An Argentinian Glacier Adventure – El Calafate and Estancia Cristina Excursion
I just returned from El Calafate, which is located just a 2 to 3-hour flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina. People come here to get close with the famous Perito Moreno and the Upsala glaciers. Perfect for the adventurous type of Honeymoon.
We stopped there after Bariloche, taking a 1 ½ hour magic flight along the Andes. Get seats on the right-end side! You’ll be thankful forever as the views on the snowed peaks are breathtaking.
Landing in El Calafate airport makes you feel like if you were landing on the moon. There’s nothing around, just immensity of desert landscapes, with just a huge turquoise-blue lake in the middle of it: Lake Argentina.
The town of El Calafate lies on the side of the lake. All the action takes place between the town, and the end of the lake, at the feet of the glaciers.
The airport is located approx. ½ hour from town. Exiting the city, we first stopped at the newly-built/open Glaciarium museum. A must! We all thought the visit was so instructive, and allowed us to understand what we saw afterwards (glaciers, etc.) much better.
Another 20-minute later, set in the middle of nowhere (nowhere being La Anita valley, we arrived at EOLO LODGE, a beautiful Relais & Chateaux property, perfect for luxury travel. Eolo is now the ONLY true luxury property located in El Calafate. 17 units only, and just 3 different categories – Superior (12), Premium (3) and Corner suites (2). The only difference: the view. Also, the corner suites have a double full-walled window, offering a 180 degree view of the valley and the mountain range. Rooms are pretty spacious (about 500 sq. feet) and bathrooms are great.
The property has a U shape evoking a private estancia, and all walls are floor to ceiling windows letting light come in dramatically (we arrived at sunset, the views were breathtaking especially from the Library area) and offering the most amazing views of the Lago Argentino, La Anita Valley, Torres Del Paine and the Rico Branch. The place is wonderfully comfortable, perfect for romance and relaxation at the end of a busy day of hiking, horseback riding, or sailing. Whatever outdoor activities you’ve been up to, there’s a great pool area waiting for you, with sauna. The manager team on duty is amazing, looking after your every need. Food was excellent although quite creative and sometimes surprising. Wine cellar is great. Eolo offers a meal plan and immediate surrounding outdoor activities are included (not the glacier activities though).
Eolo is located approximately 30 to 40 minutes drive from the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier, the famous attraction of the area. I am simply in love with it, and could spend hours admiring it from the walkways made of 7 balconies. You get closer and closer, from one balcony to the other, and the next day you can go back and hike on the glacier! It’s an amazing experience.
Facing the glacier, just about 4miles from it, is the HOSTERIA LOS NOTROS, where we spent our 2nd night in El Calafate. Los Notros is not as luxurious as Eolo, not at all. But for those for whom location and view matter most, this is the place to be. 32 rooms total, but only the premium rooms (7 of them) with floor to ceiling windows facing the glacier are worth it. Beds are comfortable but not luxurious. Sheets are soft but old. In the premium rooms, your king bed faces your huge window overlooking the glacier. You can hear it breaking down from your bed! You can even see it from your bathroom, as a window opens up to the bedroom, above the bed. Imagine this for your Honeymoon!
The lodge offers an all-inclusive plan featuring a meal plan as well as the most important activities to enjoy in the area, such as the glacier hike. Their restaurant is definitely great. The atmosphere is warm and cozy. It is a truly wonderful property as well.
Both Eolo and Los Notros are not opened year round and usually close for their winter.
We participated in a full-day excursion to ESTANCIA CRISTINA. WOW! Talk about a hotel in the middle of nowhere! It took us about 3 hours by boat to get to it, navigating around icebergs.
Estancia Cristina is a lodge as well as a day destination, and you can decide to spend a few days there, feeling like the pioneer Joseph Percival Masters, an Englishman who founded it in 1914 with his wife, having heard wonders about the Patagonian lands. Here again, it is all about the nature: excursions to another glacier are on the program: the Upsala glacier. Trekking, 4X4 excursions, fishing and horseback riding are available (horses are free all day there).
The lodge continues to be and to feel like the shelter that it used to be back in the days. There are 5 lodges, each made of 4 bedrooms, sharing a little living area. Rooms are very simple although very comfortable in a warm, rustic way. The food served at lunch was excellent, and always reflecting the regional cuisine. The common area/lobby/restaurant/library is this fantastic octagonal wooden room boosting a great fireplace, and some rare pictures, books, and maps of the area.
The areas available for the day-comers (like we were) are a large restaurant/cantina, and a fantastic museum. The lodge part of Estancia Cristina is strictly reserved to the overnight guests. Tourists participating in a day-time excursion are gone by usually 5pm. Overnight guests sometimes include famous (or crazy) high-altitude alpinists using Estancia Cristina as one of their stops along an intrepid adventure.
It is extremely important to explain the solitude of this place. Most of us would be just fine at Eolo or Los Notros, feeling isolated enough. Estancia Cristina is another step up. But for the travelers and Honeymooners seeking this experience, it is a fabulous and exclusive place. The Upsala glacier is also a nice complement to the Perito Moreno glacier as they are 2 different kinds. While the Upsala is famous for his extremely fast retreat (we walked on rocks (and fossils) that had been immersed under the glacier up to 2 years ago!), the Perito Moreno is more impressive with his breaking ice.
If you haven’t guessed it, I love El Calafate! It is probably my favorite spot in Argentina. I’d go back there every time I go to this country if I could. The glaciers (that I like to call the Kings of the Andes / Los Reyes de Los Andes) are hypnotizing.