It’s difficult to top Iguazu Falls, but after a visit there how about following up with a trip to Argentina’s second natural wonder; Perito Moreno and the glaciers of Patagonia.
There’s surely something magical about glaciers. It could be just the massive or the beauty of blue ice shining in the sun Maybe it’s nature’s power on display when huge pieces of icebergs crash into the water , or the majesty of the setting amidst rocky mountains and vast plains. Or perhaps it is that glaciers represent the wild untouched spirit of Patagonia; a place where nature is still supreme.
Patagonia describes the 625, 000 square miles (one million kilometers) that make up southern Chile and Argentina; an area three times the size of Texas. Dominated by the southern Andes mountain range, the Patagonian landscape embraces the pretty Alpine – like Lakes region, Chilean fjjods, homes of whales and penguins and the end of the earth remoteness of Tierra del Fuego in the most southerly part of the Americas. 6, 500 miles of Patagonia are covered by the largest expanse of ice on Earth outside Antarctica and Greenland; commonly known as the Southern Patagonian ice field. In places, the ice field spills out into lakes and fjords. It is where ice meets mountains and water that we can go and visit some of these stunning glaciers.
El Calafate and Perito Moreno
One such place and probably the best for an overall feel of Patagonia is the extremely southern little town of El Calafate. The big draw here is the fascinating Perito Moreno glacier. In this time of global warming, Perito Moreno is only one of three Patagonian glaciers that are actually growing; so much so that periodically it ruptures – breaking apart as floods of water crash into Lake Argentino. Perito Moreno is an easy day trip from El Calate and once there you can observe te glacier from different vantage points along the walkways, take a boat trip to get up close to the 240ft high glacier, and even don ropes and crampons to walk on the ice.
Flowing into the opposite end of Argentino Lake is the Upsala Glacier; one of the largest in Patagonia. You can combine the sailing to Upsala with a visit to the Estancia (ranch) Christina for a taste of life out here in the wilds; and a trip off road by 4 x 4 taking you into the mountains for views over the Upsala Galcier and the Southern Ice Field stretching out into the distance.
Where to go from El Calafate?
El Chalten: The Trekking Capital of Argentina
An isolated town and the center for hiking in Patagonia. Short to long hikes take you to the rocky massifs of Torre and Mt Fitzro; two of the most difficult mountains to climb on the planet. These rocky peaks rise staright out of the Patagonian steppes and form an impressive sight. Since hiking is really the main attraction here, there are a whole range of trails lasting an hour or so to many days. One full day hike takes you right into the park to the foot of Mount Torre and the Torre Glacier. Once there your guide will show you how to explore the glacier, looking into deep blue glaciers and having a go at some ice climbing. In El Chalen, there is a good microbrewery and some cozy restaurants but if you don’t like hiking, this is probably not the place for you.
Chile: Torres del Paine
The border is only 2 hours away and from there it is an easy hop to the specatacular national park of Torres del Paine. This is generally regarded as the best national Park in Chile in terms of variety of scenery and abundance of wildlife. Torres del Paine is a small but spectacular mountain chain and one of the most pristine and beautiful places on earth.
The mountains, lakes and glaciers are the result of the meeting of the Patagonian steppes, the Andes mountain range and the southern ice field. What this means in terms of scenery is huge jagged cliffs, astounding glaciers, lakes and rivers, forests, ice and desert – like rocky valleys . Torres del Paine is also the home of a range of wildlife such as guanaco, condors and puma.
In a few days in Torres del Paine you can experience an amazing variety of terrains; something like a giant landscaped garden. There are very comfortable accommodations located within the park and opportunities to explore from boat trips up t Glacier Grey, day hikes up to the full 8 day circuit of the mountainous core of the park.
From Torres del Paine you can continue to Punta Arenas Chile for connecting flights to Santiago de Chile.
More about Patagonia
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