Sitting on Lake Argentino, El Calafate is your gateway to Los Glaciares National Park and the several nearby glaciers. About four hours northwest of Rio Gallegos, El Calafate is close to some of the worldâ€™s best big ice, such as the Viedma Glacier which at 100 meters (328 feet) high and five kilometers (three miles) wide is the largest in Latin America. Some of the other famous glaciers in the area, which attract tourists and scientists alike the world over include the Upsala Glacier, Onelli Glacier, Spegazzini Glacier, Mayo Glacier, FrĂas Glacier, and Perito Moreno Glacier known as "the eighth wonder of the world" and declared a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981.
Yet it is not all about ice: the town is named after a wild, thorny bush berry (Berberis buxifolia), available in abundance and cooked into many local sweets. The town, originally based on wool trading, was officially founded in 1927 and today has no more than 8,000 inhabitants, but offers a host of craft shops, restaurants, and lodging options.
This Patagonian pueblo, split by a stream with willows hanging over its banks, is also notable as an oasis of poplars, pines, and willows, and its creeks and tributaries flow into Atlantic through the Santa Cruz River.
The distance between the glaciers is wide, but a fleet of buses are on hand to take from one to the other. Despite El Calafateâ€™s seeming remoteness, its International Airport offers direct flights from Buenos Aires and other major Argentine cities. From Buenos Aires flights can run over $500, so start flight-shopping early. Flights from Puerto Natales, Chile, are also available. You can catch a bus to El Calafate from Buenos Aires: youâ€™ll have to connect through RĂo Gallegos.
Pop: 7000, Phone Code: 02902