You will transfer from El Calafate across a portion of the plateau, a landscape of glaciers and enormous snowfields stretched out across the mountains. Los Glaciares National Park, in the sub-Antarctic Continental Ice Cap, is known as the "Third Pole" and extends over 60,000 sq. km (23,000 sq. miles), giving birth to several major glaciers along the Patagonian Andes. The first views of Moreno Glacier are breathtaking as glimpsed down a narrow arm of Lago Argentino with the imposing Andean Mountains as a backdrop. As spectacular as it is, it pales compared to a close approach where the constant sounds of this "living" glacier shake the air. Gigantic blocks of ice frequently break away and crash into the lake, sending spray hundreds of feet into the air and sounding like distant artillery fire. The startling contrast of color, sound, motion and size creates a continuously changing mosaic of indescribable beauty. Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few advancing glaciers in the world, and its measurements are mind-boggling. The main wall is over 200 feet tall and almost 3 miles wide. This area was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The wildlife of the area includes Andean condors, buff-necked ibis, black-chested buzzard eagles, ashy-headed geese, etc.
Nautical Safari - The navigation takes place at the Southern arm of Lago Rico. The boat will stop at a safe distance from the Glacier, continuing to sail down its entire front, allowing a spectacular view of the high wall of ice. You will board at "Bajo Las Sombras" Bay about 6 km before the glacier balconies. It's a unique opportunity for photographers and nature lovers to enjoy the constant falling walls of ice from its front wall.
You will depart in the morning for Los Glaciares National Park, in the sub-Antarctic Continental Ice Cap, known as the "Third Pole" which extends over 60,000 sq. km (23,000 sq. miles) and gives birth to several major glaciers along the Patagonian Andes. The excursion begins at the pier located at “Bajo de las Sombras” Bay (approx. 6 km before the glacier viewpoint), where you will embark to cross Brazo Rico. Reaching the southwest shore after 20 minutes of navigation, you will be able to appreciate the southern wall of the Perito Moreno Glacier. After disembarking, you will reach the shelter where the guides organize the mini-trekking groups. You will walk for approx. 20 minutes by the lake shore to reach the glacier. Once you are in front of it, the guides will hand you the crampons and give you the instructions for the 2-hour hike over the ice. While mini-trekking over the glacier, you will experience lots of ice formations such as deep cracks, drains, small lagoons, etc.
This is a hike with a moderate level of difficulty. The ice surface where you will walk is irregular, but firm and safe. At the end of the hike, you will return to the shelter by walking through the exuberant Magellan forest. Then, you will embark again over the lake. Once you arrive at the pier, you will travel for 6 km to reach the catwalks in front of the Perito Moreno glacier where you will have some truly amazing views of the ice. Full-day.
You will depart in the morning for Los Glaciares National Park. This incredible experience starts at the small pier “Bajo de las Sombras”, where you will board a small boat –the Tehuelche– to cross the Rico Arm of Lake Argentino. After a 10 minute navigation, you will meet the guides on the opposite bank of the lake and start hiking in the beech forest until you get to the lateral moraine of the Perito Moreno glacier. You will then put on our crampons, get a brief instruction on ice climbing and hiking, then set off.
Once on the glacier, the world changes dramatically; deep blue lagoons, profound crevasses, and amazing ice caves create a special feeling of being right in the heart of the ice mass. You will explore this unique world while hiking for about 3 hours led by expert mountain guides. You will stop for lunch (NOT included) and have an opportunity to rest and enjoy the most of this experience. Then, we will hike back (about an hour) to the small pier to board our boat and navigate back to the coast with our souls fulfilled by this amazing experience. Full-day.
You will have an early morning transfer to Puerto Bandera to board a comfortable and modern catamaran for a cruise on Lago Argentino. You will obtain beautiful panoramic views of the Onelli, Agassiz, Spegazzini, and Bolados glaciers. Full-day.
History of the Estancia: Estancia Cristina was founded in 1914 by Joseph Percival Masters, an Englishman who came to Patagonia with his wife in 1900. Having heard marvels about the Patagonian lands of Southern Argentina and being in search of a promising future, he decided to embark with his wife towards Buenos Aires, to later travel to Río Gallegos. They soon found employment and had two children: Percival Herbert Masters in 1902 and Elinor Cristina Masters in 1904. The Masters had for a long time heard about the territories situated near a great lake called Argentino, where there were fine lands for cattle raising just waiting for adventurous pioneers. After saving some money, they started their journey from Río Gallegos towards the west. As time went by, Mr. Masters was able to acquire a small rescue boat from a shipwreck, with which he started to transport all his belongings - including cattle - towards a sheltered place on the southern bank of the North Channel Square Bay (Bahía Escuadra). As the rough lake and winds prevented him from sailing with his tiny ship, he recovered and rebuilt an old steam boat which he christened “Cesar.” It was in this way that he restarted to transport his possessions towards the Brazo Norte (North Channel) of the Lago Argentino, known currently as Brazo Cristina. Mr. Masters named his home Estancia Cristina in honor of his little daughter. They lived in tents set up near the lake for the first year.
Needless to say, the first years were times of hard work, effort, and restraint. The estancia grew and covered about 22,000 hectares of land surrounded by glaciers, snow peaks, and lakes of great natural beauty. Their herds then consisted of 27,000 sheep, 30 cows, and some 50 horses. When Mr. and Mrs. Masters died, the estancia went into Herbert´s hands, who was then married to Janet McDonald. Herbert died in 1984, leaving Janet to manage the property alone. Janet died in 1997.
Option 1 - Classic: Upon arrival in Puerto Bandera, you will board a comfortable modern catamaran for a cruise on Lago Argentino (departure is at 8:15am). The navigation first stops in front of the Upsala Glacier to enjoy a wonderful view and then enters the channel leading to Estancia Cristina, surrounded by towering ice-capped mountains and glowing blue icebergs floating in the lake. Upon arrival you will visit the main house, the chapel, and the museum. Here you can discover the lifestyle of the first settlers of the Estancia and their relations with the legendary explorers of the last century. You will have leisure time to explore.
Option 2 - Discovery: Upon arrival in Puerto Bandera, you will board a comfortable modern catamaran for a cruise on Lago Argentino (departure is at 8:15am). The navigation first stops in front of the Upsala Glacier before continuing to the estancia. Upon arrival you will visit the museum. Then, your 4x4 vehicle trip begins driving up the mountains from where you will obtain excellent views of the Upsala Glacier, Guillermo Lake, and the Andean Range. Here, you will enjoy a 30-minute hike. The 4x4 vehicle ride duration is approx. 3 hours.
Option 3 - Trekking: Upon arrival in Puerto Bandera, you will board a comfortable modern catamaran for a cruise on Lago Argentino (departure is at 8:15am). The navigation first stops in front of the Upsala Glacier before continuing to the estancia. Upon arrival you will visit the museum. The, your 4x4 vehicle trip begins driving up the mountains, from where you will obtain excellent views of the Upsala Glacier, Guillermo Lake, and the Andean Range. From here, you will hike to Fossil Canyon, a unique place in the area, where marine fossils can be found. The hike duration is approx. 5 hours at the moderate/difficult level. Good physical condition is recommended. Lunch is included. physical condition and clothing for the trek. If they do not, they will not be allowed to participate, without any right to claim for a refund.
Option 4 – Wild Trek: The Estancia Cristina Wild Trek program takes place on the Herminita Peninsula, reaching a majestic viewpoint of the Patagonian Ice - the west front of the Upsala Glacier and the iceberg barrier. Herminita Peninsula is oriented from north to south along the Feruglio Range, extending for more than 9 miles into Argentino Lake. This Peninsula naturally divides Upsala Channel from Cristina Channel. The place was, for many years, a winter pasture area for the sheep of the Masters Family (founders of Estancia Cristina). Today, the area is inhabited by bagual horses.
You will depart Puerta Bandera and navigate Argentina Lake to Herminita Peninsula. You will disembark in a small bay which was used to dock the Estancia Cristina’s boat. Here you can see the ancient Post, built in order to take better care of the sheep. From here the trekking begins, crossing Herminita Peninsula from Cristina Channel to the Upsala Channel, totally covered by icebergs dislodged from the Upsala Glacier. Along the path, there are stops at different panoramic viewpoints. The lunch stop (lunch cost is NOT included) will depend on the weather conditions. The 6-mile hike takes place on a gently rolling surface with little elevation gain, passing through small valleys which form rock hills of no more than 100 meters of height. At the end of the path and after climbing the last hill, the Patagonian Ice Viewpoint appears. Here you can enjoy an impressive view of the iceberg-covered Upsala Channel and to the north, a unique and privileged view of Upsala Glacier. After time to enjoy the views, you will return to Herminita Post, board the boat, and navigate back to Puerta Bandera.
Option 1 – Full-day ride to Frias Hill: The Estancia Alice guide will meet you in the hotel lobby at 8:30am and escort you to the stable. The horses will be already set up with their saddles. Once everyone is ready, the guide will give you a short lesson of how to saddle up the Argentinean way, and how to properly ride horses up and down hills. Once the riders have mounted up, the ride will begin by heading northwest along the shore of Lago Argentina. You will stop at a cliff where you’ll have a wonderful view of the lake and the mountains. You will stop for about five minutes for those who want to take pictures. Then, continue riding a trail surrounded by local flora, such as the Calafate, mata negra, and senecio plants. On the way, if the riders feel comfortable, they can gallop the vast grassland. After two hours of riding, you will reach an old “estancia” post, where you will dismount and walk around the post and the coast of the lake before taking a break to rest prior to our ride up the mountain.
The Frías Hill is home to many wild animals, such as pumas, red and grey foxes, guanaco herds, condors, and eagles. You will start by going up by one of the canyons, climbing the hill slowly, and stopping occasionally. As you ascend, you will witness astonishing views of the north branch of Lago Argentina and Cerro Buenos Aires hill. You will stop along the way to take pictures and rest the horses. Afterwards, you will begin the descent. You will stop for lunch in a valley full of yellow coirones for about 30 minutes. The group will return to the estancia riding along the coast of the lake. At the stable, you will return the horses. If you are interested, the guide will teach you how to take off the saddles and the bridles. Then, return to the hotel lobby for refreshments and snacks, such as hot chocolate, coffee, tea, beer, “torta fritas,” “chipás” (bread with cheese), “alfajores de maicena,” and vanilla and chocolate puddings. The difficulty level is intermediate/advanced.
Option 2 – Half-day Estancia ride: The main characteristic of the Patagonian ranches is their vast land coverage, some of them spanning over 100,000 hectares. To be able to control these vast ranches, each farm has different posts in different areas of the property. The purpose of this ride is to show guests an old “estancia” post, with its typical vegetable garden, its poplar trees, and corral for the horses. The Estancia Alice guide will meet you in the hotel lobby and escort you to the stable. Horses will be already set up with their saddles. Before starting the ride, the guide will give you a short riding lesson.
You will depart to the northwest, riding along the vast shore of the Lago Argentina. You will stop at a small cliff, where you’ll stop to take some pictures of the astonishing view. Continue riding for around 45 minutes along a trail surrounded by local flora such as the Calafate plant, the mata negra, and senecio. From here, the riders will be able to see the Frías Hill, home of herds of guanacos. Once you arrive to the old post, the guide will take you on a walk along the coast of the lake and around the post. You will be able to relax with a hot coffee, tea or mate, and sweet snacks such as “tortas fritas,” “alfajores de maicena,” “chipás” (bread with cheese), and vanilla and chocolate pudding. You will return to the estancia along the coast of the lake. At the stable, you will leave the horses. If you are interested, the guide will teach you how to take off the saddles and the bridles. Then, the guide will accompany you to the hotel lobby, where you can enjoy a beer or other beverage.
Option 3 – Half-day Frias Hill ride: After transfer to the stable, horse instruction, and mounting, we will be following a valley to Frias Hill. You will travel 1100m up a canyon, ride through a Nothofagus forest, and reach the ridge to appreciate spectacular views of Lakes Roca and Argentino and the typical Patagonian steppe, with the possibility of wildlife watching (guanacos and condors, if you’re lucky). If the weather is clear, you will be able to see as far as Torres Del Paine in Chile. Lunch will be served at Estancia Alice if you participate in the morning tour, and dinner will be served if you choose the evening tour. Afterwards, you will return to your hotel.
This excursion features magnificent petrified tree trunks and large dinosaur fossils hidden for millennia, now uncovered by wind and water erosion at the bottom of a very beautiful valley.
You will depart from El Calafate at approx. 8:30am. Following Route 40, you will be traveling through the open steppe with magnificent views of the valley of Lake Argentino, the panoramic background of the Southern Andes, the mighty Santa Cruz river, and the coast along the valley of La Leona river with a chance to glimpse Mt. Fitz Roy. Upon arrival at La Leona Hotel, we will stop for a few minutes for coffee (cost not included), then continue along the southern shore of Lake Viedma until we get to Los Hornos Hill at St. Teresita Ranch.
After the drive, we will arrive at a large depression formed by water erosion where most of the fossils can be found. This point is where your walk begins; you will go down through steep inclines of loose, dry, claylike soil and explore an endless system of gorges and ravines with petrified wood that “sprouts” from the soil. Tree trunks in varying diameters, heaps of fossilized broken bones, and occasionally whole vertebrae and leg bones of large reptiles (still under the process of identification) are part of the landscape as well. Due to its location in a steppe zone, the weather in Bosque La Leona is warm and dry along the valley. Full-day.
Come enjoy an easy and panoramic drive in a 4x4 Land Rover Defender to a lookout point above El Calafate for an aerial view of the city and Lake Argentino. The trip will begin by climbing the east side of the Huilyche mountain to 850 meters, to "Calafate’s Balcony" where you will stop for an expansive view of the entire town. If the weather is clear you will be able to see as far as Cerro Chaltén and Cerro Torre, and maybe even witness a condor’s flight. Then you will continue the vehicle climb until Laberinto de Piedras, an 85 million year-old cretacic formation where fossils can be found. Half-day. September – May.
Optional lunch: You may choose to have lunch while out on your 4 x 4 excursion. The trip is the same as the one outlined above except after visiting Laberinto de Piedras, you will descend to Piedra de los Sombreros to have lunch. This trip option takes about 4 hours total. Afterwards, return to El Calafate.
You will start at Estancia Alice with a chance to enjoy some hot chocolate, coffee, tea, and local pastries such as “torta frita,” “chipa,” “alfajores de dulce de leche,” and vanilla and chocolate pudding. Once everyone is ready, you will be escorted to the stable where the guide will give you a short lesson on how to saddle up the Argentinean way, and how to properly ride the horses.
You will set off to the northeast, passing through the yard where the herding demonstration is done and the home of the sheep rodeo. Along the way, you will see different types of local birds such as the Mora eagle, condors, crested cara cara, owls, and Loicas, among others. You may also see wildlife such as hares and armadillos. Later, you will cross a river. On the opposite shore you will find a vast grassland where you will ride until you come to a hill that you’ll gently ascend with the horses. From here, you will be able to see some of the most amazing sights of Calafate: the Centinela River estuary, the Argentinean Lake, and the extensive Patagonian steppe. You will dismount on top of the hill to appreciate the amazing sight, take pictures, and rest. The break will last around 15 minutes. Afterwards, you will return to the estancia following the coast of the lake, crossing the river once again, and continue by way of the beach. The ride will finish at the stable where the guide will then take you to the hotel lobby. Here, you will be able to relax with a variety of refreshments beside a warm and cozy fire. Half-day.
You will depart from El Calafate along the unmade road of the Provincial Route 15, also known as “the road to the estancias.” Along the way it is common to come across condors, foxes, and hares, while enjoying a prominent view of Frias Hill. After crossing over the Río Rico, the landscape changes suddenly from the steppe-land to mountain scenery. The estancia is reached after travelling along the edge of Lago Roca and having entered Los Glaciares National Park. The host guide welcomes you to the Estancia and takes you to the Quincho (a rustic dining room) where you will be invited to have a hot drink accompanied by home-made cakes and pastries for breakfast (if participating in the morning tour). This is a good moment to pause and enjoy a magnificent view of the Andes mountain range. The walk starts around the installations of this typical Patagonian estancia that was formerly devoted to sheep rearing and has now become the most prestigious Hereford breeding ranch of these latitudes while still retaining a small herd of sheep.
At the stables, those who have paid the extra to do a horse-ride will be given a mount and go out to explore the surroundings while accompanied by a guide.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group will take a good long walk during which there are excellent views of the Southern Arm of Lago Argentino and the diverse rocky outcrops eroded by glacial action and the changes of water level in the lake (due to the periodic breaking of the Perito Moreno glacier). The folds in the earth’s crust can clearly be appreciated there, differentiated by the variety of sediments from which they originate. These formations continue until they reach a point where the rocks form a natural amphitheater, creating quiet beaches of curious shapes. The footpaths lead through native woodland of lenga and ñire, a habitat for caranchos, Austral parakeets, hares, woodpeckers, eagles, and an abundant variety of native flora and fauna. The route may vary according to weather conditions.
After the walk or horse-ride, the group meets up again at the door of the shearing shed. This is a chance to see inside such a shed with all its skilled hands and understand the work of the shearing teams. The process is described from the shearing of the animal to the baling of the fleece, ready for the wool to be stored and transported. Here, manual shears are used for the shearing as they were on all the estancias until the appearance of the mechanical handle with a cutting comb – a much faster and more practical system (although not so kind to the animal and possibly sacrificing the high quality of the cut). Then, a demonstration will be given of horse handling skills, or according to the rural activities of the day, working with the herd in the corrals close to the main buildings. These activities are subject to the weather conditions.
If you are participating in the evening tour, you will be served dinner upon returning to the Quincho after the demonstrations. There, we will find a whole lamb being roasted on a vertical stake in traditional Patagonian fashion, and you will be able to listen to some history of the place through the retelling of anecdotes and stories of the early settlers. The person doing the roasting will have the meat ready to delight the diners while they enjoy the impressive view of the mountain range. Meanwhile, the life of the estancia carries on and it is not uncommon to see the gauchos ride past herding the cattle and/or sheep and disappearing over the horizon. Half-day.
A fun activity is to climb Mt. Frias by its north face. The hills belong to no mountain range, allowing for magnificent open vistas of the valleys, Lago Argentino, Boca del Diablo, and even Torres del Paine, if it is not cloudy. When descending in the vehicle, you will go through the Lenga Forest, following the path all the way down to the hill’s base until reaching the farm to have lunch. Afterwards, you will be returned to your hotel. Half-day
Your drive starts in El Calafate, where you will travel along a winding road until you reach Estancia Nibepo Aike. Set within the Los Glaciares National Park, this traditional Estancia – dating from the beginning of the 20th century – overlooks the south margin of the Lake Argentino. This estancia combines an impressive view over Lake Argentino with the activities of a productive ranch dedicated to sheep-breeding. At the estancia, you will be able to observe cattle-handling and herding or simply enjoy how the specialty of the area (lamb, roasted on the stake) is being prepared. This is a genuine Patagonian dish and a popular tradition in these places.
After lunch you will be able to hike along the coast of the lake, climb to the Crystal Mount lookout point, and visit the organic garden. After a relaxing tea, you will return to El Calafate along the road parallel to the coast line. Full-day
After breakfast, you will be transferred from your hotel in El Calafate to Paraje Punta Bandera. The ship first heads northwest, crossing Punta Avellaneda and Boca del Diablo. After two hours of navigation we will approach the Upsala Glacier, and if weather conditions are good, we will see the glacier in the distance. The ship continues navigating Lago Argentino towards the south, reaching the Spegazzini Glacier, which towers between 262 and 443 feet above the lake level. A gourmet lunch with both alcoholic and soft drinks is served amidst this stunning landscape. After lunch, the Crucero Leal will arrive at Puesto de Las Vacas, a very quiet bay in the Canal Spegazzini. The boat will stop here for a hike to take in stunning panoramic views. Once we are back on board, we will return through Brazo Norte and arrive back at the boarding dock around 6:00 or 6:30pm. Full-day
You will be picked up from your hotel to depart on an exceptional tour to enjoy Patagonia's vastness and, with luck, some of its fauna. Your destination is the Estancia 25 Mayo, recently declared a private natural reserve. In this estancia, there are places that are geologically and paleontologically unique in Argentina. Among them is one of the biggest fossilized crab deposits: a reef made of fossilized oysters and other formations that contain fossilized mammal remains, dating back 15 million years. While at the estancia, look out for native animals and birdlife, and enjoy Patagonia's hidden natural beauty. There is a wide range of habitats for bird lovers, from lake shore, streams, springs and rivers, to the shrub steppe. In such different habitats, you may see many different kinds of birds, including the Andean condor, the black chested eagle, the lesser rhea, different types of tryants, seedsnipes, finches, and the endemic rufous tailed plant cutter. Mammals to look out for include guanacos and foxes. A country-style lunch or dinner at a genuine ranch house is included. Half-day.
Full day hiking another Patagonian classic: Mt Torre, famous for its beauty but also for its difficulty to climb. After a 45 minutes climb you will find an even area surrounding an old lagoon where vegetation is starting to grow again. The trail enters a forest with a slight descent leading to a lookout point facing the Cerro Torre range and the Adela Mt. The trail ends at the coast of Laguna Torre which offers a beautiful view of Mt Torre surrounded by Egger, Standhard, spires and the Adela range as a backdrop together with the glacier Torre. Duration – 7 Hours (approximate, depending on individual pace) Difficulty – Moderate Elevation gain/loss - 600 meters Total distance – 22 km.
Hiking to Fitz Roy is, without any doubt, the most important trekking of the area of Chaltén & Viedma Lake. Full day trek to Laguna Capri base camp (Fitz Roy base camp). After breakfast we will start a hike north towards Fitz Roy with spectacular views of the massif ahead. Sacred and venerated by local Tehuelche groups and believed to be a volcano, they called it “Chaltén” (exhaling fumes mountain). We reach Laguna Capri, where Mt Fitz Roy reflects its image in its crystal clear waters. Stop en route for lunch (not included) and then resume the hike to Laguna de los Tres, at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. Three glaciers drain into this greenish lagoon with majestic Mt. Fitz Roy towering above. Enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Viedma and the endless Patagonia steppe, matchless Fitz Roy and, if you continue down to the lake to the natural balcony onto Laguna Sucia, the Saint Exupéry and Poincenot spires. Although only 2½ km and a 400 m drop, this is a steep upwards trail. Duration: 9 Hours (approximate, depending on individual pace) Difficulty: Moderate
Transfer from your El Chalten hotel to Bahía Tunnel Port on Lake Viedma, where you will start the navigation across the lake to the Viedma Glacier. There you will first sight the front walls and later trek along the Glacier or walk through the rocks, getting wonderful unique glacier views and visiting the ice caves. Afterward, return to El Calafate. Total navigation time around 1 1/2 hours, total time on ice around 2 1/2 hours.
Located 16 miles up the Rio de las Vueltas from El Chalten, the crystal clear waters of Lago del Desierto offer views of the Huemul and Vespignani Glaciers, and the Fitzroy Massif. Includes a short hike to Laguna Condor and a 3-course luncFishing and boating excursions can be arranged.
The Paso del Cuadrado (Cuadrado pass) is one of the places that has both the best and most imposing views of all the area since it overlooks the Fitz Roy and the Cerro Torre from an unknown angle and from an altitude of 1900 meters (6333 feet). Together with this rewarding scenario we will add a hike to the nearby Pollone Glacier, close to the Lake Electrico and the Marconi glacier.
Transfer from El Chalten to the bridge over the Electrico River to start a 2-hour hike to get to Piedra del Fraile base camp. Checking of the equipment and continue a short hike to Pollone glacier. We return to base camp to spend the night.Day 2
Early morning ascent to the Paso del Cuadrado – about 4 hours hike - amid a beech forest, glacier morreins and glaciers to get to the Pass which will offer a great view of the Cerro Torre Valley, the west face of Mt Fitz, the Continental Ice Fields and the Marconi Pass. Hike back to the trailhead and transfer back to El Chalten.