Argentina Glacier Experience

I recently had the chance to travel to Argentina, and never having visited the country, I was thrilled to go. A few days before my departure, I had a minor accident and fractured my foot. Instead of cancelling my trip I decided to test how well Aerolineas Argentinas would manage a client with a mobility impairment. I could not have been more pleased with the service I received. The Aerolineas staff, both at the ticket counter and onboard, were very accommodating. I flew an Airbus 330 from New York nonstop to Buenos Aires. After a pleasant meal with a glass of Argentine wine and a few hours of sleep we landed at Pistarini, where a wheelchair was waiting to take me from the door of the plane through customs and immigration, and on to the car for my transfer to the domestic airport. I was thinking as we drove through Buenos Aires that five hours from arrival to departure is really necessary to change airports given the size of the city and the traffic you may encounter. Once at the domestic airport I continued on my journey to El Calafate.

After a quick stop at my hotel, I was taken on a guided tour of the Glaciarium Ice museum. The very modern and interactive museum answered all of my questions about glaciers, from how they originated to how quickly they are retreating. I finished the day off with a delicious meal of lamb, potatoes and a glass or two of Malbec at La Tablita, the most well-known traditional restaurant in town.

If you go, I recommend staying at the Eolo Hotel which is located midway between El Calafate’s town center and the Perito Moreno glacier. They offer a variety of excursions including the two glacier excursions I experienced.

The next morning, I set off to Los Glaciares National Park to see the Perito Moreno glacier. This glacier is one of the most visited in Argentina because of its size and accessibility. I boarded the boat with my packed lunch for a short trip across the lake. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating and it started to drizzle and the wind was picking up. Thankfully I had come prepared for the elements with rain and cold weather gear. The National Park guides did a great job teaching me about how the glacier changes with the seasons while we made our way to the base of it. I was awestruck at the size of the glacier. Not only the width, but the height and just the enormity almost cannot be conveyed in words. Once the guides fitted me with ice crampons we spent about two hours hiking on the glacier. It was not an easy climb with my sore foot; however the guides were very attentive. This was an adventure I never thought I would have and will treasure forever.

My second day in the National Park started out with an exciting boat ride across Lake Argentino. The wind was so strong at first that there were white caps on the surface, but thankfully it didn’t last long.  Once we turned north on the lake and got into a more narrow section, the ride became smooth enough to venture out onto the deck. We spent about an hour navigating around the lake’s stunning icebergs and taking advantage of the amazing photo opportunities. My destination for today was Estancia Cristina, offering the best views of the largest glacier in Argentina, the Upsala Glacier. Upon arrival at the Estancia I was greeted by my guide, and the decision was made to head straight to the 4x4s for the ride up the mountain. It was a bumpy 45 minute ascent, but my guide made the trip seem short with his knowledge of the history of the estancia. After a short hike up to the summit, the panoramic view of the Upsala Glacier was amazing and well worth the trip. I would highly recommend staying at least two nights at Estancia Christina, so you can experience the park longer. They offer excursions either on foot, mountain bike, or on horseback.

For me, this was a great introduction to Argentina, seeing the glaciers in the national park and enjoying some of the traditional South American cuisine.

There are so many things to do around El Calafate, that you could spend a whole week just there. I also suggest combining it with Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, where you can see the beautiful ice fields from multiple angles.

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