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Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier: hotels & tours via Buenos Aires Argentina

El Calafate is a small Patagonian village on the shore of the breathtaking lake Lago Argentina. Known as the national capital of the glaciers, El Calafate is an important tourist destination as it serves as the gateway to the majestic world of glaciers and to Los Glaciares National Park which includes the amazing Perito Moreno Glacier (one of the most popular and visited glaciers in the world). There are two other lesser-known, but spectacular Glaciers - Cerro Chalten and Cerro Torre

Deriving its name from from a flowering bush with dark blue berries and yellow flowers, El Calafate is a quaint town lying on a hillside surrounded by small farms.  The El Calafate Stream divides the village into two sections and a few meters from the center of town a rustic stone pathway leads to the Nimes Lagoon, otherwise known as the Birds Lagoon (Laguna de los Pajaros) home to 80 different species of beautiful and colorful birds that display all their elegance to visitors.  The main species there include geese, flamingoes, swans, ducks, herons, falcons, black-faced Ibis and Black-Necked Swans.  The lagoon is an ideal place to enjoy summer sunsets and features bilingual tours covering the characteristics of each species and their relationship to the habitat.
Home to only about 4,000 residents, this quaint community features small rustic homes that give visitors the sense of stepping into another time.  The buildings in El Calafate have gabled roofs to avoid the effects of heavy snowfall.  Its flora is characteristic of the Andean Patagonia woods, with a clear predominance of 'lengas' and sour cherrywood trees.  The historic city center is quite picturesque as it actually seems much like it was in the 1920s when the village was founded.  The Santa Teresa Chapel, one of the first structures in town, is a favorite among tourists and appears today much as it always has. 
Calafate offers much to lovers of history.  The village is home to the Center of Historic Interpretation, which has a collection of artifacts dating to before the arrival of modern man.  The El Calafate Regional Museum has collections of zoological artifacts and a collection from the Tehuelche people, an indigenous tribe who settled in the area long before Argentines and Chileans reached this remote region.  The museum offers documentaries on the region from November through March and is open daily, Monday through Friday. 

Boat excursions are available to witness ice cracking in Los Glaciers National Park. Trails are abundant to get up close to the glaciers and paved roads lead to the far side of Lago Argentino and to the Rio Gallegos.  Visitors can also take dirt road trips by bus to other local destinations such as Esquel and Comodoro.  In addition to glacial tours, the area offers horseback riding, trekking, mountain biking and kayaking.

Eight kilometers from El Calafate, visitors can tour one of Argentina’s most historically significant treasures, the Walichu Caves.  Located just off the shore of Lake Argentina, these caverns are filled with Paleolithic cave paintings.  Created with materials such as gypsum, egg-whites, plant resin and human saliva these paintings transport visitors back  over 4,000 years ago to a time when Argentinean aborigines used the drawings to aid other hunters and gatherers in the region. 

Estancia Cristina offers programs that are designed to combine nature and history with leisure.  Their program begins with sailing on Lago Argentino alongside impressive icebergs and mountains.  Other activities include hiking, horseback riding, fishing and a Historic Tour of the Estancia together with a visit to its Museum.

There are several 4x4 excursions available in the area.  Onboard 4x4 vehicles, visitors can travel through the Patagonian Steppe and forests to impressive viewpoints. Some of these exclusive sites have never been accessed by any other kind of motor vehicle before.  Routes include several destinations near El Calafate and Glacier National Park.

Although El Calafate is quite small, it offers a rich nightlife scene.  Restaurants offer a wide variety of fare and include steak houses, pizza parlors and places specializing in regional cuisine.  A casino is located there along with discotheques, music shows, snack bars and pubs. 

Museums include the following locations:

(Spanish) Nueva Museologia (Calafate Regional Museum)

Other resources:

(Spanish) Official Government Website  
(Spanish) Department of Tourism for Santa Cruz Province
(English, Spanish) Los Glaciares National Park
(English, Portuguese, Spanish) Estancia Cristina (horseback riding)
(Spanish) Glacier Perito Marino Video
(English) Cerro Torre listing on Summitpost.org

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