12 Cool Things to Do in El Calafate, Argentina

by Flora Backup
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Get ready for an unforgettable adventure in El Calafate! This guide is brimming with the coolest things to do in this Patagonian gem. From awe-inspiring glacier treks to serene bird watching, El Calafate offers a unique blend of natural beauty and thrilling experiences.

If you’re wondering about the best things to do in El Calafate, you’re in for a treat. This charming town, your gateway to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier, is a playground of natural wonders and thrilling adventures. Trust me, it’s a place where every moment is a story waiting to be told!

From the moment I set foot in El Calafate, I knew it was special. Whether you’re into heart-pumping glacier treks or serene bird watching at Laguna Nimez Reserve, this place has it all. Imagine kayaking on the crystal-clear Argentino Lake or toasting your day’s adventures at the cool GlacioBar. Truly, it’s a destination in Argentina brimming with unforgettable experiences.

Ready to explore what to do in El Calafate, Argentina? Let’s embark on this journey together and discover the top activities that make this Patagonian gem a must-visit spot on your travel map!

Here's all the best things to do in El Calafate, Argentina that you should know about.

Best Places to Visit in El Calafate, Argentina

Ready to discover the marvels of El Calafate? From the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier to the vast Patagonian steppe, there’s an array of exciting things to do in El Calafate. Whether you’re trekking on ancient ice or watching flamingos dance at Laguna Nimez Reserve, every moment here is an adventure.

Imagine kayaking in the pristine Argentino Lake or savoring a drink at the unique GlacioBar. Dive into our guide for the best experiences in El Calafate – each one is a memory waiting to be made!

1. Visit the Perito Moreno Glacier

One of the best El Calafate attractions has to be the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier. This glacier is a natural wonder in Latin America that will leave you speechless. Take it from me, seeing this colossal ice formation up close is an experience you’ll never forget.

For a truly unforgettable adventure, I recommend the glacier trekking tours. Imagine strapping on your crampons and walking on the icy surface of this 30-kilometer-long glacier. The sounds of cracking ice and the sight of deep blue crevasses are surreal. Don’t forget your camera – the views are out of this world!

The Perito Moreno Glacier, a natural wonder in Latin America, is guaranteed to leave you awe-struck and speechless.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, a natural wonder in Latin America, is guaranteed to leave you awe-struck and speechless.

It’s not all about adrenaline-pumping activities, though. The boardwalks around the glacier offer a more relaxed way to enjoy the scenery. You can stroll at your own pace, watching huge chunks of ice calving into the water with a thunderous roar. It’s a powerful reminder of nature’s might.

And here’s a tip: visit in the afternoon for the best chance to witness ice calving. The late sunlight makes the glacier’s blue hues even more vibrant, perfect for those Instagram-worthy shots. So, when you’re planning what to see in El Calafate, make sure the Perito Moreno Glacier is at the top of your list!

2. Go Horseback Riding in the Patagonian Steppe

Exploring the vast Patagonian Steppe on horseback is one of the most unique things to do in El Calafate, Argentina. There’s something magical about riding through this rugged landscape, just as the gauchos have for centuries.

If you’re a seasoned rider or a beginner, local estancias cater to all levels. My advice? Go for a sunset ride. The way the sun dips behind the mountains, casting a golden glow over the steppe, is breathtaking. Plus, the cooler evening temperatures make for a comfortable ride.

To experience the essence of Patagonia Include horseback riding in the Patagonian Steppe on your list. | Image Credits:  A-Z animals
To experience the essence of Patagonia Include horseback riding in the Patagonian Steppe on your list. | Image Credits: A-Z animals

As you trot along, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife. You might spot foxes, condors, and even guanacos. The guides are fantastic storytellers, sharing tales of Patagonian legends and lore.

After the ride, many estancias offer a traditional asado (barbecue). It’s the perfect way to end your day – enjoying delicious local cuisine under the vast Patagonian sky. When looking for fun things to do in El Calafate, be sure to add horseback riding to your list. It’s an experience that truly captures the spirit of Patagonia.

3. Glacier Trekking on Perito Moreno

For an adventure that truly stands out, glacier trekking on Perito Moreno is a must-do. It’s not just a walk – it’s an expedition into a world of ice. For those wondering about fun places to visit in El Calafate, this is it!

I advise choosing a guided trek. The guides are knowledgeable and ensure your safety while you navigate the glacier’s otherworldly terrain. You’ll be equipped with crampons, which makes it easier to walk on the ice. The moment you step onto the glacier, you’ll feel like you’re on another planet!

For an extraordinary adventure, make glacier trekking on Perito Moreno a non-negotiable item on your must-do list.
For an extraordinary adventure, make glacier trekking on Perito Moreno a non-negotiable item on your must-do list.

The trek isn’t overly strenuous, but it’s thrilling. You’ll weave through ice formations, peer into deep crevasses, and maybe even drink fresh glacier water. Remember to dress warmly and in layers – the weather can change quickly.

The highlight for me was reaching a viewpoint overlooking the immense ice field. The panoramic views of the glacier and surrounding mountains are unforgettable. If you’re wondering what to do in El Calafate, Argentina, glacier trekking should be high on your list. It’s a unique experience in South America that you’ll talk about for years to come!

4. Explore Estancia Cristina

Discovering Estancia Cristina is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in El Calafate, Argentina. This remote estancia (ranch) offers a unique glimpse into Patagonian history and culture.

Getting there is an adventure in itself. You’ll journey by boat across the stunning Argentino Lake, passing icebergs and getting up close with the imposing Upsala Glacier. Once at the estancia, the sense of tranquility and isolation is profound. It’s like stepping back in time.

Estancia Cristina harmonizes natural beauty and rich history to deliver an unparalleled and truly unique experience.
Estancia Cristina harmonizes natural beauty and rich history to deliver an unparalleled and truly unique experience.

I recommend taking a guided tour of the estancia. You’ll learn about the area’s pioneering history and how people survived in this remote part of the world. The old shearing shed turned museum is particularly fascinating.

For the more adventurous, there are numerous hikes and horseback rides available. The views of the Andes and the glaciers from the property are spectacular. And trust me, the Patagonian lamb here is a culinary delight you shouldn’t miss!

Considering where to go in El Calafate, Argentina? Make sure Estancia Cristina is on your itinerary. It’s a place that combines natural beauty with rich history, offering a truly unique experience.

5. Take a Boat Tour along the Glacier Front

A boat tour along the glacier front is one of the best things in El Calafate to do that you simply can’t miss. It’s a chance to get up close and personal with the colossal ice formations in a way you never imagined.

As you glide across the icy waters of Argentino Lake, you’ll be awestruck by the sheer size of the glaciers. The boat tour offers a unique perspective, allowing you to witness the grandeur of these natural giants from a safe, yet incredibly close distance. the first time you hear the thunderous crack of ice calving from the glacier, it’s a moment you’ll remember forever.

A glacier front boat tour offers an unimaginable, up-close encounter with colossal ice formations, a truly exceptional experience.
A glacier front boat tour offers an unimaginable, up-close encounter with colossal ice formations, a truly exceptional experience.

I recommend opting for a tour that includes a visit to several glaciers, like Spegazzini and Upsala, besides Perito Moreno. Each glacier has its own character, and seeing them side by side is a fascinating contrast. Solo Patagonia can offer this to you.

Don’t forget to dress warmly and bring a windbreaker – it can get chilly out on the water, even on sunny days. And of course, your camera is a must. The photo opportunities are endless, from the towering ice walls to the playful wildlife like seals and birds.

So, when you’re jotting down beautiful places to go in El Calafate, make sure a boat tour along the glacier front is on your list. It’s an adventure that brings you face-to-face with the power and beauty of nature.

6. Bird Watching at Laguna Nimez Reserve

Looking for free things to do in El Calafate, Argentina? Head to Laguna Nimez Reserve for a spot of birdwatching. This ecological reserve is a haven for bird lovers and a peaceful escape from the hustle of travel.

As you wander through the reserve, you’ll be surrounded by the tranquil sounds of nature. The variety of birds here is impressive – from flamingos painting the sky pink to the majestic black-necked swans. I recommend bringing binoculars for a closer look and a camera to capture these beautiful creatures.

Laguna Nimez Reserve is a delightful location that provides a serene and enriching experience with nature.
Laguna Nimez Reserve is a delightful location that provides a serene and enriching experience with nature.

The well-marked trails make it easy to explore, and the information boards along the way provide fascinating insights into the local wildlife. Trust me, even if you’re not an avid birdwatcher, the beauty and calm of Laguna Nimez are captivating.

The best time to visit is either early morning or late afternoon when the birds are most active. And here’s a tip: the sunsets here are spectacular, with the Patagonian sky turning into a canvas of colors.

Don’t overlook Laguna Nimez Reserve when you’re looking for places to see in El Calafate, Argentina. It’s a delightful spot that offers a gentle, yet enriching, encounter with nature.

7. Visit the Glaciarium

The Glaciarium is a must-visit for anyone interested in El Calafate things to do at night. This modern ice museum offers a deep dive into the world of glaciers, and believe me, it’s as educational as it is mesmerizing.

Upon entering, you’re greeted by interactive exhibits that explain the science and history of glaciers. It’s fascinating to learn about the formation and movement of these icy giants. The museum does a great job of blending information with engaging visuals, making it a hit for all ages.

For families seeking activities in El Calafate with kids, I always recommend a visit to the Glaciarium.
For families seeking activities in El Calafate with kids, I always recommend a visit to the Glaciarium.

One of the highlights is the GlacioBar, made entirely of ice. Here, you can enjoy a drink in a glass made of ice – how cool is that? It’s a unique experience that adds a fun twist to your visit.

I suggest allocating a couple of hours to fully enjoy the Glaciarium. It’s a museum that enhances your understanding and appreciation of the natural wonders you’re exploring in Patagonia.

The Glaciarium is always something I recommend to families wondering what to do in El Calafate with kids. It’s a perfect blend of fun and learning, offering a unique perspective on the icy landscapes that define this region.

8. Enjoy Kayaking in Argentino Lake

Kayaking in Argentino Lake is one of those fun things to do in El Calafate that offers both tranquility and a bit of adventure. Paddling on the serene waters of this vast lake, with the Andes in the background, is an experience you won’t forget!

The lake’s crystal-clear waters are perfect for kayaking, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler. I recommend joining a guided tour with Adventure Life, where you’ll get all the equipment and safety instructions you need. Plus, the guides often share fascinating stories and insights about the lake and its surroundings.

Engage in the delightful blend of tranquility and adventure by kayaking in Argentino Lake, a must-try activity in El Calafate.
Engage in the delightful blend of tranquility and adventure by kayaking in Argentino Lake, a must-try activity in El Calafate.

As you glide over the water, keep an eye out for wildlife. You might see birds swooping down to catch fish or even spot some of the larger animals that come to the lake’s edge. The peacefulness of being on the water, combined with the stunning natural scenery, is incredibly soothing.

Try an early morning or late afternoon session for the calmest waters and the best light for photos. Overall, kayaking is a fantastic way to connect with nature and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Patagonia.

9. Have a 4×4 Off-Road Adventure

Hands down, one of the most amazing things to do in El Calafate is embarking on a 4×4 off-road adventure. I recommend the tour with Patagonia Chic, which will take you to Cerro Frias in Land Rover 4×4 vehicles. It’s as cool as it sounds!

The journey starts with a pickup from your hotel in El Calafate, whisking you away to the base of Cerro Frias. Trust me, the excitement begins the moment you start the uphill drive! The 4×4 vehicles are perfect for navigating the rugged terrain, offering an exhilarating ride.

Explore the thrill of El Calafate with a 4x4 off-road adventure. | Image Credits: Patagonia Chic
Explore the thrill of El Calafate with a 4×4 off-road adventure. | Image Credits: Patagonia Chic

As you ascend, the views are nothing short of spectacular. You’ll see the vast expanse of Lake Argentino, the iconic Mount Fitz Roy, and even the distant Torres del Paine. The variety of landscapes, from lengas forests to open fields with roaming guanacos and wild horses, is incredible.

Bring your camera for some epic landscape shots. The top of Cerro Frias offers panoramic views that are a photographer’s dream. And if you’re lucky to go during sunset, the sky’s changing colors provide a magical backdrop.

After the adventure, you can relax and enjoy a meal at the barbecue area, reflecting on the day’s experiences. So, when planning what to do in El Calafate, make sure to include a 4×4 off-road adventure at Cerro Frias!

10. Have a Drink at the GlacioBar

One of my favorite things to do at night in El Calafate is hit up the GlacioBar. Imagine sipping a drink in a bar made entirely of ice – it’s something you’ll be raving about for years to come!

Located inside the Glaciarium, the GlacioBar is a one-of-a-kind experience. Everything from the walls to the furniture and even the glasses are made of ice. Don’t worry about the cold; they provide warm clothing to keep you snug.

Experience the magic of El Calafate nights at GlacioBar, where sipping a drink in an all-ice bar is unforgettable.
Experience the magic of El Calafate nights at GlacioBar, where sipping a drink in an all-ice bar is unforgettable.

I recommend trying one of their signature cocktails. There’s something about enjoying a drink in a glass made of ice that makes it taste even better. It’s an experience that combines fun with the unique icy essence of Patagonia.

After your drink, take some time to explore the Glaciarium. It’s a great way to learn about the glaciers you’ve been admiring in the area.

Looking for fun places to visit in El Calafate? Add the GlacioBar to your list. It’s the perfect way to end a day of exploring, offering a chill atmosphere in the literal sense!

11. Explore the Town of El Calafate

Strolling through the town is one of the cool things in El Calafate to do for a taste of local life. This quaint town is not just a gateway to glaciers. It’s a destination in its own right.

The main street, Avenida del Libertador, is lined with cozy cafes, quirky shops, and restaurants serving delicious Patagonian cuisine. I recommend trying the local lamb – it’s a culinary delight. The artisanal chocolate shops are a must-visit too. Trust me, their hot chocolate is the perfect way to warm up after a day of exploring.

While in El Calafate, Argentina, make sure to explore the enchanting streets of this charming town.
While in El Calafate, Argentina, make sure to explore the enchanting streets of this charming town.

Don’t miss the Laguna Nimez Reserve, a short walk from the town center. It’s a peaceful spot for bird watching and enjoying nature. The views of Lake Argentino from here are stunning.

And here’s a tip: visit the local craft market for unique souvenirs. The handcrafted woolen items and traditional crafts make for great gifts or mementos of your trip.

When you’re in El Calafate, Argentina, take time to wander around this charming town. It’s a delightful blend of culture, nature, and gastronomy that I’m sure you’ll love.

12. Fossil Hunting at La Leona Petrified Forest

Ever wanted to play Indiana Jones? Well, here’s your chance at La Leona Petrified Forest! This place is a real-life adventure, offering one of the coolest things to do in El Calafate, Argentina. Imagine walking in a land where dinosaurs once roamed!

The journey to La Leona is like stepping into a time machine. You’re surrounded by ancient fossils and petrified trees that have stood the test of time. It’s not every day you get to touch something that’s over 85 million years old. The experience is mind-blowing and humbling at the same time.

When planning your El Calafate itinerary, prioritize a visit to the captivating La Leona Petrified Forest for its unique beauty.
When planning your El Calafate itinerary, prioritize a visit to the captivating La Leona Petrified Forest for its unique beauty.

The landscape here is starkly beautiful, with wind-sculpted rocks and the remains of ancient forests. I recommend joining a guided tour to fully appreciate the history and geology of this unique place. The guides are knowledgeable and can point out details you might otherwise miss.

Don’t forget to bring your camera and some sturdy walking shoes. The terrain can be uneven, but the views and the experience of standing among these ancient giants are well worth it.

Make a visit to La Leona Petrified Forest a top priority when planning beautiful places to visit in El Calafate. It’s not just a walk among fossils – it’s an epic journey into the heart of our planet’s history. Believe me, you’ll leave with stories that sound like they’re straight out of a sci-fi novel!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in El Calafate, Argentina:

Looking for more content on the top things to do in El Calafate? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to El Calafate, Argentina.

How many days do you need in El Calafate?

I’d recommend spending at least three days in El Calafate. This gives you enough time to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier, explore the town, and maybe enjoy a boat tour or a hike. If you’re into more activities like horseback riding or visiting the Glaciarium, add a day or two more.

Is it worth going to El Calafate?

Absolutely! El Calafate is a must-visit for its unique natural attractions, especially the Perito Moreno Glacier. The town itself is charming, and the surrounding landscapes are breathtaking. It’s a perfect spot for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Explore El Calafate for its exceptional natural beauty, highlighted by the remarkable Perito Moreno Glacier.
Explore El Calafate for its exceptional natural beauty, highlighted by the remarkable Perito Moreno Glacier.

What is El Calafate famous for?

El Calafate is most famous for being the gateway to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the most accessible and stunning glaciers in the world. The town is also known for its beautiful Patagonian landscapes and outdoor activities like trekking, horseback riding, and boat tours.

What is better: El Chalten or El Calafate?

It depends on what you’re looking for. El Calafate is great for glacier tours and has more developed tourist facilities. El Chalten, on the other hand, is a paradise for hikers, known for trails like the one to Mount Fitz Roy. If you have time, visit both!

How long is the drive from El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier?

The drive from El Calafate to Perito Moreno Glacier takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, covering around 80 kilometers. The roads are in good condition, and the journey is scenic, so it’s a pleasant drive.

Do you need cash in El Calafate?

Yes, it’s a good idea to have some cash on hand in El Calafate. While many places accept credit cards, smaller shops, local markets, and some excursions might only take cash. There are ATMs in town, but they can sometimes run out of money, especially during peak tourist season.

The top things to do in El Calafate for all types of travelers
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