Off the beaten path in El Calafate
When visiting Argentine Patagonia, you should definitely pay a visit to the town El Calafate. Situated in Santa Cruz province, it got its name after a little bush called el calafate (Berberis buxifolia) which is very common all over Patagonia. It has yellow flowers and sweet dark blue berries.
El Calafate town, close to the National Park Los Glaciares where the capital of trekking El Chaltén is located, is for many just a stopover on the way to Perito Moreno glacier.
But El Calafate has much more to offer than just the famous expensive glacier. And many of these things you can get for free, if you know how.
Avenida del Libertador San Martin
The main street of the town is where all the vibrant life of El Calafate is situated. Very picturesque, full of cafes, restaurants, ice cream and souvenir shops. A must see to fall in love with El Calafate town.
Just 7 km from El Calafate, these archeological sites are full of cave drawings from some 4,000 years AC. You can get there walking from El Calafate, by car, with a travel agency or hitchhiking. We walked around Lago Argentino on the way there and hitchhiked on the way back to the town. There is an entrance fee of 50 pesos argentinos and you get a guide who will explain you more about the history of the place. Or there are some caves on the right side of the entrance which are for free but it says it is prohibited to go there. But no one will say anything to you if you do. Those caves are also nice, just with no cave drawings inside.
I highly recommend you to walk to the caves as on the way you will see weird things, such as big bones of unknown animals, a lot of funky bushes, owls and many other birds from close.
800 m from the main street Av. del Libertador de San Martin in El Calafate, easy to walk to, there is this natural ecological municipal reserve Laguna Nimez. The entrance fee is 25 pesos, you can walk around the lake (it takes around 1 h) and see 80 species of birds from close. Or you don’t have to pay and just walk around the fence and if you have a good zoom on your camera, you will see as much as if you entered (which is exactly what we did to save some money.)
A small canyon on the river, less than 1 hour walking from the centre. To get there just follow the river on its right side out of the town. It is a very quiet area where the river forms a small canyon where you can do rappel or rock climbing. Or just sunbathe by the river when the weather allows you to do so, or even refresh yourself in the river. The best place for some relax with not many tourists.
Fiesta del Lago
Every year there is a party for the anniversary of Lago Argentino where you can enjoy a lot of national artists, concerts at night, motocross and car ralley. We were so lucky that we visited El Calafate exactly during the 135 anniversary so had a chance to be one of those fans at the concerts at night. Visit www.fiestadellago.com to find out about next fiesta.
Intendencia Parque Nacional de los Glaciares
A very picturesque garden, with statues of Francisco Moreno, the Argentinian explorer after which the glacier is named. You can get here all the information about the national park.
Paseo de las Artesanos
Between the bus station and Av. Libertador, there are a couple of stalls with hand-made handicrafts from the local people. Worth a visit.