This colossal glacier is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and verdant forests in Southern Patagonia.
The star attraction of Argentine Patagonia, this colossal glacier is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and verdant forests and sits within the huge Lago Argentina. It is best accessed on day trips from the ramshackle town of El Calafate, 50 miles away, crossing the barren Patagonian steppe. Upon arrival, elevated walkways provide visitors with sweeping panoramic views of the glacier, whilst boat trips bring you up close and personal with the giant wall of ice. The numbers are mind-boggling; 3 miles wide, 19 miles long, 700 metres deep and a surface area of 97 miles. Yet they don't quite do it justice and the only way to truly understand the awesome power and incomprehensible size of the glacier is to survey it for yourself. The thunderous sound and exhilarating sight of huge pieces of ice breaking off, then floating away as icebergs is truly unforgettable.
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Insights - El Calafate
El Calafate is a small town in Patagonia; the name comes from a little bush with yellow flowers very common in Patagonia, with dark blue berries: the "calafate". It is located on the banks of Lake Argentina, with majestic mountains, glaciers and icebergs rising in the horizon. The area is dry and barren with bushes and no trees other than the ones planted by the settlers for protection from the wind. Lake Argentino has a number of glaciers that are still growing; the most impressive and accessible is the Perito Moreno Glacier. It extends between two mountains to cross a long arm of Lake Argentino, so that the opposite bank is the ideal vantage point on land to view the front of the glacier. There are platforms to enable to spend a considerable amount of time admiring the magnificent size and rugged surface of a living, moving glacier. Other glaciers such as Upsalla and Onelli are reached on a boat trip on the lake.
Depart Calafate to Punta Bandera and board a catamaran to Lago Argentino until we get the first magnificent view of Upsala Glacier. The largest glacier in the region, some nine kilometres wide and 50 kilometres long, is fed by numerous tributaries from the continental icefield. Eventually we reach Onelli Glacier, standing on a tranquil lake, with beech trees to one side and ice-covered mountains to the other. A vast array of wildlife can be seen here: foxes, rheas, armadillos, condor, guanacos and pumas.