The viewpoints were very close to the Glacier and allowed to see it from every angle, on all sides, from top to bottom, left to right. We could scrutinize the tortured ice formations on its surface, admire the deep blue colour at its center and witness the loud crashing of ice-blocks at its edges (see the photo-sequence below of a huge block splashing into the water!).

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Some lone icebergs bobbed on the surface of its gigantic glacial lake. The visible part of the glacier in front of us was 50 meters high, the size of a high appartment building, but at its center, the glacier was a whopping 700 meters deep! We felt small and humbled by this living force of Nature which grows and contracts by up to 2 meters every day.

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It is fed by a massive ice sheet that spans throughout the Park, for hundreds of km behind the Perito Moreno, as far as the eye can see, covering massive mountain ranges, and feeding other glaciers and lakes, which are probably the only in the world, due to the unique topography of the area, that are growing, instead of receeding.

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After a day of wonder and wandering, it was time to head back to El Calafate. We kept busy with a little souvenir shopping, and making of a new dog-friend who would cry outside the shops as she waited for us to reappear.

We had a tasty dinner in a cosy restaurant, got our stuff from the hostel and waited/slept at the bus station until 3 in the morning, for our bus to our last South American destination: Ushuaia!

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