The small town of El Calafate, abutting the Andes in Patagonia's deep south, is the gateway to Parque Nacional Los Glacieres. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, the park contains 47 major glaciers. This is the largest ice cap outside Antarctica and Greenland, covering over 30% of the park's surface.
In the park's northern section, visitors can cruise ice-blue waters to the Upsala Glacier. In the southern section, Lago Argentino curves and forks into glacier-walled channels. The park's most famous attraction, the Perito Moreno Glacier, is located here. About every four years, enormous chunks of ice break from the glacier's two-hundred foot face, crashing into the lake below. Across the channel, cliff-side walkways permit another view of the glacier's two-mile flow.
A handful of historic ranches (estancias) lie within the park, offering day trips, horseback riding, fishing and overnight lodging. The area also has a selection of high-end lodges and hotels. Day trips, such as glacier treks, mountain biking and lake cruises can be arranged.
Summer high season in El Calafate extends from October to March, when temperatures range from the high 40s to the mid-60s. In winter, daylight hours are short and temperatures usually peak below 50°. Calafate can be reached by air from Buenos Aires in 3¼ hours. Extensions to El Chalten, Ushuaia, and Bariloche are easily arranged.
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