Escaping Buenos Aires | Exploring El Calafate and El Chalten

Big city life in Buenos Aires can feel suffocating at times. As as a photographer, my inspiration just doesn’t come from the city.  So we escaped this last week to El Calafate, Argentina, and it was a photographers dream. Fresh air and snowy mountain tops, breathtaking sunsets, and peaceful quiet.  

El Calafate | a quiet little town with crazy ass dogs.

Our first day in El Calafate, we decided to play it low key and explore the town a little bit.  Our hotel was on the edge of town, and we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We walked down first to the lakeshore of Lago Argentina, and spent some time skipping rocks and digging for treasure.  Next we hopped in the car to hit main street. This is when we discovered that the dogs in this cozy little town are INSANE. There are a ton of dogs, some wild some pets, but they all just wander the countryside it seems.  They are super friendly and just want some pets, until they see a car coming. That’s when they turn in to rabid little doggy homing missiles, running straight at your oncoming car, apparently trying to catch your tires, and giving all occupants of the car heart attacks.  We got a little more used to it by the end of our week there (except for the one time that there were horses instead of doggos running at us in the road), but I am definitely going to file that one under an experience I don’t need again. Don’t be scared, we didn’t hit any, they seemed to know just what they were doing. They really should put a warning in the welcome packet!  

We had a lazy day wandering through the many stores filled with overpriced hiking gear and souvenirs, and ended our day at a park next to the lake.  As we played in the sand, a herd of horses came strolling along the lakeside, just as the sun was making its way over the mountain, and I can’t even make up how beautiful it was.  

Captains Club and Underneath an Iceberg

The next day we took a Glacier sightseeing boat ride. We left the hotel before sunrise, and took a forty-five minute stunning drive along the lake to Puerto Bandera where we boarded our boat.  It was pretty crowded, and one of the guides announced that there were three seats available in the Captains Club, and we went for it. Best decision ever. We had a separate cabin upstairs where we didn’t have to worry about Ian getting away from us, and we had our very own tour guide, who became Ian’s BFF for the day.  

First stop was the Upsala Glacier.  We couldn’t get too close the the actual glacier, but we pulled up right next to an iceberg that had flipped itself over (they do that from time to time).  It was the most stunning blue ice I have ever seen. Seriously, pictures and words can’t describe what the experience was like, but the colors you see in the photos start to tell the story.  It was amazing.

Next stop was Spegazzini Glacier, which we were able to pull up closer to.  Here we were able to get a feel for the sheer size of the ice. It was massive, and if you listened close, you could hear it make sound, as if it were a living thing.  We were lucky enough to witness some calving (when ice from the glacier falls off), and it was pretty awesome. The sound the of the ice breaking and hitting the water, was like a huge clap of thunder that you could feel in your body.

Here they fished some glacier ice out of the lake, which they then used in our drinks. It was the clearest ice i’ve ever seen!  

Chilean Flamingos!

The next day was pretty lazy, we hit the Glacier Museum and met a fellow San Diegan (small world). But the big news was the flamingos!!!  I had been told they hung out at Reserva Laguna Nimez, but we had not yet seen any. And bless my husband, I made him stop every time I saw them for the rest of the trip.

Perito Moreno Glacier | Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

Sunday we took the hour drive to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.  After winding through the park, we came to the parking area with the option to take the balconies or a bus to the main center.  We chose to hoof it and we were so glad we did! In the end, we walked through all the balconies, and were able to get breathtaking views of Perito Moreno.  There was an area of the glacier where the most calving occurs, and we were able to watch many big chunks of ice crash into the water below. The photos we took don’t do justice.  This is something you will just need to add to your bucket list and come see for yourself!

El Chalten | an even cozier little town

I’m skipping Monday because it was another lazy, hit up shops, drink cappuccinos, play at the park day.  But Tuesday, our last day, we drove out the El Chalten. It was another beautiful drive, where we got more Lago Argentina/snowy Andes views. But this route also had ALPACAS!  I have a small obsession with Alpacas, someday I want to hug one in real life.

El Chalten in a destination spot for hikers and backpackers, and home to Mt. Fitz Roy.  The quiet little town in nestled at the foot of these huge peaks. Since we weren’t equipped for any longer treks, we chose two short and easy hikes.  The first was to Salto El Chorrillo, a small waterfall, where a momma and baby deer came right up to the stream to for a drink.

We explored the little town a bit and grabbed a bite to eat, before our second mini hike, Miradores Los Cóndores.  From here we had a breathtaking view of Mt. Fitz Roy towering over El Chalten down below. Even though we didn’t stay long, it was absolutely worth the drive out to El Chalten.

If you ever find yourself in South America, or are looking for a place for an adventure, go to El Calfate, and explore all around. We barely scratched the surface of all there is to do and see, yet my cup overfloweth with the memories we made during our week!

Julie McGregor