El Calafate, Argentina, and Hiking the Perito Moreno Glacier

The first thing that struck me about El Calafate was the contrast with the urbanness of Buenos Aires. Calafate has brilliant blue skies, dusty and dry terrain, and strong winds. Ryan and I stayed at the America Del Sur hostel, which was the perfect way to recover from the late-night living we subjected ourselves to in Buenos Aires. The hostel has a cozy wooden interior, with high ceilings, heated floors, and beautiful views of the clear blue skies and snowy mountains in the distance. The friendly and cute staff were super helpful, even pre-paying for our ice trekking tour on the Perito Moreno glacier. The great big room at Del Sur was perfect for relaxing, with Thievery Corp, Bob Marley, and other chill tunes playing all day. The rooms were big and cost a mere 40 pesos (about $13 USD).

open road

At Del Sur, Ryan and I met Annette and Rahima, two rad hostel friends from Cali. Our first day in Calafate, we rented a car and road tripped to Lago Roca. Lago Roca is a lake near the hostel that was not very touristy and was meant to have amazing views at the top of the mountain, which was a four hour hike. As it was drizzling, we picniked in the car and hiked for about 2.5 hours, until we got high enough that the ground was covered in snow. Not feeling up to another 1.5h of hiking in foggy and snowy conditions that were unlikely to reveal the amazing views from the top, we headed down and drove back to town.

annette me ryan rahima

The town itself is a modern 7 block strip of chic-ish shops and nice restaurants. It’s the kind of cute touristy town where your parents would be comfortable. Calafate is full of stray dogs that strangely chase cars but not people. And the Argentina ATM rules was in full effect – lines were long (10+ people) and the maximum withdrawal allowed was 320 pesos (about $100 USD). So if you wanted more than that, you’d have to withdraw cash multiple times… a royal pain in the ass.

perito moreno glacier

The second day in Calafate we headed to hike the Perito Moreno glacier, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s one of the world’s few advancing glaciers, moving at 2m per day. My expectations were high, as I’d had four friends who all loved it. I wasn’t disappointed. We hiked for about 7 hours on the massive glacier (200m deep and 5km wide). It’s difficult to get a sense of the scale from pictures, but it was unlike anything I’d experienced before. It was blindingly white at times, and I saw some of the most amazing blues I’ve ever seen in nature.

ryan ponders the meaning of life

At lunch we had Baileys con Glacier (you can hear how vicious the wind was on the glacier here):

And post-hike we retired to a bar where Ryan bought a round of Fernet and Colas. It’s Argentina’s unofficial national drink, I’m told, and though it tastes like mouthwash, I’m developing a taste for it.

The day after glacier hiking, Ryan, Annette, and Rahima headed to Puerto Madryn on a 24h bus ride, and I caught a flight to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, en route to Antarctica. But not before we demonstrated our technique for how Canadians shake hands with Argentines:

You can see all the Perito Moreno pics here, and all the El Calafate pics here.

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