Argentina’s Patagonia is a land of mythical landscapes with its colorful lakes, rivers, forests, snow-capped Andean peaks and glaciers providing the ideal setting for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Among the region’s endless attractions, El Calafate – gateway to Los Glaciares National Park – and Ushuaia stand out as top favorites with American visitors.
Located in southwestern Santa Cruz province – just under a two-hour drive from the center of El Calafate with its wide array of accommodations, shopping and dining options – Los Glaciares National Park is the largest of Argentina’s national parks and a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site. Unveiling some of the most majestic Patagonian landscapes with rugged towering mountain peaks, forests and glacial lakes, including 100-mile-long Lake Argentino, the park is named after the various glaciers that call it home. This is the third largest glacier ice sheet in the world after the Poles. You may even spot the emblematic Andean condor here.
The Perito Moreno glacier is the main attraction at Los Glaciares National Park. It blocks a narrow channel formed by Lake Argentino that raises the water level temporarily causing regular thunderous ruptures of the glacier into the lake. It is easily accessible through a modern system of walkways. More adventurous travelers can also choose to experience the Perito Moreno on kayak for a unique perspective of this natural wonder or go on a mini trek on the glacier led by expert mountain guides. But there’s much more to Los Glaciares National Park than the Perito Moreno. A boat ride on Lake Argentino and neighboring Lake Viedma allows you to get up close to other striking glaciers, such as the Upsala or the Spegazzini. From Lake Viedma, it is also possible to visit El Chaltén, one of the most picturesque towns in Patagonia, famous for its hiking circuits.
After visiting these natural wonders, head down to the southern tip of the Americas to explore the charms of Ushuaia, the city at the end of the world and point of departure for expeditions to Antarctica. Learn about the indigenous Yámana that inhabited Tierra del Fuego over 10,000 years ago or tour Harberton Ranch to learn about the pioneers that settled in these lands. Take a ride on the Train of the End of the World, that used to transport prisoners, to the site where a high security prison stood a century ago or to visit Tierra del Fuego National Park, the only national park in Argentina that combines sea, forest, and mountains and is a paradise for adventure seekers, explorers, birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts and mountain climbers. The fall months – especially late April / early May – are a magical time to experience Tierra del Fuego National Park as the leaves burst into a range of fiery colors further enhancing its natural beauty.
Regularly scheduled flights connect El Calafate and Ushuaia in about an hour, and both cities are easily accessible from Buenos Aires.