The town of El Calafate is the hub for the mammoth Perito Moreno glacier, one of Patagonia’s most impressive sites. Located 80 kilometers west of town, the terminal face of the glacier towers 75 meters above the milky blue waters of Lago Argentino and stretches 5 kilometers wide. Its large size and easy access make it highly popular with both Argentine and international tourists.
The town of El Calafate formerly was a trading post for local ranchers, but in recent years glacier tourism has spurred rapid growth. The outskirts are sprawling but downtown and the main street Avenida del Libertador are lined with trees and a variety of trendy tourist shops, restaurants, and bars. El Calafate is a resort town and generally pleasant, but during peak season throngs of tourists and inflated prices are nearly impossible to avoid. Given that Perito Moreno is the main show, an extended stay is not required.
Perito Moreno is less than 2 hours west of El Calafate (the entry fee is $100 pesos or $20 USD). From the parking area a series of boardwalks lead to panoramic viewpoints in the glacier lookout area. Most people stay for a couple of hours to watch the glacier calve: large chunks of ice frequently crumble off the terminal face and crash loudly into the waters of Lago Argentino. In addition to the glacier lookout, boat tours and guided ice trekking have become increasingly popular ways to experience Perito Moreno.
El Calafate Quick Facts
Location: Argentine Patagonia, approximately 2,075 kilometers south of Buenos Aires.
Getting to El Calafate: The El Calafate airport (FTE) has daily direct flights from Buenos Aires. By ground transportation, El Calafate is approximately four hours south of El Chaltén and five hours east of Puerto Natales, Chile, the gateway to Torres del Paine.
Perito Moreno: The glacier is located 75 kilometers west of El Calafate and is slightly less than two hours by ground transportation.